Modding Aviom Headphone Jacks

If you've played music in a live setting sometime within the past decade, chances are that you've used some sort of in-ear monitor or personal mixer system. Whereas in the past musicians were forced to compete with each other's sound through floor monitors, these newer in-ear/personal systems allow each musician to control their personal mix, which only they can hear in their headphones. As an added bonus, when you switch to an in-ear monitor system, there is no need for floor monitors, and therefore your stage volume can be significantly reduced. (And if you use direct systems, amplifier modeling, or isolation cabinets, you can remove all of your stage volume for everything except your acoustic instruments.)

Needless to say, these systems are great, and one of the most-popular manufacturers of in-ear monitor systems is Aviom, which makes several different types of personal monitors. Over the years, I have used their A-16 and A-16II personal mixers in a variety of settings. They're a little older by today's standards, but I still see them in use all over the country.

A-16II-front-panel

These Aviom systems work great, but they have one nagging design flaw that I hear about from everyone I know who has used them: the headphone jacks are soldered to the circuit boards, but they're not secured to the case with a nut. As a direct result, the headphone jacks eventually separate from the circuit boards, causing the mixers to lose signal to one or both ears. And this happens a lot.

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Thankfully, there's an easy mod that you can perform on your Aviom systems to make up for this design flaw: you can remove the headphone jack from the circuit board, and replace it with a headphone jack that is mounted to the case. This is a pretty simple hack, and it usually takes me around 10 minutes per mixer to swap out the parts. With that in mind, you might want to modify all of your mixers at the same time. (Which is what I chose to do.)

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MODIFICATION INSTRUCTIONS

To perform this modification, you'll need:

  • A stereo panel mount jack to replace the old headphone jack
  • A small spool of wire to connect the panel mount jack to the circuit board
  • A small screwdriver to assist with removing buttons
  • A soldering iron, some solder, and basic soldering skills
  • OPTIONAL: Alligator clip wires for testing
  • OPTIONAL: Electrical tape to insulate the circuit board

WARNING: This modification will probably void your warranty. But these personal mixers are old enough that yours probably aren't under warranty anyway. But still, you might want to check.


STEP 1 - Remove all of the knobs and buttons from the front panel. The knobs should pull right off, but sometimes I need to use a small screwdriver to pop off the buttons. (Note: keep track of which buttons came from where, because several of the buttons have different holes that let the LEDs shine through.)

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STEP 2 - Remove the screws from the bottom panel, and I've highlighted all of their locations in the image below. The only tricky part about this step is that one of the screws is probably hidden under one of the labels, which is undoubtedly to prevent people from modifying their Avioms and voiding their warranty.

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STEP 3 - Open the case and remove the circuit board. Once you have the circuit board removed, you can locate the headphone jack, which I have highlighted in the following image.

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STEP 4 - Remove the headphone jack that is mounted to the circuit board. In every situation where I've replaced a headphone jack, I was able to simply pop them off the circuit board without doing any damage, which is probably because the continuous abuse of plugging and unplugging headphones has usually separated the headphone jack from the circuit board already, which is why this mod is necessary. However, if you try to remove the old headphone jack and it doesn't seem to want to move, you should desolder the old jack instead of forcing it.

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STEP 5 - Solder wires onto the circuit border in the locations shown in the image below. Pay attention to where the ground, left, and right wires are soldered. As you can see in the image, I use alligator clip wires to test out my soldering before I solder the wires to the new stereo jack.

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STEP 6 - Solder the new stereo jack to the wires, then test out the circuit before reassembling the mixer.

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STEP 7 - Mount the new stereo jack to the case. While it may not be necessary, I usually place a piece of electrical tape on the circuit board where the jack will be located, and I do this to keep the new headphone jack from coming into contact with the circuit board.

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STEP 8 - Secure the circuit board in the case, assemble the two halves of the case back together, and then replace all the screws, knobs, and buttons. (Make sure that you put the buttons back in the same locations where they were before the modification.)


That's all there is to it!

The first mod that you do might take a little bit longer as you get the hang of it, but once that's out of the way, any remaining mods should be quicker.


BONUS TIP:

There is one extra step that you can take in order to improve the stability of your Aviom systems. If you're using the stand adapters that allow you mount your Aviom systems on microphone stands, there's an additional hack that I use which you might want to consider. I plug a right-angle headphone adapter into the Aviom's headphone jack, then I plug a six-foot headphone extension cable into the right-angle adapter, and then I secure the headphone extension cable between the Aviom mixer and the stand adapter so that it cannot be pulled out of the right-angle adapter. This system will prevent the cable from being ripped out of the headphone jack, and if you're using heavy microphone stands, anyone who walks away from the Aviom system with their in-ear headphones will probably yank their headphone cable out of the extension cable.

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The Downside of Kickstarter

Let me be honest right up front - I like Kickstarter. I think the whole concept of crowd-funding new inventions to bring them to market is a great idea, and I have personally funded a dozen or more projects - which have usually been related to emerging technologies. Participation on Kickstarter is simple: you pick a project you think looks appealing, and then you choose the level of your pledge to help bring that project to life. Depending on how much you give, you generally get something in return - which is typically the completed product before it is released to market. After a project has been funded, the company or team that is responsible for the project is obliged to keep its backers up-to-date through the Kickstarter website.

However, for those of you who are unfamiliar with crowd-funding a new product, this is not buying a completed product online; there are usually dozens of hurdles that the manufacturer needs to go through before the product is ready to ship. Quite often a project is barely past the design and prototype stages, so you have to realize that the expected ship date is very likely to change. With that in mind, I send in my pledge, and then I usually do my best to ignore how long the project is taking. (Some people are impatient, though, and they usually fill the comments sections of a project page with inane requests for their money back if it is taking too long.)

One of my favorite projects that I backed was created by the great folks at Plugable: the product was a docking station for my Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet that provided simultaneous charging with port replication, thereby allowing me to plug my tablet into my KVM and use my tablet as a desktop computer when I'm home, and as a conventional tablet everywhere else. The Plugable team did a great job with the finished product, their communication was great, and I can honestly say that I use this device almost every day. (In fact, Plugable did such a great job that they turned me into a loyal customer; I now use dozens of Plugable's devices and I have recommend their docking stations and other devices to my friends and coworkers.)

However, Kickstarter has a dirty little downside to their business plan: they assume zero accountability for all projects that are advertised through their website. The entire responsibility for delivering a product to backers rests with each respective company or team that is bringing a product to market, and Kickstarter abdicates any sense of legal obligation whatsoever. As of today, here is what Kickstarter's Terms of Use currently state on this subject:

"Kickstarter doesn’t offer refunds. Responsibility for finishing a project lies entirely with the project creator. Kickstarter doesn’t hold funds on creators’ behalf, cannot guarantee creators’ work, and does not offer refunds."

This means that - in theory - someone could claim to have invented something and accept money from backers, and never have any intention of delivering. In the meantime, Kickstarter has deflected any liability away from themselves, and they will therefore ignore any requests for assistance when a project appears to evaporate.

Which brings me to today: one of the projects that I backed in April of 2017, (called SuperScreen), just announced that they are ending product development, terminating all employees who were working on the project, and providing absolutely nothing to their backers while keeping all of their money; which was a little over 2.5 million dollars. (See Important Announcement- SuperScreen Project is Closed for the official announcement.)

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In case you thought that you read that financial figure incorrectly, your eyes did not deceive you; this company collected $2.5 million from 18,000 backers and delivered nothing, yet the entire escapade was perfectly legal. Don't get me wrong, this situation is unethical beyond comprehension, but it isn't against the law. Kickstarter introduces the possibility for scam artists to get away with large-scale confidence schemes, while providing themselves with a convenient "Get Out of Jail Free" solution to avoid becoming embroiled in any legal entanglements. According to their Terms of Use, Kickstarter charges companies a 5% fee, so for this particular project they may have profited around $125,000 for doing little more than hosting the webpage for this failed venture.

Throughout the life of this particular project there were numerous videos posted of the supposed "prototype" in action, (see http://youtu.be/_spHSw9C9AQ, http://bit.ly/2QL3cy7, http://youtu.be/aUZ8JZKMAZk, http://youtu.be/E2X3Qu9ENuY, http://youtu.be/GsiBqUNdAdk, etc.). There was a mockup posted of what the shipped product would look like, (see below), and even a video that was supposed to show the finished product in manufacturing, (although that appears to have actually been just a standard Android tablet - see http://youtu.be/V96I43UMMYg).

superscreen_packaging

Despite their periodic promises and posts, nothing ever materialized. The inventor for this particular project, Brent Morgan (LinkedIn or Twitter), dropped the first hint that something was catastrophically wrong when he arbitrarily changed the expected ship date from December 2017 (which was used during the Kickstarter campaign) to December 2018 (which was announced after he had collected everyone's money).

I used to be a project manager for a high tech company, and I realize that projects slip from time to time. However, it's one thing to have a project slip by a week or two, and it's another thing to completely rewrite your production schedule after you have secured funding.

As most backers now seem to realize, Mr. Morgan's company, (Transcendent Designs LLC), does not appear to have ever intended to ship an actual product. It would be great if an aspiring lawyer collected the names of all 18,000 backers and brought a class action lawsuit against Mr. Morgan and his company, but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

It is ironic that in one of Mr. Morgan's earliest updates to his backers he waxes poetic about what is great about Kickstarter, because in the end - his project illustrates everything that is wrong with Kickstarter:

"In just 30 days, over 18k people have joined together to raise more than $2.5M for a single vision. It is mind boggling, and it proves that this is real. ... While there are plenty of things I would like to say, I will start by thanking those who choose to doubt. At some level, you are proving what is so great about Kickstarter."

There is an old adage - "Buyer Beware" - which extols the virtues of heightened awareness when doing business in a free market society. However, if you are considering whether to back projects on Kickstarter, I would like to suggest a more-modern version of that adage: "Backer Beware." But even more specifically - should prospective backers ever be tempted to invest in a project from either Brent Morgan or Transcendent Designs LLC, I highly advise them to heed King Arthur's counsel in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and "Run Away."


UPDATE:

Because videos have a tendency to disappear, I have downloaded several of these videos that I listed in the blog post for posterity, and the links to the archived copies of the videos are listed below. However, what is especially interesting about these videos is that it becomes apparent that all of the demos were done with a a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2; either a black tablet or a white tablet. In other words, the product never existed, and the so-called 'inventor,' Brent Morgan, was nothing more than a conman.

Here are a few bonus videos and articles:

The Future - and Past - of Dual-Screen Laptops and Tablets

Nearly a decade ago, Microsoft cancelled the Courier tablet (see below), which would have been the first dual-screen tablet/laptop on the market, and it would have been competing head-to-head with the single-screen iPad when that tablet was first released:

Now the Courier's untimely death seems especially premature, since the big news coming from Computex 2018 is that several of the big computer manufacturers are coming out with dual-screen tablets/laptops that look all-too-familiar to anyone who saw a Microsoft Courier tablet back in the day:

It seems that - given enough time - foresight and hindsight can become blurred...

Omnicharge is Your Devices' Best Friend when Travelling

When I travel, I tend to bring a lot of interesting gear along with me, and much of that gear is designed to support my other gear. I never know what I might need, so I plan for the worst and try to bring a little bit of everything. For example, I have various chargers for phones/tablets/notebooks, etc., plus a variety of USB/Network cables and adapters, and when I'm travelling overseas I bring adapters for international electrical outlets.

However, I have often found myself at a loss for power outlets in various airports, so last year I invested in an Indiegogo campaign to support a device which I thought needed to be brought to the market: Omnicharge. While it wasn't cheap, it promised 2 fast-charging USB ports and an actual AC/DC power outlet. And I must admit, the prospect of having a way to recharge my laptop and other devices was rather appealing.

During the Indiegogo campaign, I pledged the extra cash for the Omnicharge Pro (Omni 20), which boasts 20400mAh with a maximum output of 100W. The campaign was successfully funded at 4,257% of its original goal, (with a grand total of $3,185,869 pledged), so I guess that I wasn't the only traveller who thought this was an amazing device to add to their "go bag."

Omnicharge_Side_View

I received my Omnicharge a couple months ago, and I have had a chance to travel with it a few times. So far, it has exceeded my expectations. I have been stranded with a dying laptop and no AC power outlet on more than one occasion, and the Omnicharge has rescued my laptop each time. The Omnicharge's screen and menus are easy-to-navigate, and it completely charges my Microsoft Surface Book's drained batteries in an hour (while I am still using it).

Omnicharge_Front_Panel

Now that the Indiegogo campaign has long-since ended and backers have received their "early bird" releases, you can now purchase one of these devices through Amazon at http://amzn.to/2nnZgrw.

For more in-depth information about the Omnicharge, see the following video-based overview on YouTube:

Drum Circles and Conference Calls Do Not Mix

Earlier today our organization participated in a unique "Team Building" exercise: our organization hosted a Drum Circle, wherein a motivational speaker walked various members of our organization through a set of various polyrhythms with the intended goal of creating music as a "team." The idea seems plausible enough on paper, and I am fairly certain that if I was participating in-person I might have received something of value from the experience.

However, I work remotely, as do several dozen of my coworkers. Instead of hearing music and a motivational speaker, those of us who could not attend in-person heard nothing but noise. Lots and lots of noise. The entire experience was reduced to hours of mind-numbing cacophony for anyone attending the meeting via the conference call, and my only takeaway was that I had lost several hours of my life.

Shortly after the meeting had ended I put together the following animation to show my coworkers what the meeting was like for remote attendees:

Attending a Drum Circle Remotely.

With that in mind, please take my advice: take a look at https://binged.it/2s4KbLd for companies who offer team building exercises such as this, and avoid them as much as possible if you value your remote employees.