Cell Phone Headset Adapter for Amateur Radio
In the last few years,
since I first wrote about this headset adaptor the availability of wired cellular headsets has virtually vanished because
every cellphone now comes with Bluetooth. Because of that, I have gone back to using PC style headsets with the two 3.5 mm
stereo plugs. These are widely available and even come in the same styles as cellular headsets. Other PC style headsets can
also be used, your choice. I have found these headsets in many stores, even dollar stores, and believe it or not, the audio
quality from some of these very inexpensive headsets ($1 to $5) is every bit as good as the more expensive PC headsets sold
by computer stores. There is one caveat to that statement. I have found that some of the headsets, both cheap and more pricey,
do not work well at all. You may have to try two or three different units to find one that works well with the adaptor. The
usual problem seems to be low audio from the mic. I have discovered that this is primarily due to the design of the particular
headset since the components inside all seem to be identical. The ones that I use, have a very narrow mic boom with a bullet
shaped fitting on the end where the mic element resides. It looks just like the cellular headsets I used to use, only the
cable connectors are different. Check around your local discount stores for headsets in their electronics aisle and see what
you can find. The circuit below the next block of text shows the PC style circuit with two 3.5 mm stereo jacks for the PC
A few months ago, I wrote
about an adapter I cobbled up to make use of inexpensive PC headsets for use with ham radios. The article was published by
QST and I got some feedback indicating that some hams were building similar devices. One respondent in particular asked if
it would work with a cell phone headset. At the time, I replied that I was unsure, but it sounded like an idea that was worth
As luck would have it,
the other day I found a cell phone type headset in a local discount store at a price ($3.00) that was too good to pass up.
The purchase made, the project quickly followed.
After getting no help at
all from the cell phone manufacturer nor from the supplier of the headset, a little careful disassembly of the headset determined
that the mic element was connected to the tip of the 2.5mm Stereo plug. The earphone was wired to the ring and ground for
both was the shaft of the connector. This was verified with a second, different headset.
Using the same basic circuit
as the PC headset adaptor, the only change required was to tie both the mic ground and the chassis ground together. This left
only three wires to go to the jack for the headset. One comes from the junction of the resistor and capacitor for the electret
element and goes to the tip connection on the jack. The second comes from the audio feed from the connector that goes to the
external speaker jack on the radio. The third goes from the point where the chassis ground and the mic ground tie together
to the ground connection on the jack. Looking at the circuit diagram will make it all clear.
The PTT and UP/DN switches
are wired as in the PC adaptor and the whole thing terminates in a CAT-5 cable of the appropriate length along with a cable
for the external speaker connection. The one change here from the original article is to use the two unused wires in the CAT-5
cable (pins 3 and 8 are not used in normal operation) for feeding the audio from the external speaker or “phones”
jack on the radio to the headset. This requires only minor surgery to the CAT-5 cable about 3 to 6 inches back from the RJ-45
connector, slitting it enough to locate and expose the wires for those two pins. These wires are cut and the wires past the
cut point away from the RJ-45 are spliced onto the two conductors for the connection to the external speaker connector. Suitably
insulated and supported with heat shrink, this splice causes no weakness in the cable and reduces the cabling to the adapter
to one CAT-5 cable with a short tail to go to the phones jack.
Although this adapter was
designed for the Icom IC-706 series of radios, there is no reason it could not be built for other radios that use an electret
mic element as well. An 8-contact connector is an 8 contact connector whether it is an RJ-45 or the more traditional round
8-pin type. The pin-outs may be different for different connectors or brands of radio, but the circuit still works once those
pin designations are accounted for.
Now that the unit has been
constructed, the big question is “How does it work?” The answer is “amazingly well”. Reports of audio
quality have been remarkable with some operators saying that it equals or betters my Heil Traveler headset. Comments like
“full range audio” and “sounds fantastic” made my ego swell, however anecdotal they may be. I do not
have the facilities to do full-on audio quality testing or analysis, so I will be satisfied that hams who have heard me use
the stock Icom mic, the Traveler headset, the PC headset and now the cell phone headset, say this last one is the full equal
of any of the others.
addition to the low cost, the much smaller size of the typical cell phone head set makes it more comfortable to wear for long
nets. It is much lighter, and since the mic element and its little wind cap are beside my cheek instead of in front of my
face, it doesn’t interfere with the occasional sip of icy beverage during the time spent in front of the radio. (Non-alcoholic,
summary, I should note that I had success with the same values for the resistor and capacitor used for the PC headset electret
element. This, I think, was pure luck. You may have to adjust the value for the capacitor to achieve best audio response from
the mic. The resistor value is usually found by looking at the specs for the radio in question. Use the same value as the
stock mic impedance. The value for the second resistor is also specific to the radio. In some radios it may not be needed
at all. Just review the stock wiring of the hand mic that came with the radio to see if it is required and if so, what value
it should be. The enclosure for the switches and components is up to you. I have used Radio Shack project boxes, candy mint
tins, film canisters and the like. Use whatever fits the budget and works. Update: I have wired (and use) cell phone headset
adapters for the Alinco DR-150T as well as the Icom IC-706MkIIG and the Yaesu FT-7800R, FT-8800R series of radios. All reports
that I have received as to their performance are outstanding.
no longer build these units for sale, however, I will be happy to correspond with anyone who wishes to build one for their
I will make one last comment about the use of CAT-5 cable and RJ-45 connectors for
this and other projects. There is some controversy over the resistance of CAT-5 cable to RFI. This appears to be caused
by too much RF in the immediate vicinity of the radio room. All I can tell you is that I have been using very inexpensive
CAT-5 or CAT-3 cables and connectors for years with my two Icom 706MkIIG’s, my Yaesu FT-7800 and my Alinco DR-150T and
have yet to have any problems at all. Keep building, this is what makes amateur radio special.