The Airmar 260 series is a 1-kW transducer available in a variety of configurations, including thru-hull, in-hull, and transom mount. The 260 is a beast whose size and performance dwarfs many of its more common and less expensive brethren like the Airmar P66.
The transducer is the heart of any fishfinder, so getting the right one can optimize your sounder performance. Airmar builds a wide range of transducer models for several marine electronics makers including Furuno, Garmin, Lowrance, and Raymarine.
Usually, the difference between the same model transducer used by a different brand of fishfinder is the cable end that connects to the display unit.
However, that’s not always the case; some transducers do have internal differences depending on the marine electronics maker they are built for.
Airmar also makes and markets crossover cables that allow a transducer built initially with say a 10-pin Furuno cable end to connect to a Garmin MFD.
As a boat operator, you may be able to change out your fishfinder without the need to change a working transducer or vice versa. There may be certain cases where some aspect of transducer functionality is lost when using a crossover cable. For example, you may lose the water temperature function on some installations when using a crossover cable.
Airmar B260 and SS260
There are currently four versions of the Airmar 260 series transducer available, the B260, SS260, M260, and TM260. The original in the series, the Airmar B260, is a bronze thru-hull that you can mount in an Airmar fairing block or glassed-in flush to the bottom of your boat. Because this is a large recreational transducer determining the installation layout must be done on a case by case basis.
The B260 weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds with the transducer portion of the unit measuring 8.5-inch fore to aft, 4.5-inches wide, and slightly over 2.5-inches deep. Adding a fairing block to the unit increases the exposed dimensions significantly. A fairing block installation is over 22-inches fore to aft, and slightly over 5-inches wide and deep. Obviously, a large clean flat under hull surface is required for this installation. Deadrise can be up to 20 degrees. The Airmar SS260 is identical to the B260 in all aspect, except it is constructed with a stainless steel housing.
The Airmar M260 is a unique transducer. It uses a tank system that lets you mount the unit inside your boat’s hull without having to drill any holes in the bottom.
The tank comes filled with non-toxic anti-freeze to prevent air bubbles between the transducer and the hull.
Without air bubbles, the transducer signal can pass through the liquid filled tank, the solid fiberglass hull, and on into the water.
You will need access to a pretty large area of your boat bottom to install the M260. The tank is just under 8-inches fore to aft, 6-inches wide, and just over 8-inches tall.
Adapting the tank to the deadrise of your hull will reduce the height somewhat. Up to 30 degrees of deadrise can be accommodated. You can mount the M260 on either a fore/aft axis or on a port/starboard axis depending on the needs of the particular installation in your vessel. This transducer has become increasingly popular with the large fast center console crowd.
The latest addition to the Airmar 260 transducer fleet is the TM260. This unit brings the 260’s power and sensitivity to the small boater via its transom mount to those who just don’t have the space to mount any other version of the Airmar 260.
I have the Airmar TM260 mounted on the transom of a 20-foot Seacraft and coupled to a Garmin 740s MFD. This combination has proved to be very successful. My previous test boat fishfinder installation coupled a Garmin 5208 to an Airmar B44V originally cabled with a 10-pin Furuno end. I used an Airmar crossover cable to make the connection to the big screen Garmin. So far I have to say the newer setup with the Airmar 260 series transducer is hands down superior, as I expected it to be.
Installation of the TM260 on the Seacraft was straightforward. I mounted the stainless steel bracket to the transom with four of the five bolts, and then I installed the transducer and took the vessel for a test run. Initially, everything worked just fine except the bottom lock would cut out at speed. To fix this issue I lowered the transducer about an eighth of an inch and then locked it in place by installing the center mount fifth bolt.
I did have to cut the transducer cable to snake it through to the console where the Garmin 740s was mounted. I followed the Airmar recommendation to use the Airmar splash-proof junction box to reconnect the wires inside the cable and mounted the junction box inside the console. Everything worked perfectly upon completion.
Airmar TM260 to P66 Transducer Comparison
|Power (Watts RMS)||1000||600|
|Frequency (kHz)||50 / 200||50 / 200|
|Beamwidth at 50 kHz||19 Degrees||45 Degrees|
|Beamwidth at 200 kHz||6 Degrees||11 Degrees|
|Max Depth at 50 kHz||1800 to 2500 Feet||800 to 1200 Feet|
|Max Depth at 200 kHz||700 to 1000 Feet||400 to 700 Feet|
|Number of Elements 50 kHz||7||1|
|Number of Elements 200 kHz||1||1|
Why choose an Airmar 260 over other less expensive options? In a word, performance.
According to Airmar specifications when comparing any of the 260 series units to a top-notch 600-watt rated transducer like the Airmar P66 you can expect the 260 to be 50 times more sensitive when using the 50 kHz output and 13 times more sensitive when probing with 200 kHz. In my experience with the TM260, these claims are factual.