New PMA8000B Audio Panel from PS Engineering

This upgrade really excited me for some reason.  I guess it's because my audio panel really means a lot to me, in travelling with the family.  I utilize it's features, and loved my PMA8000 audio panel, and the additional features of the 8000BT model (with Bluetooth) will make it even nicer in the plane.  Since adding this audio panel, I've been on 2 very long, one short, and got a good chance to get familiar with it.

The photos below show the units...the 8000BT removed from the panel, then installed, and then side-by-side with the PMA8000...then the 8000 alone.

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I love the regular style audio panels...I'm not a fan of unnecessary menu driven stuff in the 9000EX, and like to have it simple by just having the buttons all available.  The 8000BT has lots of functionality directly using those buttons.

Things that I have with the BT that the 8000 plain didn't have:

The voice recorder I've found really helpful, ESPECIALLY if you listen to music while you fly.  Often I'm flying along, talking or listening to music and I get a call from ATC on an IFR plan...or VFR flight following.  I sometimes have to say "say again?" to see what it was they wanted, if I missed it.  Now, I can just hit the button and it plays back the prior transmission and I can hear it all over again for clarification.  I found it is SIMPLE to do, but I had to re-train myself to NOT say "say again" and just get used to using the button.  When you use it, it's an awesome feature.  Many times, I'm talking to the kids when I get the call, and you just can't hear well when you have jabbering in your ears...especially if you have the "alternate Intercome Mode" on, and the kids can't hear that ATC just called.

That brings me to Standard/Alternate intercom mode.  In standard mode, everyone hears the radio calls.  In Alternate mode, the rear passengers don't hear the radio chatter.  For kids, this is a GODSEND!  Now they can listen to their music/movie, and not get annoyed by the radio as long as the pilot/co-pilot aren't jabbering, they will be un-disturbed and you can leave the intercom set to "ALL" so you can talk to them when you need to.

The bluetooth music and telephone I really love.  I don't like carrying all sorts of extra stuff along, and while I did have an intercom to phone cable, the cable required one adapter to hook to my motorola VE20, and a DIFFERENT adapter to hook to my iphone.  Now I need no cable at all, and the sound quality is excellent.  I often call the 800 number for IFR clearance by cell phone, so this makes it very handy to use the phone in the plane (on the ground of course).  The other HUGE benefit is that the bluetooth also works for music input.  We've hooked the iphone, ipod, and ipad all up to the audio panel, and it works great.  Before, since my audio input jack was obviously not opto-isolated, whenever I charged my ipod while simultaneously hooking the audio cable to the plane, I had a whine in my headsets from a minor ground loop in the audio circuit.  Now I don't NEED a cable to play music...only for charging (if I WANT to charge it), so I can charge all day and have wireless music.  It is very nice not to have all those cables everywhere.

The monitor on/off modes are nice in that you can choose to EITHER monitor your #2 com, or not.  Usually I had left my #2 com with the volume turned down, and just turned it up when I wanted to hear it.  That was fine, but when I was listening to ATIS on #2, if ATC called, I heard BOTH transmissions, and it gets hard to hear either.  Now, you can turn monitor mode on or off.  With it off (or is it on?) , when ATC calls, it'll automatically chop your #2 so that you don't miss ATC's call.  This can be annoying when you are trying to listen to ATIS but can't, just because of radio it's nice that it's selectable.  But, when you want it, it's there.

For music distribution you have Standard, alternate, and "music 1 all headsets".  In my plane, I had a front jack, and a rear jack, and a pair of 2-way switches on EACH before, I could allow rear people to hear front music, or front people to hear rear music, or any combination.  I haven't found what the huge change is with the 8000BT, but there are now more distribution modes than before.  In one of them at least, I can play bluetooth audio to all headsets, so it makes me happy.  I don't even use the front panel input jack, because doing that would mean having a cord hang down my panel, and I don't want that.  But, it's there if it's needed.

One other neat thing, despite what my rev of the manual said as being not-working with the iphone, is that I can pause, rewind, or fast-forward music right from the audio panel if I want.  So now if the ipod is dropped, or in the back seat, I can change songs or pause it right from the panel.  I don't use the feature often, but it's right there if you need it...and in iOS4 or greater on the iphone, it works great.

For muting, there are now multiple modes too:  Mute on, mute off, radio mute, and intercom mute.  You can probably understand yourself the differences.  I usually operate as MUTE OFF, but it's a one-finger operation to change modes, so I change it from time to time...depending on the situation.

So anyway, that's the summary of the new options.

Now for one more thing....  As you know, I use Foreflight on the ipad a TON, and on the iphone too.  Here is a cool screenshot of what happens when you double-push the HOME button while navigating with foreflight.  (note: I have a jailbreak app called "Music Controls" I can't say for sure that your non-jailbroken iphone will do this exactly the same)  When you double-push the button, you can still see your chart, with your position on it, and you can change songs or pause or change volume.  Then a simple tap of the screen and you're back to the chart on Foreflight again.  Foreflight has earned a permanent place in my's excellent software, and now that 3.7 is released, it has fuel price integration and it's getting harder to find a reason not to use it for everything.

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