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Sena SPH10H-FM Review

Sena SPH10H-FM Review
An Updated Half-Helmet Intercom
by H.B.C. for webBikeWorld.com
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Summary

The Sena SPH10H-FM is a Bluetooth 3.0 intercom system for half helmets.

It consists of two large triangular-shaped padded ear pieces that fit the typical chin strap of a half helmet design.

Both ear pieces have speakers while the left side contains the boom mic and the receiver for the intercom module.

Snap on the included (and slightly tweaked) Sena SMH5-FM intercom module (review) and you're in business.

The SPH10H-FM has the same basic features as the popular SMH5-FM but with some SPH-family additions. 

Of course, you get the ability to have intercom conversations with your passenger or bike-to-bike.

It also provides hands-free phone calls, listening to stereo music from a Bluetooth compatible device or connecting with a Bluetooth compatible GPS system.

And the SPH-10H-FM allows full duplex conversations and/or music sharing with another Sena Bluetooth intercom system.

And that's not all: you can use the Sena "Universal Intercom" function to connect with other brands of Bluetooth intercoms.

The Sena SPH Family

The Sena SHP10H-FM is a timely and very worthy update to Sena’s original SPH10 half helmet intercom that provides a viable solution for half helmet users.

The original SPH10 is still available.

It's a "personal" Bluetooth intercom headset that was really designed for off-bike adventures, like hiking, rock climbing, instructional use or anywhere you need a Bluetooth intercom system that doesn't require a helmet.

Then there is the original SPH10H headset.

The "H" signifies that this is a helmet intercom system and it includes the same electronics as the SPH10 personal headset, but the "H" designator means that it was designed to be used with a half helmet.

The SPH10H-FM is a further evolution of the SPH series; it uses the Sena SMH5-FM intercom (review) module to replace the dedicated SPH10 intercom electronics.

This results in a far more adaptable motorcycle Bluetooth intercom headset with enhanced functionality and performance.

Using the SMH5-FM intercom module as the SPH10H-FM's "brains" provides enhanced Bluetooth 3.0 performance for faster pairing and audio switching.

It also has an improved intercom range up to and beyond 700 meters (765) yards with four-way intercom support

And the "FM" suffix identifies a much appreciated integrated FM radio tuner, not available on the original SPH10.

Sena SPH10H-FM Intercom Headsets
Sena SPH10H-FM system uses the Sena SMH5-FM intercom module.
Differences Between the SPH Series Intercoms

Just a quick background, the Sena SPH is really more of a "personal use" headset that can (sort of) be used with a half helmet.

It's also marketed as an active outdoor communication system because the headset is similar to an over-the-ears speaker system but with a built-in intercom and boom mic.

The now-discontinued Sena SPH10H was the SPH10 but with soft triangular-shaped ear pads and speakers.

The ear pads were designed to fit inside of the typical chin strap system on a half helmet. The chin strap on the half helmet holds the ear pads and speakers tight to the ears.

The new Sena SPH10H-FM is an update to the SPH10H in that it uses the soft ear pads with speakers.

But instead of having its own intercom electronics, it uses the popular Sena SMH5-FM intercom module, which snaps on to a special receiver on the outside of the left ear pad.

Recent SPH10H-FM Firmware

The most recent version 5.1 firmware update for the SPH10H-FM adds several new features, including:

And we won’t forget one of the best things about Sena firmware, its Selective Profile Pairing capability.

Fitting an intercom to a half helmet or a "shorty" helmets can be difficult, but Sena wanted a viable solution and not just a compromise and the SPH10H-FM update goes a long way in providing it.

Sena SPH10H-FM Intercom Left Side
The Sena SMH5-FM module connects to the outside of the SPH10H-FM half-helmet intercom system.
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Background

Like the original SPH10H Half Helmet headset, the new SPH10H-FM is a tailored solution designed specifically for half helmets.

Many manufacturers make allowances for speaker fitment in some of their half helmets.

For example, UClear was one of the first to provide a custom solution with their HBC120 Snow kit that was adaptable with the inclusion of custom ear-pads and an extension cord for the Bluetooth module.

But Sena saw the need for a specific system that could be fitted directly into or with some adaptation mounted on half helmets or even a hybrid design like the Scorpion EXO-C110 helmet.

And while the original SPH10H was functional and fitted many different half helmets, it was far less refined than other Sena systems, due to its "one off" special intercom electronics.

Sena updated the design in a clever fashion, by using the SMH5-FM intercom module as the new "brains" of the system.

This has worked, as the current SPH10H-FM is both popular and gaining longevity of sorts within the Sena Bluetooth intercom lineup.

The SPH10H-FM has Bluetooth 3.0 and an intercom range of up to 700 meters (760 yards) and beyond (under the right conditions).

It also provides updated capabilities comparable to other modern Bluetooth motorcycle intercom systems.

For example, this includes four-way conferencing with the appropriate pairings completed and a three-way conference capability with a caller and intercom participant.

A multipoint capability provides simultaneous support for two mobile phones.

And the FM tuner with RDS AF as featured on the Sena SMH5-FM (review) adds another audio feature, which (sort of) offsets the lack of an external stereo input, noted in our original SMH5 and SMH5-FM reviews.

Since its release, the SPH10H-FM systems continues to benefit from iterative Sena firmware upgrades that have provided various tweaks and bug fixes. In addition, enhancements like Universal Intercom and Music Sharing have been added.

And the Sena Selective Profile Pairing feature allows hands-free pairing with a mobile phone or pairing with an MP3 player for A2DP stereo for music.

All of the instructions are included in the Sena SPH10H-FM owner's manual (.pdf).

Audio from various sources has excellent sound quality from the relatively large SPH10H-FM speakers, appreciating that the half helmet design and the motorcycle type (and riding environment) will always have an impact.

The SPH10H-FM also includes the famous Sena Jog Dial and a smaller phone control button as the control system, along with voice prompts to keep the user on the right track.

Bottom line, if you need a Bluetooth intercom system for a half helmet, there isn’t much to complain about regarding function and performance of the SPH10H-FM.

And that holds even when it's compared to other, newer or even more expensive Bluetooth motorcycle intercom systems.

Sena SMH5-FM Intercom Module
Close-up of the SMH5-FM intercom module on the SPH10H-FM.
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Half Helmets and the Sena SPH10H-FM

The original SPH10H had lots of potential but kind of a quirky original form that didn't quite fit with the rest of the Sena intercom lineup.

The resized single ear pad inserts on the SPH10H-FM are smaller, softer and more comfortable and they're also easier to fit into a large variety of half helmet types.

A synthetic leather-like material on the outside of the ear pads provides a nicely finished look.

The right side insert houses just a removable speaker, while a longer speaker wire on that side can be hidden under the helmet liner.

The left side ear piece features the connector for the SMH5-FM intercom module, along with the removable boom microphone and the second speaker.

Where the original microphone boom on the SPH10H was 7.5 cm (2.9 inches) long, the new boom on the SPH10H-FM is 11.5 cm long (4.52 inches), placing the microphone directly in front of the mouth rather than on the left side.

In a stroke of brilliance and with a nod to standardization, the popular SMH5-FM Bluetooth intercom module is now used in the SPH10H-FM rather than the previous SPH-only electronics.

It mounts similar to a standard SMH5-FM helmet headset with a quick-release multi-pin connector that is housed in a slot on the outside of the left ear pad.

Like the standard SMH5-FM system, the intercom module is removable.

This is an excellent feature that helps to facilitate installation and removal of the left side pad while reducing overall flexing (or breaking) of the small helmet liner insert tabs that help to hold the ear pad on to the half helmet.

With the side pieces installed so the speakers are aligned with the ears, the heavy-duty SPH10H-FM speakers really pump out the audio through the sponge-cushioned padding.

Remember, however, that many half helmet wearers are riding cruisers and noise levels may dramatically affect the SPH10H-FM sound volume.

Sena SPH10H-FM Speaker
Lined padded ear flap holds the removable speaker.
Wearing the SPH10H-FM

I have now installed and used the SPH10H-FM on a wide variety of shorty-style helmets and similar variants.

Those include a couple of half helmet "hybrid" types and the system is a perfectly acceptable Bluetooth intercom solution for that type of helmet.

A common observation to be made regarding the SPH10H-FM (and its predecessor) regards fitment in half helmets.

The side piece tabs at the top of each ear pad are both a positive and negative component, because they don’t work in all helmets and they are also a bit fragile.

For example, A ZOX half helmet is a good candidate for the side pads of the SPH10H-FM, although getting the insert tabs in place requires a bit of care so as to not break them.

The pad inserts fit and work well with this type of helmet.

Fitment is less satisfactory in something like the Scorpion EXO-C110 that I used just to see how adaptable the side pads would or could be.

The pads can be mounted and will stay in place in the EXO-C110, but alignment isn’t perfect so the speaker placement is a bit off.

However, the Scorpion EXO-C110 comes with two hardened semi-detachable side pieces for use during colder weather.

These side pieces can also be used for an intercom headset, as there are small pockets stitched on the inside of each piece for speakers.

The SPH10H-FM design with its new modular layout provides the means to fit the Scorpion helmet, however.

The right-side speaker from the SPH10H-FM can be detached and inserted into the pocket in the Scorpion EXO-C110 side piece.

This creates a near-perfect speaker placement that provides a much better audio environment, along with some protection as well for the wearer.

However, the left side of the SPH10H-FM is less accommodating.

That's because the semi-permanent mounting for the speaker and the replaceable microphone assembly, along with the base for the SMH5-FM intercom module, are difficult to mount on the left Scorpion insert.

But an enterprising individual could surely make this work without a lot of effort.

However, for many helmets, a better mounting solution or option would be a top edge mount and adhesive tabs for mounting to the almost universal flat strap yoke layout used on shorty helmet.

And with the passage of time, more helmet manufacturers have changed their yoke and side pad design and layout to better accommodate personal headsets or motorcycle Bluetooth communications systems.

In general, the SPH10H-FM should fit most standard half-helmet designs but if you own one of the newer half helmet variants with non-standard features, check first to make sure the SPH10H-FM will fit.

Sena SPH10H-FM Installed on Scorpion EXO-C110 Helmet Close-up
Sena SPH10H-FM half-helmet intercom on the Scorpion EXO-C110 helmet.
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SPH10H-FM Performance

With our shorty helmets hosting a set of the SPH10H-FM systems, we used the usual variety of peripheral devices to reproduce the standard webBikeWorld evaluation suite conducted with all Bluetooth helmet intercom systems.

As expected, the peripherals paired with the SPH10H-FM and functioned without fail.

And the Selective Profile Pairing function is a favourite capability that I wish other manufacturers would provide.

Admittedly, the dual channel approach used with the Sena 20S (review) has Selective Profile Pairing as well.

And the Cardo scala rider Q1 and Q3 (review) and Cardo Packtalk (review) systems provide as much flexibility in some ways.

In an urban environment or at slower speeds (80 to 90 kph or 50 to 55 mph) the SPH10H-FM system works well, even considering the increased noise levels due to the face and sides of the head being quite exposed.

Air flow through and around the side pieces of the helmet generates a lot of noise, however.

Cranking up the volume to 75 to 80 percent (or perhaps higher) works for listening to streamed audio, but ambient noise can affect this.

Using the new FM radio feature remains a viable option for listening, although on average the stereo quality isn't comparable with Bluetooth streaming.

Highway speed runs confirmed that without a quieter riding environment (i.e., a windscreen or full fairing), audibility is the main issue with the SPH10H-FM.

The sound can be heard, but it isn’t very good and at higher speeds is simply overcome by noise.

Using the SPH10H-FM systems when riding a fully-faired or large touring-style windscreen-equipped motorcycle, with their quieter cockpit environments, results in a vast improvement -- not perfect, but acceptable.

Sena SPH10H Half-Helmet Intercom
The original Sena SPH10H half-helmet intercom.
Sena SPH10H-FM Installed on Scorpion EXO-C110 Helmet
The updated Sena SPH10H-FM intercom. Note boom mic length difference.
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More Details on the SPH10H-FM

(Rick K.) I asked Sena a few questions about the differences between the SPH10H-FM and the SMH5-FM:

Q. The difference between the original SPH10 and the SPH10H-FM is that the latter uses the SMH5-FM intercom module, correct?

A. Yes. The module is the same design with a black button instead of the yellow button from the SMH5-FM. In addition, the SPH10H-FM has features that the SPH10 does not and vice versa:

Q. If someone already owned an SMH5-FH, would it be possible to buy just the head piece/ear pads from the SPH10H-FM and connect an SMH5-FM to it?

A. If someone owns a SMH5-FM and wants to convert it so that they can use with it a half helmet, they can purchase the ear pads for the SPH10H-FM separately. There is an ear pad accessory to fit it both.

Q. Are there any other differences between the SMH5-FM and the intercom module that comes with the SPH10H-FM?

A. The difference between the SMH5-FM and the SPH10H-FM are the Bluetooth features such as:

Conclusion

The Sena SPH10H-FM Bluetooth intercom system is a well-executed and fully functional option for fitment in many "shorty" or half helmet designs.

Sena was relatively quick in revising the original SPH10H.

The result is a much-improved and far more functional system, with many of the original issues and shortfalls addressed by using the SMH5-FM module, updating the side insert pieces and elongating the microphone boom.

And since the original release of the updated SPH10H-FM, Sena has released several other intercom systems as well and some of them would or should be good candidates for shorty, half or hybrid helmets.

However, the Sena SPH10H-FM half helmet system delivers the goods in providing a viable solution for many motorcyclists.

More webBikeWorld Sena Intercom Reviews

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wBW Review: Sena SPH10H-FM
Manufacturer: Sena Technologies
List Price (2016): $219.95
Colors: Black
Made In: Korea
Sizes: N N/A
Review Date: April 2016
NOTE: The webBikeWorld evaluators wear properly fitted ear plugs for intercom evaluations. This is reflected in the opinions on sound quality and speaker volume. Your experience may differ. Always protect your hearing when riding a motorcycle (more).

Note: Item provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.

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Note: For informational use only. All material and photographs are Copyright © webWorld International, LLC since 2000. All rights reserved. See the webBikeWorld® Site Info page. Product specifications, features and details may change or differ from our descriptions. Always check before purchasing. Read the Terms and Conditions!

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