Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations? - BMW Luxury Touring Community
 
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post #1 of 10 Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 6:43 pm Thread Starter
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Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

A buddy and I both have Autocom Active-PLUS setups, and we're taking a 9 day trip together in a few weeks. We'd like to add some bike-to-bike solution, preferably using a FRS/GPRS radio. Autocom seems to recommend the Kenwood FreeTalk XLS radio, but it also looks like there are adapters for a whole bunch of other radios.

Both of us already use AUX1 and AUX2 on the Autocom for GPS/Phone (Bluetooth) and music. It looks like you can use either the AUX3 or AUX4 ports on the Autocom for bike to bike radios, the main difference being the plug: AUX3 is a 4 pole 3.5mm plug, and AUX4 is a 5 pole DIN. The cable costs are a big difference, the 3.5mm cables are $15, while the DIN cables are more like $60, but it looks like if we want PTT, then the DIN cable is the only solution.

What about powering the radios themselves? The ones I've looked at all run off AA batteries. Has anyone tried adding a 12V adapter and powering them from the bike? Any issues with noise as a result? We're looking at around 100 hours of saddle time for this trip, and I'd prefer not to mess with batteries if I can avoid it. (Maybe take rechargeables? I've got a charger for 4 AA's that'll work off a cigarette lighter...)
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post #2 of 10 Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 7:18 pm
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

I think you're going to end up with the expensive 5 pin cable for this operation if you use anything other than a .5 watt FRS radios.

A GMRS radio such as the Icom GM21 is MUCH more powerful than an FRS radio and you can use better antennas. This may not be a big deal if you're riding close to each other, but if you get any distance between you, you'll be glad to have the extra power and better antenna.

I run a 5 watt Yaesu ham radio off the Autocom. I'm generally happy with it, but I have two distinct noise issues. The first is a low clicking that is present even when the radio is off. I added a ferrite bead to the Autocom wire just before it comes into the helmet and that didn't help. Its not loud and I can only notice it when at a stop. Other noises drown it out beyond that.

The other noise is associated with the wire that I have running from the battery to the radio. Like you, I don't like messing with batteries. I have the charging cord running to the radio and when its plugged in, I get a very noticable ignition noise in my receive audio. Again, I added a ferrite bead to the wire and again, it doesn't help. Fortunately, the noise is only on my receive and it is not on my transmit audio. Its not horrible and I can live with it, but its there. I can eliminate it by running off the battery. As a result, I only plug it in when it needs a charge.

I hope this helps.
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post #3 of 10 Old Jun 2nd, 2009, 8:42 pm Thread Starter
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffy109
I think you're going to end up with the expensive 5 pin cable for this operation if you use anything other than a .5 watt FRS radios.
Why is that? It looks to me like the same connectors are available for either AUX port. The difference seems to be that the 3.5mm port wires the Autocom mic directly to the radio, while the DIN port uses the Autocom VOX and has the PTT option. But it seems like either one will connect to exactly the same type of radio.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cliffy109
I run a 5 watt Yaesu ham radio off the Autocom. I'm generally happy with it, but I have two distinct noise issues. The first is a low clicking that is present even when the radio is off. I added a ferrite bead to the Autocom wire just before it comes into the helmet and that didn't help. Its not loud and I can only notice it when at a stop. Other noises drown it out beyond that.

The other noise is associated with the wire that I have running from the battery to the radio. Like you, I don't like messing with batteries. I have the charging cord running to the radio and when its plugged in, I get a very noticable ignition noise in my receive audio. Again, I added a ferrite bead to the wire and again, it doesn't help. Fortunately, the noise is only on my receive and it is not on my transmit audio. Its not horrible and I can live with it, but its there. I can eliminate it by running off the battery. As a result, I only plug it in when it needs a charge.
You should try adding a ground loop isolator to the wire that goes from the radio to the autocom. Noise like what you describe (that goes away when you switch to batteries) is caused from noise in the ground line of the power supply, which is shared with the ground line to the amplifier. Adding a ground loop isolator should remove that. These are $10-$20, you can get one at Radio Shack, or here's one from Crutchfield that's pre-wired with 3.5mm stereo plugs. They'll attenuate the signal a little bit, so your radio won't be quite as loud, but that's easily corrected by just turning the volume up.

The ferrite choke core you tried is intended to filter out the effects from the audio wires acting like antennas. (e.g. the buzzing you hear in your computer speakers when you get a call on your cell phone, or spark noise.) I think you'll have better luck installing these on the cable that connects the radio (or other audio source) to the Autocom, that is, before the amplifier. Installing one on the cable to the headset might help cut down noise on the mic input, but RF interference probably won't be loud enough to hear in the speakers directly.

Last edited by bonafidebob; Jun 2nd, 2009 at 8:50 pm.
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post #4 of 10 Old Jun 14th, 2009, 1:53 am Thread Starter
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

Followup to my own thread... we got a pair of Midland GMRS/FRS radios, supposedly 30 mile range with high power GMRS, and the right Autocom cables for Icom, etc. radios going to the DIN connector.

They do work, but we're quite disappointed, for several reasons.

My buddy has the Autocom push-to-talk switch, and as far as we can tell it does absolutely nothing. It could be a defective switch, he bought the Autocom unit used and the switch came with it, but it seems like the switch is just a pass-through, it doesn't matter what position the mode selector is in, or whether he presses the PTT button, the mic is always live.

So we tried using the VOX feature of the radios, which works OK, but even on the least sensitive setting we were still getting a lot of unwanted broadcasts, both from wind noise and stuff like opening or closing the visor. The VOX keeps the mic live for a long time once enabled as well, which makes conversations difficult. After a couple of hours we abandoned VOX and are just using the push to talk buttons on the radios directly.

The biggest problem however is the volume. Even with the volume knob on the radios turned all the way up, they're still very quiet relative to e.g. music, GPS, or phone conversations coming through the Autocom. We have to be moving pretty slowly to hear anything at all. It might be microphone problems too, we didn't experiment e.g. with talking into one radio directly and listening with the Autocom, worth a try I suppose.

But we also both have cell phones, bluetooth modules, and GPSs. So when there's cell service, we can just call each other and have a decent conversation, full duplex, and loud enough to hear at speed. Unfortunately where we're going there's not a lot of cell coverage, so we'll have to make do with the radios.

Any suggestions on increasing the loudness with a setup like this?
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post #5 of 10 Old Jul 3rd, 2009, 5:44 pm
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

http://www.autocom.co.uk/pdf/Active_...uctions_LR.pdf HI Bob,

Not sure exactly which Autocom unit you are using, but I have setup the autocom 300 Pro units on both my LT and my wife's Kwaka. WE use the Kenwood FRS handies to communicate bike2bike and it does exactly what it says on the tin. I have implemented the PTT kit and it still works just fine. However, I think you are using the 200 unit (only has 4 aux inputs. This does not have/enjoy automatic noise cancelling and only manual VOX setting - this is a pain.

If you are having issues wth VOX and I believe this is the case, then this needs sorting before you add radios into the mix. I suggest you put all the controls to the mid-position which is the default settings. Positioning of the mic is also critical to good function. Once you get the intercom working well (if you are riding solo then you should still hear your own voice when talking and this shoudl be quiet if the VOX is working when you are not talking), introduce the mobile phone via blutooth and this should work so that the caller should not know you are riding a bike - well thats what my callers tell me a they are always surprised to learn I am riding at 70mph on the motorway (aka interstate).

I use the Aux5 DIN interconnect or the radio as these use the autocom leads (aux4 in your case). Sure they cost, but as they are the right parts for the job, they work. However, as I say, you really must get the vox settings right for intercom first before introducing the other bits of comms or you will be disappointed.

Sadly autocom no longer make their older product instructions easily available via their website. Real shame, but I managed to find the instructions for what I believe is your setup here http://www.autocom.co.uk/pdf/Active_...uctions_LR.pdf.

Good luck. It is worth it. The Autocom 300 that I use is just superb, don't quite know how they could improve on it, but it seems they have.

Have a great trip.

Simon.
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post #6 of 10 Old Jul 4th, 2009, 9:34 am
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

Hmmm... I'm NOT an expert of any sort, but there are a couple of things that jump to my mind. The first is the Midland radios themselves. I'm not very familiar with them, but I am VERY skeptical of any "bubble pack" radios. The constant keying of the PTT is the first hint that there is a problem. The lack of volume is the second. They could just be crappy radios. For GMRS, you want a radio that has a detachable antenna and I think that pretty much limits you to Icom and Kenwood (although I understand Kenwood might be difficult to find). These are real radios with good power out and reliable TX.

The other issue that somes to mind is called "cross polarization". That is when one of you has your antenna laying horizontal and the other is vertical. You get 20 DB loss when trying to talk to each other. Every 3 DB equals a reduction of half of your power. That means that your half watt on an FRS channel is received as if its sent from a .004 watt transmitter (or close to that). This would tend to make things a bit quiet

By the way... the "30 mile range" is a complete lie. If each of you were on a different mountaintop, with no trees in your way and atmospheric conditions were perfect and there were no other radio noise in the area, I still would be skeptical, but it might work at that point.
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post #7 of 10 Old Jul 5th, 2009, 10:08 am
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Smile Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

Kenwood FreeTalk XL or the ICOM, all of the others that I have tried just don't work very well. These two are a little expensive but they work well, especially with a bike mounted antenea that you can get from Aerostitch.

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post #8 of 10 Old Jul 6th, 2009, 12:31 pm
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

I am no expert so I go ask the folks that know. You can get lots of help and the cables that fit your requirement from Keith at Tulsa Truck Center. Keith's phone number is 918-445-5188. I am not selling for Keith but he is about the only Autocom expert left that I know of in the US. The US main Autocom dealer is no longer selling them.

Just tell him what you have or want to do and he can help you out. He recommended the powered PTT and that solved my problems. Give him a shout.

Ken
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post #9 of 10 Old Jul 6th, 2009, 9:18 pm
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

Quote:
Originally Posted by questair1
I am no expert so I go ask the folks that know. You can get lots of help and the cables that fit your requirement from Keith at Tulsa Truck Center. Keith's phone number is 918-445-5188. I am not selling for Keith but he is about the only Autocom expert left that I know of in the US. The US main Autocom dealer is no longer selling them.

Just tell him what you have or want to do and he can help you out. He recommended the powered PTT and that solved my problems. Give him a shout.

Ken
Keith is the best, I talked with him this afternoon for info. He set up a tank bag with an Autocom and Power with a powered PTT for my wifes HD. Smart and have what you need. Call him the number that I have is (918) 446-2245 tell him that Renee from Rumford MAINE send you Just to let him know that we have a network as BMW riders that supports his business so he keeps supporting us


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post #10 of 10 Old Jul 11th, 2009, 11:27 pm
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Re: Autocom compatible GPRS/FRS recommendations?

My buddy and I have Bike to Bike comms. His intercom is an Baehr and mine is autocom. After alot of research I came to the conclusion that a radio is a radio so I purhased a couple of Midland 200 series radios from walmart. We both obtained the required cables including ptt for our systems. The radios worked but were not very reliable. They would cut out, etc. So after more reading I purchased another set of midlands, 900 series, from costco for under a $100.00. With this series we have not encountered one problem. We just came back from a 3000 km ride and the radios came in very handy during high traffic areas where it was easy to get split up. If you want me to look and get the exact radio number and how I hooked it up to the autocom just let me know. From what I have read it does not matter which midland you use as long as it is part of the 900 series. Make sure you have the vox function of the radio off.

Tom

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