Tips For Choosing The Best Intercom System

by Seth McClanahan

Ever head of a comm system and thought, 'I don’t want anyone talking to me while I'm out on the road'?

While they are commonly referred to as "communication systems" or "Intercom systems" these systems are a great way to stream music or take phone calls for a fraction of the price of a full-blown stereo system. Because the speakers install right by the ear, they do not have to fight with your helmet to deliver exceptional music quality. Rather, they reward you for having a quieter helmet. These helmet headsets include a microphone too so you can do more than just listen.

Now you may be thinking, why would I want to take phone call while I'm on the bike? Just picture this, you've left work early and your boss calls. Turns out he's coming by for an inspection. Now, thanks to your helmet headset, you've got the upper hand. Without them even knowing you've left the shop you're back to work before they arrive and they're never the wiser.

Alternatively, take the call and shift to the lowest gear possible and ride hard. Let your boss know you've got better things to do than go to work today by filling their ears with the sweet sound of freedom.

Anyway, for those of you who aren't riding solo, there's a lot more to the systems than just music and phone calls. And while music is typically a driving factor in determining which system to choose, communication is key for safety. Sure, we can use the standard hand signals or improvise on the fly. But nothing beats being able to just talk back and forth.

 Being able to communicate with other riders is a critical safety factor for motorcycle enthusiasts:

  • Riders can communicate about potential hazards on the road
  • Announcing upcoming turns or changes in traffic flow
  • Complaining about all the cagers on the road
  • Keeping an eye out for cops and ensuring everyone is riding the proper speed

 The simplest intercoms work for use between rider and passenger and typically communicate over a short Bluetooth connection. For bikers on a budget, or simply with a short wants list, these are available for as low as $99

Now there are several models out there with lots of options, lets break down some basics:

  • All Sena and Cardo systems can:
    • Pair to a phone, for phone calls and music
    • Connect to a GPS (or use your phone's GPS)
    • And pair to at least one passenger for communication purposes
  • Some other preferred features that are not universal include:
    • Active Noise Cancellation, so you can cut out the wind and communicate clearly
    • Branded JBL, or H&K speakers to get the most of your music
    • FM Radio, for those that prefer not to stream music
    • Voice commands, so we can keep our hands on the bars and eyes on the road
    • Audio Multitasking, so we can maintain communication while still being able to listen to music. This will also allow each rider to play their own music because not everyone likes listening to Taylor Swift
    • Mesh communication for a stronger, faster, easier communication experience

You may be wondering, what is Mesh, and how does it compare to the standard Bluetooth connection?
  • With Bluetooth, riders pair up in a daisy chain fashion. With two riders this is quite simple, but quickly becomes complex when riding in a group of 3 or more.
  • The daisy chain requires riders to remain closest to the people their paired directly to, and to repair when disconnected.
  • With Mesh, up to 15 (or 24 depending on brand) riders pair almost instantly and the systems will remember your group for the next time. No particular order is needed to maintain the connection because each rider is connected like a spider web, bouncing the signal as far as 5 miles out (1 mi max between individuals)
  • Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC), also allows riders to change positions, exit, or re-enter the group without having to re-pair, or having the chain broken. Also, they often have voice commands, and most or all of the preferred features that are available today in comm systems.

In all seriousness, ride safe and have fun. Eagle Leather does not actually condone rev-bombing your boss on the phone…

We hope this answers many of the general questions you may have about communications systems. Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments.

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