When I ride I like to listen to music or Podcasts. There are those who feel this diminishes the riding experience but for me it’s part of what makes riding fun. I currently use a setup that has taken about three years to sort out. I think I finally found what works for me without issue and does it all well.
My search for a way to listen to music on my motorcycle started a few years ago when I first bought my Harley. The H-D had obnoxiously loud straight pipes on it when I bought it. Loud enough that it even bothered me when I was riding. I used earplugs and that worked to block out the rumbling. However, it also blocked out almost everything else. Rather than ride in silence I thought it might be nice to listen to some tunes. I bought a MotoComm setup that included helmet speakers, a microphone, line-in for music, and a push-to-talk (PTT) button that mounted on the handle bars. The system connected to a handheld two way radio that could be connected inline with my music and would mute the music when either I or someone else used the handheld. To be honest, it was not ideal. There where wires everywhere, down my back, down my front, connected to the PTT on the handlebars. The helmet speakers where barley loud enough to hear music, even with an inline booster. The PTT for the handheld also didn’t work well. I could hear someone talking to me, but at speeds over about 30 mph no one could hear me. It turns out that the PTT opened the mic in my helmet as well as the handheld on my hip and the wind noise just wiped out all communications from me. After two trips with the full setup I ripped it all out and went with earphones, an IPod and hand signals.
Finding a good set of earphones that didn’t let in too much noise was a little tricky. What I have found worked for me are the Comply NR-10 Foam Tip Earspeakers. These ear bud style earphones have a foam tip that’s compliant but durable. They reduce the ambient noise by ~29dB, enough to allow me to listen to Podcasts and music at a low enough volume on the highway to still hear what’s going on around me. Perfect!
But, I can’t leave well enough alone. I read about a new Blue Tooth helmet communication system that got my geek senses tingling and I had to try it out. It’s the Sena SMH10. Basically it’s a small module that clamps to the side of a helmet and links via Blue Tooth to a phone or MP3 player and then plays the audio either through helmet speakers or an add-on that takes headphones. This was right up my alley. The one element that all of these systems have had in common for a number of years is they only use in-helmet speakers. I have never found these to produce audio in sufficient volume or quality to enjoy music or Podcasts. Sena offered exactly what I was looking for. A way to control my music, playlists, and even make and receive calls all via blue tooth and listen through my Comply ear speakers. Brilliant!
The interface is as simple as they come. There’s a jog dial that’s also a button and one additional button and that’s it. Even in my winter gloves I can use all the controls without issue. Mine is connected to my IPhone 4 and uses the voice commands to navigate playlists, play single artists or songs, take and make phone calls via my contacts list, and lets me control the volume. It’s rechargeable and can be updated and charged via a USB 2.0 cable connection. I think that this is the way things should be designed. Simple, functional, practical and it just works. No fuss. Don’t take my word for it though, there are a plethora of reviews as the SMH10, my favorite being from webBikeWold.com. They also have a long term review here.
I’ve used this setup for almost a year now and I have not found a fault yet. So, get your kit sorted out and … Get your motor running/Get out on the … well you get the idea.
February 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm
I enjoyed your comments and just a note that ear buds are great if you can use them without pain. I have tried several types of plugs and had no success. So I began to seek out motorcycle sound system a set of good in helmet speakers and have found several that I use in my helmets. But I envy those who can use ear buds and such.
February 17, 2012 at 9:33 am
Thanks for commenting and checking out the blog.
I’ve been lucky in that I found a set of ear speakers that really work for me. I’ve tried the in-helmet speakers but never found a set that are loud enough to work (even with a boost-a-roo). For music I can deal with the decreased volume but I listen to a lot of audio books and podcasts and need the clarity of the ear speakers. But the good news is that there are a lot of options out there to fit whatever need you have. Certainly there are more than there where even 5 years ago.