AV entertainment systems for superyachts
by Kelly Sanford, Tom Isitt
Shakespeare was right in saying that music stirs the soul and lifts the spirit. From the soaring strings of a Puccini aria to the thundering bass riff of a dub-step floor-filler, music has the power to move us. Similarly, watching Raging Bull or Blade Runner on a theatre-quality audio-visual (AV) system can be a breathtaking and immersive experience.
AV has undergone a major change in the last five years. With super-fast broadband and wireless routers in our homes, the digital revolution in AV allows us to stream music wirelessly, to view movies from the internet, show photos from our computers on our TVs, and surf on our tablets. Systems too expensive five years ago are affordable today and reward our thirst for instant gratification. Yet the ability to enjoy this instantaneous and unlimited access to digital programming is still in its infancy for yachts.
It’s all about bandwidth
Steve Segall, president of AV Concepts and Design in the US, explains that bandwidth is a big hurdle for an owner who wants to take entertainment technology in their home and bring it to their yacht.
‘Bandwidth is everything, because bandwidth equals speed,’ he says. ‘Though VSAT (very small aperture terminal) access to bandwidth on yachts is getting faster, this speed is expensive and is still going to feel slow compared to what an owner might experience at home.’
For yacht owners hoping to do away with an on-board server for digital entertainment and switch to live streaming from a source like Netflix or the cloud, experts agree this is a few years away.
‘Live streaming is great because there is instant access to just about anything. Trying to duplicate this experience will be neither instant nor gratifying if you are expecting fibre-optic quality and speed from data over a VSAT. Achieving comparable speeds from satellite data is not feasible today. Can you get close? There are boats that have tried, but hardware and service costs are astronomical and the result won’t be equivalent – for now, anyway,’ says Segall.
Most in the industry agree, and most prefer hardware and hard-copy media archives of digital music and movies on board, because the quality from CDs and DVDs is currently better than compressed files streamed from the internet.