Mic Mutes GL1800 Evaluation
Fred Harmon Feb 26 2004
Morph Soulutions Inc.
90 Fawnvue Dr.
Mckees Rocks, PA. 15136
Price: $134.95 Mic-Mutes kit + passenger CB PTT switch (CB transmit switch)---- for the 2001-2004 Honda GL1800 Gold Wing
$119.95 for the same kit without the passenger PTT switch
Ease of Installation: 5
Build quality of components 4 (5 being the best)
Ease of operation 5 (5 being the best)
Overall performance 5
(*1 being poor and 5 being the best)
Brief explanation of system operation:
Mic-Mutes are a device that connects to both rider and passenger headsets, and though the use of the CB transmit and/or passenger PTT switch, will toggle both rider and passengers microphones on or off. The purpose of this is to be able to turn the mics off to reduce the wind/road noise that the mics pick up, especially at higher speeds. There is also a version that fits the GL1500 Gold Wing.
What the kit contains:
I initially began by reading the installation instructions and familiarizing myself with the components. I know this goes against logic, as normally one would only read the instructions after all else fails, but I thought this might be a refreshing change.
In the bag I found four main components of the system. The Electronic Control Module (ECM), two headset adapters (rider and passenger) and an interface plug to the PTT connector under the seat. The ECM is connected to the other three components by telephone type (RJ-11) connectors on the ends of flat black telephone cord. Enough length of the telephone cord is supplied to allow the ECM to be placed under the left side of the seat and the cords routed to the individual components. I went ahead and hooked up all three components to the ECM on my living room carpet so that I could photograph how the components interfaced.
Photos available here:
The first task was to remove the left glove box and seat. I then located the Mic-Mutes ECM in the location shown in the instructions and affixed it to the frame rail with hook and loop Velcro. (I found what I considered to be a slightly better mounting location under the right frame rail, but there was not enough length in the cables to mount it there.) I then located the PTT connector under the seat inside one of the black harness boot protectors. Next I located the passenger headset connector in the same boot, and disconnected it. This connector is easy to find if you just locate the passenger headset and follow the wire back to the connector to the wire harness. I simply plugged one of the supplied Headset Adapters into one end of the plug in the bikes harness for the passenger’s headset, and then plugged the other end into the headset cord I had just disconnected. Don’t worry that that you might plug them in wrong, as the connectors are made so that they can only go in one way, and you can’t plug the wrong connector into the wrong socket. I choose to route the wire for the passenger headset underneath the cross member support bar in the frame, and then I used a zip tie to secure the headset adapter to the cross member (see photo). I then routed the proper control wire from the Mic-Mutes ECM to the headset adapter and plugged in the telephone type connector jack. One of the few nitpicks I had with the installation is that the connectors on the Mic-Mutes headset adapter do not have the small retainer clips that keep them from becoming accidentally disconnected like the OEM headset connectors do.
I did not have the Honda passenger push-to-talk (PTT) switch installed, so I used the switch provided in the Mic-Mutes kit. First, I removed the three screws in the bottom of the left rear speaker housing, and then I carefully drilled a small hole in the bottom of the housing and mounted the switch there. You do have to be careful that you do not drill into the bottom of the speaker itself and damage it. You also have to make sure that you mount the switch in a place where it will not interfere with the speaker, as there is not a lot of clearance between the edge of the speaker and the bottom of the enclosure. An alternate location for the passenger switch would be in the bottom of the passenger’s pocket. Another rider I spoke to installed his switch in this location and was very happy with it there. After the switch was installed, I routed the wires behind the speaker enclosure and down to the PTT connector in the harness next to the headset connector. The last thing was to install the terminals for the switch into the plastic connector block and connect the switch.
The last thing I had to do was connect the power leads to the accessory terminals in the fuse box. The Mic-Mutes power leads have spade connectors on them that makes connecting them foolproof.
In order to install the rider headset adapter, I had to route the telephone type cable to control the riders headset adapter up to the left front pocket. I removed three of the allen bolts on the left side of the top shelter to allow me to thread the connector under the top shelter and up to the left glove box. The last thing was to connect the rider’s headset adapter in the same manner as the passengers.
Once I had all the connections done, I attached both helmets to the system and verified that either the newly installed passenger PTT switch, or the riders CB transmit switch actuated the Mic-Mutes and that they functioned properly. Once I was satisfied it all worked, I tucked in all the wires and reinstalled the glove box and seat. This completes the installation. The entire process was done in less than 30 minutes and no problems were encountered. All in all, it went it very smoothly.
The first thing I did after installing the Mic-Mutes was get my wife to go take a ride with me to try them out. The promise of a spectacular BBQ lunch was used to entice her to come along. I spent about 5 minutes in the garage with her demonstrating how the system works. I think this is an important step and makes a big difference in usability of the system. To further complete the training, once on the road I had her activate the mics, speak to me, and then deactivate them. Once she did this a time or two she quickly got the hang of using the system.
One downfall of the system is that there is no indicator to tell you if the mics are on or not. So if I would turn them on, and not turn them off, then she might try to activate them to talk to me and really be turning them off instead of on. This can create some confusion, especially when you realize that the passenger already gets so much wind noise that they can not always tell if the mics are on or not by the sound from the headsets. However, this is simply remedied by following one simple rule. Whoever turns the microphones on, is responsible for turning them off when the conversation is done. This will reduce the confusion as when no one is speaking, the mics should always be off, and if someone wants to say something, they first have to turn them on. It also helps to communicate with each other when you are going to turn them off. A statement like, “I am turning the mics off now”, or a simple “over and out” before deactivation will help keep both parties aware of the state of the mics. Once you get the hang of cooperating with each other on activation and deactivation it all works smoothly.
Additionally, I experimented with some variations to the standard install. The first thing I tried was connecting the Mic-Mutes to my Kennedy PTT hack for FRS radio. This box from Kennedy Electronics plugs into the passenger PTT connector under the seat and is used to key the transmission of an FRS radio. It replaces the used PTT connector with its own PTT connector for the passenger PTT switch. I plugged the Mic-Mutes connector into the Kennedy supplied PTT connector, and everything still worked like it should. If the Mic-Mutes are off and I hold down on the riders PTT switch (also referred to as the CB transmit switch), the FRS radio would transmit, and the mics would connect. When I released the switch, the mics returned to the inactive state. If the mics were on, and I held down on the CB transmit button, the FRS radio would transmit and when I released the mics stayed active.
However, I have not yet tested the Mic-Mutes with the Kennedy FRS adapter, which is a separate interface box that plugs into the riders headset connectors under the left glove box. I hope to complete the testing of this soon.
My next test was to see if I could make the Mic-Mutes work with the Autocom system. The Autocom system is a total replacement intercom system for the GL1800. I have been using it for several years now as a solution to the GL1800 intercom problems. The only drawback is that the Autocom uses a VOX system . This means the mics attempt to automatically connect and disconnect themselves when they sense speech. There is an adjustment for the VOX circuit that sets the trip point. The problem is that it is hard to get the VOX adjusted where it trips properly at both low speed and higher speeds. If I set it so it tripped fine at 15mph, then when the wind noise increased at about 70mph, it would sometimes inadvertently trip, especially in cross winds. And if I adjusted it so wind gusts at 70mph wouldn’t trip it, then my wife had to literally yell at me to make it trip at any speed under 30mph. And believe me, we don’t need to yell at each other any more than we already do. So I was hoping I could integrate the Mic-Mutes into the Autocom system so I could turn the mics off when I got into a high wind situation and they started to inadvertently trip on, thus leaving the VOX set at the lower setting which doesn’t require yelling. The problem is that Autocom uses electret mics, which are powered with about 5 volts, so I wasn’t sure if the Mic-Mutes would have a problem with this. Also, in order to connect the Mic-Mutes headset adapters to the Autocom, I first had to get a couple male 6 pin rectangular Hitachi connectors like the bike has for the headset connectors. Next was the hard part. I had to cut the headset leads off the ends of my $400 Autocom leads and solder in these Hitachi connectors. Once I got over the shock of hacking up my Autocom it all went smooth. This allowed me to plug the Autocom leads into the input side of the Mic-Mutes headset adapters and leave the output side of the Mic-Mutes plugged into the standard OEM headset leads. A secondary advantage of this is that now my Autocom uses the Honda OEM headset connectors which are designed to fit into the Honda headset clamps and just seem to be a better quality connector. After all the connections were made, I took the bike for a ride to test out the Mic-Mutes and everything worked perfectly. I could still use the built in VOX on the Autocom, yet if I got into a crosswind that caused an undesirable activate of the VOX, I could simply toggle the mics off with the CB transmit switch. This allows me the best of both worlds and I think I have finally found intercom nirvana.
Picky, Picky, Picky:
I only have a few minor complaints. First, I would like to see the wires for power and the riders headset telephone connector lengthened to allow mounting the ECM under the right frame rail at the rear of the seat. And second, if there was some way to install an indicator light on the bike somewhere for the rider and passenger to see if the mics were on or not, it would help facilitate operation better. Lastly, it would be nice if the Hitachi adapters on the Mic-Mutes had the same interlock mechanism that the OEM Honda connectors do.
As for the benefits of the system, I can not say enough good things about it. Mic-Mutes are truly worth the price. They totally eliminate all the wind noise of the GL1800’s intercom system and allow you to enjoy your music yet still be able to use the intercom. They also should help with cell phone interfaces, as now you can mute your mics when not speaking so the other party on the cell phone doesn’t get all the wind noise from the bike. Talking GPS systems and any other device (like a Radar detector or FRS radio) that is connected to the intercom should work better as well, as now you are free to adjust the intercom level to a higher setting without adding more wind noise. The reduction in noise levels is very apparent from the moment you turn the mics off. This reduces drivers fatigue on long trips and makes the whole journey more pleasurable. I have had zero problems with the performance of the system and it has been 100% reliable.
Mic-Mutes are a quality made product that do what they say and work flawlessly. I am real impressed with the build quality, ease of installation, and most importantly, the operation. They dramatically reduce wind and road noise and make the intercom much more useable. I was not able to find any circumstances where they did not work properly, and once my passenger and I got familiar with their operation, they were a breeze to use. All in all, this product is well worth the asking price and greatly enhances listening to music and communication on the GL1800.