The best motorcycle bluetooth communication systems

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In this article, I review the best motorcycle bluetooth communication systems with helmet speakers and microphones.

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, here is my recommendation:

The overall best buy is the Cardo Packtalk Bold – It has everything you’d expect from such a reputable brand: Intercom for up to 15 riders, voice commands, FM radio, handsfree calls and superior audio quality thanks to the helmet speakers by JBL.

What to look for when buying bluetooth motorcycle communication devices

If you are looking to buy a motorcycle communication device with helmet speakers, this guide will help you know what features and specifications to look for.

Intercom

The intercom is arguably the most important feature of these communication systems. You will use the intercom feature to communicate with other riders. There are 2 important things to look out for here – 1) Range – What is the maximum range of the device to other riders? Obviously the longer the range, the better. 2) Number of riders – This is the maximum number of riders with whom you can communicate in a group.  It can vary from 4 right up to 15 or more. This will be important if you do a lot of trips as a large group.

Most intercoms work using wireless bluetooth technology. In addition to bluetooth, some manufacturers also have their own proprietary technology with a few more advanced features. For example, the manufacturer “Cardo” have their own proprietary intercom system called DMC (Dynamic Meshwork Communication). With DMC, riders in the group can enter and leave at will without touching a button. (I talk more about DMC in the detailed Cardo review later on in this article.)

Bluetooth features

Bluetooth is technology that allows bluetooth-compatible devices to communicate with each other without the use of wires.

In the context of these devices, the main unit (communicator) that you will attach to your helmet has the bluetooth technology built in. That means it can communicate with other bluetooth-compatible devices such as:

Other helmet communication devices – This is the intercom feature I mentioned above. Since all these units have bluetooth, they can all communicate with each other when within range.

Cell phones – If you have your cell phone’s bluetooth enabled, you can access it while riding in order to make and receive calls.  You can also listen to music stored on your phone.

GPS systems – Some devices will be able to access certain GPS systems to follow directions.

MP3 players (remember them?!) – If you have music on a bluetooth-compatible MP3 player, you will also be able to access and listen to that music through your helmet speakers.

Bluetooth has different software (firmware) versions.  The more recent versions will have more features but all versions are backwards compatible, meaning if you have version 4.1 and your phone has version 3, both devices will still be able to communicate.

User interface

Imagine the situation – When you install a motorcycle communication device, it will be attached to the lower left side of your helmet. You won’t be able to actually see it when your helmet is on your head. You will also be wearing gloves. You will be travelling on busy roads, sometimes at speed and you need to concentrate. 

Conclusion:  These devices need to be easy to operate. It’s no good having lots of advanced features and all sorts of bells and whistles if it’s too complex to use. You don’t want to have to pull over to the side of the road every time you want to listen to a song or communicate with your partner.

Depending on the manufacturer and model, bluetooth helmet speakers and communication devices have different types of user interface. More information is given in each detailed product review but the main options are:

Jog dial – An intuitive dial on the device that is operated by touch.

Voice commands – Some devices can be controlled by your voice. This is a very valuable feature when you’re travelling at speed or in busy traffic and you need to concentrate more than usual on the road ahead.

Motion sensor – Often used to pair bluetooth devices.

Sound quality

When you’re travelling on a busy road at speed with other traffic and it’s windy or raining, there is going to be a lot of background noise. Excellent sound quality, therefore, is essential. Look out for features that work to filter out background noise and adjust sound levels for you.

Waterproof / dustproof

This is self-explanatory. These devices are exposed to the elements. They need to be waterproof and even dustproof.

Battery life and charging

Make sure you check the battery life. How often will you need to charge the battery? How do you charge the battery? Are all cables and chargers included?

Physical size

Remember, the communicator will be attached to your helmet. It needs to reasonably small, light and aerodynamic. The same goes for the microphone and helmet speakers that are included.

Installation

What accessories are included to physically install the kit to your helmet? Common methods are brackets, clamps, velcro pads and glue pads.

What items make up a motorcycle communication system

Here is a list of the main elements that make up most helmet communication systems:

  • The main bluetooth device (communicator) that attaches to your helmet.
  • Helmet speakers
  • Microphone (wired microphone and/or boom microphone)
  • Installation accessories (clamps, brackets, velcro etc)
  • Charging cables

Often the above are all supplied as a full kit but be sure to check exactly what’s in the box before buying. I include that information in all of my detailed product reviews below.

The best motorcycle communication systems

Cardo Packtalk Bold

What’s in the box

  • Cardo Packtalk Bold communicator
  • PackTalk Bold audio kit
  • 40mm HD Speakers by JBL
  • Corded microphone and hybrid microphone
  • Glue plate and different shaped velcro pads
  • Speaker relocates (boosters)
  • USB charger cable

Let’s have a look at the main features in more detail:

Communicate with up to 15 riders

With the intercom feature, you can communicate with 2-15 other riders. The range is up to 1 mile (1600 meters) but that can go up to 5 miles ! (8km) – Let me explain how that is possible.

The Cardo intercom system uses DMC (Dynamic Mesh Communication) technology to communicate with other Cardo riders. This DMC technology is much better than standard Bluetooth used by other manufacturers. Why? Well traditional bluetooth intercoms work by building a serial chain of riders. This chain breaks whenever a rider leaves the group, forcing everyone in the group to have to stop and reconnect – Believe me, that’s annoying!

With Cardo’s DMC intercom, each rider acts as a hub. There is no single point of failure. As riders leave and enter the group, the DMC technology will automatically adjust the network so that everyone stays connected without having to do anything. In fact, as the group of riders increases in size, the network gets stronger and the effective range of the intercom goes up to 5 miles (8 km)

If you get sick of listening to the chatter of a large group, you can opt to private chat with just one person.

If you are with riders who don’t have Cardo’s DMC technology, the communicator can revert to standard Bluetooth. There are no issues of compatibility.

Superior helmet speakers by JBL

The helmet speakers are made by a specialist third party company called “JBL”. They are an American company, founded in 1946, that manufactures high-end audio equipment, including loudspeakers and headphones.  JBL are experts in audio and these helmet speakers have excellent sound quality.

Phone functions

You can make calls, answer calls and control your phone using the dial or even using voice commands. You can even merge an incoming call into the intercom conversation.

Listen to music

Access your phone wirelessly via bluetooth and stream / listen to music.

Voice commands

You can control the device using voice commands to ensure you keep both hands on the bike. Several languages are supported. Here are some example commands in English:

“Hey Cardo, radio on”
“Hey Cardo, next station”
“Hey Cardo, mute audio”
“Hey Cardo, redial number”

Automatic volume

As I’m sure you know, the level of background noise can vary a lot when riding. One minute you’re riding along at speed on a windy road in traffic with a lot of background noise and the next minute, you’re sat quietly waiting for the traffic lights to change. The Cardo Packtalk will automatically adjust the volume level for you so you can always hear the music without going deaf!

FM radio

There is a built-in FM Radio with RDS (Radio Data System) which will automatically select the strongest signal for automatic selection of the strongest signal. – This saves you having to fumble around changing frequencies while you’re concentrating on the road ahead.

Share your music!

You can share whatever you’re listening to (playlist or radio) with your passenger.

Waterproof and dustproof

The device is rated at IP67 which essentially means it’s completely resistant to water and dust.

Long battery life / charging

The Cardo Packtalk has 13 hours of talk time before it needs recharging. There is therefore very little chance of you running out of battery while riding!

Another cool feature is the ability to recharge the battery as you ride. – You can plug the device into a battery pack or your 12V charger and turn it on. If you’d rather charge when it’s not in use, you can do so with the USB cable (included).

Pros

  • DMC (Dynamic Mesh Communication) intercom – As riders leave the group, DMC technology will automatically ensure the network stays intact. No more having to stop and manually reconnect. This is a huge benefit.
  • Intercom with up to 15 riders – Stay in touch with up to 15 riders at a range of 1 mile and up to 5 miles if you use DMC.
  • Voice commands (optional) – Keep both hands on the handlebars and control the device with your voice.
  • Complete kit of everything you need – Communicator main unit, helmet speakers, wired mic, boom mic, mounting accessories, USB cable and full instructions.
  • Excellent sound quality –The helmet speakers are made by JCB, a specialist audio manufacturer.
  • Long battery life – 13 hours of talk time.
  • Waterproof and dustproof
  • Cardo is a very reputable company.

Cons

  • Some users might find the bass a bit weak
  • There are so many cool features that it can take a bit of time setting it all up. But once configured, it works very well.

Sena SMH10-11

Sena is a specialist company in helmet headsets and communication systems. Many bikers use Sena products. They really have some excellent product and the SMH10 model is no exception. It’s packed full of features – With the Sena SMH10, you can communicate with up to 4 other riders with the intercom, make handsfree phonecalls on your smartphone (via bluetooth) as well as listen to music from your phone or bluetooth device. You can also communicate with bluetooth GPS systems.

The SMH10 is operated through its intuitive touch “jog dial” – essentially a large dial (that can be turned even wearing gloves). Every time you turn the dial through one notch, you will hear a voice prompt through the helmet headphones telling you what the selected menu item is. You keep turning until you hear the option you are looking for. You then press a button to “select” that option. It works surprisingly well and the manual explains the process in more detail. Once you are familiar with how it works, you’ll be able to do it easily while keeping your eyes on the road.

Installation

As for how to physically the main unit to your helmet, you have 2 options – You either use a clamp or glued mount. The clamp and mounts for both options are included as well as clear instructions in the user manual.

Wired or wireless bluetooth

If you don’t want to use bluetooth wireless to connect to your phone, you can choose instead to use the included stereo audio cable.

Answering the phone

When you have an incoming call, you can tap the phone button or the jog dial to answer the call. Alternatively you can also answer the call by loudly speaking any word of your choice if you have enable “Voice Activated Phone Answering”.

Battery life and charging

The battery life is approximately 12 hours of use. You recharge the unit using the micro USB cable that is included. It recharges in the same way as you’d recharge a smart phone.

What’s in the box?

  • Sena SMH10 Headset and main unit
  • Clamp and speakers
  • Boom microphone
  • Wired microphone
  • USB power and data cable
  • 3.5mm Stereo audio jack cable
  • Glued surface mounting adapter
  • Microphone sponges
  • Speaker pads
  • Hook and loop fasteners for speakers
  • Allen key

Features and specifications

  • Connect wirelessly to bluetooth devices such as smart phones, MP3 players, GPS
  • Communicate via intercom with up to 4 riders.
  • Music-sharing during two-way intercom conversation.
  • Intercom range: Up to 900 meters (980 yards)
  • Intercom compatibility with non-Sena Bluetooth headsets
  • Three-way conference phone call with intercom participant
  • Multipoint bluetooth pairing with GPS navigation or Sena SR10 two-way radio adapter
  • Multipoint bluetooth for dual mobile phone
  • Stereo music by 3.5mm audio cable (included)

Pros

  • Sound quality of the microphone is excellent. When you call people, they won’t realise you’re riding a motorcycle!
  • Good battery life – Approximately 12 hours
  • Complete kit – Everything you need is in the box
  • Speakers are very easy to install inside the helmet and are comfortable.
  • Nice and loud audio through the speakers.
  • Sena is an excellent brand and lots of other bikers own Sena headsets. – You won’t have any compatibility issues.

Cons

  • The sound quality of the speakers could be better.
  • There are no voice commands. It’s all done through the “jog dial”.

Sena 20S-01

The Sena 20S motorcycle bluetooth communication system has an advanced multi-way intercom for up to 8 riders at a range of 1.2 miles (2 km). You can also make and receive handsfree calls on your smartphone, listen to music, listen to FM radio and follow voice instructions from an external GPS.

Intercom

If everyone is using Sena devices, you can all elect to use “group intercom” to connect up to 8 users.  If you’d like to have an intercom communication with non-Sena headsets, you can use a function called “Universal Intercom” to connect up to 4 users.

Jog-dial

The Sena 20S can be operated physically using the touch “jog-dial” – You turn a dial and press a button to select an option. Each option in the menu is announced to you by a voice prompt that you hear through the speakers.

Voice commands

Alternatively, you can use voice commands to operate the device. The voice command function works only with English commands. To enter voice command mode, you simply say “Hello Sena”. Then you have a choice of several voice commands. Here a few examples:

“Speed dial one.”
“Redial”
“Group intercom.”
“Check battery.”

Phone functions

You can make and receive calls on your phone via bluetooth. When you have an incoming call, you can press a button on the unit or say any word of your choice to take the call. To make a call, you have several choices. 1)Dial the number on the phone’s keypad – The call will automatically transfer to the helmet headset. 2) Tap the phone button on the Sena 20S and then use the voice dialing feature of your phone. 3) Use the speed dial option through either the “jog-dial” or voice commands.

Listening to music

You can listen to music on your phone or MP3 player (remember them?!) either through bluetooth or through the audio cable (included).

Music Sharing

You can share music during a two-way intercom conversation.

GPS navigation

If you pair a Bluetooth GPS to the 20S you can hear the voice directions of the GPS while having an intercom conversation.

Listen to FM radio

The Sena 20S has an internal FM radio tuner. You can program and use up to 10 radio presets.

What’s in the box?

  • Sena 20S main unit
  • Set of dynamic helmet speakers
  • Universal helmet clamp
  • Static boom microphone, wired boom microphone and wired flexible microphone
  • USB power & data cable
  • Cigarette charger
  • 2.5 to 3.5mm Stereo Audio Cable
  • Glued surface mounting adapter, rubber and velcro pads for speakers, velcro pads for the microphones and foam speaker covers.
  • Allen key

Pros

  • Voice commands – No need to fumble around with the jog-dial. Just say what you want it to do!
  • FM radio with 10 presets
  • 8-way intercom feature with a range of 1.2 miles (2km)
  • Make handsfree calls with your phone
  • GPS – Connect an external GPS and receive its voice directions through the helmet speakers.
  • Full kit – Everything you need (speakers, microphones, accessories) is included.
  • Sena headsets are very popular with other bikers. You won’t have any compatibility issues.

Cons

  • Since there are so many option and features, it can take quite a bit of time to get it configured and working.
  • The unit will work with non-Sena units but it is a bit more complicated.

Fodsports M1S Pro

The Fodsports M1-S Pro is an excellent choice for people on a tighter budget. The Fodsports M1-S Pro is a complete bluetooth headset, microphone and communications kit for motorcyclists and it has an impressive range of functions. It has an 8 rider group intercom feature with a range of 2000 meters. You can make hands-free phone calls on your cell phone, listen to music and receive GPS voice commands via Bluetooth.  Everything you need is included in the kit including all mounting accessories and instructions.

Intercom

Up to 8 riders can communicate simultaneously in full-duplex mode at a range of up to 2000 meters. If a rider leaves the intercom group for less than 5 minutes, he/she can rejoin the group without having to reconnect. If longer than 5 minutes, they can rejoin by pressing a button.

Hands free / wireless (bluetooth) features

You can make phone calls, listen to music and use the intercom features with the wireless bluetooth connection.

Audio cable

The M1S Pro comes equipped with an audio cable. This can be plugged into many compatible external devices such as GPS, speed detector, MP3 player, FM radio. By using the audio cable (rather than Bluetooth), you are able to listen to music or GPS directions while continuing to use the intercom at the same time.

Big button interface

The unit is mostly operated through a big button that is easy to press even when wearing gloves.

Sound quality

This unit has high fidelity sound quality. With DSP echo cancellation and noise suppression technology, crystal clear voice quality is guaranteed even when traveling at high speed.

Battery life and charging

The unit uses a 900mAh rechargeable battery. When on standby, the battery life is up to one week. When in use, battery life is up to 20 hours. Charging time is 3 hours via the USB cable (included)

Low power notification

A voice prompt will inform you of the remaining power as follows: Power over 90%, power over 50%, power below 50%, power below 10% – please charge immediately.

Waterproof and dustproof

Can be used in all weather conditions.

What’s in the box?

  • Fodsports M1-S Pro main communicator unit
  • Helmet speakers
  • Hard boom microphone (often used for half helmets)
  • Soft-wired microphone (used for full helmets)
  • Velcro patches, metal clip and EVA rubber
  • 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
  • USB charging cable
  • User manual & installation guide

Pros

  • Intercom with up to 8 riders at a range of up to 2000 meters.
  • Make hands-free calls
  • Communicate with GPS, speed detectors, MP3 players, smart phones, FM radios.
  • Everything you need is in the box.
  • 20 hour battery life
  • A good buy if you’re on a tight budget.

Cons

  • The main unit is relatively big compared to other models in this review.
  • There are quite a lot of wires that need to organized when installing the kit.
  • The instructions aren’t particularly clear.

Lexin LX-FT4

The Lexin LX-FT4 has a 1.2 miles range (2,000 meters) for bike-to-bike full-duplex intercom communication for up to 4 riders.

The communicator unit, helmet speakers and microphones are designed for open face, modular, and full-face style helmets. With the LX-FT4 you can call hands-free on your bluetooth-compatible cell phone, listen to music or GPS voice commands and activate the wireless intercom for rider-to-rider or rider-to-passenger communication. The unit is waterproof and dustproof.

Jog dial user interface – The device is controlled by turning and pressing the jog dial on the main unit.

Siri compatible – It’s possible to activate Siri or S-Voice from the main unit for voice dialing and other voice commands.

FM Radio – There is also an FM radio tuner with scanning that is integrated into the main unit. There are 6 presets.

The high fidelity helmet speakers have an ultra-slim design and will comfortably fit inside most helmets. The digital noise cancellation technology provides excellent audio quality in all conditions.

Battery – The main unit is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion/polymer battery. The battery life is over a week when in standby mode and 10-15 hours of active use. Charging is done via the USB cable (included) and takes about 2.5 hours.

What’s in the box?

  • Lexin LX-FT4 main unit
  • Helmet speakers and speaker pads
  • Boom microphone and holder
  • Button microphone
  • Mounting bracket, clamp plate, rubber pads, screws, allen key and double-sided sticky tape
  • User manual

Pros

  • Voice commands and voice dialing options are available by activating Siri on the main unit.
  • Ultra-slim speakers will fit in most helmets.
  • Full kit – There is everything you need in the box.
  • FM radio is integrated into the main unit.
  • Waterproof and dustproof – rated IP67
  • Lots of features – Handsfree calls, intercom, GPS integration, listen to music.
  • Digital noise-canceling – No problems in hearing the music or voice communications.

Cons

  • The intercom is limited to up to 4 riders.
  • The jog-dial interface and button combinations aren’t simple on this particular model.

Conclusion

So what is the best motorcycle bluetooth communicator system?

From my extensive review, I recommend the Cardo Packtalk Bold with all its advanced features: Intercom for up to 15 riders, voice commands, FM radio, handsfree calls and superior audio quality thanks to the helmet speakers by JBL.

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