If you want to get the finest marine electronics, Standard Horizon is a brand you can trust building both fixed mount and hand held VHF radios. With over 50 years of skin in the game, Standard Horizon has a reputation for creating marine electronics that boaters need. The manufacturer boasts of coming up with innovative technologies that are capable of withstanding the marine life not to mention reliable AIS and GPS technologies.
For that reason, we checked out the Standard Horizon GX6000 which proved to be an easy to operate commercial grade fixed mount marine radio with a 25 w VHF transmitter. It boasts of a built-in 80dB receiver that works well to reduce overload or external interference for clarity and quality performance.
The Standard Horizon GX6000 is feature rich. It delivers the long-awaited combination of a Class B AIS with a VHF transceiver that makes up a critical marine communication system. At its price range, the Standard Horizon GX6000 is practically a steal considering the fact that it is an advanced 80dB commercial grade fixed mount marine radio with a dual zone 25 W hailer. The hailer is programmable which means it can be used for sending out signals and listening back.
One of its best features is the fact that it supports up to 4 cordless RAM 4W remote mics from a maximum distance of 65 feet from the antenna. Basically, you can use the Standard Horizon GX6000 to set up different stations while having all of them get full control of the AIS display as well as the base.
When it comes to power, the onboard 1800 Ah-Li-ion battery can power the Standard Horizon GX6000 for up to 14 hours which is a remarkable amount of time considering what you get with options from other companies. In fact, the Standard Horizon GX6000 comes with a water activated emergency strobe light that is common on handheld VHF marine radios. This feature is easily programmable for quick access whenever there is trouble.
The built-in AIS receiver is another innovative feature of this VHF marine radio. Through the receiver, you can directly contact an AIS ship to show your vessels locations in relation to the AIS target. You can use the AIS receiver to send alerts with the name of your boat, the MMSI number, call sign, the BRG, SOG, and COG information.
The Standard Horizon GX6000 also comes with an integrated voice scrambler that comes in handy when you need to have private communications. It’s a 32 code scrambler that you can use to select a channel to scramble with an extra code between the receiver and the transmitter to establish a secure communication channel. The voice scrambler is compatible with all standard horizon 4 code scramblers.
The 25W loud hailer on the Standard Horizon GX6000 is another feature that proves to be quite useful for most boaters as it helps broadcast your voice to line handlers or any other person on the doc.
Overall, the Standard Horizon GX6000 is an easy to use plug and play device that can help increase the safety level of your boat. It has an integrated voice recorder that can play back up to two minutes of received audio. With a dimension of 13.4 x 8.9 x 9.9 inches and a weight of only 6.9 pounds, this fixed mount VHF marine radio is one of the most intuitive and functional devices for boaters.
If you are on a tight budget the Standard Horizon GX1700W marine VHS radio can be a good option as well. Apart from being cheaper than the GX6000, it also features a 3 inch LCD display, 25 W transmitting power and a programmable dual watch and priority scan. In fact, things get much easier with the GX1700W as you won’t need to think about wiring the radio to a GPS.
Basically, this fixed mount marine radio comes with a DSC calling ready design that you can use to share your vessels positions right out of the box. You also get a rear case with this device that can come in handy when flush mounting the radio in right areas. Similar to the GX6000 the GX1700W comes with programmable soft keys not to mention a capacity for connecting it to the second station with a RAM3 remote. However, you cannot connect it with up to 4 wireless remotes as is the case with the GX6000.
There is no denying that the Standard Horizon GX 6000 is a glimpse into the future of VHF marine radios. This device is full of useful features that are still futuristic 2 years after the introduction of the GX 6000 and the GX 6500 to the market. Prior to their introduction into the VHF marine radio industry, most boaters had a lot of expectations on their performance, price, and utility. Now, the GX6000 boasts of being one of the most popular commercial grade fixed mount VHF radios out there.
However, if you are looking for something on a budget, Standard Horizon is full of many alternatives. According to our research, we identified the GX1700 as one of the best alternatives that Standard Horizon has to offer. It comes with the same output power and is built with a compact design that is easy to use and mount just about anywhere in your boat.
The Lowrance Link-8 VHF Radio is a High-res Flush Mountable Class D Fixed-Mount VHF Radio built with a Dual Channel AIS receiver and NMEA 2000 Connectivity. It has a total of 25 watts of transmission power, a full-waterproof design, and an easy-to-use interface. Considered a top contender for its high-resolution display among VHF radios, the Lowrance Link-8 boasts a large screen and an overall item weight of 6 pounds.Reliable and complete with all the best safety features, the Lowrance Link-8 VHF is a must-have VHF radio for boaters. Because of its rugged, waterproof design, and reasonable price this marine radio is a great communication tool for mariners on the water regularly.
The Lowrance Link-8 comes with some great features that make it one of the highest-quality entry-level VHF marine radios out there. Here are some of its main features:
For boat owners with no background or knowledge about marine electronics, the NMEA standards can be confusing. For starters, every time you buy electronic equipment, you must first check the functionality of each piece. While some pieces can work in a stand-alone fashion, others need to be equipped with a network connection in order to be used with other on board devices like chartplotters etc.
NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 are today’s communication language for marine electronics. NMEA 2000 supersedes NMEA 0183 and is currently the protocol used when creating new electronics. Also, NMEA 0183 is near being phased out due to the rise of equipment with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. However, when your device has both, it makes the device even more versatile, compatible and able to connect to almost all existing marine networks.
Let’s compare The Simrad RS35 to the Lowrance Link-8. The Simrad RS35 is one of the premium VHF marine radios today and like the Lowrance Link 8 it also features its own integrated AIS receiver. This is a unique feature that’s very valuable for marine radios today. Today, the successful GX2200 is the leading marine radio with this feature.
The Link-8 and Simrad RS35 are both AIS receiving. However, unlike the Lowrance Link, the Simrad RS35 allows connection to wireless handsets making radio calling available from anywhere on board. This is very useful when you’re in a larger vessel and have several crew members on-board. The Simrad also looks better compared to Link-8 in our opinion. Cheaper than the Simrad RS35, the Link 8 is a great option for a VHF radio with an integrated AIS receiver if you have no need for a wireless handset and looks are not important to you.
Next, let’s compare the Standard Horizon GX2200 and the Lowrance Link 8. The GX2200 is a VHF marine radio complete with an Integrated 66 Channel GPS receiver and AIS receivers, overall, it has better connectivity than the Lowrance Link 8. When it comes to the interface, the Link 8 is arguably more user-friendly and easy-to-setup compared to the GX2200. If you’re looking for a cheaper and cleaner designer, the Lowrance link outshines the Standard Horizon GX2200 in our opinion.
The Lowrance Link-8 is a must-have VHF marine radio for people looking for cheaper and simpler alternatives to the Standard GX2200 and Simrad RS35. With full coverage of USA, Australian, New Zealand, & International Channels, it offers great reliability during emergency situations. Despite lacking in other connectivity and wireless features, the Lowrance Link-8 is complete with all the important basic functions for a reliable and rugged marine radio that you can use regularly. For an entry-level radio, the Link-8 has all the necessary features making it the perfect choice for the cost conscious sailor.
When it comes to safety on the water, next to your life jacket, nothing is more important than a fixed mount Very High Frequency (VHF) marine radio. Some seasoned sailors may even say that a marine radio is more important than your life jacket because it improves the chances of a rescue. If you spend a lot of time in your boat, then it is likely that you already know all this but how do you translate this knowledge into action?
For example, do you pay special attention to the quality of your fixed mount VHF radio? Did you make sure that you have the best possible one for your boat? There are, after all, multiple options available online. The ICOM M506 is one of the better VHF marine radios out there. Why? We will go over all the reason why in this review.
You wouldn’t buy an electronic product manufactured by a little known company located in a third world country, especially a product that your life may depend upon someday. You want only the best product manufactured by the best company. Well, ICOM is definitely one of the best.
The ICOM M506 is manufactured by ICOM America which is a subsidiary of ICOM Incorporated. ICOM Inc. is a publicly listed company in Japan that traces its roots as far back as 1954. While ICOM began with a focus on providing equipment to the amateur radio industry, they have since made a name for themselves in professional-level communication equipment suited to marine, aviation, and land based vehicles.
The ICOM M506 is one of the best options within its price bracket. This fixed mount VHF radio isn't one of the best because of its exceptional technology but because it has a much more advanced feature set for the pice.
The foremost of these is water resistance. While most marine radios are built to resist water, this fixed mount marine radio does it better than all of them. The water resistance rating of the M506 is IPX8 while its competitors can, at best, only offer IPX7.
There’s even a special water resistance feature of the ICOM M506 known as the AquaQuake. The purpose of the AquaQuake feature is to drain the water out of the speakers so that its sound output doesn’t get garbled.
Speaking of sound output, this fixed mount VHF radio’s output quality and volume is the best in the industry. Its audio output of 15W puts many of its competitors to shame. High sound output is important because it makes the transmission easier to hear even in conditions like engine noise and strong winds. With a higher sound output, transmissions will always be clear and you’ll never miss any crucial information.
Another great aspect of this fixed mount marine radio is that it offers the option of establishing a second station on your boat. The second station can be established with the help of an add-on called COMMANDMIC. You can set up your second station as far as 60 feet from the main unit and it’ll give you access to all the functions too. Furthermore, it has a soft-key interface which should make it easier for you to use the device.
If you do choose this add-on as you should, you should also know that you won’t have to worry about water affecting your second station. It has a water resistance rating of IPX7, which is only a single point below the main unit. The second station will allow you to forego a backup handheld VHF radio. Handheld VHF radios tend to have less power and low resistance to water. This is why the second station option is so great on the ICOM M506.
Another unique feature that ICOM has provided in the M506 is last call recording. This functionality allows the last two minutes of your previous call being recorded automatically. However, you'll also have the option to manually record any call, if that is what you need.
This fixed mount VHF radio is also more compact than many of its competitors. It measures about 4.5 inches in depth and height, while its width is approximately 7 inches. Its smaller size means that it won’t eat up a lot of space on your helm, which should open up options for other equipment, if required.
Other features of the ICOM M506 and their respective benefits include:
There isn't much wrong with the ICOM M506. It is a very solid device whose reliability ensures your safety in even extreme and adverse conditions. However, there is one flaw in the M506 that you need to consider very carefully before making the purchase decision.
This is the fact that it doesn’t have built-in GPS. This could be a deal breaker for many people because GPS or NAV ensures that your emergency or DSC calls carry your position information for rescuers to zero in on. If you don’t ensure that your VHF radio has GPS support, going to regions with minimal traffic i.e. farther from the shore could be risky.
Even so, the absence of an internal GPS module is balanced by the fact that ICOM has provided the option for an external GPS/NAV interface. So, the ICOM M506 you buy will be compatible with NMEA 2000 provided you get the latest version. Older variants will still allow external GPS module connection but only through NMEA 0183.
This is probably why certain buyers have complained that this fixed mount marine radio works with a NMEA 0183 device but doesn’t support NMEA 2000. It is also possible that these individuals have been unable to set up their device properly which is why they're facing this problem. The company clearly advertises that the ICOM M506 supports NMEA 2000. We doubt they’d do that and risk lawsuits if the device didn’t support NMEA 2000.
The direct competitor of the ICOM M506 is the Standard Horizon GX2200. Many people may be tempted to choose the Standard Horizon GX2200 simply because of its lower price bracket. However, when it comes to a VHF marine radio, the phrase “you get what you pay for” really does apply.
The slightly reduced price of the Standard Horizon GX2200 is a result of the absence of some key features. The foremost of these is the NMEA compatibility. The Standard Horizon GX2200 offers NMEA 0183 compatibility, while the ICOM M506 provides compatibility with NMEA 2000.
If you know and understand marine radio electronics, you will know that NMEA 2000, or N2K as it is commonly known, is more advanced than NMEA 0183. In practice, this means that N2K devices tend to offer more versatility, greater integration with other devices, and a better network control. Moreover, N2K devices support multiple users while NMEA 0183 only supports one pair.
There are multiple other areas where the Standard Horizon GX2200 falls short of the ICOM M506 as well. For example, it only offers an audio output of 4.5W while the ICOM M506 boasts of 15Watts of audio output. This means that its sound output is lower and may not be as audible on speaker as the M506’s.
The GX2200 doesn’t even have AquaQuake or the last call recording function. Absence of AquaQuake means that its microphone offers reduced performance when being used in a lot of water. Not having the last call function takes away a clear convenience too.
A much bigger limitation of the Standard Horizon GX2200 in comparison to the M506 is that it is only rated for IPX7 water resistance. When it comes to safety, even a single rating point can make a huge difference. Don’t you agree?
There is one area where the Standard Horizon GX2200 does better than the ICOM M506, though – GPS. The GX2200 comes with an inbuilt 66 channel GPS component which can be vitally important.
If you don’t already have a GPS or NAV system on your boat that you can connect to your fixed mount VHF radio, then you'll definitely want to go for the Standard Horizon GX2200. However, there is no fixed mount marine radio out there that offers a better feature set and real world performance than the ICOM M506.