We have not been able to pair two different brands of motorcycle Bluetooth intercoms.
Although it's impossible to definitively state that this is true for every Bluetooth intercom system, there is no indication that two different brands will pair, despite the rumours you may have heard.
This is unfortunate, and perhaps the next evolution in ease-of-use will be cross-brand compatibility.
Note that some motorcycle communication systems are sold under different brand names (e.g. the Schuberth SRC and the Cardo Scala Rider systems) and they are compatible.
We've been reviewing Bluetooth motorcycle intercom systems since they were first made available, somewhere around 2004.
I can't tell you how many times since then I've received an email from a webBikeWorld visitor asking if two different brands of intercoms were compatible. The answer, for all practical purposes, is "No".
In all that time, motorcycle intercoms (now called "communication systems") have improved dramatically. The early systems were very difficult to use, with nearly incomprehensible instructions and non-standard button-pushing routines required for pairing between two intercoms in the same retail package.
In fact, sometimes they just wouldn't pair at all or the pairing would mysteriously vanish mid-conversation. Range was measured in the single-digit meter range and sound quality was generally terrible.
Since then, we at least have some standardization with Bluetooth pairing procedures, volume control and feature sets. There's still a long, long way to go though -- much better sound quality and even higher volumes are needed; longer battery life (or the ability to quickly and easily exchange charged batteries); more standardization with the control interface (and/or remote control capability) and speaker swapping are on everyone's wish list.
And don't forget the "Holy Grail" -- compatibility among different brands of Bluetooth intercoms.
Maybe we'll get there someday (soon). In the meantime, we have 15 different intercoms on hand and we ran a test to see if any of them would pair with different brands. The results are as expected -- we could not get any two different brands of intercoms to pair.
Note that the Schuberth SRC system is made by Cardo Systems for Schuberth and it will pair with the Cardo Scala Rider systems. Otherwise, nada.
UPDATE (November 2013): Sena has announced the Sena Universal Intercom, a free firmware update for Sena intercoms which will provide cross-brand compatibility!
Click on the image below to view it full size (1310 pixels wide):
Publication Date: April 2013
From "K.M.H." (May 2013): "Great review, as always, despite the predictability. The parable: It's the 80's and it's DCC vs. Mini-Disc vs. DAC audio formats all over again! The winner is......? NONE! They all lost!
The moral: Make them ALL compatible, intercom OEM's, or feel the wrath of the consumer! Cross-compatibility between OEM's? I can't even get compatibility WITHIN a brand! I had to upgrade my 1 yr. old Chatterbox XBi2 to a new Chatterbox XBi2Plus because they don't communicate...and I had just bought another Plus model for my new helmet! Luckily, Chatterbox did the upgrade gratis!"
Editor's Reply: Believe it or not, we must get at least one email each week asking if/why different brands of intercoms won't pair. Then, we started to get emails from Europe with people saying they read on various forums that different brands of intercoms were in fact able to pair. Not sure where that rumour started, but we figured we'd try it just to make sure and the results were...predictable!
From "H.F." (May 2013): "Iím a Brazilian biker (BMW R1150GS) and a HUGE fan of wBW website and the products analysis you publish......just straight to the point!!!! Generally I never buy any product before take a good look on your comments!
I'm also an electronic engineer and deeply involved with RF segment, in all their applications data and voice applicationsÖ.cell phone protocols, VHF/UHF radio comm, spread-spectrum technology, etc. I agree 100% about your disappointment about the no-compatibility between the communicator / manufacturers systems!
From the customer point of view, it is simply outrageous. Itís an absolutely lacking of market maturity and desire from the manufacturers to implement it. On the technical issue, Itís just a matter to establish a "communication open protocol", like a "common communication bus", allowing the connection between all devices.
More than that, it doesnít mean that each manufacturer should abandon his own proprietary protocol (the companies invest a lot in order to develop and keep it operating in the maximum performance it is allowed). For sure, they could allow in their set-up program of the device, to choose between similar brand communicators (with "better performance") and also, as an option allow "open communication" using a standard protocol, but with "lower performance".
Hey, Manufacturers...wake up! You can try...but you wonít keep the market as your "hostage" forever. Sorry, but it is a stupid commercial policy and the history has shown that it works only for a short lapse of time. Be confident on yourselves to have the best communication system and than envisage your competitors!!!
Yes, it is simple like that. Just a matter of intention! Today I have a Scala Rider G4 (review) set, with that ridiculous and bulk mic solution. I was wondering really to try the UClear boomless device (review) (based in the wBW analysis), but Iím a hostage of my biker's group that uses Cardo equipment.
Hope I have give some light to all bikers that make the fantastic use of communication between bikes pals...increasing friendship, talk, amusement and security."
From "F.S." (May 2013): "The Bluetooth standards obviously allow for compatibility between brands and most of the standards are implemented on the headsets to allow for connections to most MP3 players, GPS etc... Unfortunately I doubt cross-brand compatibility between headsets will come any time soon as the manufacturers understandably would like everyone in the same group of travellers to buy their product and not a competitor's."
From "B.K." (May 2013): "Like you I'm frustrated that the various motorcycle Bluetooth communication systems products cannot pair with each other. Have you asked the vendors why? Has time come where the motorcycle community put pressure on the vendors to agree on a common communication standard?"