Rider G4 Intercom
Cardo Scala Rider G4 Motorcycle
Bluetooth Intercom Review
Part II: Ride Report and Follow-up
by HBC for webBikeWorld.com
Cardo Scala Rider G4
Review: Part 1 |
G4 Software Update Report
Part IV: Cardo Scala Rider G4 Software Upgrade 3.0 Report
Bluetooth Intercom Page |
Motorcycle Intercom Page
Yes, the G4 is loaded with features, is more advanced
than previous Scala Rider systems and is a shining
example of where the industry is going. No, the G4 is
not the best performing system in my book; that
decision is on hold, pending an extended evaluation of
the F4 Interphone system.
But -- the G4 has the potential to shine. For
those who have been long-term Cardo users or are seeking
something new, different and, upgradeable, the G4 is a
most worthy candidate.
The G4 is a system with lots of old and new features and
anyone familiar with Cardo Systems products will
probably feel comfortable in considering the G4.
It is also likely to end up on the short list of many
potential owners, largely due to the marketing claims
and technology touted.
I must admit that the G4 is packed with features,
some of which are legacy based from previous and current
Scala Rider models, while others are new and very
interesting. But as so many of us know,
feature-rich does not always equate to superior
But enough pontificating, with the G4 units received
from the Editor, it is time to get them charged,
installed, configured and on the road.
Cardo Scala Rider G4 Intercom mounted on Arai XD.
As the photos indicate, the G4 headset cradle is a
near perfect fit on the Arai helmets, such as the
Arai XD3 (review). The cradle securely
clamps the bottom lip of the helmet with the rubber pad
on the outside edge of the sliding panel sitting snugly
against the outer helmet shell to prevent the cradle
from sliding or marring up the shell.
Like other systems, including the Sena, the adhesive
on what Cardo calls the "glue plate" is a bit
weak, literally. With the G4, removing the two machine
screws and tiny washers allows the "Back Plate" to be
removed and the Glue Plate mated to the cradle.
Installing the G4 cradle on the
Nolan N-103 (review) reveals that the adhesive on
the plate is very strong, but it is a thin layer without
any cushioning to help protect and assist the adhesive
in conforming to the usual light curve of a shell. Cardo has provided some help in this regard; the end
segments are perforated vertically, allowing them to
flex. This, in turn, allows the whole adhesive
surface area to curve to better match many different
types of helmet
The boom microphone assembly is integrated into the
cradle base, and measuring 21 cm or 8.3 in in length
(microphone and boom), it should fit most helmets no matter
the style. This also allows the cradle itself to
be adjusted fore or aft as desired for access and
Integrated with the cradle, the left and right
speaker leads are 18 cm and 50 cm long
respectively (7.0 and 19.7 in) and provide enough length to fit in any of
the helmets tried, notably the Arai XD, Arai Corsair and
Nolan N-103 units. But the left speaker lead
borders on being too short -- another 5 to 10 cm (2 - 4 in) would
be a good thing to have.
As the antenna of the FM radio resides inside the
longer (right) speaker wire, Cardo recommends that it is
located, if possible, over the top of the head
underneath any liner, rather than around the neck piece,
for best FM reception -- a good tip. I tried both
routings but didn’t detect a lot of difference in
overall reception, although the RDS helps in this regard
Two foam windsocks or microphone covers are provided
with each system. The slim item is just about
perfect for full-face helmet use while the slightly
larger and rounder cover works with open-face or
flip-style helmets. Both are easily removed for
washing or swapping out.
Orientation of the microphone can be hit-and-miss if
the small and less-than-sticky yellow pointer falls off
the supplied windsocks; only one out of four was still
hanging on when the systems were received. A white
marker was used to put an orientation mark on the boom
just slightly back of the microphone so the windsock
doesn’t conceal it.
On a final point, Cardo offers a cord-mounted or
thin-wire microphone version of the G4 that is typically
more suitable for use in full-face helmets or any helmet
where the chin section makes for a tight squeeze.
Cardo Scala Rider G4 Intercom boom microphone mounted on
Nolan N-103 helmet
For the users in this household, communications is our
number one requirement, meaning intercom performance for
rider to rider purposes is crucial. Unfortunately, I
cannot give the G4 full marks here and with the Sena
SMH10 units also in use, the differences are most
Acknowledging all the technology harnessed in the G4,
the intercom is not much better than the intercom
feature found in other Scala Rider models and still very
frustrating to use, in my opinion. But the ability to turn off the
Voice Connect Feature or VOX and use the intercom in
continuous mode helps turn a bunch of negatives into a
The automatic gain control or AGC works, but not as
smoothly as it does with other systems. With the
G4's AGC, intercom audio would be low, then extremely loud,
then it would ramp back down to a more comfortable
level, but then change again…all this in relatively
stable noise environments, at any speed.
One of the biggest factors involved here is that the
G4 is meant to be most effective in an extremely noisy
environment. Yes, our riding environment can be
very noisy, especially depending on which motorcycles
are being used, the helmets being worn and environmental
conditions, but having to SHOUT ALL THE TIME is not a
On a positive intercom note, Cardo has maintained
backwards compatibility through its intercom generations,
especially the Scala Rider models. I really like
this approach, but one has to remember that when using
the intercom in a mixed system environment link ranges
will be less when working with older models, i.e., Q2
range is typically up to 500 m.
Cardo Scala Rider G4 Intercom mounting bracket.
Cardo utilizes Multiple Device Connectivity (MDC) with compatible Bluetooth devices. In essence,
this allows parallel connectivity with up to two other
current or earlier Scala Rider headsets and one active
pairing with a mobile phone (directly or via a
navigation device), a navigation device, an A2DP enabled
MP3 player or a Bluetooth Adapter.
A limitation that has to be clearly understood here
is that other device connectivity will be limited if
multiple headset systems are being used such as a
three-way or conference configuration.
The basic test suite I use for most of the Bluetooth
motorcycle intercom evaluations includes:
As with most new Bluetooth helmet systems recently
evaluated, peripheral pairings with the G4 are, for the most part,
simple. But I must state up front that the G4 is
not as quick on the draw in finding, pairing or
re-pairing as the other new kids on the block are.
Bluetooth Adapters: The
AKE BTD-302 Audio Adapter paired up and started
pushing out stereo from the iPod immediately, as did the
Camos BH-200M Bluetooth Adapter. The
Chatterbox iCombi AG-12,
usually pretty consistent, would not pair at all.
I can’t use the diminutive Rocket Fish MBT30 right now
as the iPod nano is out for replacement.
Phones: Both the HTC Touch PDA
and the Kyocera X-tc devices worked just fine with the
G4 using the Headset, Hands-Free, A2DP and AVRCP
profiles. The other mobile phones all paired up
and basic phone features were supported, as expected.
GPS Navigation Devices: In
pairing the G4 with the zumo 660, an unexpected
shortfall was discovered: the G4 only receives a mono
stream when using the integrated media player in the
navigation device. The zumo 660 supports A2DP and
as such typically provides a stereo audio stream to
Based on other comments received about a similar
issue with the BMW Navigator IV, this seems to be a
known shortfall. But on a positive note, the fix
seems to be close at hand…
In posing this and other questions to the Editor for
furtherance to Cardo, the result was that (we) ended up
with a webBikeWorld exclusive -- an offer of early
access to their pending first software release (version
2.2) for the G4 system.
So after some extremely fruitful discussions with the
Cardo representative, I downloaded the Cardo Updater
application, installing it on a Microsoft XP-based
system. In working through the multi-step but
well-detailed process with the representative via phone,
both G4 systems were successfully updated.
This version is the first update for the G4 - its
objective is to "optimize general performance and to
streamline existing features and not -- as we (Cardo)
plan for future releases -- to add new functions and
capabilities". In essence, the main focus is to
address compatibility issues, particularly with certain
Has version 2.2 done the trick is getting the G4 to
receive a full stereo audio stream? Yes.
So while still seeking out a Navigator IV to try, I
remain confident that the ‘fix’ is in this pending
software release. And before I forget, the zumo
550 and Navigator III+ both worked as hoped for with the
G4 as well, albeit via mono audio streaming only; a
limitation of both devices.
Letting the navigation device host the mobile phones
didn’t bring any surprises either and the G4 and phone
application on the navigation devices, particularly the
zumo 660 and 665, work together with only minimal
General: To forestall some
pairing and audio streaming issues, just remember that
the G4's "Phone" button is used for pairing mobile phones,
including those that have integrated media players and
are A2DP capable, while the Volume Up button is used for
the more basic headset/hands-free connections, with a
Like other new headset systems, the G4 can be paired
with most notebooks or other portable devices that have
a full Bluetooth version 2.0 + or later implementation
and supporting a broader range of Bluetooth services.
It only took two minutes to get the G4 receiving a
high-output stereo stream from the computer.
Cardo Scala Rider G4 Intercom - bottom view, Nolan N-103
FM Stereo Radio
As with other Cardo intercom systems previously
evaluated, the G4 is equipped with a built-in FM tuner,
but this model provides stereo audio -- finally!
The tuner features Radio Data System or RDS technology
that reads encoded data transmitted along with the
audio. This information is used by the system to
optimize tuning, providing more consistent reception as
the rider travels through the broadcast area.
Pushing the Channel B button for three seconds turns
the Radio On and Off. Tuning Up or Down is done by
holding the Volume Up or Volume Down for three seconds
and once a strong station is found, the RDS does its job
in precisely tuning and attenuating the signal.
The most noticeable quirk for me is in trying to tune
and save off a station into one of the six memory
locations. I can tune a station in, but in tapping
the Channel B button quickly that should serve to save
the station to memory, the tuner often kicks in and
moves to another signal.
I only managed to get a couple of stations saved off
and they weren’t always held in memory after shutting
the system down and then turning it back on again
(volatile/non-volatile). At this point in time I’m
not sure if it’s my technique or a system thing…
The RDS feature is off by default, but it can be
activated by pressing and holding both the volume up and
down buttons together for three seconds, while the radio
is on. For those who travel light, having the FM
tuner along for the ride is good, even if only used for
spot weather checks. Just remember to try and do
the initial tuning finger-work before you start off or
do it when stopped.
Antenna in raised position.
Audio Highs and Lows
For what its worth, the G4 speakers measure 35 mm in
diameter, 2.5 mm thick and weigh 6 grams (0.2 oz) each.
The speakers are obviously hi-fi, providing crystal
clear audio that is devoid of any noise, but they are
not in the same league as one or two other helmet
headset speaker systems. For reference purposes,
the Nolan N-103 audio chamber is now the chamber of
choice for comparison purposes.
With the G4 speakers mounted in the Nolan, some base
tone is evident, but only at higher volume levels and it
is never the same pulsating bass provided by at least
one and possibly two other systems, when using the
same input device at much lower volume settings
A real irritant is the fact that system status tones
are tied to headset volume levels, rather than being a
default median or percentile setting. Accordingly,
when the volume is turned up or down, the generated
system tones are either painful or virtually impossible
Another audio related concern that I had not
experienced tangibly firsthand and had actually
forgotten about until raised by another user (my thanks)
focuses on a constant loud ‘click’ heard in the headset
when a paired Bluetooth device is turned on or activated
while the G4 module is in standby. Wired devices,
to a lesser extent also generate this noise, but its far
The noise is very similar to that experienced when a
static discharge occurs or with a bad ground connection
is present on a home audio system. I can generate
the obtrusive noise at will when using devices.
Accordingly, the matter has been passed along to the
Cardo representative, who confirmed that it will be
looked into. Any feedback on this issue will be
provided by way of an update.
Bottom view, antenna in raised position as mounted on a
Nolan N-103 helmet.
More Real Deal Road Use
The two G4 units have been in rotation between the Arai
XD, Corsair and Nolan N-103 helmets and used for city,
highway and country riding, along with the usual mix of
peripherals. Most of the riding has been up here
in the Ottawa Valley of Ontario although initial use of
the G4 systems came while still in Virginia.
Using the G4 intercom behind a windscreen of any sort
with an effective helmet quickly brings out the
previously noted shortfall of the intercom, at least in
VOX mode. Disabling the VOX feature is done by
pressing and holding the volume up and down buttons
together for about three seconds until a single beep is
With this done the system now functions in "Channel
Button Connect" mode -- tapping Channel A or B as
appropriate for the desired connection(s), the intercom
link is made and remains open until a user taps the
Channel A or B button again. This is pretty much
the default mode used and the only thing that keeps me
from experiencing real frustration with this G4 feature.
Intercom range with the G4 is good, but not up to the
distances experienced from other new systems or what I
suspect the F4 Interphone is capable of. The
longest G4 intercom working range achieved was around
750 m, under the same general conditions as identified
for other systems recently evaluated. This is
disappointing and I just have to ask -- is the external
articulated antenna doing anything?
This range is still good and better than other
current Scala Rider models, but it falls far short of
the claimed 1.6 km (1 mile) range. As the flip-up
antenna is supposed to give the G4 extra range, I was
expecting better results. This shortfall does not
keep the system from being useful, but if extended
distances are a factor in your riding, like it is with
me, then this is a limitation.
To its credit the intercom is very quiet and
virtually impossible to detect when active. A
short squawk is heard when a link is being initiated and
noise on the active channel is very rare unless the
range limit is being approached or when passing or
travelling through dense radio-frequency environments.
With the intercom link active, speaking in normal
tones is usually effective, but the AGC still pumps the
headset volume up or down without much cause, no matter
how quiet or noisy the outside environment is.
This is almost the exact opposite of the quiet, stable,
well-moderated audio environment provided by the Sena
I appreciate having the FM tuner onboard.
Tuning is quick and positive especially with RDS
activated. In rural settings there isn’t much
difference between RDS on or off except with fringe
stations. In dense urban settings where the FM
radio band is more saturated the RDS feature proves
itself in discriminating and holding the selected
As stated in the manual, multi-system/multi-pair mode
operations are simple to achieve. I have not yet worked
through all the scenarios - both scala-rider sets are
currently out on loan. But a quick effort saw the two G4
units successfully paired with a Q2 unit for a short
three-way session using Channel A and B.
I have no doubt that the myriad of configurations
detailed in the manual are all viable, but working my
way through them all will have to wait for awhile. Most
of the feedback comments under Part One regarding
multi-system use are positive. Updates to
Spoken Status Instructions: A good feature that
can be used along with the default tones used to
indicate various function. However, with some
expansion of the current dialogue library, and
appreciating possible memory limitations, this feature
could be a viable (selectable) option, providing more
choice for the user. This would be a great software
update down the road.
Repeating a pet peeve, system versatility could be
enhanced if the bracket and headset components were
modular in nature vice a one piece assembly. A
one-piece component can be designed and executed to be
very strong as external connections are minimized.
However, if something breaks, there goes the whole
A modular approach also facilitates the use of
optional components, such as an in-ear adapter and other
goodies that can keep an owner even more satisfied and
help attract consumers to the product
Placement of boom microphone inside Arai XD3 helmet.
Rider G4 Bluetooth Intercom - The Bottom Line
in a two-layer eggshell, the system modules
reside in their simple black inserts and
everything else is neatly wrapped or bagged
in the bottom section housings.
usual integrated headset component and slim
module fits together well and provides an
appealing angular combination of shapes and
colours. Slick mounting system and
articulating antenna are well crafted and
easy to use.
Very Good to Outstanding
||Form, fit and
finish basically blemish free and everything
seems heavy duty, even the antenna.
The boom microphone is solid and long enough
to work in large shell helmets or those with
protracted chin guards. The only
detractor here is that the cradle and
headset is a one-piece assembly.
||For a new
generation device it has the leading-edge
design and features one could expect.
But performance is hampered by a less than
stellar intercom and inconsistent
||The G4 gets
this mixed rating based on less than stellar
intercom functionality but acknowledging
that the system is capable of supporting
three or four party communications.
This feature puts it ahead of the Sena and a
couple of other older systems that can
support multiple pairings.
If the G4 had the range advertised it
would be on par or ahead of the Sena SMH10,
but as it stands, it is well back in second
place and actually probably closer to third
given some of the ranges experienced with
other slightly older systems.
full-duplex intercom links available is
unique to the G4. This feature
actually allows three or four-user
conference modes to be utilized, albeit with
one (or two) of the systems used as hubs
(duplex in -- duplex out).
In my mind, the next step needed is to
add the ability to support the use of a
common radio such as FRS/GMRS units or
higher end systems, utilizing one of the
duplex communications links, with electrical
or physical PTT switching.
Audio Input & Control
Headset, Hands-Free and A2DP along with
AVRCP makes this an extremely versatile
system. The external 3.5 mm auxiliary
stereo input is not the easiest to access,
but it works and provides an alternative for
|This feature is
not available, but should be.
priority, highest to lowest is: mobile phone
audio or GPS instructions (device specific);
intercom, A2DP (wireless) audio source; FM
Radio; and, Auxiliary line-in port.
formal tests, this is very subjective, but
whereas the Sena headset would rate an
Outstanding to Superior, the G4 speakers
provide lots of volume but far less tonal
quality and for the discerning ear, its no
contest with the Sena on hand.
||With the G4
devices updated to version 2.2, virtually
all pairing and streaming shortfalls have
disappeared. In this instance, the
update has done its job. If Cardo
stays on top of requirements, periodic
software releases are the way to go and,
long overdue from this industry.
||The battery is
non-removable. There are no options to
allow use of alternate headsets or in-ear
wires are long enough and the speakers
themselves are of average size and thickness
and easy to install. The integrated
boom microphone has sufficient length to
work in almost any type of helmet.
I would still rather see a modular
headset with replaceable microphone and
speaker components although a single
assembly can typically be more robust.
The adhesive mounting option is a simple
component that works as well as most.
Setup and Configuration
everything else about the system, the G4
remains one of the easiest systems to setup
and use. With five control buttons and
several modes it is more complex than most,
but after a day or so of use, I was
comfortable with the system.
However, even with the software update,
auto negotiation is not its strongest suite
and its something that Cardo would do well
Ease of Use
Very Good to
||The system is
simple to understand and in general, easy to
use. Its multiple features take five buttons
to manage, resulting in a lot of fingering
depending on the function selected.
The unit is large but surface area is
limited due to the streamlined shape of the
module and as such, controls can be hard to
discern, especially with heavy gloves.
The spoken status instructions feature,
along with the over-bearing tones, provide
good information to the user, although I
think it would be great to have all
information and settings offered up from the
voice library as a configuration option.
||This takes a
hit due to the non-removable battery.
With typical use the battery lasts seven to
eight hours, although with the intercom in
connection mode, the system would run down
after five to six hours. Streaming
audio or using the auxiliary audio input
will reduce this time period further.
I never heard what seemed to be a
low-battery tone, but battery status is
easily checked by holding the Volume Up
button for three seconds while in Standby
Mode. A blue light indicates a full
charge, a Red/Blue light indicates half-full
and Red indicates that the battery is almost
||This takes a
hit largely due to system performance
issues, especially the poor reliability of
the intercom when in VOX mode -- an
adjustable VOX would be good. Another
negative is its reluctance to play well with
Section 4.5 of the manual does provide
the information needed to reset the headset
and based on postings it is obvious that
current owners have become familiar with
Originally reluctant to play well with
others, the G4 has been transformed into a
real team player with the 2.2 software
|Maintenance and Support
G4 systems was done via the
Cardo website. This will
(eventually) allow users to get firmware
updates and program patches as posted.
May 27, 2010 - First software
update has been posted. G4 owners must
register and download the firmware here.
Note: For firmware updates only MS
Windows XP or 32-bit Vista operating systems are
supported at this time.
I did take the opportunity to download
version 1.2 of the User Guide in PDF format
which has some changes from the version 1.1
document included in the kit.
June 4, 2010 - See
Part 3: G4 Software Update Report
||At $279.95 each
or $489.95 for the Powerset, the G4 is
possibly priced a tad high, even for an
upper end system. But given its
features, potential and the ability to
download firmware updates, this premium
the G4 would seem to be a winner, but its
performance is hampered by several issues,
most of which are likely fixable via
firmware updates. But over the longer
term, being able to update and enhance the
system via software releases will provide
G4 Ratings and Conformity
FCC Compliance Statement: Compliant with
Part 15 of the FCC Rules.
RF: The FCC RF Exposure Statement is
contained in the Certification and Safety Approvals
section of the User Guide along with the other
disclaimers. It is important that consumers
understand the implications of using radio frequency
devices for personal communication purposes
CE Declaration of Conformity: CE marked and
declared compliant with Directive 1999/5/EC.
Bluetooth: Compliant with and adopts
Bluetooth Specification 2.1 Class 1
Ruggedization: Rain and snow resistant,
designed for use under moderate rain or snow
conditions. The system is not certified to a
formal standard (i.e., IP rating).
In the Box
2 x helmet clamps
(boom mounted variant provided for this
2 x Scala Rider G4
Wall charger plug
with USB interface port.
USB interface cable
(for charging and firmware download
2 x Velcro pads.
2x stereo audio
2 x Glue (adhesive)
2 x carry pouches.
4 microphone sponges
(flat for full-face and round for other helmet
User Guide and
While the Editor and “Burn” were extremely impressed
with the G4 system, as was I initially, the longer
term evaluation effort now means that I have to be
the bad guy to some degree…
For me it comes down to one simple, but critical
requirement: the intercom or communications
capability. The heart of the G4 communications
system is obviously the intercom, but even
appreciating its ability to handle three or four
users, the G4 falls short, something that might be
improved upon through future software releases --
time will tell.
Appreciating some limitations, what really gets me
excited is the ability of users to take advantage of
software releases to upgrade current capabilities
and eventually, add new features. I know that
Cardo is planning on a major software release for
this fall, so stay tuned as it could be a good one.
Cardo Scala Rider G4
Review: Part 1 |
G4 Software Update Report
Part IV: Cardo Scala Rider G4 Software Upgrade 3.0 Report
Bluetooth Intercom Page |
Motorcycle Intercom Page
Review: Scala Rider G4
Details, pricing and information in Part 1 of the
Cardo Scala Rider G4
2010 Note: Products were provided by the manufacturer for this
The webBikeWorld intercom evaluators always wear properly
fitted ear plugs while riding during the intercom evaluations and this is reflected
in thee opinions on sound quality and speaker volume. Your experience may
and probably will differ. Always wear high-quality, correctly fitted ear plugs
when riding a motorcycle (more
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Cardo Scala Rider G4
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