Ultimate 12 Volt Wireless Yacht Entertainment System
I have been trying to design an
entertainment system for my boat for some time. The design had to use readily
available hardware for audio and video, it had to be wireless, it had to be
reasonably priced and mostly plug and play if possible.
I did not want to
have to run a bunch of speaker wires and video cables around the boat along
with a separate stereo unit which would be out of date in a few years. I was
looking for a total wireless solution that would work with the way I listen to
music these days. Nobody drags around CDs or DVDs around anymore. With the
advent of mobile devices and tablets almost everyone now carries around all the
entertainment they will ever need in the palm of their hands.
I have a wireless network, an Apple TV and a stereo all connected to my flat
screen TV. It allows me to play music, radio and videos from the Internet,
computer, iPad or iPhone all to my stereo and TV. My goal was to build a
wireless system like this for my boat.
If your yacht is big enough you
will most likely have a generator or inverter that will provide you with 115v
service. To make this work on my smaller boat I needed a 5 volt solution for a
WiFi router and a 12 volt solution for my Apple TV and flat screen
The first bit of research I did was to find a portable
WiFi router that could be powered by 5 volts from a USB outlet. It only took a
quick search to find a whole slew of them that would work. I could simply plug
these into my computer or a DC power outlet with a 5 volt USB adapter. It was
that quick, my WiFI was up and running. These USB adapters only put out about 1
to 2.1 amps so make sure your router does not require more current than
Many of these USB powered routers act as a WiFi router,
an Access Point or client. Some of the newest one also act as a 3/4G hotspot and
some can operate off of a rechargeable battery.
The TP link router uses a 5 volt micro USB connector
which can be powered from a computer, your phone charger or a DC outlet
adapter. The TPLink
TL-WR702N is compact wireless N router with 150 mbs.
N300 TEW-654TR operates off of a 115V charger or the optional 5 volt,
3mm barrel adapter that plugs into a USB outlet. This unit is a 300mbs N router
so it should handle the heaviest traffic on your onboard network.
While your are away from the dock your on board router
will not be connected to the Internet. The network will still act as your
onboard entertainment backbone.
I did have one problem with my iPad when
the router was not connected to the Internet. My iPad
kept trying to connect
to the Internet through my router and would not allow me to connect through my
iPad's Verizon data plan.
To correct this I had to create a static IP
address in the Wireless settings for the onboard router and leave the Router and
DNS setting empty. This allowed my iPad to connect to the Internet through my
Verizon data plan while still being connected to my onboard
own an Apple iPhone or iPad you may be familiar with Airplay. It is one of
the coolest features that Apple has created to broadcast and control your
media. Apple designed this wireless protocol for sending data over a WiFi
network to Airplay compatible devices. With AirPlay you can wirelessly stream
videos, music, and photos from your computer, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to
Apple TV and stream music to AirPlay speakers or receivers, including
Apples AirPort Express. There are now dozens of Airplay compatible apps and
devices including Pandora, Vevo, YouTube, Netflix, iHeartRadio and
On your iPhone or iPad, Airplay can be turned on from
the Apple services menu as seen in screen shot to the left. Simply swipe up from
the bottom of your iPhone or iPad screen to display the menu. If you have other
AirPlay devices on your network they will show up here. I have an Apple TV and
an iHome Airplay speaker shown in the menu above. Airplay from your iOS
device only allows the selection of one device at a time. To be able to stream
to two Airplay devices at the same time you will have to use the Apple Remote
App with iTunes on your computer.
that allows playing music on up to 6 Airplay speakers from your iPhone or iPad.
This app does what the Apple Remote does not. You can play multiple sources to
multiple speaker too. The app gives you access to all your music files on your
One cool feature of Airplay is that I discovered is that I can
play music on my iPad to my iHome Airplay speaker. I then opened the Apple
remote app and I was able to play movies or music from my iPad to my Apple TV at
the same time. So I could listen to music while my wife watched a movie all
streamed from one device, simultaneously, Wow, now that is Rocket
Music and Video can also be played from your networked
computer with iTunes over Airplay.
Open iTunes and select the Airplay
icon on the top of the screen. A drop down menu will show you the Airplay
connected devices and allow you to select single or multiple devices. You can
control the volume of each device from iTunes also. If I had other Airplay
speakers connected they could be simultaneously selected so I could play music
to all the speakers at the same time.
Apple's Remote Control
app adds some additional functionality and control from your iOS mobile
device. Make sure to have iTunes on your computer running and enable Sharing.
Add your Apple TV and your iTunes library to the remote. First the Remote app
will allow you to remotely control what is being played in your iTunes Library
on your PC or Mac. It will allow you to search, select, control and play the
movies, music, TV shows or Podcasts that are in your collection.
The remote app can also be used to remotely
control your Apple TV and allow you to select Music, Movies and TV shows just
like you do with the supplied Apple TV remote control.
Finally, use the
remote to control and play iTunes Radio on your PC, Mac or Apple
Select the Airplay icon in the remote app to control what devices you
want to stream to. Listen with AirPlay Speakers, computer speakers or Apple
Single or multiple devices can be selected by toggling the
Single/Multiple selection in the tip right of the pop
TV is one Airplay device that allows you to connect your mobile devices to your
stereo system or onboard TV display. At $99 bucks it is well worth it. The Apple
TV can connect wirelessly to your WiFi network or through a wired network
cable. It has an HDMI cable to connect to your TV or monitor.
your mobile device to your onboard WiFi network. Music and Movies can now be
played on your mobile device and sent wirelessly to the Apple TV and
monitor. The Mirroring function of AirPlay can also be used to
display anything you have on your iPad onto your TV or monitor. This includes
any marine charting or instrument display apps.
The problem with Apple TV is that it has a 115 volt AC
power supply in the device. You can use a small 12 volt DC to 115 v AC inverter
plugged into your power outlet or you can hack the Apple TV and replace the AC
power supply with a 12
volt to 3.3 volt DC-DC power supply. There are several videos on YouTube to
help you make this conversion. It does involve dismantling the Apple TV and some
soldering. This will no doubt void your warranty but that is the price for a
mobile Apple TV. I wrote about my 12 Volt Apple TV Conversion on my i-Marine Apps blog.
teardown article confirms the Apple TV 2nd generation power supply voltage
is 3.4 volts at 1.75 amps. Do not attempt this if you are not familiar with
electronics. You can also power the Apple TV with a 5 volt USB cable. This
involves replacing the 115 volt power supply with 5v
to 3.3v DC step down regulator like this one.
I used to play music from my iPad
to a Bluetooth speaker. It worked fine but the disadvantage with Bluetooth is
that my device could only connect to one speaker at a time. The sound quality
was not as good since the audio was compressed.
I recently purchased some iHome iW3 Airplay speakers. The advantage of Airplay is that it allows multiple
speaker to be connected to and selected on the same WiFi network.
Multiple iW3 Airplay speakers can be connected to my WiFi network and can be all
played at the same time.
The iW3 is a nice size at 4.6 inches square and 9.3
inches high. It has better than average sound with SRS True Bass. It sits on an
115 AC/12 DC volt charging base. I purchased these on Amazon for $75 each. The
Apple Store has them listed for $199.00 It is rechargeable and comes with a USB
connection on the back for charging your iPhone and an auxiliary audio input
The iHome speakers do come with an app called iHome
Connect to help connect them to the WiFi network and enter the network
password if needed. The treble and bass can be set using the app while your
device is connected to the speaker.
If money is no object I have heard good things about Sonos WiFi speaker systems. These are for audio only. They use a separate proprietary WiFi protocol over your existing WiFi. Their smallest speaker start at $199 per unit.
I did not cover 12 volt displays or
TVs. A search of the Internet will bring up a few options for you to
Well, I hope I have given you a few ideas about going wireless for
your onboard entertainment system. 12 volts and wireless is the way to go. So
thank me now! This setup will definitely save you from drilling a bunch of holes
all over your boat.
What are you using for an onboard entertainment
system? Comment below and share your stories and ideas if you