Garmin GMA 350 Audio Panel with Voice Recognition and 3D Sound

Garmin has introduced the GMA 350 and GMA 350H audio panels. Designed for fixed wing and rotorcraft, respectively, the GMA 350 and 350H have features such as voice recognition, 3D spatial audio processing, advanced auto squelch and ambient noise-based volume adjustment so that pilot workload is decreased while increasing situational awareness.

As the first truly all digital audio panels in general aviation, we’re able to provide pilots many capabilities that have never been available in the cockpit, said Gary Kelley, Garmin’s VP of marketing. “And the expandable architecture means we’ve laid the groundwork so that pilots will likely see new capabilities added via software updates, rather than hardware updates that are oftentimes cost prohibitive.”

The GMA 350 is a digital audio panel with marker beacon that has a new, patented voice recognition feature so that pilots can use their voices to control certain aspects of the audio system. For example, pilots can select COM 1 or COM 2 by simply stating “COM 1” or “COM 2” rather than pressing a key. Voice-based commands can be used to control most aspects of the audio panel that would normally be done with a button or knob.

The GMA 350 also includes “3D Audio,” which mimics the way people process sounds and conversations. Humans have the ability to focus their listening attention on a single talker among a mixture of other conversations and background noises, ignoring other conversations. Garmin has leveraged this ability by simulating 3D sound with stereo headsets. For example, if the pilot is monitoring air traffic control on one radio and the weather, such as ATIS, on another radio, the GMA 350 will separate the two conversations by placing air traffic control toward the pilot’s left and the weather toward the pilot’s right. This enhances the ability to understand one or both conversations simultaneously.

Another new feature of the GMA 350 is “blue-select mode” that makes entertainment audio distribution independent so that pilots can distribute audio for passengers and crew. Having the ability to control volumes, muting and entertainment audio distribution makes this panel ideal for audio aficionados. Pilots can connect up to two dedicated music sources and a phone to the rear connector. The pilot can override the rear phone input at any time by plugging a device (e.g., MP3 player or mobile phone) into the 3.5mm front jack. Entertainment audio volume is controlled by turning the volume/squelch knob and using the volume bar display.

Cursor control and the volume indicator bar allow the pilot to visually adjust volume for marker, AUX, TEL, music, speaker and intercom. Controlling volume is easy and intuitive, the company says. Muting modes, such as muting passengers on COM reception, can be enabled/disabled by pressing and holding keys or by voice command. The GMA 350 can optionally advise the pilot of the current mode. Passengers can also toggle their intercom isolation state, so that they no longer need to tap the pilot on the shoulder before they can talk with the pilot on the intercom.

In addition to the new features, the GMA 350 includes capabilities such as a pilot, copilot and four- or five- passenger stereo intercom system, support for two stereo music inputs and a front panel jack music input. It has dual COM, NAV and AUX audio inputs. In addition, five unswitched audio alert inputs are provided for connection to external warning tones. Also included is a clearance recorder that supports playback of the MIC selected COM.

Pin-compatible with Garmin’s GMA 340 and many competitors’ audio panels, it is easy to upgrade to a GMA 350 or GMA 350H, Garmin says. The GMA 350H has the same core features as the GMA 350, but it also has three COM support, night vision compatible green annunciation and backlighting, and new split-COM modes (1/3 and 2/3).

The GMA 350 and GMA 350H are anticipated to be available in the second quarter of 2011 for an expected retail price of $2395 and $2695, respectively.

For more information, visit www.garmin.com.

KITPLANES Editor Mary Bernard began her career in aviation journalism in 1998 and has worked in publishing for more than 15 years.