Now thanks the modern technological wonder that is Bluetooth I don’t have to miss a thing while riding. There are several systems on the market, but recently I got my hands on a SENA SMH10 Bluetooth Headset. Actually two of them, I received the Dual Pack that saves a few bucks in comparison to buying two separate kits. Retailing for $399 for the dual and $219 for the single, the SENA unit’s price is comparable to others on the market.
The SMH10 is a Bluetooth v2.1 class 1 stereo headset. I had no idea what that means, but I was sure it’s better than a v1.0 or even v2.0 headset. After a little research I found out a v2.1 can move roughly three times the information as a v1.0 at 3 megabits per second. Range is quoted at 980 yards for the intercom function. The headset is compatible with Bluetooth enabled phones, audio devices and GPS systems.
SENA designed the headset as a modular system that is customizable with different mounts, earphone options and microphone set-ups. This allows users to fit the SMH10 to almost any shape and type of helmet. The semi-permanent clamp that attaches to the helmet is wired with the earphones and microphone and has a dock plate for the removable unit housing the battery, electronics and controls. This makes it possible to remove the unit to charge while leaving your helmet in the garage.
Charging is accomplished with a wall charger, USB cord, or DC adapter. Once empty, the battery takes 2.5 hours to achieve a full charge. When fully charged, SENA claims battery life to be 12 hours talk time and 10 days of standby. The unit can be charged while being used while on the bike if you have a DC outlet available.
Attaching the headset clamp is self-explanatory and easy to install. Stuffing the earphones into the helmet is quick and painless with the supplied Velcro pads. Fit is variable due to the different helmet designs and liners, but the thin earphones fit nicely in the Shoe RF-1100 and Scorpion Exo helmets I used for the road tests. The microphone boom is flexible but will stay put once it is positioned.
Attaching the SENA headset to a helmet is straightforward and simple. Several mounting options are available for different helmet styles.
Setting up and pairing the units is fairly easy, and the instructions are well laid out. Just a few pushes of the buttons, some flashing lights and beeps and the unit was easily paired with my iPhone and the second SENA unit. From start to finish, the whole process took less than five minutes.
The controls are simple to use and easy to feel with gloves on. Toward the back of the radio unit is a tic-tac sized button for the phone functions. One push activates the voice dialing and another push ends the call. On the side of the unit is a rotary dial and button combo that controls the volume and the intercom and music functions. One short push of the dial activates the intercom, and a second deactivates it. A one-second push starts the music while pressing and turning the dial shuffles through the music. Another long push stops the music. Music can also be played through a 3.5mm jack in the mounting plate unit if you prefer to use your music player to control your tunes. The intercom interrupts the music, and the phone interrupts the music and intercom. No worries about missing a call from Waheed or Hutch while chatting away or rocking out.
On the road, the headsets worked better than I had expected. I’ve always struggled with various headsets and radio set-up in my helmets; either the microphone was never was powerful enough, the earphones sounded like tin cans, or the Bluetooth functions were glitchy. On the SENA headsets, my iPhone consistently and quickly connected when the unit
was turned on. Voice dialing was spot on nine times out of ten, and I attribute the 10% error to my phone rather than the headset. Call clarity was exceptional; several people I called said the sound was better than my car Bluetooth system. The earphones put out great sound quality for phone calls, and adjusting the volume was simple once you remembered which way to turn the dial for up or down. Answering incoming calls was as easy as one tap of the rear button. The only complaint was a short lag after answering a call, several times I had to say hello more than once. An option of completely hands free answering is allowed by the SENA, however, I prefer to press the button rather than saying “hello!” or “answer!” loudly before saying “hello?” two more times while the unit completed the call.
As a music player the unit works well, but not as well as the phone function. Sound is decent out of the thin earphones that are supplied with the SENA unit but nowhere as good as earbuds. An earbud option is available, allowing you to use whatever shape works best for you. Personally I would sacrifice the sound quality of earbuds for the comfort and easy use of the earphones. Controlling the tunes through the headset was simple and trouble free. The volume level and shuffling through tracks was a piece of cake with the large jog wheel.
The SENA SMH10 Bluetooth Headset can be paired with up to three other headsets. The range is claimed to be 980 yards in intercom mode.
By far the best feature of the headset was the intercom function. Just a push to the jog wheel activated communication between the two units. Sound quality is top notch, and the sensitivity of the microphone is great. The only time wind noise was an issue was when the visor was up and speeds were over 75mph. Obviously the issue would be more prevalent on an open face helmet, and SENA states that speeds over 60mph on a bike without a windscreen could be an issue with an open face helmet. A larger foam microphone cover would be a suggestion to tame the wind noise in visor-less situations. My wife commented that that the intercom increased her enjoyment of being a passenger. She said that having communication tamed the boredom on long freeway stretches; I think she liked it because she didn’t have to yell to tell me to slow down. Either way, the SENA Bluetooth Headset will be a requirement for any road trips with my wife from here on out.
All said, the SENA SMH10 gets a big thumbs-up rating, and will be a permanent addition to my road test helmets. Now I just need them to come up with a caller ID option so I can decide to answer or let it wait until I am done riding.
The SENA SMH10 Bluetooth Motorycle Headset and Intercom is available on Motorcycle Superstore for $219.00