F4 Intercom Part 2: Ride Report
Interphone F4 Bluetooth Intercom
Part 2: Follow-up and Ride Report
by HBC for webBikeWorld.com
(Below) | Interphone
F4 Intercom Part 1: Introduction and Features
Motorcycle Bluetooth Intercom Page |
Motorcycle Intercom Page
Summary: I concur
with the Part 1 conclusion -- the Interphone F4 is easy to use;
it has outstanding sound and volume; it pairs with anything
Bluetooth; the IP-67 waterproof rating is a worthy exclusive;
it is very reasonably priced for what you get and it's a contender
for the title of "Best New System" (head-to-head intercom
Buzz Off coming soon!).
This is the
Part 2 follow-up for the Interphone F4 Bluetooth intercom. We
now have a Part 1 and Part 2 for the three most recent generation
of Bluetooth motorcycle intercom systems, the Sena SMH10 (Part
Part 2), the Cardo Scala Rider G4 (Part
Part 2) and this, the Interphone F4 (Part
1). The final report in this series will compare, score
and rate each of these systems.
These three systems represent the latest generation of Bluetooth
motorcycle intercoms. They are feature-rich and provide much
better performance than any of the previous generation of Bluetooth
intercoms we have reviewed. It is very difficult to choose a "winner"
among these three, as each intercom has a slightly different
performance emphasis. It may come down to availability, price
or which feature is most important to you.
It's important to note that there is still room for improvement
for motorcycle Bluetooth intercom systems. webBikeWorld readers
have been asking for features such as standardization that would
allow brand-to-brand interoperability and communications; the
ability to simultaneously communicate with multiple intercom
units and other Bluetooth devices; auxiliary input ports; easily
replaceable speakers; removable batteries and, as always, smaller
and lighter modules and headsets.
As with any modern technology, the rate of evolution for
motorcycle Bluetooth intercom systems is extremely rapid, so
hopefully your wishes will come true sooner rather than later!
First off let
me be up front: I consider the Interphone Bluetooth intercom
that was reviewed (here)
back in January 2007 to be the first (really) useable rider
to rider helmet system. Its range of over 500 meters was impressive
then and compared to some other less than stellar offerings
on the market today, despite technology advances, it still isÖprogress
While the original Canadian distributor has moved on to other
things, the Interphone is back with us, now in F4 guise and
needless to say I was eager to get my hands on the new systems.
As way of follow-up to information provided in
Part One of the Interphone F4 review
regarding Interphone nomenclature for their different intercom
models, I found out that the "F2" designation is used
for the Interphone F2 City, a rider-only headset that provides
basic Bluetooth connectivity for mobile phones and navigation
audio along with an auxiliary 3.5 mm stereo plug for music connectivity.
The Interphone "F3" designation identified in Part
One is now used for the Interphone F3 Passenger kit. That system
has features similar to the F4 but its intercom is tailored
for short-range rider communication with rider-to-passenger
So that brings us to the Interphone F4. A loaner set of F4s,
identical to the ones originally reviewed (another story for
another day) by Rick and Burn made their way northward to me
for this slightly abbreviated Ride Report and Part 2 Follow-up
But how does the F4 intercom system compare? Well,
during the time I had the F4 systems they got a thorough workout,
especially on a daily basis to keep one of my phones paired
for emergency and work contact purposes and for on-going communications
via the intercom.
Part One covered the basic ground in excellent fashion and
since it was published, more than a few comments have been posted
and the Editor has sent a few questions along to me for further
feedback and discussion. Accordingly, the objectives for this
Part 2 Follow-up report are two-fold: provide further insight
into the Interphone F4 system and address some of the questions
So, what did I do once the systems were received, inspected
and charged up? What I normally do -- give them a dry
run and then install them in helmets, so here we go.
Interphone F4 Mounted on Arai XD3 Helmet.
are the universal fit version with the boom-type microphone.
First up for installation would be the
Nolan N103 helmet (review), but as the loaner F4 units would
be heading back down south I opted not to use the supplied adhesive
slide support (identified in the manual as the 'mounting plate').
So I unscrewed the clip that normally slides up between the
helmet shell and liner from the removable slide support, revealing
the inner face. This surface is covered with a soft plastic
material that acts as a non-skid protective cushion against
the outer helmet shell when the complete headset is mounted.
For simple and expedient mounting of multiple helmet systems
the Nolan helmets already sport large
3M Dual Lock fastener templates to their outer shell, so
it is a simple matter to mount two rectangular companion pieces
of the fastener to the plastic material on the slide support
and "snap" it securely to the helmet.
Despite sitting 3 mm farther out than if using the supplied
adhesive, the F4 headset is very much at home on the Nolan.
The speakers are ideally sized for use in the Nolan N103 and
after creating a small recess in the left side foam liner to
accommodate the shape of the speaker/boom microphone assembly,
the left speaker nestles perfectly in its provided recess.
The boom of the microphone finds support in the existing
channel on the N103 and the right side speaker mounts in the
recess already provided in the Nolan. Not that it is hard to
go wrong here; the speaker recesses in the hard foam liner and
matching cutouts in the removable inserts ensure optimal placement
of the audio components.
Tip: if a companion piece (preferably round) of fastener
material is used to secure the speakers in the recess, it is
best to take a bit of time and cut a few small holes in the
fastener that will match the pattern of the three ports found
in the hard foam recess -- this tends to improve bass responseÖ
And for the absolute best efficiency, some may want to move
the speakers out slightly closer to the ear. The whole placement
effort is worth it -- better audio with less volume is the typical
result. Just donít forget to factor in your ear protection (Note:
ear plugs are always used when evaluating motorcycle intercom
On the flip side, using the clamp slide support to secure
the system to the full-face
Arai XD3 (review) and
Arai Corsair (review) helmets is simple, but the result
is not as clean or effective as with the Nolan. Although the
right side speaker mounts easily due to the in-line 2.5 mm audio
connector, the integrated left speaker/boom microphone assembly
To get the microphone on its short boom even close to the
mouth area, the left speaker has to sit forward of the ideal
spot in the removable check pad, so a compromise is needed right
from square one. Running the boom out through the strap cutout
positions the foam microphone cover just at the left side of
I just wish more industry players would follow the Cardo
lead in providing extended boom systems as found on the
Rider MultiSet Q2 (review), or go to modular headset components.
Interphone F4 mounting base plate.
Pairing the Interphone F4
As noted in Part One, the F4 had no issues when finding
and pairing up with other devices offered up and my findings
don't change the original assessment at all.
My basic test suite of Bluetooth-enabled devices or peripherals
that I use for all my communications system evaluations and
for daily use is as follows:
From a Bluetooth Adapter perspective, one thing to remember
is that when using standard iPod multi-pin connector adapters
like the iCombi AP 21 and Rocket Fish MBT30, audio output via
this connection is fixed (i.e., constant output level), so volume
can only be adjusted via the headset controls.
On the other hand, when the peripheral is connected by wire
to a Bluetooth Adapter that is acting as the wireless host for
streaming audio to the headset, volume controls on either the
headset or paired peripheral can be used.
Interphone F4 mounted on helmet with 3M Dual Lock, bottom
Interphone F4 "DualPhone" Feature
The telephone + telephone feature, known as "DualPhone",
works well but depending on which cell phones are used, the
results can be mixed.
I purposefully tried different combinations using the five
mobile phone devices listed above; the feature works with them
all but it is less than seamless, although the phones themselves
may not be completely innocent.
While the manual seems to contradict itself regarding DualPhone
priorities, I found that unless the multi-function button is
actually pressed, the first call is not interrupted and the
system does not switch audio to the second device, although
a very short time-out does occur that probably represents the
headset attempting to sort everything out. Your results, of
course, may be different.
While this feature may be relevant to some users, it also
makes me want to get up on my soapbox (milk carton) and voice
a small rant about consumers, including motorcyclists, who absolutely,
positively, need to have more than one communications device
available or active at one time. It is incredulous the things
one sees being done by road users.
The Interphone F4 owner's manual expresses my sentiments
well: "Always prioritize your riding, not telephone calls."
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The Interphone F4 Intercom and GPS: Notes
I am lucky in having four motorcycle navigation devices on hand
and access to other models as needed. But as of late, getting
the systems and devices paired up has been pretty boring because
everything typically works so well! Note that I said "typically".
The Garmin zumo 665 and 660 found and identified the "Interphone
F4" device in five seconds or so and with partnerships
established automatically, mono navigation and stereo music
audio is pushed from the devices to the headsets in short order.
There is a slight switching delay, sometimes accompanied
by a burst of white noise (hissing) when audio is switched between
devices/profiles, an issue probably related to the "short
time-out" experienced when using the DualPhone feature.
I havenít experienced a delay that is this long or this audible
with any of the other motorcycle intercom headsets I have used
recently, especially when employing navigation devices. It is
not a big detraction however, and the issue is actually acknowledged
in the Interphone F4 Instruction Manual.
In a three way configuration with the headset with navigation
device hosting a mobile phone, the zumo models successfully
supported the standard mobile phones using the headset profile
and all basic phone features were available via the zumo mobile
phone application menu.
Multi-function devices typically do not always work well
when hosted by a zumo unless paired via the "Phone"
feature or by actually de-selecting or disabling the "Stereo
Headset" option on the device.
These potential conflicts -- also known as exercises in frustration
-- can often be mitigated by first rationalizing how peripherals
will be used especially when using navigation or other multi-function
devices that support both "Audio" and "Phone"
options for audio pairings.
Interphone F4 headset mounted in Nolan N103 helmet.
Speaker wires with quick disconnect.
Note channel in EPS foam for speaker wire on right side
On the Road: Using the Interphone F4 Intercom
Many of you know by now where my priority lies for a Bluetooth
helmet system: the intercom. If the intercom doesnít work well,
then the system is usually between a rock and a hard place with
meÖobjectively speaking of course.
Intercom setup with the Interphone F4 is ho-hum easy. With
both systems off, press and hold their multi-function buttons
for about eight seconds to initiate pairing mode. When both
sets are flashing the familiar alternating red and blue LED
pattern, press the multi-function button on one unit. A few
seconds later the LEDs go to a steady blue state -- all done.
If pairing an Interphone F4 with an older Interphone intercom,
the initiation sequence is the same, but once they're paired,
the older Interphone intercom's LED will flash a rapid blue,
while the F4 LED will remain a constant blue. Just remember
that the intercom range will be limited to that of the earlier
I didnít actually break out the measuring tape, but the Interphone
F4 really does have a very impressive intercom reach. Direct
line of sight in a typical residential environment didnít result
in any dropped sessions even out to six or seven long blocks.
On the road (riding, not standing in the middle of it!),
typical operating range is right around 1000 metres or 3,280
feet (one kilometre = 0.62 mile). This is impressive, but not
unexpected and it intrudes into the exclusive territory covered
by the Sena
SMH-10 system (review).
The resultant Interphone F4 audio however is not of the same
consistent quality provided by the Sena. The automatic gain
control in the F4 does a good job of maintaining or averaging
out audio across a wide noise baseline, but at times it is obvious
under or over-reacting to ambient noise levels and ongoing audio
As intercom range stretches out close to maximum, volume
goes way down and audio, while still understandable, is degraded,
probably on the order of 10 to 20 percent. Once the separation
distance is back in the 600 to 750 metre range, all is well.
Are we getting spoiled? I think so.
I also observed that once the link was lost it would not
auto-restore when the systems were brought back in to close
proximity and the second system usually got the three-tone end
of session signal. So it seems the Interphone F4 intercom is
terminating a lost session rather than allowing the lead system
to go into scanning modeÖ
Virtually all of the newer systems evaluated over the last
year or so are so good at restoring the intercom that experiencing
this issue with the F4 was a surprise.
Manually starting another session quickly activates the intercom
again, but I am a bit disappointed in what should be a standard
and reliable feature. Having said this, I realize that this
may be a default setting used to help conserve system power
as active search/scanning modes all consumer power.
Waterproof to IP67: Something that is
obviously up to the task is the weather protection skin membrane
covering the Interphone F4 modules. The Interphone F4 is the
only intercom module we know of that has undergone IP testing
and is certified to IP67 (IP6 = "Dust Tight" and IP7
= "Immersion up to 1 metre").
The emphasis on water resistance may be a result of the European
origins of Interphone, as European weather can be a bit iffy
in some regions.
The outer sheath completely encases the intercom module except
for the connection port, and as long as the headset connector
is properly seated, waterproof integrity is maintained. I managed
to expose both units to several days of prolonged and heavy
wet-weather use and they survived just fine.
Equally as impressive as intercom range is the connectivity
reach between headsets and paired Bluetooth devices.
I can be 15 metres (50 feet) or even more away from a paired
device while wearing the helmet with headset and receive noise-free
mono or stereo audio. For a device that uses Bluetooth Class
Two power for device pairings it is extremely effective.
Battery Life: Battery life or duty cycle
time is also outstanding. I typically saw ten to twelve hours
of heavy intercom and two to three hours of intermittent music
streaming from a single charge. When using it just for phone
monitoring the system would last for almost three full days
Flexible strain relief on microphone (L). Three indents
in speaker recess enhance bass response (R).
Bottom Line Ratings
||Having received the
loaners from the Editor in a plain brown box, I
cannot comment directly on the original packaging
from my perspective.
pleasing to the eye. Minimalist controls blend into
the overall look and feel of the module, all enhanced
by the waterproof skin.
The single port is well recessed, the interface
connection well protected. Mounting assembly is
strong but lightweight. Locking lever is a bit lightweight.
||Tactile controls are
easy to find and use with light to medium-weight
gloves, more difficult with cold-weather gear. The
waterproof skin feature is seamless and despite
its smoothness offers great grip for handling.
Weak point - the locking lever is "OK"
at keeping the Bluetooth module seated, but it will
release if bumped or pushed hard from the bottom.
Another concern: while a solid (tight) fit between
interface connector and port is necessary to keep
the system waterproof, getting it pushed in and
pulled out takes a fair bit of effort and the connector
itself doesnít offer much grip: repeated use may
weaken the elbow joint unless the user takes care.
A short ribbed extension for grip would really help
||The F4, like its predecessors,
has the basics. But it still takes a hit here (comparatively)
in not having an auxiliary stereo input port. Design,
cost and certification concerns are all relevant,
but at the end of the day, it is still missingÖ
Performance is outstanding. For the features
is has, the F4 does not disappoint.
Even with the observations regarding some audio
degradation and (probable) lack of a restoral routine
in the intercom, the F4 is an outstanding system
that exhibits the same high performance levels established
by the original Interphones.
||The communication range
of the F4 is right up there with my current link
champion, the Sena SMH10. But the F4 is still in
second place due to less than seamless performance
in providing consistent audio quality and in restoring
the connection automatically if it is lost.
||As with its predecessors,
the F4 can only pair with one other F4 or another
compatible Interphone intercom unit and when used
as a pair, the system works extremely well.
Multi-user functionality is not provided with
the current release.
Input & Control
|| I waffled on
this one. System audio input via Bluetooth and intercom,
and subsequent control of the audio is outstanding
but not having an auxiliary input for a wired connection
is to me a serious oversight.
Within the current
market place virtually all other contenders provide
this feature and for good reason.
||This feature is not
available on the F4. Unfortunately, something that
could be easy to implement has not been done.
For simple sharing of music or navigation audio,
especially between rider and passenger via the intercom
link, this is a requirement that is still missing
in action by most systems.
||System priority is
telephone(s), navigation device, intercom and music.
||Close -- and I mean
close to the Sena headset, especially when using
the Nolan N103.
If the diminishing volume and restoration issues
were not issues then the F4 and the Sena would be
in the ring competing for the title.
||Like the Cardo Scala
Rider series, this latest Interphone iteration is
fully compatible with its predecessors and in all
likelihood its current siblings. It may seem a trivial
thing to some consumers, but from an overall communications
perspective, itís not.
||The only options available
for the Interphone F4 are replacement parts. Unlike
many of the newer systems, including the G4, the
Sena and others, it does not have an auxiliary input
Like virtually everything other system on the
market, other than the optional in-ear adapter that
can be used with the IMC Camos BTS 300 Bluetooth
Intercom and other BTS systems, there is no ability
to utilize an in-ear headset. The lithium battery
cannot be replaced.
Good to Excellent
||The boom style headset
provides close to a perfect fit in a three-quarter
or flip-style helmet, like the Nolan N103, but the
boom itself is five to ten centimeters short of
being optimal for most installations.
The universal boom assembly in a full face helmet
really brings out the shortfalls in this integrated
approach. The thin-wire headset is the way to go
for anything other than a three-quarter or flip-style
||Not much to comment
on here -- simple controls, simple functions and
virtually seamless connectivity right from the start.
I actually like the little F4 Pocket Guide, which
can be figured out if the icons used are understood:
the table becomes a quick reference conditional
matrix. In reality, continued use of the F4 will
negate the need for the guide.
||Simple to understand
and simpler to use. Only heavy gloves will pose
an issue in getting the Volume Up or Down the first
The multi-function control is not a problem.
Only niggling issue is the effort required to seat/remove
the connection plug.
use autonomy" is really good from the F4. When
all the features are being used on a rotating basis
the battery will keep things going for a longish
(eight to ten hour) riding day or longer if peripheral
use is minimal.
||Everything worked and
continued to work as advertised, even in heavy persistent
rain and high winds.
As my original Interphone
and upgraded units are still fully capable of an
honest daysí work and have endured far more abuse,
I suspect the F4 units will do the distance.
||Nothing required, outside
of periodic charging of the modules (far less than
most other systems on hand).
I keep the modules wiped off and make sure the
mounting components are still tight. The multi-language
manual is good, albeit not error-free.
||At the listed price
of $225.00 USD for each F4 intercom, that amounts
to somewhat less than what I paid for the first
original Interphone units a few years ago and given
the enhancements and advancements, the F4 systems
are well worth the price.
and factoring in a longish and positive Interphone
history, the F4 systems are a smart investment,
even with specific exclusions and minor issues factored
A two year warranty always adds value and peace
of mind, as does having a good distributor.
Version 2.1 +EDR
Up to eight (8) devices
Up to three (3) devices (e.g. telephone + intercom + stereo).
201 Headset, Hands-free, A2DP, AVRCP and SBC (Sub-Band Codec,
an audio encoder and decoder codec within the Advanced Audio
Distribution Profile (A2DP).
500 m under open field conditions (claimed).
use autonomy listed as up to ten (10) hours.
Time: Up to 700 hours
Time: 3 hours or less depending on battery state.
100-240V AC, DC output is 5.0V at 0.7A nominal
90 x 46 x 20 mm
84 g (including ear phones and microphone).
Like the Sena SMH10 system, the Interphone F4 pleases me, a
lot, and Iím pretty darn fussy -- trust me. The positives include
the long-distance range for F4-to-F4 communications and also
the long battery life. The minuses are the minor intercom audio
loss and the occasional problem with restoring the communication
link. Also, I'd like to have an auxiliary audio input port,
although this is an issue with most of the intercoms we have
As I stated earlier, if the Interphone
F4 intercom didnít exhibit a couple of weak spots, I would really
have to toss a coin to decide the winner between the F4 and
the Sena SMH-10, because everything else on the F4 makes sense
While the F4 may not be the most
fully-featured system on the market, its design philosophy is
similar to previous generation Interphone intercoms -- it focuses
on basic requirements and for the most part, gets them absolutely
F4 Intercom Part 1: Introduction and Features
Product Review Part 2: Interphone
F4 Bluetooth Intercom
Interphone F4 at RevZilla $199.99
Interphone F4 at the wBW Amazon.com Store: $174.99
||Made In: Philippines
Reviewed: January 2010. Part 2: July 2010
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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