The market is full of new this, and supposedly high-tech that; with prices ranging considerably for what you get. When shopping for a Bluetooth set to add to your motorcycle kit, there are a few things you might want to consider. Range, apps, weather resistance, and price. These tend to be the most considered features sought after. We took five of the best options on the market and broke them down feature by feature to help give you some insight into what to look for. Below are the best ‘bang for your buck’ Bluetooth setups.
Cardo Freecom 1: Starting the unveiling party from least expensive to most, you’ll get to see the slight diversity of features based on your investment. This unit is more for the individual rider who is interested in price point and doesn’t require communication with a passenger or group of riders. First up is the Cardo Freecom 1. With a name that sounds part fitness routine and part Air Force One plane, this tiny 16mm wide unit packs a lot of value into a small space.
- *Slim 40mm speakers that can be integrated into most helmet designs.
- *The unit is fully waterproof, dustproof, and can handle mud or snow being thrown at it, depending on where you ride. A nice bonus if you don’t have a waterproof phone, just leave the phone in your jacket pocket or luggage and get your music or directions through the waterproof unit.
- *Streams music directly from your smartphone.
- *Built-in FM radio with RDS, to search out the strongest signal and send the music directly to your headset. This is also used if you’re looking for local information radio-based information.
- *Allows you to take or make phone calls with just the touch of your phone that can be voice activated.
- *Automatic audio adjustment. The Freecom 1 will sense the amount of exterior noise and adjust as you slow down or stop for traffic lights. This feature is to avoid being deafened while you’re stopped or being underpowered on the highway.
- *13 hours of full talk time with the option to plug it into the bike or a battery pack to charge while you are riding.
- *Multilingual settings for those of you who’d prefer instructions in another language other than English.
- *The application pairing and setup are simple and the unit also has a very easy to use four-button set up that can be controlled even with gloves on.
- *The Caro Freecom 1 comes in at a desirable cost of around $125.00. It’s a quality unit that fits into almost everyone’s budget range and covers most average rider requirements.
One of the major things you are going to have to go without on this set-up is the lack of person to person communication. If you are strictly a solo rider, this is a great choice. If you ever need to communicate with friends on a group ride, this would not be the right option for you.
As far as using the telephone goes, there is only the option for a boom mic. The installation is pretty simple and can be done in about 30 minutes. However, you are likely to feel a small lump from the wiring, from inside the helmet to the exterior.
Sena 20S EVO Version Headset: A quick upgrade from the previous introductory model, the Sena 20S is a jump in usability and options. If you are looking to get a tonne of options as well as talk to a passenger or group of riders, this is the headset for you.
Here are some of the more notable highlights;
- *First off, it has an advanced shark-fin style antenna giving you a bigger bite on communication with a 1.2-mile range of connection with other riders in an open landscape setting.
- *Audio multitasking that allows you to run several apps on the unit at one time. Think bouncing from GPS directions, phone calls, music or podcast streaming, chatting with other riders, or even listening to your FM radio if that’s the way you roll!
- *Universal intercom integration allowing you to communicate across a wide range of users, not just those working with the Sena platform. This is nice as not everyone will likely be rolling around with the same setups. In total, it can be paired with up to eight riders.
- *Noise cancellation technology to help reduce wind noise while still supporting your ability to hear music and conversations.
- *Intuitive voice commands that allow you to keep your hands on the bike and not on the device while riding.
- *A dual microphone set up, utilizing both boom and a wired microphone. Including a quick release option if you don’t want the extension in your face if you are not using it.
- *Easy to use jog dial with the easy option to change between settings by merely rolling your finger across it.
- *Earbud port if you’d prefer your own headset plugged in.
- *Allows 13 hours of full talk or listening time, with a 10-day standby battery.
- *It is the only unit that can be linked in with your GoPro set-up. If you shoot HD video and want HD sound for video blogging, this is the set-up you will want to have.
- *A weight of 2.15oz and you’ll hardly know it’s there.
- *Utilizes Bluetooth 4.1
At a cost of right around $270.00. It will price out those just looking for a simple music and phone unit. However, for anyone looking for a multi-rider communication device, this is a great option and is going to do precisely that for you.
A significant downside and probably even a deal breaker for some is the Sena 20S is only water/weather resistant, not fully waterproof like other units. Unless you can guarantee dry weather only days, you might have some difficulty.
Cardo Scala SmartPack Headset: The Cardo SmartPack Headset, steps up the technology game considerably in one significant way. Primarily, the way it handles communication within groups of riders. The company developed a technology that allows a group of up to four riders (with the dynamic Meshwork Communication system they provide), to share information. With the DMC network, the group of riders can communicate within a range of an impressive 3 miles. This allowing each rider to take phone calls and handle there own audio during the group communication without interrupting the rest of the group or dropping out of the call. With a group of 8 riders, you can use any compatible Non-SmartPack systems within a smaller range as well. The Cardo SmartPack is an incredibly impressive technology with great versatility.
Some additional benefits include:
- *1mile talk range with rider to rider intercom or up to 3miles with a group for 4-8riders.
- *Voice command for safe hands-free mobile phone use. Much like getting answers from Google or Siri, you just start by saying “Hey Cardo,” then continue on with your request. An entirely hands-free system.
- *Rider to passenger music sharing with the A2DP app you can download.
- *8-10 hours of listening time, 13 hours of talk time, and 7 days of standby.
- *GPS audio directions via compatible units.
- *Fully waterproof and dustproof.
- *Can be customized for hot dial numbers with your phone.
- *Easy 30 minute install.
- *Comes as a two pack, so your getting more bang for your investment buck.
This unit can be picked up for around $300.00 for the pack of two. So if you were looking to invest in two separate units anyway, this is going to be a better overall deal for you.
Some of the noted downsides from users claiming that the pairing features are difficult to set up initially. That they require watching YouTube videos and looking online for instructions. Users also claim that speakers feel a bit thick. However, they can quickly be swapped out if you find something you like better.
Sena Momentum INC Bluetooth-Integrated Helmet: To diversify your options a little, we have also included some specs on a ready to go helmet to the list. If you are looking into a lid with all the luster and isn’t lacking, you might consider upgrading from your basic BELL into the fully integrated Sena Momentum. A helmet that seamlessly incorporates Bluetooth technology into a fully functioning helmet. Let’s take a look at what you get inside this fiberglass safety shell.
- *The helmet itself is a DOT certified fiberglass shell that comes in all standard sizes. The visor is a pin lock set-up making for easier usability. It has several venting options including, a top vent, chin vent, and rear exhaust ports. These are not the most on the market, but the basics are covered. You are still able to remove and clean the liner. There are no worries that it will be too stuffed with wiring so it can not be cleaned.
- *The battery here is one of the most notable differences over the self-install units. With more space to work with, it incorporates a battery with a longer life. Adding up to 20-27 hours of talk time depending on the helmet you choose.
- *This helmet uses advanced noise control technology, canceling out unwanted wind or traffic noise and allowing for a clearer listening and talking experience.
- *It has app connectivity for your music or podcasts.
- *Ability to connect with up to 8 other riders.
- *It has a hands free set-up for adjustments, calls, and audio translated text messaging.
- *This helmet is available in a glossy white or matte black color and ranges in size from XS-XXL.
Overall it incorporates all the great things of Bluetooth setups with the difference being that it’s tucked nicely away inside the helmet. Depending on what model you go with, they range from $400-$550.00. Really, the overall value versus buying a helmet than an entire Bluetooth system is better when you pick it up already incorporated in the helmet. Although it depends if you’re in the market for a new lid or not.
Some disadvantages noted by users is that its a really snug fitting helmet and you might consider getting a size larger than you would typically wear. If you have glasses, there is nothing cut out to fit your lenses. Something to think about before you hit the “buy” button.
FreedConn T-COMVB: I thought it would be most beneficial to line this up in order from cheapest to most expensive. However, I think we will save the best value for last on this one. The FreeConn is going to be the most bang for your value-seeking buck. It doesn’t cover quite everything that the more expensive models I’ve described above do, however, it covers the needs of the average two-wheeled warrior. If you are new to the Bluetooth helmet-tech world, you might feel more comfortable handing over your money for this particular item.
- *You can pair up to 3-riders on the same system.
- *It too can integrate your GPS, smartphone, or MP3 players for music, hands-free directions, and calling features.
- *Compatible with specific other Bluetooth models (not all).
- *Roughly a 2500ft range for driver to driver contact. Suitable for standard interstate riding with friends.
- *Uses Bluetooth 3.0
- *10 hours of phone talk, 7 hours of intercom talk, and 300 hours of standby.
- *FM radio option
The real feature here is that a two-pack can be picked up for under $100.00. Which can be a real game-changer for the value conscious buyer or those testing Bluetooth helmet systems out.
The only real downsides are that you are not going to get all of the features you would with the more expensive models. If you are rolling with eight riders who all need you to tell them what to do and happen to be miles apart, then this unit isn’t for you. If you need a basic system for music and phone calls or even keeping in contact with your passenger, this covers those needs.
The Amazon reviews will provide you some insight into how impressed most people were with the above product based on what their expectations were on a $50.00 piece product. Even the poor reviews weren’t that bad and seemed to be from ‘Charlie cheapskates’ who somehow expected more from their greenbacks.
Whatever you ride and whomever you do it with if you are looking to keep in contact with clear, concise conversations, opposed to learning motorcycle sign language or needing to pull over every time you want to confirm directions, Bluetooth set-ups are the way to go. You can quite literally do most anything you would with your cellphone in your hand via the hands-free operational set-ups, and they are great for listening to music. Even those who like to get the most mileage out of their day by fielding phone calls, swapping text messages, and just generally keeping in contact, this set-up allows them to do precisely that with the least amount of effort. Take your Arai up a notch or pick up a full intergraded helmet to give you the feel of next-generation moto-machine.
Header Image: cardosystems.com