Building My Own Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds (WBE) | Advice

commissarmo

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Jan 5, 2010
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Ok this is one of those frustrating technology problems that has a decade long lifespan and never went away... Skip down to "Solution [Perfect] if you hack hardware and don't care to read rants.

---Background
I LOVE the idea of wireless bluetooth earbuds (WBE) for a mobile phone (or just in general). Aside from the OBVIOUS advantages that I don't think this learned community needs highlighted (being painfully caught the 3rd time on a passerbys hand and yanked out of my ears is enough reason for me), I just like the idea - they feel like the future.

I'm not an audiophile, which is an understatement itself. I like the Apple stock earbuds that come with iPhones (I use Android now) and the like. But I want them WIRELESS. I want to be able to literally cut the wires near the little earpiece and they still work playing music and sound and calls off my mobile. Think Hearing Aids.

Obviously, some have clearly attacked this problem. I have owned 6 (and tried 3 others) bluetooth earphone models over the past maybe 6 years. None of them has proven to be a solution.

---Problems with existing solutions
1. Comfort: The biggest problem is in a way aesthetic, I LIKE earbuds (outer-ear, like the Apple ones audiacs throw away) - none of the market solutions are made this way - They have most of the other types though, and most are in-ear earphones.

I have found every model to be uncomfortable in some way. the Jaybird models are all quite large and pendulous, they come with various rigs to bolt the thing to your head but the wire between the earphones is extremely annoying and IMO somewhat defeats the entire purpose of a clean no-wires situation. The various other models often make a better stab at size/comfort actually, but fail for the other reasons detailed.

2. Connection - An older model JayBird I owned was actually the one that stood up best with connection issues (no idea why), but all the others, and that one also, basically only maintain the bluetooth connection under extremely narrow circumstances.

If you go outside (never mind run or move around, as exercising with WBE is a prime use case) and the phone is on your belt or pocket, the connection stutters frequently enough that its unusable. Frankly if it stutters even for a second, it would annoy me enough to use the wired headphones, where reliability is (mostly) a cool 20th century 100%.

The lack of walls and things to bounce the signal off of is an interesting problem which unfortunately users don't always realize. Testing one model in a room once with a friend, I was impressed enough to buy. I then realized later that going outside this unit lost the signal so much that I listened to more nothing than music over the time I used it.

*Supposedly if you put the phone on an armband (which I don't want to have to do anyway) with many models it improves the connection. I tried this and it still skipped tremendously probably because of the movement of my arm/head/ear.

3. Battery Life - of course this is isn't actually my major complaint (see above), but it's valid. A few hours is the most I've gotten out of any model I've tried, and usually more like <3 hours, so unless it's a very limited period (exercising, walk outside, chores) followed by a charge, none of the WBE solutions are full-day usable.

4. There are lots of other factors - sound quality, price, controls (play, skip, microphone), but I just don't care about any of these.

I just want the Apple earbuds. And I want the wire... GONE.

---Solution [Imperfect]
I purchased the 'short buds' http://farendgear.com/shortbuds/ which are Apple earbuds with a very short wire. People are well known to then mount either a small music player, or better, a bluetooth receiver to some part of their anatomy or helmet that provides a vague illusion of wireless earbuds. I haven't tried this yet, but it's my next attempt.

---Solution [Perfect] BUILD MY OWN
I should have started here probably, but I felt the explanation was necessary.

I am interested in exploring how to BUILD/mod/hack earbuds that do what I want and look like what I want.

Here are my questions/parameters/ideas for evaluation by hardware audio experts:

1. Presumably the earbud vs earphone thing is trivial?

2. Issues:
A. Bluetooth receiver size, power, and connectivity
B. Battery Capacity
C. Cutting wire between L and R headphones

3. NOT an Issue
A. Cost
B. Sound/call quality
C. Modifications to Phone
D. Probably other things

4. Proposal 1
A. I've always wondered if modding the phone could somehow alleviate some of these problems.

B. For instance - what if, like a phone charger case, a very powerful bluetooth emitter could be externally used to boost the range and signal of the bluetooth for the phone? i.e. the point is - mod the phone to take some of the capabilities off the headphones, which get large, bulky, uncomfortable, signal lost, etc. because of this.

C. In terms of battery - Even if it's only a few hours, I think that's tolerable. Even if it involves still having the connecting wire between the earbuds - fine. Inductive charging? I have nothing here.

D. Wireless single-ear buds (like Jawbone and other phone headsets) seem to always work better (not by much, but a bit) than the stereo ones - what's with this?

---Apologies
This is so long, but I'd love to hear what people here think about this as I look into trying to build something like this.
 

justcallmetom13

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This is by far the coolest thing I've seen on the Home Audio section on this site.

The manufactured headset probably work better because they went through countless prototypes and models.
Companies like Jaybird went through at least 3 models to come up with what they have today.
 

commissarmo

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Almost 2 years after posting this, someone is actually manufacturing something VERY similar to what I envisioned... I assumed it was just a matter of time!

https://www.getkanoa.com/

Kanoa Headphones. They're buds (inside the ear); but they're very close to what I had wanted. Amazing; glad I can update this.

 
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