My BMW R1150 GSAA at Deals' Gap

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Entries in Garmin Zumo 665LM (6)


Garmin Zumo 665LM - When the expected stereo sound isn't there

With several thousand miles behind me since buying the Garmin Zumo 665LM and pairing it with the Sena SMH10 BlueTooth headset, you would think I would have all their mysteries solved. One that still remains is why the music played by the Zumo ends up sounding like over-driven, lo-fi AM radio through the Sena MOST of the time. This shouldn't be the case, as Garmin clearly advertises A2DP stereo support for this GPS.

Now, I do know that for simple GPS voice prompting via the SMH10, mono audio is more than adequate and that's exactly what the GPS transmits to the headset. It seems like every time I start the MP3 music playing after the Zumo and Sena have found each other, I end up being entertained by crappy sounding audio. What fun is that?

Solution(?):  Through my experimentation during a recent run to Texas and back, I discovered that if I turn on the Zumo and start the MP3 music playing BEFORE I turn on the Sena SMH10, the headset seems to recognize the A2DP profile and play the sweet, stereo sound I expect to hear. This technique wasn't foolproof and I occasionally had to turn the SMH10 off and back on to correct the problem.

Bluetooth is supposed to make our lives easier. Why isn't this easy? I'm a techie and I'm starting to lose my patience with these problems. My Autocom may have been long in the tooth, but all I had to do was plug in my helmet and it just worked. Sheesh. 


XM Radio with the Garmin Zumo 665LM - Ditched it!

Moving the Garmin XM Radio antenna "puck" to the rear of the BMW solved the reception problem. However, for whatever reason Garmin has the audio level set much lower than it should be. This prevents the rider and passenger from actually hearing the audio well enough over the Sena SMH10 headsets to be able to enjoy it. Yes, I adjusted the volume level to the max on the Zumo. We hear the GPS voice prompts and MP3 music audio just fine.

Solution: I called the Sirius/XM folks and canceled the subscription on this extra radio. We can still enjoy hours of our music played from a uSD card inserted in the Zumo. Problem solved. My advice... skip the extra expense of the 665LM and stick with the 665.


XM Radio with the Garmin Zumo 665LM - Move it or don't use it

One of the perceived benefits I had of upgrading to the Garmin Zumo 665LM was the inclusion of XM Radio support. For years I've been using a separate radio tucked in the tankbag. The audio out of that radio was wired into the AutoCom and "just worked".

Garmin provides a GXM 40 XM antenna "puck" in the box with the Zumo. It's not just an antenna, but the entire XM radio and it connects to the GPS through a wired USB connection. The length of the GXM 40's USB cable is a bit short, leading to limited flexibility on location. Their literature instructs you to locate it away from the GPS and other electronics. So why the short cable? The tankbag seemed like an acceptable location with the limited length of the cable, so that's where I put it.

Disappointment ensued on our test ride. The GXM 40 wasn't able to keep a usable view of the necessary satellites much at all - even out in open, flat land. Putting it on my helmet might have worked better, but that certainly wouldn't have been too practical.

Coming up with a solution... With my previous setup, I'd located a small XM antenna way back on the top surface of the Jesse top box. It worked much of the time, losing signal only with an extensive canopy of trees blocking satellite view. In short, we had no complaints and enjoyed hours of XM music on our travels.

Shopping Amazon, I located a promising Garmin GXM USB Extension Cable for $23. (IMO) That's a bit expensive for a USB cable so I checked a few local consumer electronics stores to see if I could come up with something different. Extension cables are quite hard to find, so I ordered up the piece from Amazon.

Next step... Sticking the puck and running the extended cable. Ride safe.


Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Pairing with the Garmin Zumo 665

With the old Autocom in place on the GS, the misses and I could 1) Talk to one another, 2) Hear voice prompts from the Garmin 276C and 3) Listen to audio from the XM receiver. In addition, I could also make 2-way radio contacts via the Autocom's interface to my various Icom handheld radios. The objective of this wireless transformation was to retain the same functionality, but get rid of those pesky wires.

Immediate Success? Yes and unfortunately no.

Our Sena SMH10 headsets came factory paired to on another. So far, we've used them in the house, testing out the tap to open the channel and tap to close the channel functionality. This is almost the same as push to talk on a radio except that you don't have to keep the button pressed. It seemed to work well, but with the Autocom, we were used to just speaking to the other person when we wanted to. Sena does allow you to keep the channel open at all times, but I suspect that any wind noise that might get picked up by one or both helmet-mounted microphones might be a distraction in this mode. More experimentation is needed.

So, with Number 1 out of the way, what about number 2 and 3? This is where the fun began. I first paired my Sena headset to the Zumo 665 and immediate enjoyed the benefits of voice prompt and XM radio audio streaming into my Neotec. Cool! Not really thinking about it much, I paired Elizabeth's Sena with the Zumo and my education began. I quickly realized that the Zumo ONLY supports one paired headset at a time. Mine or hers, but not both. Disappointment set in as I walked from the garage into the house and explained to Elizabeth that... we had a problem. She corrected me quickly by say "You have a problem." Ouch.

Taking time to think about this limitation, it made sense. Consider an iPhone or other Bluetooth-enabled device able to play music wirelessly through some external speaker device. You can pair that phone with as many of these devices as you want, but you can only connect to one of them at a time!

Consulting the interweb, I found that Sena solves this problem with the SM10 Dual Stream Bluetooth Stereo Transmitter. A phone call later to Rocket Moto, my wallet was sufficiently lightened and a SM10 was on its way to me. This small, battery-powered adapter connects (gasp) via a cable to the Zumo 665 audio and then is paired to both rider and passenger headsets, allowing them to hear all the same audio from the Zumo or other non-Bluetooth audio device. I'll follow up on this in a future post once the installation and pairing has been completed.

Back to my experience riding the GS with the Sena SMH10 paired with the Zumo... Good, but initially not great. My initial impression of the audio from XM receiver was that it sounded a lot like AM radio to me - at any speed. The voice prompts from the Zumo were fine if not louder than needed. They are of course mono and not stereo anyway. I experimented with the Zumo's audio mixer settings, dropping the voice prompt audio down to 60% and that seemed to work well, even at freeway speeds with earplugs in.

Then, something changed... I can't explain it yet, but on yesterday's ride back from a tire change at Ed Gray's place, the audio I was hearing from the Zumo's XM receiver improved dramatically. I was hearing true stereo separation and it was very clear. I'm actually wondering if this has something to do with the order in which the devices are powered up. If the improvement doesn't stick, I'll post a follow-up on this later.

With just a few weeks to go before our first big trip, we have some additional shaking out to accomplish to make sure everything's working as expected. I really don't want to be forced to fiddle with settings along the way. Stay tuned.


The Farkle Transformation - More wireless, less wires!

Making the decision to go wireless with Bluetooth technology on the GS forced the simplification of all that wiring I'd been hiding under the seat for all these years. Yeah!

Before the carnage!

See what I mean? Although my Anderson Powerpole-based DC power distribution would still remain, all the wiring associated with the Autocom would go. The wiring harness for the old Garmin 276C would also be replaced with the fresh one for the Zumo 665LM. This driveway exercise gave me an opportunity for some general cleanup of the remaining wiring.

Here's the relay-driven power distribution hidden away in the compartment below the Jesse top box. You can see the Autocom hidden in there, too, before its removal.

Pre Autocom removalHere's a shot of the wiring that went into the Big Mak map case. All this was connected to the XM receiver hidden away in the case. Since I opted for the Zumo 665 with the XM "puck" receiver, this wiring got removed, too.

After the cutting and pulling ended, I had quite the pile of "stuff" removed from the bike.

Also stripped from the bike with the removal of the Autocom was the interface with my handheld Icom GMRS and VHF/UHF Ham radios. I'll tackle adding radio connectivity back into the mix after we return from a couple of our trips this summer. I don't need to worry about that in the short term.

With the wiring simplified, I then bolted the Garmin-supplied Ram ball mount to the back of the Zumo mount and attached it to the bar-mounted ball I'd been using. I used a 3.5" arm instead of the Garmin-supplied 2.5" arm to get the Zumo up a little higher.

Here's a shot of the mount attached to the GS.

The Zumo wiring harness has three parts:  power, audio input/output and a connection to the XM Radio receiver. They all come out of the mount in a single bundle and then split into their three respective cables. The power portion of the cable routed under the tank, along the left side of the engine and can be seen in this picture.

The audio and XM connections from the Zumo were then routed into the Big Mak map case after the tank was bolted back in place.

With the de-wiring and re-wiring complete, the fun with Bluetooth now begins. Next up: Pairing devices and learning more about Bluetooth in general.