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BlueClone - The Blue Room's Own Comms System


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Announcing BlueClone: the Blue Room inspired comms system.


What is it?


It's an open-source industry standard live events comms system compatible with the bulk of wired comms systems used in the UK and beyond.



What is it not?


It is not a clone of any other similar project. We've gone back to basics and sorted out some of the problems that have plauged other systems.



I'm interested. What else do I need to know?


1) It's a single channel system.

2) All components, switches, pots and connector will be mounted on the single PCB.

3) It is being designed to fit into an extruded metal beltpack sized case.

4) The mic front end includes the option to provide the mic with a bias voltage to allow the use of electret mics.

5) The mic front end has selectable gain to allow the use of mics with higher output levels eg electret mics.

6) 3.5mm sockets are provided to allow the use of pre-wired headsets.



Who's behind it?


Myself and Boatman.



Where can I get the components?


We will be making the parts list available and basing the components around parts available from Farnell/RS/Rapid and CPC.



How much is it going to cost?


Our hope is that all parts, including PCB, box and metalwork would be around £60 incl VAT.



How difficult will it be to build?


You'll need to be able to solder 'standard' electronic components onto a PCB. As everything is PCB mounted there's no wiring to do.



What if it doesn't work once I've built it?


The design will be proven; we will have built working prototypes. Any problems will therefore be down to your soldering or a component issue. Support will be here on the Blue Room which, as you've spotted, is quite a helpful place.



Open Source? What's that mean?


It means that we will be making available all the information you need to go off and make you own comms packs. Specifically...


1) Schematics - we'll publish, as a PDF file, the complete schematics for the pack.

2) PCB - we'll publish the industry standard Gerber files you need to get PCBs made by your chosen supplier.

3) Metalwork - this design includes the full metalwork required to fit the PCB into our chosen enclosure and the required drawings will be released.

4) Parts List - we'll publish a parts list, listing where to get the parts you need, from UK suppliers and hopefully with at least two sources for each part.



I want to make my own PCBs from scratch.


Our PCB will be designed as double-sided with component pads and tracks that might not be suitable for home etching. However, it is an open source project so there is nothing to stop you taking our design and creating your own version, suitable for home etching, from it.



Are you using open-source software to design it?


No. We are using commercial software for both the schematic capture and PCB layout. Therefore it will not be possible for you to take our design and drop it directly into your own software.



Will you make design files for Eagle available?


No. See above.



I don't like the box you've chosen.


There's nothing to stop you taking our board design and mounting it into your own box by running wires out to the switches and connectors. Unless we forget them, we're going to put spare mounting holes in the corners.



I'm rubbish at metalwork. Everything I make looks like something the cat coughed up.


Don't worry. You have two options...


1) Take our drawings to your local sheet metal company and get them to make them or

2) Take part in a group buy (see below).



Will you be supplying any of the parts needed?


Yes. We will be doing a group buy on two of the non-standard parts...


1) We will be doing at least one batch of PCBs as a group buy.

2) We will also be doing a group buy on the end panels.


We would also encourage others, especially those based overseas, to organise a group buy for local BR members.



How will the group buy work?


1) We will announce a group buy along with the price for the part which will be the price you will pay, assuming enough people take part. We will give a closing date for the offer.

2) You contact us with a commitment to buy a specific number of parts. We will confirm your interest and at this point you will pay us via Paypal, the total amount owed.

3) Once the closing date is reached the order will be placed.

4) If because of the volume of parts ordered the price comes down, any excess will be donated to the Blue Room.

5) If we fail to get enough interest all monies paid will be refunded.



Doesn't this mean I have to trust you with my money?


Yes. Absolutely. However, enough BR members have met me to know that I'm far from an anonymous bloke on the 'net.



When will it be ready?


The electronic design is well advanced along with component selection. Some schematic capture and component library creation is complete. A 'will it fit' PCB layout has been done. Other work and holiday commitment's mean that not a lot will now happen for 10 days.


After that we will be getting a batch of prototype boards made. We're fairly confident these will work but wouldn't really want to offer these to people. Realistically, we're a month or more away from anything being available.



What's it going to look like?


Something like this...





How strong is that box?


Very. I've been using a larger version for stage pyro slaves for several years and they stand up to life on the road very well. You can quite happily stand on the one in the picture (I just have).



[edited 07/06/13]

Include details of electret mic option.

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That's a really nice neat sized enclosure too! Nice to see it's not the size of a brick like some I've seen (including my first stab at homemade comms!).


Did you get it working with cheap pc headsets in the end? There are some quite nice gaming ones for around the £30 mark that'll be nice disposable ones for schools work.


Do I guess the power supply is just a supply with a terminating resistor?

I'll certainly be buying some!

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Just a thought... In the past I've used PCBs as front panels with suitable holes, slots and screen printing. Mine had blue solder resist and white text. It's easy to design them on the same PCB package and they can be done on the same panel.
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Thanks for the comments peeps...


What problems have you sorted?


1) We're providing a proper input for electret mics with gain adjustment at the mic amp to compensate for the different level.


2) The line drive section is different which should mean it works better on longer lines.


3) The hybrid section is revamped to improve sidetone rejection.


4) 2) and 3) together will improve stability.


5) By having everything on 1 PCB it will be much easier to build.



Did you get it working with cheap pc headsets in the end? There are some quite nice gaming ones for around the £30 mark that'll be nice disposable ones for schools work.


See 1) above. We're trying to track down a reliable source of 4-pole 3.5mm connectors to allow the use of both style of 'budget' headset.


Do I guess the power supply is just a supply with a terminating resistor?


Done properly it's 2 resistors and a capacitor to provide both DC and AC termination.


We'll put up some information on how it should be done.



Can I ask what's your power supply voltage?


It should work on all standard comms systems voltages which in reality means 24-36 volts.



In the past I've used PCBs as front panels with suitable holes, slots and screen printing. Mine had blue solder resist and white text. It's easy to design them on the same PCB package and they can be done on the same panel.


That's a possibility. We'll have a look.



I've updated the top post to reflect the fact that I'd forgotten about the electret mic option.



Question for you all...


For 'budget' headsets with electret mics and 3.5mm connectors, what is your preferred connector?

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Re 3.5mm jack plugs.


As stated before, they are not the most robust of beasts and it would be a great shame to have reliability issues with the new BC that comes down to molded 3.5mm plugs.


Chopping them off and re-soldering a 4-pin XLR (or 5-pin if required) make sense to me.....

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Does the design mean there's got to be a seperate connector if it's an electret mic? Or are you just providing two for ease of use? My preference is as above, to chop off the 3.5mm jack and replace with 4 pin XLR, but I can see that two connectors might be of use if other users aren't as good at soldering.
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I should add that, at present, the changeover between dynamic & electret mics is a two pole DIP switch internal to the beltpack. One pole will add the bias voltage required by the electret mic and the second pole will reduce the gain of the mic amp. If people would prefer that the pack will work with either type of mic without having to fiddle with a switch, we may have to think a bit harder.


A couple of other things which haven't been mentioned are:


The mic switch will be a three position ON-OFF-(ON) toggle switch.


The headphone amp will be a bridge configuration giving a considerable increase in headphone output over other systems.

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