Adding bluetooth support to Bose headphones in 30 mins.

A project by:

Gabriel B. Soares


Date:

October 2013


Build Time:

30 minutes

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Bluetooth Receiver for Bose Headphones

A few years ago, my friend gave me a pair of amazing Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Canceling Headphones, which are by far the best headphones I've owned up to date. They have played a critical role in my job and have helped me countless times escape from the noisy environment that sometimes emerges in our office, and allowed me to focus on the code that I am working on.

Working at Alarm.com, my job requires me to test numerous security panels, each of which possesses a myriad of sound-making devices designed to get your attention (loud alarms to deter burglaries, beeps to announce trouble conditions, chimes to declare an opening or closing, etc.), so as you can imagine it can get quite 'noisy' from time to time.

There are days however when I am not so stationary and need to be running around the office. I might have to go talk to the Quality Engineers, complain to the Software Engineers, I might need to go to the lab and perform a couple of measurements or do some quick re-work on a board I am testing, etc; and for those days the Bose headphones don't work so well. If I am plugged into my laptop, sometimes I'll forget that I am wearing headphones and as soon as I start walking away from my desk, they get yanked out of my head. If I am plugged to my cellphone, the long wires get caught on the chair armrest, or pretty much anything around the office. Therefore, in an attempt to extend the life of my headphones I've decided to add a bluetooth receiver.

Before starting on this project I did a quick search online and found that there were a few people who had done this same project, which is why I am not going to spend a lot of time in this page talking about all the details of how to do it, but rather just show the end result and talk a little bit about what results I've had so far.

The images below show the Bluetooth receiver with the Bose connector soldered (and hot glued for stress relief) and how it looks in its final enclosure. There was nothing hard about this project, all that it required was to remove the 3.5mm jack female header (making a note of which pin was soldered to which pad), carefully strip the Bose headset cable (which costs $15...), and solder those wires to the pads on PCB where the audio jack used to be.

The only steps that were tricky were:
- stripping the cable as close as possible to the plastic casing (I didn't want to have something dangling from the headphones)
- soldering the speaker wire to the bluetooth receiver since these are coated in enamel (you will want to either remove a bit of the enamel with a solvent, or just apply enough heat from the soldering iron to melt it away and allow the solder to 'catch')

Other than that, it's just a matter of being careful and taking your time (also make sure you disconnect the battery before you start applying heat anywhere near the pcb).

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Results:

I am extremely pleased with the results of this simple project. In 30 minutes I was able to get rid of the long wires and eliminate the risk of destroying my headphone from the act of the wires getting caught on something. Needless to say, the sound quality over the bluetooth receiver is not nearly as good as with the wired connection; if you really crank up the volume you will hear a bit of noise, which you don't get at all with the cable. But for my habits, where I am using the headphones for their noise canceling qualities and to play low volume background music, the bluetooth solution is excellent.

I am also pleased with the battery life on the receiver. With a 170mAh battery, I get about 4-5 hours of continuous playtime, which is more than I would have expected for a $15 bluetooth receiver. When not in use, I typically have it connected over microUSB to a USB hub and just leave it charging.

The range on the receive isn't all that great; walking 10 feet away from the source causes the sound to start clipping. But since I typically have the receiver paired to my phone and keep my cellphone in my pocket, there are very few instances where the sound will actually cut off (unless I forget that I have the headphones paired to my laptop and rush to the kitchen for a cup of coffee).