Tag Archives: bluetooth intercom

Sena 50R intercom raises sound bar

The biggest problem with many Bluetooth helmet intercoms is the poor quality of sound, but the new Sena 50R and 50S raise the bar on sound quality to a new level.

I’ve reviewed many intercom systems over the years and my go-to unit has been the Sena 20S for reliability and quality.

But my new favourite is the 50R slimline model that Sena Australia sent to me for review.

Sena 50R

Sena’s new 50 series consists of the 50R and 50S which cost $545 in a single pack or $965 for a dual pack.

The main difference between the Sena 50R and 50S is that the R is slimmer and has three buttons instead of the jog dial and has slightly shorter battery life.

Its slimline look is discrete and it probably reduces drag and wind noise, but I would be lying if I said I could discern any differences.Sena 50R

I thought I would miss the very convenient jog dial which has long been a feature of Sena models.

However, the 50S includes an automatic volume adjustment (or “Smart volume control”) that raises and lowers the volume as ambient sound changes.

In other words, it gets louder as you go faster and drops the level when you pull up at the lights so you aren’t blasted.

Consequently, I have never had to touch the volume buttons anyway.

The associated Sena 50 Utility app (available on Apple and Google Play) also allows you to quickly select whether you want this feature set to low, medium or high.Sena app volume control

That means you can have subtle changes in volume or quite dramatic changes. I wouldn’t have thought this would be a significant feature, but it is.

The 50 Series will also connect to digital assistants such as Siri or Google using standard voice commands of ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Ok Google’. 

So you can use that to control volume, tracks, make and receive calls, etc, so there is no need to ever touch the controls.

Sound qualitySena 50R

Another significant update is the slimmer and therefore more comfortable speakers with more bass and 7% more volume.

Not only are the speakers slimmer, but they are bevelled so they fit even in the tightest of helmets and don’t hurt your ears which is important on a long ride.

In fact, I didn’t even need to fit the supplied foam speaker covers.

Sound quality is also greatly improved.

Many helmet intercoms sound fine when you are stationary, but when you hit about 80km/h the bass is drowned out by the wind noise.

However, these still have a full and rounded sound with plenty of bass, even at highway speeds.

They are also louder.

Now Sena don’t want to deafen riders, but they acknowledge that many riders use filtered earplugs with their intercoms.

I use the Alpine MotoSafe which filter out harmful wind noise, but allow you to still hear important sounds such as sirens, screeching braes, car horns and, of course, your music, albeit at a slightly reduce volume.

Alpine Motosafe earplugs
Alpine Motosafe earplugs

With most other helmet intercoms, I have to run them at or close to full volume when I’m wearing earplugs.

Thanks to my filtered earplugs, it’s not deafening, but it does introduce distortion at those high levels.

Since the volume of this unit is louder, I don’t have to turn it up as high so there is less distortion.

That not only makes music more enjoyable to listen to, but also conversations on the intercom and phone are clearer.

The unit comes with thick and thin speaker pads to move the speaker closer to your ears, but I found the higher volume meant I didn’t have to bother.

ChargingSena app

Another great feature is the 30% faster battery charging time and longer battery life.

The 50R is rated at 13 hours of Bluetooth talk time and eight hours of Mesh intercom use.

From dead flat it charges in a couple of hours and when fully charged the standby time is more than a day.

I’ve found I can charge it to full and a week later when I switch it on, it still says 100% battery.

I’ve used it on long trips and it has never run flat.Sena 50R

On one recent multi-day trip, I forgot to charge it overnight and it still operated all the next day without going flat.

The app allows you to see how much charge remains. If you do need to charge it while out on a ride, you can plug it into a USB charger on your bike.

I found it was fully charged again by the time I’d stopped and had a 20-minute coffee and toilet break.

Consequently, I no longer have “range anxiety” about my intercom.

Updating

The only problems I’ve ever had with Sena intercoms has been fixed by resetting the unit and downloading the latest software.

However, this can be difficult when you’re out on the road unless you have your laptop with you.

The 50 series now comes with wifi capability allowing you to automatically download firmware updates with the special charging cable.

Just plug in the wifi charger and connect to a nearby wifi source such as your phone’s hotspot.

Sena series 50 wifi connector
Wifi charger

Mesh

Mesh is an intercom software system that allows multiple riders to connect even when some riders are out of line of sight.

It’s not a system I use much, but for group rides it is very convenient and is a vital safety feature. (In fact, on one occasion, a rider behind me yelped and I knew straight away he had gone down even though I couldn’t see him.) 

Critics say the Mesh software is unreliable, but Sena claim the flaws have been fixed.

I haven’t found any difficulties at all. In fact, there is less “crackling” interference from surrounding obstacles such as blind corners, trees, buildings, trucks, etc.

Sena says the intercom range s up to 2km in open terrain, which is about right by my tests.

I haven’t tested its full capacities with a “virtually limitless” number of riders in Open Mesh and 24 riders in Group Mesh intercom. (I don’t have that many friends!)

However, I have no reason to disbelieve Sena’s claims that Mesh extends range up to 8km (5miles) between a minimum of six riders.

Sena 50R tech specsSena 50R

  • Price: $545 (single pack), $965 (dual pack)
  • Warranty:  Two (2) year from date of purchase on manufacturers defects
  • Dimensions: 97mm x 48mm x 27 mm (3.8in x 1.8in x 1.0in)
  • Speakers: 40mm diameter, 7.2mm thick
  • Weight: 65g (2.29 oz)
  • Operating temperature: -10°C to 55°C (14°F – 131°F)
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Working distance: up to 2 km (1.2 miles) in open terrain; Mesh extends up to 8km (5miles) between a minimum of 6 riders
  • Bluetooth Intercom: 4 riders
  • Open Mesh Intercom: virtually limitless (9 channels)
  • Group Mesh Intercom: 24 riders
  • Microphone Noise Cancellation: Advanced Noise Control
  • Codec: Built-in SBC Codec
  • FM Radio: 76 ~ 108MHz, 10 preset station memory
  • Battery talk time: 13 hours (Bluetooth intercom), 8hrs (Mesh intercom)
  • Charging time: 1 hour
  • Quick Charge: 20 minutes of charging equals 6 hours Bluetooth intercom or 3.5 hours Mesh
  • Battery: Lithium Polymer

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

Should new helmet regulations cause concern?

Proposed helmet accessories testing regulations have concerned riders that aftermarket externally fitted Bluetooth intercoms and cameras may be banned.

However, one helmet expert says there is no cause for concern!

The proposed changes are part of the upgrade to United Nations Economic Commission for Europe 22.05 standard which has been accepted for use in Australia since 2016.

The new UN ECE 22.06 proposal also seeks to include testing for head rotation in a crash, visor shatterproof durability and the ability of modular helmets to protect you when the chin bar is in place and when it is open.

Members of the UN Working Party will continue discussions on the ECE 22.06 proposals in June 2020 with two years of research results incorporated before it’s finalised.

This would mean the new regulations would not come into effect in Europe until, at the earliest, 2023.

That will be followed by three years of coexistence with ECE 22.05 rules.

Longtime Australian helmet law advocate Wayne Carruthers says that means they would not affect Aussie riders for about five or six more years.

New helmet regulationsLG Action CAM

The controversial change is that helmets should not be modified from original manufacturer specification, which appears to have serious implications for intercoms and action cameras.

“Accessories must be fitted in accordance with the helmet manufacturer’s instructions,” the proposal says.

“Only accessories approved by the Authority shall be used. In case of any other modification or addition of non-approved accessories (helmet cameras, visors, communication devices, etc.) the helmet homologation becomes invalid.”

The Australian Motorcycle Council has long said that ECE 22.05 only affects the helmet at the point of sale and should not impact on the owner’s desire to fit accessories, so long as they do not affect the integrity of the helmets.

For example, you shouldn’t drill holes in the helmet to fit them.

However, the new rules seems to suggest that helmets are not allowed to be modified … ever!

Not so, says Wayne.

“Basically the move means helmet manufacturers selling helmets with their own accessories must test them to ensure the helmet with their accessories fitted meets the standard and have approval numbers for the accessories,” he says.

Wayne points out that the phrase “Only accessories approved by the authority shall be used” means aftermarket accessory manufacturers would have to go through an approval process for use on helmets.

“Since comms and camera technology development is moving so fast by the time 22.06 came into force in Europe let alone Australia we would be likely to see standardised inbuilt mounting cavities in helmets for many makes and models of accessories,” he says.

The Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations which is involved in the upgrade process agrees.

Spokesperson Wim Taal says: “The way I read it, this means you will not be allowed to fit accessories that were not tested with the helmet. It is hard to imagine the police checking this.”

Obviously Wim is unfamiliar with Australian police!

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com

High Tech Motorcycle Accessories That Every Rider Must Have

(Sponsored tech post)

Every day, new technology is introduced to motorcycle gadgets to improve the riding experience and make it safer. More and more of the modern bikes have heated seats/grips, tire pressure monitors, rearview cameras, and more. Today, you can find some high tech accessories that will help you deal with discomfort, inconvenience, and weather. Even if you prefer the traditional route, there are several high tech gadgets that can elevate your experience. Below are some of the high-tech gadgets you can get to pimp up your ride.

1 Helmet Sound System

If you ride your bike regularly or for long distances, you’re likely to feel dull at times. Well, this can change with a helmet sound system which lets you listen to music and communicate. You can pick phone calls, connect with other riders via intercom, and follow GPS navigation using the helmet audio systems.  When buying this gadget, look out for multi-device capability, sound quality, durability, battery life, and volume controls.

2 Motorcycle GPS Navigator

It’s never an option to use your smartphone for navigation while riding a bike unless you’re willing to stop and get off the road every time. That’s why you need a motorcycle GPS unit. A motorcycle GPS makes it easy for you to navigate while you focus on the road. In addition, the system offers extra features such as hands-free calling, streaming music, and alerts.

3 Rearview Camera

A rearview camera helps you to easily see what’s behind you, adding safety and convenience to your ride. Rearview cameras for motorcycles give you a rear vision that your rear mirrors can’t. The mini camera is usually placed on the bumper of your bike, giving you a perfect view of your rear. When buying a review camera, look out for key features like waterproof, night vision, and viewable angle.

4 Motorcycle Jacket Airbag

The motorcycle jacket airbag works in a more or less similar manner as the airbags in a car. When the system deploys the airbag, the air cushion inflates to protect the most vulnerable body parts such as shoulders, elbows, and the spine. You can use an airbag vest which can also serve as a reflective vest or get an airbag jacket. Modern airbags strike a balance between comfort, safety, and good looks.

5 Brake Free Helmet Light

The normal brake lights on your motorcycle work just fine. However, they are mounted low on your motorbike and are not easily noticeable in traffic. Brake Free Helmet Light mounts a smart brake light on the back of your helmet, making it easier for motorists to see you. It detects when you’re slowing down and responds accordingly to regular braking, engine braking, and emergency braking. It attaches to almost any helmet using a magnetic mount and uses LED lights that make it visible both day and night. It is a smart brake because it needs no wired installation or connected apps. The gadget is weather resistant and stays lit all the time, only becoming brighter when you brake.

Source: MotorbikeWriter.com