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Another Look at Forward Looking Sonar-A Review of The Interphase Color Twinscope se

September 1, 2011

Another Look at Forward Looking Sonar

A Review of The Interphase Color Twinscope se

In a previous review of underwater sonar (“Is Seeing Under Your Boat Worth the Cost, NFTB October, 2009) we evaluated sonar designed for small ships and pleasure craft. Since then more advanced technology has become available. We tested the Interphase “Color Twinscope se” over the past several months, and share our conclusions with you below.

Left Screen: Monitoring proper bottom acquisition, Right Screen: Forward Vertical view of the bottom ahead

In order to be considered for review by NFTB, a product must meet the following criteria:

  • Add value to NFTB readers
  • Perform as advertised
  • Be durable and reliable
  • Be affordable
  • Deliver an added level of safety
  • Increase the pleasure of boating

Having used sonar for several years we have experienced the added level of safety and convenience it offers when boating in shallow water. On numerous occasions we have avoided grounding by knowing the precise location of shoaling. On one occasion we used sonar to determine how best to become unstuck after running aground with the sonar off.  Any boater who maneuvers in shallow water, or in areas where channels are narrow or poorly marked, will soon come to appreciate the value of sonar.

A variety of newer generation underwater sonar devises are available. We tested the Interphase model because it was an upgrade from our previous Interphase sonar and installation was, therefore, quite simple.

View of shoal to starboard in shallow water (7.5 feet)

“Color Twinscope se” data can either be displayed on a plotter, or to a dedicated color display (our choice). Its through-hull transducer is placed ahead of a keel or other potential obstructions, allowing it a view ahead and on both sides of the boat. Its display includes a typical “fish finder” straight down view, along with forward and side views.

The “Color Twinscope se” scans a moving beam over a 90-degree arc either vertically or horizontally ahead of the boat. In the Forward Vertical scanning mode, this gives the navigator an underwater sonar image of what’s ahead from just under the surface to directly below the boat. The beam depicts contours from the water surface ahead to the bottom below, as far as approximately 2.5 times the depth of the water. Looking forward is useful at cruising speeds or slower to identify rock pinnacles or other submerged objects directly ahead.

In horizontal mode the beam scans over a 90-degree segment from 45 degrees to port to 45 degrees to starboard. It is best employed in shallow waters to show the location of underwater channels, breaks in reefs and to help navigate away from shallows.

The maximum forward range is reported to be 1,200 feet, at a depth of 600 feet. Range and clarity can be adjusted manually, or left in the Auto Gain mode. A keel-offset adjustment is set after installation. The display has excellent readability, with three view modes…Sunlight, Daylight and Night. Alarms can be set for both forward and down looking obstructions or depths. The unit draws approximately 1.0 amps of 12-volt power. It includes a USB interface to allow future Internet upgrades.

Support from Interphase is excellent. We were able, without special introduction, to speak with several knowledgeable technical advisors, and with Charles Hicks, Interphase’s President. Our unit at first had difficulty obtaining date at greater than five knots of speed. A call to the company, and a quick re-set to factory settings, fixed the problem. Bottom data is available in our cruising area to 100 feet at speeds up to eight knots. Interphase reports that powerboat users typically see the bottom well up to speeds of 20 knots. The color display makes identifying bottom and obstructions intuitive.

Occasional loss of depth information

The only problems we have encountered with the unit include an occasional shutdown after several hours of continuous use, occasional loss of depth signal (followed by reacquisition), shutdown during voltage drops when using a bow thruster, and fogging of the display in certain weather conditions. The shutdown problem is immediately corrected by pushing the “on” button, and Interphase has promised to correct this. The fogging issue is rare, and after 18 months of operation this has not otherwise affected performance.

The accompanying photos are examples of typical displays. In our experience, sonar is most valuable when moving through narrow channels areas of shoaling. The notes below each photo describe how we might interpret and respond to particular display information.

NFTB has found the “Interphase Color Scope se” to be a valuable addition to our navigation electronics. The unit performs as described by the manufacturer, is reliable, and adds value to our navigation palate. Installation is not difficult and customer support is excellent. As with all electronic devises aboard, we use sonar in conjunction with paper charts and traditional methods of navigation. High tech electronics should never take the place of basic seamanship aboard any ship.

Anyone wishing to contact Interphase is directed to their website:

One Comment leave one →
  1. Hugh permalink
    March 2, 2012 11:06

    In your first photo, “Left Screen: Monitoring proper bottom acquisition, Right Screen: Forward Vertical view of the bottom ahead”, the left screen is showing current depth under the boat at 77 ft but the right view suggests the depth under the boat is 50 ft. I would have expected the two to be consistents, like your third photo, “Occasional loss of depth information “. How should the first photo be interpreted such that there is only one depth under the boat?

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