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Author Topic:   NMEA Linking Lowrance Link 5 VHF to Lowrance Elite 5 DSI
Jeff posted 03-29-2013 09:41 PM ET (US)   Profile for Jeff   Send Email to Jeff  
I am rigging my new (to me) boat with a new VHF and Plotter / Sonar. Having a set budget, I ended up ordering a Lowrance Link 5 DSC VHF and the Lowrance Elite 5 DSI. I waffled a bit between the Elite 5 and Elite 7. I finally decided to save the extra $300 to put towards a mooring cover and go with the Elite 5 DSI when I found out it, like the Elite 7, had NMEA 0183 output.

After getting the units and reading through the manuals I am a bit perplexed as to how I interface the VHF and GPS together using the NMEA connection? The Lowrance Link 5 DSC VHF has an obvious NMEA connection but Lowrance Elite 5 DSI does not have an obvious NMEA output port.

Elite 5 DSI Chartplotter.html
Link 5

A note on my purchase. I ended up buying the electronics through Star Marine Depot because of the low prices and was very happy with my purchase experience. I would recommend them.

Jeff posted 03-29-2013 11:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
Upon downloading a very detailed manual on Lowrance's website I found that you can configure the auxiliary temp and speed sensor output to be the NMEA output in the set up menu. I will also need to purchase an auxiliary cable to wire the Elite 5 DSI to the Link 5 VHF.

Why the port is not labled as the NMEA output on the case is strange and I wish it was cleary noted the extra cable that is not included. I do not mind paying extra for it. But I am peeved that the installation is now delayed until I get that extra cable.

Also, I do not understand why the supplied manual is so poorly written to not adequately cover the NMEA installation and set up.

Hoosier posted 03-30-2013 08:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
Jeff, I think you should have gone with the Elite 7, it has NMEA 2000, not 0183 connectivity. I just looked at the specs for the two units and was surprised at that difference. Jim has an indepth tutorial about NMEA 0183. Another subtle point, the manual for the -5 is copywrited 2011, but the one for the-7 is 2012. Frankly, I'd exchange the -5 for the -7.
jimh posted 03-30-2013 09:09 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I will be glad to help Jeff with the NMEA-0183 connections using the method I describe in

To start, we need the data for the radio and the chart plotter about the signals and wire colors. I do not have that at hand. If we can dig up the wire color and signal names as used by Lowrance, we can easily deduce the connections needed.

jimh posted 03-30-2013 09:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Let me help even more. I have found the radio data from Lowrance from Link-5-VHF_UM_EN_988-10244-002_p.pdf

and on page 50 of the above document. The NMEA-0183 signals and colors are listed as:

NMEA OUT (-) = BLACK (noted as a ground)


Now we convert these to the proper names:

TALKER B = none (because a ground is not a signal)


Now I will go hunt up the information for the chart plotter.

jimh posted 03-30-2013 09:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Looking around the Lowrance website, I found the ELITE-5 DSI manual available from DSI_COMBO_OM_EN_988-10153-001.pdf

The only mention of NMEA is on page 38. The manual implies that there is only a NMEA-0183 output available. The manual is silent about where that might be wired. Now for some more hunting around.

Hoosier posted 03-30-2013 09:41 AM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
I just looked through this on the Lowrance website

To me it sure looks like it's well worth the few dollars to upgrade to the Elite-7 HDI. I'm actually starting to talk myself into getting one....

jimh posted 03-30-2013 09:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
On the listing for another product, the ELITE-5, I found a link to a different document SONAR-DSI_INSTALL_EN_988-10169-001.pdf

which seems to show the details of the NMEA-0183 output, and it also mentions the special cable needed, an NDC-4 cable. This document gives information about the NMEA signals and wire colors, but the presentation is very confusing. The data is given in a table that looks like this

YELLOW TX        NMEA IN (+)
SHIELD (ground) NMEA IN (-)

This makes very little sense because the columns and rows of the table are not identified. We will have to apply our own intuition to interpret this badly presented information. Based on the knowledge that this device seems to only have an output signal, I would interpret the wiring as follows:

SHIELD = ground

It is unfortunate that Lowrance describes these signals with conflicting descriptions. I think they must have intended to indicate that the designators of the signals as "IN" were intended to be a guide to where the signal is to be connected, not as a legend for what this signal is called. This is very confusing. Shame on Lowrance for this sloppy information.

jimh posted 03-30-2013 09:55 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
With all the data searching done, and the terminology conversion done, we finally have the signal names and wire colors. Let me repeat them here for clarity:

TALKER B = none (because a ground or shield is not a signal)



Now we can easily figure out the interconnection according to the rule from my method. Here is the rule:

LISTENER connects to the TALKER of the other device with the same A/B notation.

If a LISTENER B has no corresponding TALKER B signal, that LISTENER B connects to ground or the power source common (i.e., negative battery bus in most boats).

If a TALKER B has no corresponding LISTENER B, that TALKER B is insulated and left unconnected.

Following the rule, we find the connections are as follows:

TALKER A------(no connection possible)

LISTENER B----(connect to ground)

jimh posted 03-30-2013 10:03 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Now we have the signals interconnected. We just have to work out the wire colors:

TALKER A / ORANGE-------- (no connection)

LISTENER B / GREEN --------(connect to ground)

If it is more convenient to connect the radio's GREEN wire to the chartplotter's shield of the YELLOW wire, you could make the connection there. Or, you can just connect the radio's GREEN wire to the power negative bus, which is the ground on a small boat.

jimh posted 03-30-2013 10:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
This is really a mess! Why would Lowrance use the same color wire for two different signals? In the radio, they used YELLOW for the LISTENER A. In the chart plotter, they used YELLOW for TALKER A. This is completely inconsistent. No wonder your average boater cannot figure out these connections!
jimh posted 03-30-2013 10:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Also, in this interconnection, we see that there is only a one-way connection. The chart plotter is going to send data to the radio. The radio appears to have data to send, but the chart plotter has no input for it.
Jeff posted 03-30-2013 04:10 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
Wow Jim you are right...kind of a mess. Thanks for all the Help!!

I ended up with the Elite 5 DSI because #1 I am going to top mount it to my helm and the Elite 7 HDI takes up too much real estate and #2 was cost.

I have no need for a full NMEA 2000 network on my boat. All I really wanted is to have the NMEA 0183 connection so the VHF has the GPS coordinate information for DSC and distress calls.

Mambo Minnow posted 03-30-2013 04:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Mambo Minnow  Send Email to Mambo Minnow     

I recently bought the Elite 5 as well, but the version with the regular 80/200 Khz transducer and sonar. I wanted to get the Down Scan version, but I soon discovered you can only have one or the other sonar, not both. I decided to stick with the more traditional sonar since the coastal bay waters I boat upon are fairly flat and devoid of any interesting structure.

This is another big plus in upgrading to the Elite 7 HDI. You basically get three functionalities: Chartplotter, Sonar and Down Scan Imaging.

I also chose to stick with the Elite 5 because I have a stand alone Humminbird sonar that I am not ready to replace yet. I only need a 5 inch GPS chart plotter for the moment. I may eventually move the Elite 5 to my Montauk and buy the Elite 7 when I am ready for a wholesale electronics upgrade on the Conquest. When I reposer the engine, I want a full NMEA 2000 electronic suite to display engine data.

jimh posted 04-01-2013 07:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Because the ELITE series from Lowrance is the lower-priced series, the devices tend to lack the complete feature set of the higher-priced HDS series. I note that on the ELITE-5 the data interface (or "Data Port") is configurable to be either a NMEA-0183 output or a data input for a speed and temperature sensor.

When I said that the NMEA-0183 wiring was "a mess," my criticism was for the lack of adherence to a consistent color coding and the consistent use of differential signals. The NMEA standards organization has revised the NMEA-0183 standard and strongly suggested that manufacturers follow a consistent use of wire color for the signals and provide the signals in differential A and B pairs. The recommended colors are described in a separate article. (See

The LINK-5 radio does follow the standard for colors for the LISTENER A (Yellow) and LISTENER B (Green) signals, but its TALKER signal is single ended (only TALKER A and no TALKER B) and does not follow the recommended colors. The ELITE-5 has only an output, the output is not differential, and the color coding is wrong.

That is what I meant when I said it was "a mess." I am sure if you connect it as I have described the interface will work, but it does take a lot of head scratching to figure out how to interconnect the devices.

Jeff posted 04-15-2013 04:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     

Thanks for your help. I got everything installed and the VHF is receiving the GPS Data via the NMEA 0183 connection just fine.

There is a problem though with my VHF. I am not receiving anything on the VHF WX stations. I am at this point going to get a new antenna as the one I am using is left over from the old owner. It is a just a poor quality Merchant Marine Nav-1 antenna. I am going to replace it with a high quality Shakespeare unit and see if that remedies the problem. Any recommendations on a good 6' antenna?

As for the Elite-5 DSI vs. the Elite 7 debate, I am glad I ended up with the Elite 5 as my helm station on my Grady White 190 Tournament is limited with mounting areas because of the windshield. The Elite 7 would have actually been too big to mount where I needed to install it.

jimh posted 04-16-2013 12:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Jeff--If you are testing the radio in this same area--Southeast Michigan--you should be able to receive several NOAA Weather Radio station. See my reception report on radio testing in my article at

Receiver Testing

If you cannot receive KEC63, the local station, your new LINK-5 has a serious problem. KEC-63 is running about 1,000-watts into a gain antenna at about 500-feet elevation at Greenfield and 10-1/2-mile road. You ought to be getting so much signal from KEC63 you could light your gas stove from the antenna terminal.

Jeff posted 04-16-2013 01:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
Jim--I live up North in Oxford now so [KEC63 is] about 30-miles away.
jimh posted 04-17-2013 11:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Even at a range of 30-miles, KEC63 should be an extremely strong signal for your receiver in Oxford, Michigan. If you cannot get a very strong signal on KEC63 at a range of 30-miles with your LINK-5 radio, I would be suspicious of the receiver sensitivity or some other problem.
Jeff posted 04-29-2013 10:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for Jeff  Send Email to Jeff     
This past weekend I installed a new Shakespeare 8' antenna and the radio picked up the WX station just fine so, the installation is complete.

Also, I was able to use the new system as I sea trailed the boat on Lake Orion for the first time. I have to say I am very happy with my choices and think the Elite 5 DSI was the right choice for my uses. The sonar imaging is really amazing for this compact little unit. I was having the depth reading drop out at speeds over 40mph but with a little tweaking of the transducer I may be able to tune that in. While I have no taken full images of the installation yet I do have a short video of the Lowrance Elite 5 DSI during my WOT test run. It fits very well into the space I have.

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