These units are used to broadcast local audio, such as from a public address system or local microphone. They accomplish this by producing a modulated magnetic field that a hearing aid is capable of picking up.
Not many controls on this bit of equipment. A bi-colour LED for status indications, a microphone, external audio input, charging input & a power switch.
Popping the cover off reveals a small lead-acid battery, 2.1Ah at 12v. This is used when the loop is unplugged.
Here’s the main PCB, which takes care of the audio & battery charging. The inductive loop itself is just visible as the tape-covered wire bundle around the edge of the casing.
Here’s the input section of the main PCB. The microphone input is handled by a SSM2166 front-end preamplifier from Analog Devices.
This audio is then fed into a TDA2003 10W Mono Power Amplifier IC, which directly drives the induction coil as if it were a speaker. Any suitable receiving coil & amplifier can then receive the signal & change it back into audio.
Since the boat was still running it’s internal network on 10/100M speeds, an upgrade was decided on, the internal WiFi signal strength was also pretty poor further than a few feet from the NOC.
The new router is a Cisco/Linksys AC1750 model, with gigabit networking, and full 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz Wireless. This router also has a built in media server, print server, USB3 & USB2.
Teardown time! Here’s the router with the cover removed. Most of the fun stuff is hidden under the shields, but these aren’t fully soldered down & the covers are removable. The 6 antennas can be seen spaced around the edge of the housing, the main CPU is under the large heatsink upper centre. The radio power amplifier stages are underneath the shields, while the main RF transceivers are just outside the shields.
Wireless N is provided by a Broadcom BCM4331, this provides full dual-band 3×3 802.11n support. Being 3×3 it is actually 3 separate transceivers in a single package, to get much higher throughput rates of 600Mbit/s.
Wireless AC is provided by it’s sister IC, the BCM4360, with throughput speeds of 1.3Gbit/s. Both of these transceiver ICs connect back to the main CPU via PCI Express.
To get increased range, there are a trio of Skyworks SE5003L +23dBm 5GHz power amplifier ICs under the shield, along with the TX/RX switching & antenna matching networks. Heatsinking for these is provided by a sink screwed to the bottom side of the PCB. The outputs to the antennas can be seen at the top of the image.
The 2.4GHz section is fitted with a trio of Skyworks SE2605L +23dBm 2.4GHz power amplifiers, with a similar heatsink arrangement under the board. Unlike the 5GHz section, the 2.4GHz antenna feeds are soldered to the PCB here instead of using connectors.
The main CPU is a BCM4708 Communications Processor from Broadcom, as for the other Broadcom chips in this router, very little information is available unless under NDA, but I do know it’s a dual core ARM Cortex A9 running at 1GHz, with built in 5-port gigabit ethernet switch.
Working RAM for the processor is a Hynix H5TQ2G63DFA 256MB part.
More to come on the installation of the new networking, with it’s associated 4G mobile gateway connection system.
I’ve been doing some tinkering with the RN-52 Bluetooth Audio module from Roving Networks, in prep for building a portable wireless speaker system, & thought I’d share my designs.
Initially I was having some issues with RF noise on the audio output from the RN-52, as I was only using the outputs single-ended. The module didn’t like this treatment, with all the RF whine coming straight out of the speakers.
To fix this issue I have used a pair of jellybean LM386 audio power amplifiers, running in differential input mode. This solves the high-pitched whine when the audio is enabled, & also allows the module to directly drive a set of 32Ω headphones at a reasonable level.
In Eagle I have designed a simple board, routing only the audio output, serial TTL & command mode pins out, along with the supporting power supply circuitry to operate from 12v DC.
Above is the current incarnation of the circuit on the breadboard. The RN-52 is on the left, audio power stage in the centre & headphone output on the right.
The bluetooth module on a breakout board. I was cheap in this case & etched my own board. I’m not paying Sparkfun, (as much as I like them), an extra ~£10 for a small PCB with the pins broken out. Much cheaper to spend 15 minutes with the laser printer & the iron, & do a toner transfer PCB.
As this board is single sided, I added a ground plane on the underside with copper foil, to help with the RF issues. Breadboards really aren’t all that good at rejecting noise induced when there’s a 2.4GHz transceiver mounted on them.
The LM386 audio power stage. The differential inputs from the module are capacitively coupled with 1µF electrolytics. This setup remarkably reduced the noise on the output. I left these at their default gain of 20, as I’ll be connecting another high power amplifier stage to drive large speakers.
Here’s the circuit laid out in Eagle, ready for PCB.
And here’s the PCB layout. Only one link required for the +5v line from the TTL serial port.
As always, the Eagle PCB & Schematic layout files are available at the bottom of the article.
Rerouted a few things:
Moved the audio power stage to the +12v rail to improve sound response. – As the LM386 has a max input voltage of 12v (absolute maximum 15v), a regulated supply is recommended. The LM386-N4 variant has a higher voltage range, up to 18v. This should be suitable for an unregulated supply.
Removed 1µF coupling capacitors to reduce distortion & amplifier hiss. The capacitors appeared to cause some instability on the amplifier, causing random distortion. Removing them has cured this. No signal hiss has also been reduced to a very low level.
Reversed input polarity on input of one of the amplifiers – this appears to produce better audio.
Added PWR.EN header to allow connection of power button. Saves hassle of cycling power to the board when the RN-52 goes into sleep mode.