It's the end of an idyllic day. Your engine is burbling through the no-wake zone, water's chuckling against the hull. The sunset is molten gold. It's perfection, and yet…you can't place it, but something is missing. A something to make this moment last forever. You know, like a scene from a movie. I'll tell you what's missing-a soundtrack. You've known it since seeing Lawrence of Arabia-life would be nine ways better if it had background music. And not just any music-your music. Scored by the Great Mancini in the Sky, it would always be there, marinating your maritime life in surround sound. Some pounding Aerosmith when you're flying high and hard offshore, or a little Miles Davis for times like now as the sun slides into the sea. The problem is, the stock sound systems on most boats are more suitable to providing background to a Warner Brothers cartoon, not a life of high romance and drama. I bet Yugos came better equipped for sound than your boat. To find out how to repower what you have or learn how to get the right audio package for your new boat, we tracked down John "The Ear" Marrero. As systems designer at Custom Sight and Sound (954/527-5554), near Palm Beach, Florida, he's created musical experiences on everything from 15- to 150-footers. He also knows how to make your boat worth listening to without being accompanied by the sound of your bank account being flushed down the drain. Let's hear what he has to say.
Worth Listening To
"I hear everything," says Marrero, and he's only half kidding. He comes by his expertise genetically: a family in music, and a youth misspent doing what he calls "sound reinforcement" for the B-52s.
Today I'm following him through one of his typical installations, aboard a 158' Italian megayacht. It's getting a complete audio refit, and the interior has been almost completely gutted. All the paneling is down and Marrero's crew is running wires-everywhere. Marrero's average entertainment system costs upwards of $80,000. This one will be billed out at more than $200,000.
Of course, you can spend $50,000 for a pair of speakers and get fantastic sound, but you don't need to. If you know how to listen, you can hear when fine sound is coming from modest equipment. "Anyone," Marrero says, "can distinguish good sound from better sound." This is the key ability you'll need when shopping.
To make his point, Marrero puts me in front of a $2,500 pair of Revel speakers he considers to be good-and oh, my! They deliver such a deep sound that it feels like you could walk into it and stroll around. The two high-end speakers Marrero favors are the California-built Revels and B&W speakers from England.
"Good audio produces more detail and clarity," Marrero explains, "for a full presentation." These aren't the empty modifiers used by wine critics. You don't have to be Niles Crane to grasp the meaning of clarity and detail. Marrero means them quite literally. Better detail means you hear more bits of sound information. The cymbal is more like a cymbal, because you hear the fine tingle of its vibration. And you hear the saxophone's reed vibrating on the mouthpiece, the slight ring of the horn's brass body-and if you have ears like Marrero, you can identify it as a Selmer Model Mark VI.