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        Perfecting Marine Audio Design
        Designing an audio system for a marine vessel requires a careful balance of functionality and resilience. From selecting seaworthy components to utilizing the latest Crestron AV solutions have to offer, here are the essential considerations for creating an immersive and durable audio experience that can withstand the challenges of the marine environment.
        June 21

        Tough environments and demanding clientele call for best-in-class audio for superyacht projects

        As Ekin Binal, Crestron’s director of product management for AV solutions, notes, “Everything to do with superyachts brings layers and layers of complexity.”

        And yes, that very much includes bringing great sound aboard a vessel.

        It’s been said that when it comes to marine jobs, they’re just like residential integrations — only more so. “For instance, room acoustics are always a challenge in any environment — but that’s compounded with superyachts, where in most cases you have lower ceilings — AND less space in those ceilings,” says Binal. It’s an excellent place to start when one begins analyzing everything that goes into outfitting audio into one of these luxury vessels.

        The Ultimate line of speakers that Crestron is now offering, created in partnership with Origin Acoustics — coupled with all the other sound solutions in the Crestron catalog — can solve every audio problem that marine integrations create. And speakers can be especially vulnerable.

        Crestron has an entire division dedicated to marine solutions — here are the details

        Speakers Built for Life at Sea

        Water, salt, wind, motion — marine environments can be tough on sound systems. “Superyachts will always have a dedicated rack space that is environmentally protected — so for the central equipment of a project, that’s less of a worry,” says Binal, although he does note that the limited space you’ll find on a vessel creates other issues. (Installation and maintenance often need to be undertaken in very close quarters, and keeping the gear properly cooled is another problem — electronics hate heat.) “The real challenging part, however, is placing speakers in these environmentally harsh conditions,” he says.

        “To address that, we built Crestron Ultimate speakers — they are all IP rated and designed to withstand water sprays, and they’re all treated with a coating for increased protection in saltwater conditions,” notes Binal. Crestron’s also made great use of Origin Acoustics’ patented mounting mechanism. “We’ve found that it’s best to build speaker rough-ins that ratchet the bracket holding the speaker, which helps dampen the unit from potential vibrations.” While the cone of a speaker is built to move air, outside vibrations can shorten the life of the device considerably. What’s more, Crestron’s Ultimate speakers have a very low profile — nearly all less than 100 mm — so space isn’t a huge concern.

        Making the Tech Disappear

        But whether it’s a residential or marine installation, most clients and their design/build teams want audio solutions that are nearly invisible. “Often it comes down to working with the shipyard to make sure we can get a space to put the speakers where they have a minimal influence on the overall interior design,” explains Director of Crestron Marine Daniel Kerkhof. Stashing speakers in very low ceilings while taking pains to keep them unobtrusive sets up a bit of tension between looks and performance. “You never want to compromise too much on the end result in terms of the sound the owner or guest will experience in the end, so this can be a challenging discussion sometimes,” says Kerkhof. That’s why it’s doubly important to have technology specialists on board at the earliest planning stages (pun intended).

        But don’t be fooled by the low ceilings and tight bulkheads when it comes to the expansive nature of superyacht audio installations, says Binal: “The sheer scale of these projects is quite amazing. Superyachts need audio everywhere and anywhere, at any time, and it’s typical to have well over 100 zones of audio with over 300 speakers.” That’s where the value of AV-over-IP solutions is fully realized. Crestron DM NVX® AV-over-IP technology and Crestron DM NAX™ Audio-over-IP technology both offer the ability to add virtually limitless audio and video sources and endpoints, making for seamless integrations in some of the most challenging conditions.

        Learn more about Crestron DM NAX™ Audio-over-IP technology, and find info on Crestron DM NVX® AV-over-IP technology

        What’s in a Processor?

        Additionally, says Binal, “We can ensure optimal sound quality by specifying the right products for the right spaces. For instance, it’s typical to rely on a highly configurable digital signal processor (DSP) to help tune a given space.” Those DSPs are built into Crestron amps, so extra components aren’t needed for multi-band equalization to maximize audio performance. The audio they deliver is lossless, with low latency and high accuracy, which ensures what’s called “phase coherence.” Simply put, it makes music and movie dialogue crystal clear across the entire spectrum of sound.

        But that’s not all, according to Binal: “Given the high value and high level of customization required for the yacht projects, it’s very typical for audio experts coming in to tune the system. They use a variety of tools to measure, calibrate, and tune the system via the DSP to maximize every single bit of audio performance.” That’s also why the integrator should work hand-in-hand with shipyard and builder: It’s yet another way to ensure that audio is optimized. “Early in the design process, we can reduce hard, reflective surfaces in areas where a lot of music or movies are being consumed — those surfaces can make for terrible sound,” Binal explains.

        Streaming on the Water

        Getting all that great content — movies, music, and even sporting events — to the right sets of eyes and ears on the vessel is equally important. “The number one thing you want to achieve when designing a multi-room audio system for a superyacht is maximal flexibility in terms of routing and matrixing,” says Binal. “And with the large number of sources and destinations in such a system comes the second important design consideration, the ability to ‘scale’ to groups — this is ideal for party environments.” Crestron DM NAX technology can send the same audio to multiple zones on the yacht, and each of those endpoints can alternately receive its own separate stream of content based on a particular guest’s wishes. “Every zone in the system can have its own AirPlay 2 endpoint, and this carries over to other streaming music options as well, such as Spotify, TIDAL, and many others,” Binal adds.

        That’s no mean feat, says Kerkhof: “Streaming has traditionally been a difficulty on board. However, with disrupting technologies like Starlink entering this market, that challenge will be a thing of the past.” The remaining issue for the integrator is making the interfaces so simple and intuitive that any user can call up their favorite playlist or film. That’s an area where Crestron shines, says Binal. “Only Crestron can bring the full integration of all the environmental control and automation,” he explains. “Superyachts always feature completely customized UIs. These are user interfaces that are custom tailored for the owner.” An example: “You can control the AV experience while also providing a snack/popcorn/concession ordering option all in the same user experience. Crestron touch screens and control processors work behind the scenes to bring all of this ‘smart home magic’ to the owners and crew of these yachts.”

        Controlling a superyacht system is an art in itself: see
        “The  Importance of Great User Interfaces in Marine Integrations”

        Crestron and the Crew — Experts All

        There are ways to ensure that all of this great content can be enjoyed without any interruptions — in port or at sea, according to Kerkhof. “One of the big advantages of the scale of Crestron here is that we have local people everywhere — our footprint is global — plus we have the experience in this field to know how to help the yachts if they have an urgent need.” And on the open water, maintenance is up to the crew: “They’re the ones that will first be involved with support and maintenance. In order to give them all the tools and knowledge they need to be able to do so, we offer them access to training programs and resources, and also a path to receive certifications for that knowledge.” It’s a great item to have on a resume.

        Ultimately, the goal is to create a system that meets every possible current need of the owners, guests, and crew, with the ability to design a system that’s “future-ready.” “The flexibility, scalability, and reliability of our products sets us apart from other vendors and truly provides extra value to a Crestron superyacht project,” says Kerhof.

        All of that’s a given in this market, as Ekin Binal knows: “The superyacht industry has the world’s most demanding customers, so reliability, quality, and performance are a must.”

         

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