Bluetooth Audio and Amateur Radio
(in response to the many questions I have received lately)

Bluetooth headsets are very common with cell phone users.  As such, many amateurs may already own a Bluetooth (BT) headset.  So why not use it with amateur radio?

To do so requires very little effort, and can be quite rewarding.  I recently monitored my HF radio and had free run of the area around my station.  That included a break in front of TV, a visit to the refrigerator, and a visit to the restroom.  All the while, I was able to monitor, hands free using the same BT headset I use with my cell phone.  Of course results will vary depending on your own environment. 

It doesn't stop with just monitoring.  You can use the two-way capability of your BT headset as well.  The only catch is you still need a manual PTT switch.  This works just fine in a number of circumstances.   Suppose you are skiing with you handheld.  You can monitor things just fine with your BT headset, then when it comes time to transmit, just press the PTT on your handheld.  This also works well with mobiles.  The adaptor I show below has a built in PTT, so again, when it comes time to transmit, I just reach down and hit the switch.  The switch can be whatever suits your needs. 

So far, as long as the environment is somewhat quite, VOX has worked pretty good.  Not great, just pretty good.  Driving in a car with the fan on even works fine, but when a bump in the road is hit, or you need to clear your throat, you guessed it.  I do find myself operating more and more in VOX mode, especially as I refine the settings.  I also find myself talking without too many gaps.  The reward?  The reward is hands free operation!

There are a couple of BT options depending on what your needs are.

For many applications, you will want to use BT for both transmitting and receiving.  For this, I have been using a Jabra A-210. 

It has a built-in rechargeable battery, so it is well suited for handheld and mobile operation.  These devices are very difficult to find in local stores, so you will probably end up having to order them over the Internet.  They were originally designed for converting a non-BT cell phone into a BT cell phone.  It uses standard 2.5 mm, so you will want to wire up assorted adapters to suit your needs.  Here are some I threw together.  The adapter you see attached to the Jabra A-210 simply converts it to a standard radio plug set.  As you can see, it plugs in to the dongle from my Yaesu handheld.  The other adapter is used for my Icom 706.  It plugs directly into the mic jack, and also has a manual PTT button. 

The only thing you really need to know is that the plug coming from the Jabra A-210 has a ground contact, then a speaker contact, then a mic contact at the tip.

BEWARE!  Unfortunately, there are some less than honest businesses on the Internet, and be sure that you order a new, fully functional device.  I received three bad ones before I had one that actually powered up.  Don't be bashful about returning stuff if it doesn't work or is in poor condition.

For stations at home where you want to just monitor your radio, there are many options out there.  For this, I have been using a Sony HWS-BTA2W. 

It plugs into the wall, so it is well suited for station use.  It has more features than you may want, so you might opt for a less expense device.  What I liked about this one is it allows you to manually switch between transmit mode and receive mode.  Transmit mode is where it functions as a BT transmitter to allow you to monitor your radio with a BT headset.  Also, there are times when I want to play music or other audio from my new BT cell phone into a stereo.  For that, I switch it to receive mode, and it receives my cell phone music or audio and plays it on my stereo.  These devices are available at places like Best Buy and Radio Shack.

Once everything is built, follow the manufacturer's instructions on handshaking between your earpiece and the device, then enjoy.

WARNING! Any modifications made to your equipment are performed at your own risk.
Be aware that modifications will probably void your warranty.
The author assumes no responsibility whatsoever from the use or misuse of this information.

Last update on March 04, 2008