Disruptive Tech:
The New Bluetooth Music Experience

By Tom Burden, Last updated: 7/20/2018

Disruptive technology. Listen to your favorite music; record, save and watch videos; and power up your portable electronic devices—all without drilling a single hole in your cockpit or installing wiring behind a circuit breaker panel. Wireless devices bring simple and inexpensive technology to your life on the water.

Bluetooth portable replaces hard-wired stereo

The old way: On dad’s boat, using the old school tech, you’ll find a stereo receiver, wired into the boat’s 12-volt battery system. It receives AM and FM radio stations and plays a CD. Dad might be able to operate the stereo on his chartplotter or GPS/fishfinder combo. A pair of speakers—or several pairs—is hard wired through bulkheads into cabins and cockpits. It’s all marine grade equipment—receivers with marinized circuit boards, water-resistant or waterproof speakers, and good-quality Ancor marine-grade speaker wire. It’s a great system!

The new way is to stream your music from your smartphone or tablet to speakers via a Bluetooth connection. Here at West Marine, we’ve got a whole new “ecosystem” that’s dedicated to enabling and enhancing this new way of listening.

The heart of this new musical environment is your wireless device, be it a smartphone, a tablet or a laptop. Here at West Marine, we have you covered with waterproof cases for the device, portable battery packs to keep it powered up, portable mounts so it won’t go overboard, awesome waterproof speakers to deliver great sound, earbuds for private listening, waterproof action cameras that record and stream video, thermal cameras, satellite trackers, even a handheld VHF radio, the Icom M25, that you can charge with a USB port.

Music from your smartphone or tablet

When you bring your mobile device—your smartphone, for example—down to the water, you’ll need to have a source of digital music to listen to. It could be Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube or others. You may be streaming audio from the Internet, and when you’re out of range of the net, you may be able to listen to songs you’ve saved on your device. Spotify, for example, lets you save songs to a file called “Your Music” that can be accessed anywhere. You could be 1,000 miles out in the ocean, and have hundreds of songs at your fingertips.

Lifejacket Float

LifeJacket Float For iPhone 8

Of course, your Android or iPhone is not waterproof, so you’ll want a case to keep it dry and safe. Just go to our Phone and Tablet section, and you’ll find an assortment of cases for the latest versions of popular Apple, Android and other devices. They’re waterproof, and we also have flotation cases in bright colors, so your device is safe in the event of an accidental splashdown. Mounts can attach your phone to the dashboard or a bulkhead, or clip it to bike handlebars or to your belt. Now your valuable smartphone is safe and dry.

Bluetooth speakers

You could play your digital music over the miniscule speakers in the bottom of the smartphone, but that sounds pretty tinny, and your onboard guests may want to rock out. That’s where wireless Bluetooth speakers are a great new choice for portable music listening.

You could get a pair of Scoshe boomBOTTLE+ wireless speakers, for example. You pair them with your device, in the typical Bluetooth manner. Because they use the Bluetooth Smart 4.0 standard, they’ll give you true stereo sound, wirelessly, with one speaker playing the left channel and the other one the right. The video below shows how to pair a couple of these speakers with your smartphone. It’s pretty easy to do.

Most of the portable speakers are completely waterproof, and many float, like the boomBOTTLE+, so you can use them in a swimming pool, at the beach, or just about anywhere. We’ve got an extensive speaker selection ranging in price from about $40 to $300. Our customers love the sound quality too, based on their online ratings.

If you want to listen in private, we also have an extensive collection of earbuds, both wireless and wired to your phone.

Portable power for your devices

You know how greedily your smartphone or tablet drains the energy from its battery, and you need to keep it charged up. Wireless speakers also run on rechargeable batteries. If you’re out in the forest or on a small boat without AC outlets to plug a charger into, we have some great new tech to provide power.

Our site has a section filled with solar chargers and battery packs. The Kodiak Waterproof Power Bank is a popular and inexpensive example. It’s small, and waterproof, with a 6000mAh battery that will recharge your phone three times. It will also power up any portable device using a USB port.

We have solar chargers sized to fit any size of electrical demand, plus hand-cranked chargers and USB charging plugs to fit into a 12-volt cigarette lighter receptacle. Your portable electronics need never run short of juice.

What is Bluetooth?

According to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which has more than 25,000 member companies and manages the Bluetooth standard:

Bluetooth technology is the global wireless standard enabling the Internet of Things (IoT).

Created in 1994, Bluetooth technology was conceived as a wireless alternative to data cables by exchanging data using radio transmissions. The name Bluetooth came from a tenth century Danish King, Harald Blåtand or, in English, Harold Bluetooth. As the story goes, King Blåtand helped unite warring factions in parts of what are now Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Similarly, Bluetooth technology was created as an open standard to allow connectivity and collaboration between disparate products and industries.

Are there different kinds of Bluetooth?

There are actually several “kinds”—different versions of the core specification—of Bluetooth. The most common today are Bluetooth BR/EDR (basic rate/enhanced data rate) and Bluetooth Low Energy (low energy). You will generally find BR/EDR in things like speakers and headsets while you will see Bluetooth Smart in the newest products on the market like fitness bands, beacons—small transmitters that send data over Bluetooth—and smart home devices.

The Wikipedia page maintained by Bluetooth SIG continues:

Mobile operating systems including iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry, as well as OS X, Linux, and Windows 8, natively support Bluetooth Smart. The Bluetooth SIG predicts that by 2018 more than 90 percent of Bluetooth-enabled smartphones will support Bluetooth Smart.

Integration of Bluetooth Smart with version 4.0 of the Core Specification was completed in early 2010. The first smartphone to implement the 4.0 specification was the iPhone 4S, released in October 2011. A number of other manufacturers released Bluetooth Smart Ready devices in 2012.