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1st October 2014, 07:13 AM
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[Mod] Weak microphone quality: Split up BT and Sys; Add external microphone(s)
Specific to KGL

I've had the KGL variant for a couple of weeks. Since I've had my share of Chinese Android devices of all sorts - I kind of knew what to expect in terms of software.. so I wasn't really disappointed BUT... the hands free in this unit was simply unusable... After getting my wife totally upset and my friends pissed at me for calling them using the unit I knew something had to be done.
So I took it apart.
Being that I'm skilled in electronics and pretty much hands-on, I figured out the problem pretty fast. Or should I say "problems" in plural?
Let me start by saying that if you have the KGL variant and suffer from extreme noise bleeding into the mic - there is no software workaround. You either need to send it back and get something else or open and modify it like I did.
Second - the hardware in this thing is of such low quality, and the design is so bad, it makes me cry. I estimate the production cost of this unit is under $50. Pretty pretty low... even for Chinese stuff.

So.. what's the story with the mic noise, you ask? very simple. The mic signal from the front panel is routed unshielded from a small PCB attached to the panel, via 3 PCBs and 2 ribbon cables, for over 15" until it arrives at the Bluetooth module MIC input. On the way, it picks up so much electrical noise and interference it's almost a miracle that you hear anything but static noise. When an external mic is plugged it, the front panel mic is NOT disconnected. Both are electrically connected in parallel which is unheard of (very bad practice). The Bluetooth module is thus responsible for MIC bias and preamp. The BT module is of unknown source and it's hard to tell what quality to expect there (not much, as we all know). Noise cancellation? echo cancellation? forget it!
Now - we know android needs an audio input - we can have some voice activation on the unit, right? so how is it done? simple! the signal from the BT mic input line is run back to the front panel and into a Wolfson CODEC. Just like that... so that the Android audio in would also suffer from the above issues.
This also explains the exact nature of the unit's BT implementation - the handsfree is not done by the Android - it's completely handled by the BT module. BT module has MIC in, AUDIO out (that goes to the BD37534 audio mixer chip) and RS232 control signals that communicate with the Android BT application for User Interface (probably via AT commands).
When you run an Android app that uses audio input - it comes from the Wolfson CODEC but it's essentialy the same lousy MIC signal that the BT also gets.

BUT!!!

I've made some modifications and lo and behold - I can make a good quality phone conversation now! and the google apps have somewhat better performance too... but it did require me to completely mess up the internal wiring and obviously void the priceless warranty
So after I've figured it out - I decided I needed to do the following:
- Give up the option to work with two mics at the same time and opt for the external mic only for voice calls
- Cut and bypass the original traces since they pick up so much noise
- Add a separate input jack for the external microphone since it was not feasible to cut the lines going into the original one
I started by installing the extra jack on the rear panel. Then I removed a jumper 0ohm resistor at the MIC input to the BT module, disconnecting the MIC input from the circuit. I ran a piece of shielded wire from the new jack to the MIC input signal pin ON the BT board. That completed the hands-free modification.
In order for the Android to have some audio input, I then moved to the front panel, and first installed a 0Ohm jumper that was missing by the WM8731 CODEC. This resistor connects the MIC BIAS pin to the MIC input - it is required when using an electret microphone. I then made a cut in the trace from the front panel microphone to the small PCB connector, and ran a piece of shielded wire from the mic terminals to the WM8731 MIC input.
Now the front mic is only for Android (voice commands etc) and the external mic serves hands free.. I could have probably added some smarter electronics but I don't think it would have added anything to the usage experience.
Let me know if anyone is interested in some pictures I've taken and I will upload.

Crappy piece of equipment but at least now it works.

All the best,
Nir
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