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Motorcycle Communication Systems are absolute game-changers. Being able to listen to directions, music, as well as chat with your fellow riders adds another level to motorcycling.
But unlike good gear and a bike, comms systems are not essential and unfortunately generally quite expensive. If you are still figuring out whether you can justify spending that much, or want to get a good idea about what’s out there, you’ve come to the right place.
We have compiled a list of nine options that cover every budget and group size deciding on the Sena 10S -01 as the best overall. However, if that’s not what you’re looking for, read on for more options as well as tips and tricks when choosing your own.
Related post: Best Motorcycle Helmets
Best Motorcycle Communication System
Best Overall – Sena 10s – 01
Sena is one of the best-known brands in the motorcycle communication system game. With products like the Sena 10S -01, it’s easy to understand why. The 10S-01 is one of the newer models and has a slimmer frame meaning it’s less bulky on your helmet.
It allows you to connect with up to four other riders, which is standard. However, we were impressed with the 1.6km (1 mile) range. The HD audio provides crystal clear communication and helps eliminate any wind noise that may interfere. It is equipped with the Universal Intercom protocol so you can still connect with people using both Sean and non-Sena Bluetooth units.
It uses noise-canceling technology to ensure that whatever you’re listening to, whether it be music, a phone call, or group Banta, your sound comes through crisp and clear in all conditions.
The app that goes with it makes life that little bit easier by allowing hands-free calling and easy setup.
Overall given the price, this is a great communication unit with heaps of features.
Best All-Rounder – Sena 10C – EVO 4k Camera with Bluetooth
Senas 10C – EVO is our pick for Best All-Rounder since aside from combining a 4k Camera with Bluetooth communication, it packs more convenient features that riders would surely appreciate.
The 10C-EVO connects up to four riders and has a range of 1.6km (1 mile) in open terrain. We are guessing this would lessen a fair amount given any obstacles. The battery life is very impressive, with 20 hours of talk time and a charging time of only 2.5 hours.
In terms of specs, it has noise-cancelling technology with advanced noise control. This means any audio you receive will be crisp and clear regardless of external factors such as wind. The camera shoots in 4k and has a video recording capacity of 1.5 hours. The optic field view is 125 degrees, which is rather impressive.
This communication system is packed with features but has a price to match. This unit does not come into the entry-level category and is more of a long term investment.
Best Budget Option – FreedConn T-COMVB Helmet Bluetooth Headset
The FreedConn T-COMVB is a great option for anyone wanting a good quality, reliable, hand-free comms system without blowing an entire paycheck.
The Bluetooth headset supports pairing with up to three riders and allows two riders to talk at the same time. It has a range of up to 800m (2600ft), which isn’t phenomenal but will undoubtedly get the job done.
It uses a Bluetooth intercom which supports hands-free calling, and some voice prompts for music and GPS. It has up to 10 hours of talk time and a standby time of up to 300 hours. The design itself is sleek and simple with large buttons and dials, meaning gloves shouldn’t get in the way when adjusting volume.
Overall this headset is packed full of features and has a very reasonable price tag.
Best Entry Level Unit – LEXIN Waterproof Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset
This hands-free unit will fill all the requirements with a few bonuses. The LEXIN Waterproof Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset uses wireless Bluetooth 3 to allow you to connect with up to four other riders over a range of 1.6 km, which was a pleasant surprise. You can access Siri voice commands, make and receive phone calls as well as connect to the radio or listen to your own music.
The universal pairing feature was a big bonus allowing you to connect it with most other Bluetooth headsets on the market. It gives 15 hours worth of battery life for streaming music and talk time, which was another bonus.
This one is equipped with noise-cancelling tech, and the sound quality was good for an entry-level intercom. However, at speed, it leaves us wanting.
Best for Groups – Cardo Packtalk Bold
Connecting up to 15 riders is enough of a selling point for the Cardo Packtalk Bold. If it’s taking you a minute to absorb that, we completely understand. Given most headsets connect four riders, or eight if you look into the higher-end ones, fifteen sounds like something out of either a dream or a nightmare.
One of its other stand out feature is its Packtak Bolds natural voice operation feature. This allows you to use voice commands to change volume and answer calls rather than having to worry about bulky gloves and small buttons. This intercom system is also designed to handle all weather conditions from rain and snow to dust and sun with an IP67 certification.
Overall, this motorcycle intercom system is what you want to be looking into if you ride in a pack and want to stay connected with everyone.
The Lexin – ET COM uses Bluetooth 5.0 to allow hands-free calling as well as being able to listen to music or the radio. It supports Siri as well as other voice assists and has voice prompts providing an alternative to having to find the buttons.
It supports universal pairing but only with one other device, which is a bit of a letdown. The range is also only 1.2 km, another slight disappointment. There is, however, built-in noise reduction, which is very useful while the battery has 15 hours of talk time.
This kit comes with interchangeable faceplates which is an excellent idea. Overall, this is an average Communication system and has a price to match.
The Cardo Scala FREECOM 1 has a slim design and a flat panel interface that makes it easy to use despite the gloves. This model allows communication between four riders and is not limited to connecting with only Cardo. There is also an FM feature that connects two riders but over a longer range.
You can stream and listen to music as well as hear your step by step GSP instructions. Being able to answer and make phone calls hand free, by connection with your smartphone is another great feature.
The 40mm HD speakers guarantee crystal clear sound paired with AGC technology which automatically adjusts the volume according to background noise means there’s one less thing you need to do.
The Cardo Connect App allows you to customize your features and configure your setting from your phones. Finally, the waterproof, dustproof certification means you can take it with you in all weather conditions.
The Sena SMH10 intercom system uses 3.0 Bluetooth. One feature we liked on this model was the jog dial. Its default setting is to change to volume, but if you click the center button, the dial will then cycle through all the functions.
The SMH10 also uses Advanced Noise control to help minimize background noise to provide crystal clear sound. The Integrated voice prompts are available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. The Universal Pairing allows you to connect with others even if they aren’t using a Sena unit.
One point we feel was lacking is the fact the range is only 900 meters, this is significantly less than most of our other options, which is why it was not included as one of our top 5 picks.
Last but by no means least, we have the Sena 30k -01. This motorcycle intercom is ahead of the curve in terms of pairing. It allows you to connect to an unlimited number of devices within a 1-mile radius. This can get a bit hectic depending on the size of the group, but overall it works very well. It also allows you to create and chat within private groups.
The sound quality is crystal clear, and it has Advanced Noise Control to help limited background noise. There is also an app so you can configure your settings from your phone.
The most significant drawbacks we found were the price. Overall this unit does everything you need it to do as well as everything you’d want it to do.
How Do You Communicate While Riding?
Back in the days before comms units, hand signals were pretty much the only way to communicate to your riding buddy, and good luck if you got lost or separated. With all the technology around today, it was inevitable that some of it would find its way into our world.
Communication nowadays is a matter of attaching a communication system onto your helmet and speaking in a normal or slightly raised voice depending on your partner’s hearing (or lack of).
What Is a Motorcycle Communication Unit?
Some well-known brands include Sena, Lexin, and Cardo. There are of course many others, but in general, these three leading brands have been tried, tested, and proven by motorcyclists all over the world and stood the test of time.
What to Consider When Buying A Communication System System for Motorcycles
Different Types Of Set Up
When it comes to motorcycle communication units, there are two main types—wired and wireless.
Wired setups, as you may have guessed, involve wires and are the more basic setup of the two. They have wires that connect the rider and passenger via a central box. This box houses the battery and electronics.
Some of the pros of these wired systems are the fact that you don’t have to worry about interference from external sources, which can be a pain with wireless setups.
The biggest downfall we found was the fact that these setups only allow for rider – passenger communication rather than a bike – bike communication. There is the option to add on a radio handheld communication, which lets you use the bike to bike communication too; however, there is a higher chance of external interference.
You also need to remember to unplug yourself and your passenger every time you get off the bike and then plug it back in once you get back on.
While Bluetooth is the most well known of the tech used in wireless setups there is also Frequency Modulation (FM) which is another contender.
Frequency Modulation works similarly to radios; however, there is a narrower band of frequencies used. FM units produce a really crystal clear quality sound as long as there isn’t too much distance between you and the people you want to chat with. Obstacles like hills can shorten the range even more.
Bluetooth technology has made the most significant improvement in motorcycle communication. It has enabled completely wireless comms between not only rider to passenger but bike to bike as well. It also allows pairing with smartphones, which in turn allows hands-free calling, GPS, and a raft of other things.
The only downside of Bluetooth is the range. It is not as good as the FM systems. It is generally up to 1km, but it can be used in conjunction to extend the range, which is a bonus.
Bluetooth, like all things nowadays, is constantly being updated. The most recent version (as of August 2020) is Bluetooth 5.0. It has lots of cool new features that are especially relevant to motorcycle comms units. It has the ability to connect 2 devices to your phone. This means you and another person can both listen to music, for example, on your phone. They have also improved their Bluetooth Low Energy feature which uses less energy meaning your battery will last longer.
The main improvements are the faster speed and extended range. Bluetooth 5.0 can communicate with devices up to 4.0 times further away than Bluetooth 4.2.
Bluetooth 4.2 and 4 are very similar. Both have good ranges and are fast, the main difference is the Bluetooth Low Energy feature in the 4.2 version is better.
Bluetooth 3.0 was released in early 2009. The technology was advanced for its time which is why it is still used in some comms units. It is adequate but compared to the later versions its range is not very good and it was the version before Bluetooth Low Energy Feature meaning you may notice a significant difference in battery life between any units using 3.0 vs later models.
The range is arguably one of the most important things when it comes to choosing which coms unit to go with. First, you want to identify what kind of riding you will be doing and what kind of range you need. Is it just for you and your pillion or are you going to want to chat with other bikes over a long distance?
If you are going to be spending most of your time on the open highway where the chance of getting split up due to traffic is less, then you will probably be able to get away with less range. However, if you are going to be riding in cities where traffic and lights are a problem, you may find the extra range useful.
Like everything in life, the budget is our biggest restricting factor. Unless you are one of the lucky few where budget won’t be coming into play, set a budget before you start. Deciding on your needs like range, features, etc, then setting an appropriate budget will help you not to overspend and regret it later.
After deciding on a budget, make sure to only look for something in your budget; otherwise, you may get caught up in features you don’t need.
The number of people you can connect with means how many other riders your communication unit can connect to. Generally, units support 4 riders and allow for two riders to communicate at a time.
The higher-end models can supper around eight people and allow 6 riders to communicate simultaneously. If you know your riding group is smaller, then you don’t need to worry about splashing out for a unit that supports eight people.
If you ride in larger groups, then they are a good option but not essential.
Connections refer to its ability to pair with a smart device, usually your phone. This is a helpful feature as it allows you to listen to music on the go, answer phone calls and also hear GPS directions without having to stop.
Ease of use is another main factor. You can have all the features in the world but if you can’t access them while wearing gloves, what’s the point? Voice-activated controls are great or look for something with bigger buttons and a spin dial for volume where possible.
Earplugs both ears are more of a personal preference than a necessity but add a nice touch.
We all love to hear the roar of our engines, it’s half the reason we ride, but over time, it can seriously damage hearing and it makes it harder to hear people talking over the comms unit. Finding a unit with noise-canceling is a great option because, generally, it will activate when someone is talking, allowing you to hear what they say, and then stop once they finish. It will also help block out background noise from the wind and other traffic.
Other features include things like GPS or earplugs for both ears that are more of personal preference that add a nice touch and is helpful addons but not essential for everyone.
Depending on where you live and what kind of riding you do, weather-proofing will either play a big part or not at all when it comes to your selections. If you are riding in areas with lots of dust or the potential for rain, then make sure you pay attention to how well each headset handles the weather.
The whole reason you are investing in a communication system is that you want to hear and be heard by the people you ride with. So by choosing a communication system with noise-canceling capabilities and preferable HD speakers, you can ensure that no matter the level of external noise, you will still have clear and crisp communication at all times.
Things To Be Aware Of
Motorcycle intercoms are an investment so before you make any commitment there are a few things you should check first.
Make sure your helmet is equipped to take motorcycle intercoms. A simple google of your helmets brand and make should tell you if your helmet has the space to install one. Generally, all helmets do but if your helmet is older or an entry-level helmet it is a good idea to check carefully.
Ask around and see what brand your buddies have. This isn’t just so you all look cool with your matching comms units, no, not all brands will connect with each other unless they have universal pairing. It is a good idea to check with the people you want to be talking with if you need a specific one in order to connect with them.
If the idea of sticking a box, no matter how sleek, of the side of your helmet just doesn’t do it for you… then you may be in luck. Smart helmets are slowly but surely starting to gain popularity.
Smart Helmets have in-helmet Bluetooth meaning the helmet itself is the comms unit. In other words, all the advantages of a communication device without the box on the size. Some of them also include cameras giving you everything you need with one device.
Some things to be aware of when looking into smart helmets are to ensure that they meet the safety requirements of your area. With all the added technology we have seen some skimp on safety which should be your number one priority when it comes to helmets.
The Harley Davidson Audio N02 is a great example of what to look for in a smart helmet. It has a sleek design available in 2 different shades of black.
The main selling point is the built-in Sena 30k Bluetooth communication which comes with all the features of the normal Sena 30k Bluetooth and the DOT certified fiberglass composite shell. All of this coming in and weighing under 1,800 grams we were quite impressed.
One downside we have noticed was that depending on the wind and speed, the audio is too quiet.
Given how much Sena is involved with communication in the motorcycle industry it only makes sense they would have their own smart helmet. The Sena Momentum Evo is their entry-level version of a smart helmet.
It has an oval shape design and is DOT and ECE certified. It uses Bluetooth 4.1 technology as part of its communication system and has a range of up to 5 miles which is very impressive.
Overall, this helmet looks great and with the addition of the incorporated Bluetooth communication system, this could be a serious contender for anyone in the market for a smart helmet.
Smart helmets are always being improved and newer models released. They are also more expensive than your typical helmet however if you are in the market for a new helmet as well as communication systems then you may be pleasantly surprised at how they compare.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a comms unit?
It is not a legal requirement to wear an intercom unit while riding a motorbike. In fact, in some places, certain types of intercom are illegal on a motorcycle. The idea is more about being able to stay in touch with your fellow rider, listen to music, and or have a GPS.
They are useful pieces of equipment but by no means a necessity.
What is universal pairing mode?
Universal Pairing mode allows motorcycle intercom systems to connect regardless of brand. This is a really helpful feature because it will enable you to communicate with people even if they don’t have the same brand as you.
What is the best motorcycle headset?
Unfortunately, there is no best headset for everyone. It depends on your budget and needs. Be sure to decide on how much you want to spend and what you will be using it for. Also, check out the article above for more tips and tricks on how to decide as well as some options.
Can I listen to the radio while riding a motorbike?
Listening to the radio or music while you are riding a motorbike is completely up to you just like it is when you are driving a car. The main risk of listening to music is it could distract you whilst riding. It is not recommended while you are still learning but the choice is up to you. If you decide to listen to music while driving, just ensure you remain focused and that it isn’t too loud.
Last update on 2021-06-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API