My BMW R1150 GSAA at Deals' Gap

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Entries in SENA SMH10 Bluetooth (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.


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.


Sena SMH10 installed in a Shoei Neotec - Success!

The Shoei Neotec is an impressive helmet. But, with its $$ price tag vs. my old $ budget HJC Symax II, it should be. I took a moment to weigh it because a sales person insisted that it was the lightest modular helmet around. The Large size weighed in at 3 lbs., 15 oz. My old Symax II with the Autocom headset installed actually weighed in exactly the same. So, in reality HJC had the weight advantage, but with the build quality and added strength of the Neotec, I'm not going to quibble.

Old and New together for a while

Lid up, visor downWith the helmet comparison out of the way, here's an idea what you'll get yourself into if you decide to go wireless with the Sena SMH10. Unboxings are fun and Sena does a nice job of packaging everything you'll need to complete the installation.

Nice presentation from Sena

All the "electronics" for one of the two headsets in the kit is shown below. The universal boom microphone is shown here, but there's also an alternate microphone for use with a full face (non-flip!) helmet.

Here's a shot of the backside of the mounting assembly, showing the metal clamping plate that is tightened to secure the mount to the helmet.

Here are the extras that come in the kit to make installation easier with a variety of different helmets. For helmets where clamping the mount is impossible because there's no room between the outer shell and the protective foam, Sena includes an adhesive mounting pad (left).

Adhesive pads with the fuzzy side of Velcro are included for use when the helmet doesn't have "fuzzy" material in the right places. The speakers and microphone already have the "hooky" side of the Velcro attached, so under the right circumstances, they just literally stick in place where you want them to - or sometimes where you don't.

There's also the required allen wrench used to tighten the machine screws on the clamp.

Finally, to the right is a spare foam cover for the boom microphone and that strange shaped piece of plastic in the middle is actually a more serious wind-blocking mechanism for the boom microphone - more on that later. 

The Neotec actually has the necessary room between the outer shell and protective foam to allow the metal clamping plate to slide right in. For kicks, I attached the adhesive mount just to see how it would work. There's nothing that says you couldn't use it on the Neotec (with proper cleaning and preparation), but it just seemed better to use the clamp.

Here's a shot with the mount secured to the helmet with just enough room remaining to actuate the Neotec's visor lever with a finger from your left hand.

With the clamp in place and secured, here's a view from the bottom. Note that the helmet's left hand cheek pad is still in place for this picture. I'd advise removing both right and left cheek pads from the start and did so when I repeated the installation steps with Elizabeth's Neotec.

With the cheek pads removed, it's time to install the left and right speakers. Although they aren't marked, it's easy to tell which is which, since one has a longer lead allowing it to reach around to the opposite (right) side of the helmet.

Shoei provides speaker "cutouts" of some sort on each side of the helmet. In theory you could place the speakers behind these removable pads, providing additional clearance for your (big!?!) ears. Comments on the internet suggest that you will want to locate the speakers as close to your ears as you can get them and make sure to properly align them to the ear canal.

In this picture, I've relied on the speaker's "hooky" side Velcro to stick it in place near the center of the cover for the speaker cutout. This is OK for preliminary placement, but I'd recommend moving it up and to the left from center in order to get it closer to where I think your ear canal might be in reality.

Next, I took a guess at where the best place to "stick" the base of the boom microphone might be. I didn't do too bad, actually.

With the microphone and both speakers in place, I spent some time routing the leads out of view. With the cheek pads removed it occurred to me that I had two options: 1) Route the wires over and around the left side cheek pad or 2) Tuck the wires in between the protective foam and shell just enough to allow the cheek pad to be attached without binding on the wires. I chose number 2 for a much cleaner-looking installation, although finding the right "helper" to push the wires into place was tricky.


With everything in place the headset electronic module snapped in place on the mount and looked nice!


Here's a close-up shot of those wires tucked in behind the cheek pad.


Here's a close-up of the boom microphone with the foam cover removed. Note the position of the little wing on the end of the boom where it attaches to the mic. You want that wing pointing away from your face.

As mentioned above, Sena provides an additional wind blocking device that simply snaps in place over the windy side of the microphone. I expected the microphone to be pretty sensitive to picking up wind in a modular helmet, so I proactively chose to use the wind blocking device.

I then carefully tugged the foam cover back over the top of the microphone.

Time for a test fitting. You really didn't want to see my entire mug, did you?

With everything in place, I allowed the SMH10 some time to charge up using the supplied USB cable. Once charged, I turned the unit on and experimented with speaker placement and volume levels using the voice prompts. I also used a finger to determine how the speaker aligned with each ear. The speakers stick pretty well to the fabric in the helmet making it somewhat difficult to move them around without pulling loose the Neotec's speaker well covers. Remain calm and you'll be happy.

With the installation complete on one helmet anyway, I weighed the Neotec and this time found it to weigh 4 lbs., 6 oz. That's just 7 oz. for the SMH10.

Next up: Prepping the bike for the Nuvi 665 installation. Hint: Lots of old wiring was removed in the making of this story.