Model A1297 Unibody: Early 2009, Mid 2009, Mid 2010 & Late 2011

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Bluetooth antenna stupidly inside metal case blocking reception?

I get a lot of interference with my Bluetooth earpiece headset when trying to Skype on my "Mid-2009" 17" MacBook Pro (5,2) under Mac OS X 10.6.8.

My audio reception is fine, but people on the other end always report drop-outs, inaudible, etc. from my audio on their end. I'm very close to the Mac, it's in my lap, so only less than two feet from my earpiece. But, I don't have the problem when connecting my Bluetooth headset to my cellphone.

I looked at iFixit's tear-down guide for my Mac and see that its Bluetooth antenna seems completely surrounded by the metal case, reducing reception. (Unlike its Wi-Fi antenna, which at least some of its signal can get out relatively unencumbered through the plastic in the display screen.)

What was Apple *thinking*?!! The Bluetooth antenna looks to be within a Faraday cage!

My question to you is, do you agree with my diagnosis, and have you ever heard of jury-rigging an external Bluetooth antenna?

Failing that, I suppose I could look into a external USB Bluetooth adapter, but I just want to know for sure that Apple really did make a stupid design error—after all, remember the "you're holding it wrong" iPhone antenna fiasco.

Resetting my NVRAM (PRAM) and SMC don't help.

Update (04/13/2016)

I finally got around to removing the bottom of my MacBook Pro again and inspecting the Bluetooth corner. I can't see anything wrong immediately apparent, and it looks like the antenna cable is firmly connected.

I'm scared to remove the little Bluetooth board, but I guess you're gonna want me to re-seat the antenna cable connection, aren't you?... I don't see a way to get into the long black plastic clutch cover to see if opening & closing the lid has frayed the antenna.

Does one have to disconnect the antenna cable from the board and pull the antenna out of the clutch cover to see?... But, would I really have to in light of the following new detail?:

When I playback myself talking from the earpiece headset with a little voice recording app., while I hear my problematic voice fade in-and-out & garbled, the background noise hiss is steady, which makes me think that there's no transmit signal interruption attributable to any loose connection or frayed antenna. What do you think?

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mmm ... I think you need to try a second headset here. Something just doesn't add up. The hiss implies the headsets microphone circuitry is having a problem.

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Bingo! I always had ruled-out a bad earpiece headset because I never seemed to have a problem with it on my cellphone. (Or at least people on the other end were too "polite" to say anything.) But yesterday I was in Walmart and noticed a $7 closeout price on a $15 Tzumi 3763B ProBuds Driver Series, and I said, what the !&&*, that's cheap if for nothing else than a quick diagnostic, but lo & behold, all my problems vanished! I gotta' tell ya', I'm more than a little peeved that an el cheapo headset is the solution to my high-falutin' $85 Motorola Command One HZ700. Now I'm thinking that the latter wasn't broken per se, but its audio drop-outs, noise, etc. were all caused by its "doing me a big favor" with its noise reduction & echo cancellation features that can't be turned-off, because now that I think about it, I always had to disable the "Use ambient noise reduction" in my Mac System Preferences > Sound > Input for the internal microphone, or else the people on the other end heard a bloody mess! (con't...)

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...So my thread has been a false alarm all along! But I learned a lot, and Dan, you've been a big help, especially with your last Hail Mary pointing at my headset. Thank you!

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First the antennas are located in the black plastic clutch cover of the display assembly. You'll see the antenna wires enter though the hinge area. Review this IFIXIT guide: MacBook Pro 17" Unibody Upper Case Replacement Jump to steps Step 34 thru Step 36 for the Bluetooth cable. So the antenna is not in a faraday cage.

As to your problem: If you can hear the other party clearly you know the issue is not the bluetooth connection. I suspect you're facing a known issue with internet connections. You see the downstream connection is much faster than the upstream. So you will often encounter issues sending data to someone in this case it's an audio stream over VoIP.

OK what to do here? Sadly you may need to upgrade your internet connection or look at what other devices are also communicating over your internet connection (WiFi as well) and when you need to have a clean connection disconnect them so you give your Skype connection the full bandwidth of the connection.

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Ah, so the Bluetooth antenna is in the black plastic clutch cover of the display assembly, after all! I had been looking at the same IFIXIT guide you cited, and I couldn't tell, because the immediately preceding step was battery removal, and I thought we were still deep inside the metal lower case. False alarm; relieved to know!

But I have 1 Mbps upstream, and my graphical network monitoring app shows me using only a fraction of that, especially on audio-only Skype calls or Google Voice.... Furthermore, I can hear distortion/audio dropouts when I'm recording to a hard disk file, without Internet involvement. And I also often suffer difficulty connecting Bluetooth initially, and getting dropped-off. So just last week I bought a 5 GHz Wi-Fi router and moved all my other equipment to 5 GHz, and disabled the router's 2.4 GHz radio, but no joy.

Now I really am stumped.... I'll see if I can borrow somebody else's Bluetooth earpiece headset and rule-out a bad headset.

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Do you have a headphone set with a mic you can plug into your systems headphone jack? Give that a try.

Yes, I should have also pointed you to the headset as well here. But, I had suspected you had already ruled it out connecting to your phone or something else.

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I have a headphone set with a mic that plugs into USB (which I bought just because of my problem with the Bluetooth). But was there something diagnostically crucial about trying one with the analog headphone jack?

Like I said, the Bluetooth headset works fine with my cellphone, which makes me think that the problem using it with my MacBook Pro may be attributable to a possibly much weaker RF signal transmitting from the headset than the signal from the full-powered laptop. Maybe the latter makes it though the plastic clutch cover easily, but not so much the headset's signal. That would be consistent with the headset's audio never wavering.

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Plastic is radio transparent, so thats not it.

It could be the antenna wire is worn or the connection to the board is not secure. If you want to think of it want way. You could replace the antenna unit which would give you a new lead.

How about getting a USB Bluetooth dongle and give that a try.

The idea of the headphone was to make sure the physical DAC audio logic internally in your Mac was OK. If a USB connected headset works then you know the USB virtual audio DAC is working. Remember there is two different pathways here (real and virtual).

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I know that plastic is (relatively) transparent; I wasn't saying that the plastic was suppressing it—I was talking about the Bluetooth transmitter's RF output in a tiny, battery-powered earpiece presumably being weaker than that in a full-powered laptop, more easily susceptible to interference by the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi routers from my umpteen neighbors in my close-quarters apartment complex, which the possibly stronger transmissions from my laptop could overcome.

That's a good idea about checking for a loose antenna connection.... But how could the antenna per se become worn?

If I can borrow somebody's USB Bluetooth dongle, I might try that, but I'm not going to spend money on one; I've already blown my wad on my USB headset.

So which does the Bluetooth headset involve—the physical or the virtual DAC pathway?

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