Installation advice for VHF marine radio systems

Installation advice for VHF marine radio systems

A VHF marine radio is a vital piece of safety equipment on board and should be installed in such a way that it can operate independently of other equipment on board, i.e. ideally with its own power supply and safety fuse. Learn all about the different ways a marine VHF radio can be installed on board, accessories for marine radios and how to configure them correctly.

Different mounting options for marine radios

1 Surface mount

Mounting on a surface is a good way to install a radio on a control console, but it takes up a lot of space. Mounting items required, such as brackets, are usually included in the delivery contents.

2 Overhead mounting

Mount your radio overhead (on the ceiling) if you wish to save space on your navigation area. Radios that are mounted overhead are also well protected from sunlight, so reflections on the display are reduced. Mounting items required, such as brackets, are usually included in the delivery contents.

3 Flush mount

Most radios can be installed in the control console. To do this, the unit is pushed into area cut-out for it and secured accordingly. Please make sure to allow enough space behind the mounting plate. Don't forget that the installation depth of the radio itself does not include the length of the antenna connector and any network connections, which must also be taken into account. Mounting material for this type of installation is not included with many radios and must be purchased separately.

Before making a cut-out for the radio in your console, check whether GPS reception is available where you want to put it or whether an external GPS source may be required.

4 Blackbox - concealed mounting

Blackbox solutions are perfect for boats that need a radio but don’t have room on the helm. The radio itself can be concealed behind a bulkhead, with only the control unit visible on the cockpit table. Depending on the model, several control units can be connected to one black box, so one can be placed below deck and another above deck.

Summary - mounting options for radios

  • Surface mount: for installation on control consoles. Takes up a lot of space.
  • Overhead: protects from sunlight and reduces reflections, saves space in the navigation area.
  • Flush mount: Installation in the control console. There must be enough space behind the mounting plate.
  • Blackbox configuration: concealed mount behind a bulkhead ensures plenty of space in the cockpit.

Installing radio accessories

1. Installing a VHF antenna

A marine radio system consists of the radio itself, a VHF antenna and coaxial cable with connectors and plugs that connect the radio to the antenna. The mounting height of the VHF marine radio antenna determines its range. The higher the antenna is mounted, the higher the range. On sailboats, the VHF antenna should be positioned on the masthead for the longest possible range. A 3 dB antenna is recommended here. For motor boats, the longest possible antenna should be used. 6 dB or 9 dB antennas are recommended. Many antennas are available with tilt bases so that they can be laid flat when passing under low bridges etc.

Installing a VHF  antenna

2. Installing an antenna splitter

A VHF antenna can be used for several devices at the same time, e.g. it can be used for receiving FM radio and AIS signals in addition to marine radio. To do this requires an antenna splitter. Some splitters are even able to decode DVB-T TV signals.

3. Installing external speakers

If your radio is installed on the navigation table, as is common on many ships, the downside is that you won't be able to hear radio transmissions when you're outside on the helm. One option here could be to connect a second control unit, which could then be used outside of the cockpit. This depends, of course, on connection options available. As an alternative, an external speaker can be installed.

Many radios allow the connection of external speakers. 4 Ω speakers can usually be connected to the audio output. Please check the information regarding output power in your radio manual beforehand.

Installing accessories - summary

  • On sailboats, 3 dB VHF antennas should be used and installed in the masthead.
  • For motorboats, the longest possible UHF antennas with 6dB or 9dB are recommended.
  • With an antenna splitter, several devices can receive from the same VHF antenna at the same time.
  • An external speaker allows you to hear radio transmissions outside at the helm.


How do I configure my marine radio correctly?

1 Reducing noise and interference with marine radios

When configuring your radio, make sure the noise reduction setting is correct (squelch setting). After switching on the radio, turn noise reduction off completely, you'll be able to hear a lot of constant interference. Now slowly increase noise reduction until the point where it is no longer audible and keep it at this setting.

Current radios use a new DSP filter technology, which is a digital method of signal processing. Using this modern filter technology, it is possible to filter out interference and background noise much better than with analogue technology. Reducing background noise, such as engine noise, vastly improves the quality of radio communication, since the person at the other end of the call will experience a much better-quality call, even if they do not have DSP themselves.

Depending on the manufacturer, DSP filter technology is used when receiving and/or transmitting. For example, ICOM marine radios use DSP filtering for receiving and transmitting VHF radio messages.

2 Programming an MMSI number

After receiving your MMSI number from the Federal Network Agency, it must be programmed into your radio. You can program the MMSI number yourself or have an authorised dealer do it for you, depending on the model of the radio. In our online shop, you will find a note on each radio product page indicating whether programming is possible yourself or must be carried out by us. The SVB programming fee is approximately 30 € .

Configuring radio devices - summary

  • To set up noise reduction, increase until it is no longer audible.
  • Programme your MMSI number yourself or have it programmed by the dealer. Programming is only possible by the dealer for some radios.