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Choosing an audio panel

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Paul View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Choosing an audio panel
    Posted: 12 Nov 2012 at 12:10pm
I'm considering replacing the audio panel when I install the IFD-540.  The current KMA-26 panel isn't compatible with any other so either we rewire it as part of the GPS upgrade or it stays for a long time.

The obvious contenders are the PS Audio PMA8000BT, the Garmin GMA-350, or the Avidyne AMX240.

About the only things I can find about the AMX240 come from looking at the pictures.  It looks like the lettering on the buttons is cut into them so it won't rub off (unlike the KMA-26) and that it doesn't have a DME button, which is good because we won't have a DME after the upgrade.

Are there more reasons to pick one over the other (besides price)?



Edited by Paul - 14 Nov 2012 at 4:22pm
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tony View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 Nov 2012 at 5:41am

I believe if you want your 540 to display the station ID, you must use the 240. Otherwise you are just going to get the frequency. Maybe Steve could verify that.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oskrypuch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Nov 2012 at 3:20pm
If true, it seems that that would be a bizarre limitation. Are you sure of this? The VHF signal first reaches the 540, and only then goes to the audio panel.

The SL30 auto-IDs VORs regardless of the audio panel.

* Orest



Edited by oskrypuch - 18 Nov 2012 at 3:25pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Nov 2012 at 10:43am
Sorry guys, I had forgotten to put an auto-watch on this forum and didn't notice these posts.

As for display of station ID on the IFD540, we'll have that no matter what audio panel is installed.   As noted above, that is a database that is stored on the IFD540 so we can decode the station ID in the comm and nav datablocks with no other required input or interface.

(One side note that may have caused the confusion on that topic - On our R9 system, we also display the active frequency and it's decoded station ID on the R9 PFD display.  That one represents what agency you are speaking to if you press the external mic Push-To-Talk switch.  In that case, we need to know what channel the audio panel has selected as the active com.   We can do that with a number of audio panels, not just the Avidyne one.)

As for Paul's original post and questions, it is true that the button labels can not be rubbed off on that unit.  It is also true there is no dedicated DME button on that unit.    The Avidyne audio panel will have the same look and feel as the rest of the Avidyne stack so they will all look consistent (color schemes, material, button types and labeling, etc).  We believe it has a simpler interface than the competition (less modes, less buttons, cleaner layout, graphical representation of crew isolation, etc) and of course it is plug and play with the PS Engineering panels and therefore the Garmin.
Steve Jacobson
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tony View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Nov 2012 at 6:04pm
then I'm a it confused.  Steve please look at this page. 
 
 
What does the phase at the bottom opf the page mean then?
 
"When interfaced with the AMX240, the IFD540 and the IFD5000 (Release 9) are able to decode the active Com frequency and display the agency name. At a glance, you know with whom you will be talking when you key your mic."
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Feb 2013 at 2:34pm
What is the status of the AMX240?  Is it certified?  When will manuals be available?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Feb 2013 at 3:59pm
Not done yet.  We're timing it to come out at approximately the same time as the IFD540.   We intend to make the manuals available online shortly before that.
Steve Jacobson
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Jul 2014 at 6:06pm
There's another contender for the audio panel slot.  PS Engineering has introduced the PMA450.  http://www.ps-engineering.com/PMA450.shtml has the details.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oskrypuch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23 Jul 2014 at 8:48pm
The 450 adds localization for COM1/COM2, and an LCD for setting options.

* Orest



Edited by oskrypuch - 23 Jul 2014 at 9:01pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pburger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2014 at 11:36am
I'm getting ready for my IFD-540 install.  I plan on putting in a new audio panel and ADS-B out transponder at the same time.  I'm struggling between going all Avidyne or mix and match.

My avionics guy thinks the PMA450 is the way to go for the audio panel, and I tend to agree.  Is there any compelling reason (functionality-wise) to go with the Avidyne audio panel instead?  I realize there is an advantage in the "look and feel" of having all one brand, but I'm wondering if I will be giving up any functionality by going with the PMA450.

Any thoughts?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ddgates Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2014 at 1:37pm
All of us have probably similar decision points.  If I understand correctly, the 540 has a standby mode for monitoring second frequency, which is not enabled in release software, and which apparently won't function with other comm panels.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oskrypuch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2014 at 3:52pm
The 540 standby monitor (when released) will function in any audio panel that has an additional "standby" input for COM1 and/or COM2.

Too bad they didn't go the way of the SL-30, which cleverly mixes the two channels internally, and sends it all along on one radio output. Obviously, that will work with any panel, without any special wiring. Those Apollo guys were clever.

* Orest



Edited by oskrypuch - 12 Aug 2014 at 3:54pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gring Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2014 at 4:32pm
While I haven't used the PS engineering 450 and cannot comment, the AMX240 has a dirt simple user interface and I appreciate that aspect. For instance, to change the music input configuration from rear hears rear jack and fron hears front input to all jacks hear front input is as easy as pushing and holding the music button until the audio announcement tells you the configuration. There are other simplified things along those lines. I also like the matchy-match look and feel...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2014 at 7:32pm
What is the functionality you are trying to get in the 450 that doesn't exist in the Avidyne version?
Steve Jacobson
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TogaDriver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2014 at 8:57pm
I'll jump in:

The ability to pan COM1 to the left ear and COM2 to the right ear.  ATC in center-left and ATIS in center-right is much easier for the brain to parse out as distinct information signals.  We do it every day in conversation with a group.

I demo'ed this at OSH this year and it worked great.  I did not get to the Garmin booth to try theirs.

The new PMA450 can pan multiple sources across stereo left-right and those settings can be changed from the front panel (no messing config modality).  That's why I'm looking seriously at the PMA450 vs. the similarly priced GMA350 which has 3D but is a Garmin product which means who knows what proprietary nonsense they might have put into it.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2014 at 9:09pm
Fair enough.  

I've used the Garmin 3D audio in the booth and in-flight.  It's a great demo in the booth, somewhat noticeable in-flight.   Some folks will notice it in-flight, some won't.

Sexy feature.  Doesn't do much for me though.    Definitely not worth the complicated UI for me.
Steve Jacobson
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TogaDriver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 Aug 2014 at 9:16pm
That's why I like the PS eng direction.  Not 3D, just left right panning to clarify the two COM sources in the headset.  It should be a trivial thing to do in firmware in any digital stereo audio panel.  The hard part, as always, is the UI.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TogaDriver Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Aug 2014 at 11:58am
Steve,

Are there features of your Audio Panel that are customized to complement the IFD's monitor modes?  That might be an important thing to call out for folks who are considering a PS or Garmin audio panel.

Will those panels have problems integrating the monitor feature in some way that yours will handle?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote pburger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2014 at 2:10am
Scuttlebutt is that the AMX-240 is made by PSE.  If there is some special or proprietary integration that the AMX-240 has with the IFD-540, then I'd like to hear about it.  Otherwise, I'm strongly favoring the PMA450 at this point.

If Avidyne had entertained a bundle discount for installing multiple A-brand products with the IFD-540 (i.e. - audio panel, xpndr, etc.), then I might've leaned that direction, but they didn't, so I'm not.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2014 at 8:22pm
There are no special goodies in there to complement the IFD's monitor modes.    If an audio panel can support the monitor function than it can take the IFD monitor output (when it's turned on in a release in the near future). 

Some folks seem to love the 450 and that's totally fine.  It's definitely not for me - I'm no way near smart enough to figure out how to use it.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Aug 2014 at 10:44pm
Steve,

I don't know how many shops will have an AMX240 available for demo.  I expect most of them to push the PMA 450 because PS Engineering is the big company in the audio panel market and shops figure they can't go wrong recommending it.

Does Avidyne have any marketing people?  If so, one of them should write a paper on why the AMX is the best panel on the planet.  They should be providing that information to dealers so the ones that aren't too lazy to read will have a reason to recommend the Avidyne panel.

If you don't have marketing people then your head of sales should write it or have someone on his staff do it.  (Hint:  It should not be done by an engineer).

You can have the greatest engineers and the greatest products in the world but you need to have sales people telling the pilots and the dealers why they are the greatest or nobody will know.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep 2014 at 5:05pm
In another note I said I would post my audio panel evaluation if I could get it into coherent form.  I cleaned up my chicken-scratchings a bit and here’s the result.  Paulr, this one’s for you:

Audio Panel Evaluation

We’re going to replace the audio panel in our plane as part of the avionics upgrade.  I evaluated what I thought were the best choices for replacement.  There are 5½ evaluations.

Disclaimers


I did this primarily for my own benefit.  The features I noted are those I found interesting or desirable.  If you find value in my posting that’s fine.  If not, you got what you paid for.

I have not been paid to evaluate these panels (or any other avionics).  My involvement in aviation is limited to my wife and I owning an airplane and a small percentage of a flight school which does not sell avionics. 

Opinions are my own.

I have not flown behind these, of course.  I’ve seen a couple in friends’ airplanes.  My evaluation is based on the pilot’s guides, installation manuals, and reviews on the Internet.  All of this information is publicly available.  I suggest you search for and read the pilot’s guide for the panels that interest you.  I strongly recommend you look at the photographs of the panels, as I have not commented on cosmetics, sizes of buttons, or anything like that.

There may be inaccuracies.  Feel free to post corrections.  If you have used one or more of these panels please post your opinions - you know things I don't.

Sometimes I overanalyze things.  And sometimes I’m pedantic.

Features and Comments

All of these panels have a marker beacon receiver, several unswitched inputs, and a speaker output.

All have single button access to COM and NAV radios.

All have a split COM mode where the pilot uses COM 1 and the copilot uses COM 2.

Garmin GMA 340

This is the oldest audio panel described here.  It set the standard for the size and connectors.  It supports three radios.  It has switched ADF and DME inputs.

There are two volume control knobs.  One sets the intercom level for the pilot.  The other sets the intercom level for the copilot or, by pulling the knob out, the intercom level for the passengers.

The VOX gain settings are manually adjusted.  There are individual VOX circuits for the pilot, copilot, and passengers.  The VOX gain for the pilot and copilot are individually adjustable, and the passengers share a common setting.

There are three isolate choices: pilot, crew, and all.  There are two buttons which select the isolation mode.

There are two music inputs.  Music input 1 is muted by audio from other devices such as the COM radios.  The music is provided to passengers and to any crew who hear the same things as the passengers do.

Comments

This is the least expensive panel in this evaluation.

It does not have automatic VOX.

It does not have audio playback.

It does not have Bluetooth.

Reports on the Internet suggest that when one microphone opens the VOX all microphones are opened and that audio quality is not as good as some other panels.

Garmin GMA 350

This is Garmin’s advanced panel.  It supports two radios.  It has one switched AUX input.

There is one volume control.  It is concentric.  The outer knob selects which item is being controlled.  The inner knob sets the volume.  The volume of the intercom for the pilot, copilot, and crew, and also the volume of the music inputs can be adjusted.

It has a choice of manual or automatic squelch.  In manual mode the squelch level can be set for the pilot, copilot, and crew using the volume control knob.

There are five isolate choices.  In addition to pilot, crew, and all, the pilot can be connected to the passengers with the copilot isolated.  There are three buttons which select the isolation mode.  The copilot position can be set as a passenger and will receive the same audio as the rest of the passengers.

It can play back messages received on the COM radios.  There is a dedicated button for this.

There are two music inputs.  One is available through a front panel audio jack.  They can individually be routed to any combination of pilot, copilot, and crew.  Music can be muted during COM receive.

There is a telephone connection.  The telephone can be routed to the pilot, copilot, or passengers independently of the intercom or music settings.

It has stereo positioning of the radios and passengers.  When activated COM 1 sounds like it is at 11 o’clock and COM 2 sounds like it is at 1 o’clock.  The location of the copilot and passengers is also set to make it sound like it is coming from where they are sitting.

It accepts verbal commands.  Press the PTC (push to command) button and say a command and it will respond either by changes in status lights or with verbal confirmation.  Just about everything can be set or changed this way – there are probably a hundred voice commands.

Comments

The audio routing is very versatile.  Pretty much any combination of inputs can be routed to any combination of outputs.

I don’t know how useful the voice recognition really is.  I could see it being convenient for functions which require multiple button presses or turning the control knob.  But I would find it easier to press the COMM 1 button than to press the PTC button and say “COMM 1”.

I cannot comment on the usefulness of the stereo effects.  Some things cannot be determined by reading manuals.

It does not have Bluetooth.

PS Engineering PMA8000BT

This is a very popular panel.  It has switched ADF and AUX inputs.

It has two volume controls.  One adjusts the intercom level for the pilot and copilot.  The other adjusts the level for the passengers.

The VOX is automatic with no adjustments.

There are three isolation choices: pilot, crew, and all.  They are selected using a single button.

It can play back messages received on the COM radios.  The audio playback is triggered by pressing the active COM button.

There are two music inputs.  Music can be muted for the radios, intercom, both, or neither.  Input 1 can be routed to the crew only or to all headsets.  The pilot and copilot cannot hear music input 2.

There is a telephone connection.  The telephone routing follows the isolation.  For example if the pilot is isolated he will be the only person who can use the telephone.

A telephone and music source can be connected using Bluetooth instead of by wiring the devices.

The panel can control audio playback of some Bluetooth devices.    It can request play/pause, skip back, and skip forward for a music device.  It can also control some telephone functions.  These control functions are not marked on the panel.

Comments

This panel has a lot of functions which are triggered by pressing multiple buttons or pressing and holding a button.  Most of these are not labeled, or in the case of the “smart buttons” the label does not describe to me what the function does.

Pressing the active COM button to replay a message means the COM buttons have two functions – if the button is not illuminated it will select the receiver and if it is illuminated it will play back the last audio message.

Using this panel for things which are not labeled on the buttons seems confusing to me.  However they are functions I would not often use.

Reviews on the Internet suggest that the VOX works well and that the audio quality is very good.

Bendix/King KMA 30

The KMA 30 is a PMA8000BT with the Bendix/King name on the panel.  The Pilot’s Guide is the same as the PS Engineering manual.  I did not look at the installation manual (hence the ½ evaluation).

Comments

This panel normally retails for more than the PS Engineering version.  But Bendix/King has a trade-in program which might make this less expensive.

Avidyne AMX 240

This panel is built by PS Engineering.  It appears to be based on the PMA8000 series.

There are two volume control knobs.  One sets the intercom level for the pilot.  The other is concentric.  The inner knob sets the intercom level for the copilot and the outer knob sets the intercom level for the passengers.

The VOX is automatic with no adjustments.

There are three isolation choices: pilot, crew, and all.  They are selected using a single button.

It has audio playback.  Pressing the REPLAY button plays back the last received message.  Pressing it again will play the previous message etc.

There are two music inputs.  A dedicated button selects whether music input 1 will be muted when the radios or intercom are active or will not be muted.  Input 1 can be routed to the crew only or to all headsets.  The pilot and copilot cannot hear music input 2.

There is a telephone connection.  The telephone routing follows the isolation.  For example if the pilot is isolated he will be the only person who can use the telephone.

A telephone or music source can be connected using Bluetooth instead of by wiring the devices.  The Bluetooth music source will be routed as music input 1.

There is a mute button which will tell some external audio annunciators to stop talking.

Comments

Since this is based on the PS Engineering 8000 series technology I expect the audio and VOX to have similar performance.

I don't know which external devices will interface with the mute button.

PS Engineering PMA 450

This is PS Engineering’s advanced panel.  It supports two radios.  It has three soft keys and an LCD display.

It has three switched AUX inputs.  They are turned on and off using the soft keys and display.  The displayed names of the inputs can be changed as desired.

There is one volume control.  It is concentric.  The inner knob sets the intercom level for the pilot and copilot and the outer knob sets the intercom level for the passengers.

The VOX is automatic with no adjustments.

There are three isolation choices: pilot, crew, and all.  They are selected using a single button.

It can play back messages received on the COM radios.  The audio playback is triggered by pressing the active COM receive button.  The message number and the number of stored messages are displayed on the screen.

There are two music inputs.  One is available through a front panel audio jack.  They can individually be routed to any combination of pilot, copilot, and crew.  Music can be muted when during COM receive.  Music can be muted for the radios, radios and intercom, or it can be set to never mute the music.

There is a telephone connection.  The telephone can be routed to the pilot, copilot, or passengers.  The telephone routing follows the intercom isolation. The display shows caller ID and soft keys can be used to answer and end the call.

A telephone and music source can be connected using Bluetooth instead of by wiring the devices.  The panel will show battery status.

It has stereo positioning of the radios.  When activated the COM radios will appear to be located at different positions.  The positions can be set using the soft keys and menus.

It has a 5V 1.5A USB jack which can be used to charge phones or tablets.  It does not have a data connection.

Comments

The soft keys and display allow lots of features with only a few buttons.

There are menus but I could not find a “back” button or function.

The audio routing is fairly complete with most inputs being able to be routed to most outputs.

I cannot comment on the usefulness of the stereo effects.  PS Engineering has a demo program available but I have not tried it.

Capabilities and Comparisons

The Garmin panels do not have Bluetooth.  The panels made by PS Engineering do.

The GMA 340 has inputs for three radios.  The others have inputs for two radios.  If three radios is required, the PS Engineering PMA 8000C (not evaluated here) supports three COM radios.

Different panels have different numbers of switched inputs and they are labeled differently.  The GMA 350 has only one.  The rest have two, except for the PMA 450 which has three.  On the PMA 450 the switched inputs are accessed through the soft keys and it requires three presses to turn one on or off.  On the other panels the switched inputs have dedicated buttons and require one press.

All panels except for the GMA 340 have automatic VOX.

The GMA 350 has the most complete audio routing capability.  The PMA 450 is second, having full capability but the telephone and intercom routing is shared.  The others have limitations.  For example the PMA 8000BT and the AMX 240 cannot route the music 2 input to the crew.

All of the panels except for the GMA 340 have audio playback.  On the GMA 350 and AMX 240 there are dedicated buttons for this feature.  On the PMA 8000BT and PMA 450 it is activated by pressing the active COM receive button.

The GMA 350 and PMA 450 have the ability to present different inputs at different apparent spatial locations.  The GMA 350 has fixed locations (or they are adjustable by the installer) and includes the positions of the copilot and passengers.  The PMA 450 allows the user to change the apparent location of the input but it only works for the radios.

Most of the panels have telephone inputs.  The most capable is the PMA 450 which can show the caller ID and can answer or terminate a phone call.  The PMA 450 manual includes this warning:

United States FCC Regulations contained in 47 CFR § 22.925 currently contain prohibition on airborne operation of cellular telephones. “Cellular telephones installed in or carried aboard airplanes, balloons or any other type of aircraft must not be operated while such aircraft are airborne (not touching the ground). When any aircraft leaves the ground, all cellular telephones on board that aircraft must be turned off.”

The PMA 8000BT and AMX 240, although built on the same technology, are quite different.  The PMA 8000BT has capabilities that the AMX 240 does not such as Bluetooth device control, and more options such as four mute modes rather than two.  The trade-off is that the PMA 8000BT has more functions that require pressing multiple buttons and these are mostly not labeled.

My Preferences

There are two goals  - “lots of features” and “easy to use”.  These goals are in conflict.  Additional features add complexity to the user interface.  And they increase the chances that something will be set “wrong”.

My experiences designing hardware and software (and the human factors classes I’ve attended) tell me that for an audio panel the ideal is that commonly used functions will have a dedicated labeled button or knob.

The COM 1 and COM 2 transmit and receive buttons are the most frequently used.  For IFR pilots the NAV 1 and maybe NAV 2 buttons are frequently used but this may not be so with the IFD because it has a Morse code reader.

The IFD has the ability to receive on the standby frequency.  (Note:  This is not enabled in the original firmware shipped with the IFD 540.)  It also has advanced receiver management which allows frequency selection from a list.  With this combination it will be easier to get ATIS or similar information using the IFD than it would be to do it using a normal COM 2 radio.  This means that for stacks with a single IFD the button which activates the standby receive function will be frequently used.  With a dual IFD stack the pilot has the option of using the second IFD to pick up the ATIS using the frequency list.  I don’t know which method will be preferable in a dual IFD stack.

GMA 340

The GMA 340 is the only panel in this list that I would consider replacing if I already had one.  It isn’t that it is a bad panel, but the others have significant features such as auto VOX and message replay.

GMA 350

This panel has the most versatile audio routing of any.  And it has the ability to switch the copilot position to being a passenger.  The controls are a bit complex but they are consistent so it is probably easy to learn and remember how to use it.

It has a single button for message replay which makes it easy to use this feature.

It only has one switched audio input.  This probably disqualifies it from a dual IFD stack because there would be no way to connect the second IFD standby receiver.

I’d consider this panel for a single IFD installation where the audio routing capabilities are really important, or if a unique feature such as voice commands is especially desired.  Otherwise I think there are better choices.   I suspect most Avidyne buyers are not going to want to put their IFD under a Garmin panel anyways.

PMA 8000BT

This panel has lots of capabilities but they are implemented in a way that I would find difficult to memorize.  The frequently used buttons are easily available.

I would prefer a dedicated message replay button.  The scheme used in this panel requires more thought, which translates to higher workload.  And missing a message is a stress generator for most pilots.

For a single IFD stack the standby receiver audio could be connected to the AUX switched input.  For a dual IFD stack the second IFD standby receiver audio would have to be connected to the ADF input.  That would be undesirable for a two IFD stack because the standby receive buttons would be mislabeled and are not adjacent to each other or to the other COMM radio buttons.

The functions which require multiple buttons or which use buttons which aren’t labeled are functions most pilots won’t access frequently if at all.  I would keep a copy of the manual in the plane in case someone bumped something and changed a setting accidentally.

This isn’t my favorite of the panels but if I owned one I’d happily keep it.

AMX 240

The features of this panel are limited as compared to others in this evaluation (except the GMA 340).  However the controls are mostly obvious and it is easy to see how to operate it.

The standby receiver audio would be connected to buttons labeled MON 1 and MON 2.  They are grouped together with the COMM buttons.

It has a single button for message replay, labeled REPLAY.

I think this panel would be the easiest to use and for situations where the features are adequate I think this would be the best panel.

PMA 450

This is the most full featured panel evaluated.  There a few minor features other panels have that this one doesn’t but overall this does more stuff.

The features make the interface more complex.  To manage this PS Engineering added a display and three soft keys.  These are used to provide a simple menu- based scheme to access functions which are less frequently used.

This scheme makes it easy to find all of the functions.  Everything is labeled.

The interface is a hybrid – frequently used functions have their own dedicated buttons.

The standby receiver audio would be connected to two of the switched inputs which are available through the menu.  The names of the inputs can be set by the aircraft owner.  They can be called MON 1 and MON 2, or STBY 1 and STBY 2 or pretty much whatever the owner wants.  The switched inputs on/off keys are on the third menu level.  So it takes three key presses to turn the standby receiver audio on or off.  In a stack with one IFD this could be annoying, but if the panel is wired correctly the three presses would all be on the same key.

The message replay is activated by pressing and holding the active COMM receive button.  I would prefer a single dedicated button.

These are minor quibbles and if there’s a feature which is highly desired, such as the audio routing, the three switched inputs, or the stereo radio positioning, or if you just happen to like the soft key interface, I think this would be the best panel.

My Choice

Our aircraft is a Cessna 172.  Most flights are just my wife and I going for a $100 hamburger, or my wife flying approaches and precision maneuvers with a CFI friend. If we have a third person in the plane, either another pilot or a friend, we put them in the copilot’s seat and I sit in the back.

The existing audio panel is a KMA 26.  The audio quality is OK but the VOX is not very good.

The new stack will contain an IFD 540 and a KX 155A.  There will be no DME or ADF equipment.

Many features are not important in our plane:

  • As far as I know we have never used the isolate functions.  If we did, it would be because a passenger would not stop talking, in which case the pilot would select isolate.

  • We’ve never listened to music while flying.  One person who occasionally uses the plane does but he has a way of placing music in his headset only.   The rest of us have absolutely no interest in hearing the music he prefers.

  • We have a few Bluetooth devices but don’t have much interest in tying them to the plane’s audio system.  Setting up playback control sounds like more trouble than it is worth.
  • Due to an asymmetric hearing loss the stereo effects are not useful.

  • Voice commands aren’t very interesting.  The pilots are used to pressing buttons and it would be faster to press the COM 1 button than to press the voice button and say “COMM 1”.

There are a few features we are interested in:

  • We want a better automatic VOX for the intercom.
  • We don’t have the ability to replay messages and all of the pilots are very interested in it.
  • I think the ability to listen to the standby receive frequency is going to be a big deal in our plane because it will be much faster than twisting the knobs on the KX 155a.  Once this feature becomes available on the IFD we’ll probably set the second radio to 121.5 and leave it there.

The GMA 340 is missing features we want.  Any of the other panels will work.

My first choice for our airplane is the AMX 240.  It does what we want without being more complicated than necessary.  All of the functions we would normally use have their own dedicated buttons with correct labels.

My second choice is the PMA 450.  Although the standby receive requires multiple button presses the interface is easy to use and all functions will be properly labeled.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MysticCobra Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep 2014 at 6:42pm
Very nice writeup--thank you for sharing!

One notable exception in your comparisons was price.  Did that factor into your considerations at all?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep 2014 at 6:44pm
Interesting review.   

I personally think your review of the AMX240 is very accurate.  When I designed the panel use and layout, I chose the functions I thought were most important and then a few for competitive reasons.  I tried to make the user interface as simple as possible - that was my top priority.

We obviously think the PS Engineering back end design is superior but I wanted to make the Avidyne front end easier to use.  That meant dropping some features and having no hidden or combo button presses.   For me, it's a natural extension of me the pilot.
Steve Jacobson
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep 2014 at 8:48pm
MysticCobra,

I considered price only a bit.  The audio panel is the least expensive item in this upgrade.  I have not seen a street price for the AMX 240 from any of the places I've looked on the Internet.  The GMA 340 is cheaper than the others but didn't have the features so it didn't matter.  The others were within a few hundred dollars of each other and I hope the AMX 240 is not too far different.

I'm spending $10K for a GPS and thousands more for installation.  Saving a few hundred by buying an audio panel that doesn't have the features we want or that is more difficult to use won't have much effect on the bottom line.  But it could have a big effect on how much fun it is to use the new stack.

Steve,

The more I looked at the AMX 240 the more it was obvious that the features / complexity choice was deliberate.  I could have described the human factors evaluation in more detail but my note was already too long.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gring Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep 2014 at 9:56pm
I'll add a little bit to this. My 182 had a PS Engineering audio panel and my Bonanza had a GMA340 prior to my AMX240. There is no comparison between the Garmin audio quality and the Avidyne/PSE, The latter is so much clearer and louder. The automatic VOX works extremely well. I use the Bluetooth function a lot for IFR clearances and the phone clarity is excellent, much better than the Bluetooth function on my Zulu headset.

I prefer the simplified user interface of the AMX240 over the PSE, but I'm a simple guy and not always that smart. We use the music function on every trip, and the ability to have my son in the rear watching a DVD and us in the front listening to XM is great. With a push and hold of the music button I can change it to all stations hear the XM (or music from the iPhone via BT). The thing is dirt simple which an audio panel should be and I like the voice telling me what mode the music is in.

If I could change anything, it would only be two very minor changes, and they really are personal preferences more than anything.

1) I wish the audio panel remembered the karaoke mode between power cycles. Right now it defaults to music mutes during intercom transmissions and I always change it to music playing all the time and only muted during com transmission.

2) I would prefer the isolate button cycled through the three settings (all, crew, pilot, all, etc) rather than returning back to all (all, crew, all, pilot, all, etc)

Edited by Gring - 26 Sep 2014 at 7:12am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oskrypuch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 25 Sep 2014 at 10:39pm
I have the 8000BT and quite like it, audio is amazing. FWIW, there was no 240 when I was buying.

+1 on both of your "wishes". Small nits, but would be nice.

* Orest

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote FORANE Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 5:14am
I also have the 8000BT.  I am very happy with it.  The bluetooth capability for making phone calls works perfectly and I consider a must have.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 7:56am
Originally posted by Gring Gring wrote:


2) I would prefer the isolate button cycled through the three settings (all, crew, pilot, all, etc) rather than returning back to all (all, crew, all, pilot, all, etc)


Thanks for the real-world input. 

The PMA 8000BT does this too.  I thought it was weird when I read about it.  It doesn't sound good from a human factors standpoint - two states (current=all, next=pilot) and (current=all, next=crew) have the same visuals.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gring Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 9:51pm
They don't have the same visuals because the Avidyne audio panel has a three LED picture that tells you what mode it is in.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Sep 2014 at 9:56pm
Can you describe what the three LEDS show for the various isolation states?  The manual isn't specific (or I missed it).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gring Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Sep 2014 at 8:45pm
I'll do better than that, here is a picture of the LED indicators for intercom isolation.  You can see very easily the state of the intercom by the LEDs.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n7ifr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 May 2015 at 12:56pm
Late to the party, Paul - Thanks for a great and compulsive review.

I still have the original '65 King Audio and separate (old, but functioning) PS1000 Intercom in my panel, and as my 540/340 are being installed, I think it is finally time to bring the audio/intercom panel into the 21st century too.  

So far, I am favoring the AMX240 simplicity over the PMA450.

Thanks.

Tom W.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ddgates Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 May 2015 at 3:19pm
Tom:

Can offer you a thought or two.

My private email is dgatesmd at gmail.com

David
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote brou0040 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Aug 2015 at 9:36pm
Thanks for the review, I decided to bounce my thoughts off of this to see if I missed anything.

While doing so, I think I found 1 error above, but one that was mentioned a few times.  I believe the GMA-350 actually has 3 switched inputs (Page 7 of their pilots guide), the catch is that there is 1 button that controls all three.  I'm trying to confirm this understanding so is anybody can verify, I'd appreciate it.  One switch may make it ackward to monitor standby from IFD #1 when don't care about #2 since it will automatically turn it on, I suppose you could set #2 to guard.

I still haven't figured which one is right for me (GMA350, AMX240 or PMA450), but I'm wondering if this would change the decision making for anybody.

I also have a single IFD540 with a KX155, our typical trip is wife in the co-pilot seat and children as passengers.  My current intercom only has All and Pilot Isolate, so my wife is always on the intercom with the kids.  She'd like to be able to also isolate from the kids, but not necessarily start listening to the radio.  We often listen to music and from various sources while flying.  Right now we are all individual directly into our headsets.  My wife would like to be able to share music with the kids while I'd be listening to something different.

I really like the monitor muting on the AMX240, but I don't believe the 240 can mute the second comm radio while the 450 and 350 can.  I think that I can get the same functionality as the 240 monitor feature by tuning that freq on the 155 and letting the audio panel mute the second comm radio and having the standby on switched channels, which I don't believe are muted.

One questions I haven't been able to answer is if the 240 can have an unmuted switched audio, I know the switched audio has to be hooked up to the mon buttons, which I'm under the impression are always muted, is this correct?

Please correct me if I have anything inaccurate, I hate finding out post decision that the info wasn't correct.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n7ifr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2015 at 1:10am
Originally posted by brou0040 brou0040 wrote:



I still haven't figured which one is right for me (GMA350, AMX240 or PMA450), but I'm wondering if this would change the decision making for anybody.

I really like the monitor muting on the AMX240, but I don't believe the 240 can mute the second comm radio while the 450 and 350 can.  

Brou -
There is an excellent review of the various audio panels... early post on this thread.

My config is single IFD540 & AMX240.  The 240 is supposed to "allow the pilot to listen to standby frequencies with automatic muting when the active frequency is in use"

However, mine (and perhaps others on the forum) does not do this as advertised - both channels are active in Monitor Mode.  There are also problems with the Comm-1 Monitor Standby Function causing severe unwanted attenuation of the Active Comm-1 channel while in Monitor Mode.

My take on the PMA450 is it offers more high tech spatial localization of up to 4 simultaneous audio inputs, so as to be able to tell them apart.

I use my SL30 as Comm-2 with its internal Monitor capability of Standby frequency. 121.5 is always my SL30 Active Channel, and I listen to ATIS for example on SL30 Standby Monitor (stuttering audio).


Hope this helps.


Tom W.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote brou0040 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2015 at 9:48am
Thanks for the feedback, I do know there was a detailed review earlier in this post, that is what I was referencing.  What I was trying to ask in the section that you quoted was if anybody would have made a different choice knowing the GMA350 actually had 3 switched inputs rather than one as the above review states.  Sorry to hear the 240 isn't working as expected, I've been reading the volume issues on the 540 forum.  I also have volume issues, but I think my KMA24 is part of the problem.  My issue is that the standby monitoring (using the ADF switched audio) is so quiet that it's not understandable.  I had issues with comm1 earlier and the installer was able to make adjustments in the KMA24 to turn up the volume so I'm not sure where the problem is.  I'm hoping a new audio panel and getting rid of my crappy intercom will solve these issues.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 Aug 2015 at 7:56pm

[/QUOTE]

However, mine (and perhaps others on the forum) does not do this as advertised - both channels are active in Monitor Mode.  There are also problems with the Comm-1 Monitor Standby Function causing severe unwanted attenuation of the Active Comm-1 channel while in Monitor Mode.

[/QUOTE]

That was my understanding of how its supposed to work too.  The pilots guide on page 19 says

"MON 1 and MON 2 monitors audio output from the COM 1 and COM 2 IFD Standby channel(s).  The buttons turn green when active.  Dual radio monitor capability allows the pilot to listen to standby frequencies with automatic muting when the active frequency is in use."

I haven't loaded 10.1 yet, so I have nothing to add.  I decided to wait until my 440 is ready and make one trip back to the avionics shop.

Is this a software bug in the AMX 240?



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n7ifr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2015 at 6:55pm
After talking with Avidyne Tech support (phone) as well as PS Engineering, this now most likely seems to be not to be an issue with the AMX240 Audio Panel, but with the IFD540.

Is there actually anyone out there with a working integrated IFD540/AMX240 including "Auto-Mute" and Comm-Stby Monitoring?

Just asking.

Tom Wolf



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n7ifr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 2:35pm
Nothing heard regarding my query on any 540/240 users out there...

Just flew and returned from very long, hot, and frustrating day at my 540/240 installer (KTRM) who tried the following to trouble shoot the failure of AMX240 1) AutoMute
2) Attenuation of Active Comm-1 during Monitor of Comm Stby on
3) Inability to select Monitored Comm-Standby frequency by highlighting (per 240 manual).  

Tried:
1. replaced my 540 (v10.1 & Rev4) with two other 540's (v10.1) - No fix.
2. replaced AMX240 with PMA8000 - same attenuation of active channel.
3. reversed Hi/Lo wires from 540-->240 - relieved attenuation, but no Monitor or AutoMute capability.

Installer spoke multiple times with Avidyne Tech & Engineering (TJ & Mike) who first said they were aware of many 240/540 installs "working", but on closer questioning could not confirm that any users have had success with the above 3-functions.

Again after spending the better part of the day (in very hot KTRM) on phone TJ confirmed a "Software Problem" with the IFD540/AMX240 integration!!  

Very frustrating... How can we be given a heads up on how/when there will be a fix?

Tom Wolf



Edited by n7ifr - 19 Aug 2015 at 2:39pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote oskrypuch Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 2:56pm
"3. reversed Hi/Lo wires from 540-->240 - relieved attenuation, but no Monitor or AutoMute capability.
"

Is that reversing hi/lo on the primary pair, on the monitor pair, or both?

IOW, is it relative one pair to the other, or do both need to be changed?

* Orest

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n7ifr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 3:36pm
Originally posted by oskrypuch oskrypuch wrote:

"3. reversed Hi/Lo wires from 540-->240 - relieved attenuation, but no Monitor or AutoMute capability.
"

Is that reversing hi/lo on the primary pair, on the monitor pair, or both?

IOW, is it relative one pair to the other, or do both need to be changed?

* Orest


Not sure.  But, no fix.  With Hi/Lo reversed, Monitor button activated, allowed hearing "standby" freq alone, but not both.  Defeated the purpose of having the integration - no better than just flip-flopping the channels. 

Tom
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 4:07pm
Just today we found and fixed the root cause of the volume attenuation issue when using the standby comm function. Up until today, there was no data of any kind that pointed to some known compatibility problem so any claims to that end were totally bogus.

The fix will be software only in the IFD and will be included in the very next software release.
Steve Jacobson
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ddgates Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 4:13pm
Steve:

In addition to the software correction, are there pinout issues to be clarified as Tom's post suggests?
David Gates
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote AviJake Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 4:27pm
I'm scrolling up/down the thread and don't see a pinout issue.  I must be missing it.  Can you highlight it for me?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ddgates Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 4:32pm
Tom's post of today:

". reversed Hi/Lo wires from 540-->240 - relieved attenuation, but no Monitor or AutoMute capability."

David
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tony Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 5:44pm
what about the muting of the monitor channel when the com channel is active?  did you guys look at that too?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n7ifr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2015 at 6:08pm
Originally posted by AviJake AviJake wrote:

Just today we found and fixed the root cause of the volume attenuation issue when using the standby comm function. Up until today, there was no data of any kind that pointed to some known compatibility problem so any claims to that end were totally bogus.

The fix will be software only in the IFD and will be included in the very next software release.

Thank you Steve, for the feedback.  Its good to get some reality testing on this, and I will pass this on to my equally frustrated installer.

Any word on the AutoMute and Touch to select the "Standby" Frequency to Monitor?... and when?

Thanks again.

Tom Wolf 
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