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Sena GoPro Backpack GP10 Review

Sena GoPro Backpack Review
Sena GP10 Bluetooth Pack for the GoPro Hero3 Action Camera
by Rick K. and "Burn" for webBikeWorld.com
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Summary

The Sena GP10 Bluetooth Pack for GoPro is a "Backpack" (actually, BacPac) add-on accessory for GoPro Hero3 series action camera.

It allows the user to record voice-over narration in real time from Sena and other brands of Bluetooth intercoms.

The Sena GP10 records in "Ultra HD Voice Recording" mode or "Normal" mode with the Sena intercoms and in Normal mode with non-Sena Bluetooth intercoms.

The sound can be recorded with or without the ambient sound from the GoPro Hero3 action camera; however, the ambient sound (i.e. wind noise) quickly overwhelms the voice that is speaking on the intercom.

The GP10 will also combine voices from other intercom users in your riding group and add the entire conversation as an overlay voice-over on the GoPro video.

The system works very nicely, although we're not sure at this point if it's more of a novelty than a "must have" accessory.

It is very useful, however, for recording the voice-over with the video during riding instructions and observations when followed by an instructor, as is often done in the UK.

Sena Bluetooth Audio Backpack

Background

We first described the Sena GP10 GoPro Backpack in this report from the AIMExpo in Orlando, Florida in November of 2013.

The GP10, which is also known as the Sena GoPro Backpack, uses the GoPro "BacPac" technology, introduced with the GoPro Hero3 (review) in 2012. The GoPro Hero3 series cameras have a bus connector on the back that allows the use of accessories such as the GoPro LCD BacPac (review), which provides a live view during video recording.

GoPro offers an accessory Battery BacPac; a WiFi BacPac and the LCD Touch BacPac also. As far as we know, Sena is the first third-party company to make a BacPac accessory for the GoPro Hero3 series action cameras.

Sena GoPro Backpack Rear View
Midland XTC400VP (R) and the Midland XTC300 on the left.
The Sena GP10 Bluetooth Pack for GoPro

Attaching the Sena Bluetooth Pack for GoPro to the GoPro Hero3 series camera is easy; it attaches just like any other GoPro BacPac accessory. Hook the one end over the back of the GoPro camera and gently push the connector into the bus slot and you're done.

The only difference with the Sena GP10 backpack is the USB jumper that must be connected between the Sena GoPro backpack and the GoPro camera. It sticks out on the side of the assembly by about 7 mm, which means that the standard GoPro waterproof housing cannot be used.

Sena provides a plastic housing surround in the base GP10 kit; the surround will fit on standard GoPro "fork" style mounts, like the GoPro suction cup mount (review) which is quite popular with GoPro owners.

Sena now also makes a waterproof housing for the GP10 (part GP10-A0202, $39.99) with the additional space for the USB jumper.

Once the Sena GoPro Pack is installed on the GoPro Hero3, it's a simple matter of pairing the GP10 to the Sena intercom or other brand of Bluetooth intercom. Press and hold the pairing button on the back of the GP10 and pair with your intercom; a spoken status announcement voice will let you know when the pairing is successful.

Sena GoPro Backpack USB Jumper
The USB jumper for the Sena GP10 GoPro Backpack.
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In the Box

The Sena GP10 comes with the Sena Bluetooth Pack for GoPro, the USB jumper, the plastic housing and a multi-language instruction manual.

Using the Sena GP10 GoPro Backpack

It took several readings of the owner's manual and some trial-and-error before we were able to figure out the Sena GP10 system. It's actually rather easy, but we think that the instructions may not be as clear as they could be.

There are two switches on the back of the GP10. One turns the power for the Sena GP10 on and off and the other switch turns the mic on the GoPro itself on and off; the function of this switch is what confused us, because the instructions can be read to indicate that this switch operates the mic on the GP10, not the GoPro.

In any case, the Sena GP10 can record in one of 4 modes:

  1. Solo voice recording with ambient sound from the GoPro mic (not recommended).
  2. Solo voice recording with no ambient sound from the GoPro.
  3. "Ultra HD Voice Recording" when using Sena intercoms only.
  4. Multiple paired intercom conversations with a reduced ambient sound level from the GoPro camera.

When using non-Sena Bluetooth intercoms, the recording quality is what Sena calls "Normal" mode only. The "Ultra HD Voice Recording Quality" sounds marginally better, but in a blind test, we found that people who viewed the video/audio didn't realize there was a difference until we pointed it out.

One thing is certain though: you don't want to use the solo GP10 when also recording the ambient sound from the GoPro's mic. The wind noise quickly overwhelms the spoken narrative, unless you have attenuated the mic input on the GoPro. We did not try using an accessory mic on the GoPro, so that may help also.

Sena said they will be releasing a firmware update for the GP10 that reduces the sound from the GoPro mic, and that should be a real benefit.

By the way, there's one additional feature: when using the GP10 to record multiple intercom conversations from paired intercoms in your riding group, the GP10 will record in "Normal" mode only.

To Summarize:

Recommendations for Best Performance:

Sena Bluetooth Audio Backpack Housing
GoPro Hero3 Black Edition with the Sena GoPro Backpack on the GoPro "fork" suction cup mount.
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Sena GoPro Backpack Features and Ride Sample Video

Here's a quick video (below) showing the features of the Sena GP10 GoPro Backpack and a couple of quick on-road samples, using the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition (review) on the BMW C 650 GT scooter (blog).

Note that in the first on-road sample, you can't hear the speaker's voice until the scooter stops. But the narrative with the GoPro mic turned off is excellent.

The first few times we tried the GP10, we couldn't get the "Ultra HD Voice Recording" to work. It's activated by pressing the pairing button once on the back of the Sena GP10. We had to reboot the GoPro by removing and then reinstalling the battery, then after a couple of tries, the Ultra HD quality sound worked and continues to function normally, so we're not sure what happened.

We have had various problems with this particular GoPro Hero3 Black Edition in the past; it locks up occasionally and has to be reset by removing and reinstalling the battery. So we're inclined to think that our problems had something to do with the GoPro camera and not the Sena GP10.

wBW Vimeo Pro Video: Sena GoPro Backpack Features and Samples
Conclusion

The Sena GP10 GoPro Backpack works well and it provides a unique capability to the GoPro Hero3 series action cameras. However, we wonder if its utility will become limited once the initial novelty wears off.

If you need real-time narrative recording, the Sena GP10 Bluetooth Pack is the only way to go. Just remember that if you're at all serious about recording video -- on you motorcycle or wherever else the action camera is employed -- consider that in addition to the $100 cost of the GP10 and an additional $40 for the waterproof housing, you'll also need a copy of a video editing application.

We can highly recommend Adobe Premiere Elements 12.0 ($69.20) as an easy-to-use editor, which will allow you to cut and edit video, add sound overlays, save in various formats and more. The Sena GP10 does not eliminate the need for a video editing application that will allow you to overlay voice, sound and music. The addition of the GP10 allows you to obtain "in the moment" real-time narration, but...you have to ask yourself if you really need it?

Don't forget that more than just 2-3 minutes of video is usually boring as heck to viewers on YouTube or Vimeo or other sharing services. Unless there's a very unusual circumstance, you will not want to record more video than that, even with your (raw and unedited) narrative, no matter how clever it might be.

One application where the Sena GP10 should be very useful, however, is for instructional use. For example, the Advanced Motorcycle Training type courses, where recording video and live narrative is used by motorcycle riding instructors in the UK. This type of training is extremely valuable; it involves having an experienced riding instructor follow you while you ride your motorcycle.

You must narrate what you're doing whilst your riding, all the while describing what you see, what you're doing on the bike, the road environment around you and what actions you will take. Having to think about and verbalize your actions is enormously helpful in learning how to improve your riding skills -- see the video in this webBikeWorld Quick Look of the Advanced Motorcycle Training course for an idea of how this works.

In the past, recording voice and video involved lots of cables and extra devices; we're sure the training instructors will absolutely love the new Sena GP10 Bluetooth Pack for GoPro. If you have any other ideas on where live narration will be useful, please send them along.

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wBW Review: Sena GoPro Backpack GP10
Manufacturer: Sena Bluetooth List Price: $99.99
Colors: Black Made In: Korea
Review Date: April 2014
Note: Item was provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.

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!

Your Comments and Feedback

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Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details).  Comments may be edited for clarity prior to publication.

From "S.D." (June 2014): "Just wanted to say that it was a good review. There are a couple of things that I think you might want to add or at least consider pointing out if they are not in the review:

1.) Will charging the Sena Go Pro Audio Bluetooth pack also charge the camera? There are many who run dedicated power to these cameras so that they can film for longer than the little battery will hold out for.

2.) Will the other connected Bluetooth audio (music or GPS) audio get recorded through this to the GoPro video?

3.) Can you place anything over the Sena internal mic to cut down on wind noise?

4.) You put on your video that there is a waterproof case option, Does it have a skeleton back?

Thanks for the review."

Editor's Reply:  1. The battery in the GoPro Audio Pack is separate from the camera and can be charged separately. If it's on the camera, both the Sena Audio Pack and the GoPro will be charged.

2. When you're on the intercom, you don't hear music, the background music is turned off, so it's not recorded. Currently, the A2DP is disabled if the headset is connected with GoPro pack. If you turn off the GoPro pack, then the music connection is ON, which means you cannot record it also. Sena said they learned from owners that there is a desire to record music as well, and they will try to find a solution with a firmware upgrade.

3. Some owners have reported using a piece of foam to cover the mic port on motorcycle video cameras for wind noise reduction.

4. The back wouldn't be waterproof if it was the skeleton type.


From "H.S." (April 2014): "Thanks for your review -- as usual it was thorough and informative. But your comment "If you need real-time narrative recording, the Sena GP10 Bluetooth Pack is the only way to go." may not be entirely accurate.

For (considerably) less money, you can record in real time with the TCL SVC200 camera (known as the Coleman Conquest or the Midland XTC in North America which has a novel microphone in jack that can be used with a remote condenser mike under the helmet. Very simple and very effective.

By the way, I have no affiliation with any of the above manufactures, except that I own a Coleman Conquest. The quality of the images, BTW, are excellent, as is the remote control, helmet mount and included 30m waterproof cover. Well worth a review;)"

Editor's Reply: The "...only way to go" comment was meant figuratively, not literally. But the Sena Backpack is wireless, while some of the other video cameras we've reviewed do have a wired mic input that can be used to record narrative, but the wiring makes it a more difficult proposition.

By the way, we have reviewed the Midland XTC100 (review), the Midland XTC300 (review) and the Midland XTC400VP (review), all excellent action cameras.

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