The wBW Motorcycle Bluetooth Intercom Page
When webBikeWorld was first started in 2000, motorcycle intercom systems were clumsy wired beasts. Bluetooth intercom systems started to appear a few years later and the first systems were complicated to use and had very poor sound quality and range. But the industry has rapidly evolved and now there are many different Bluetooth intercom systems available, from the simple Sena SMH5 (review) to the more complex Cardo Scala Rider G9 (review).
The G9 even has its own online community for planning rides with other G9 owners and for downloading firmware updates. Motorcyclists can also purchase Bluetooth adapters or transmitters (more below) and Bluetooth “hubs”, like the Sena SR10 (review), which connects two-way (FRS/GMRS) radios into the Bluetooth intercom system for very long-range communications with multiple riders.
Check out our full Motorcycle Intercom Reviews page to see the full index of our motorcycle intercom reviews. Our readers have also found our Motorcycle Bluetooth Intercom Compatibility test useful so check that one out too.
What is Bluetooth?
For more information, read the wBW article The Future of Motorcycle Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a short-range wireless communications technology and standard for secure communications.
“The key features of Bluetooth technology are robustness, low power, and low cost.
The Bluetooth specification defines a uniform structure for a wide range of devices to connect and communicate with each other”, according to the Bluetooth Interest Group.
Stereo Bluetooth: Allows full stereo connectivity from connected devices like a GPS system, MP3 player, iPod, etc.
Most modern motorcycle Bluetooth intercom systems are stereo and also include AVRCP capability, which provides a standard interface to control devices, such as forward/back and track select for MP3 players.
A2DP, or “Advanced Audio Distribution Profile”, standardizes the audio stream in mono or stereo to allow a connection via Bluetooth.
Shopping Now? We Recommend:
webBikeWorld has worked closely with RevZilla over the years to provide our testers with products to review. In addition to being a great site to shop from, they’re also a great partner. Both Amazon and Revzilla have a big selection of intercom manufacturers.
Bluetooth Adapters and Bluetooth Transmitters
A Bluetooth adapter is also known as a Bluetooth transmitter.
This device connects to the headphone output port on an MP3 player, radio or other device and streams the data to your Bluetooth headset.
See the recent wBW Bluetooth Adapters Reviewcomparing three different Bluetooth transmitters for motorcycle use.
Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmets
Some motorcycle helmets have the capability of adding a Bluetooth communications system, but there are pros and cons.
The system may integrate nicely with the helmet, but the owner is then committed to that system and dependent on the helmet manufacturer for updates and bug fixes.
One advantage of a Bluetooth intercom accessory system is that it can be added to almost any helmet and moved to another helmet if necessary, plus these are usually made by dedicated Bluetooth electronics manufacturers who provide regular firmware updates.
The disadvantage is the sometimes clumsy mounting system.
The Future of Motorcycle Bluetooth Intercom Systems
More in the webBikeWorld Report: The Future of Motorcycle Bluetooth
Bluetooth technology has come a long way since we first started reviewing motorcycle intercoms nearly 10 years ago. But in general, motorcycle intercoms could still be made more “user-friendly”, in our opinion.
While pairing is now much easier than the “cross your fingers and hope for the best” methods available when we first started reviewing these systems, the intercoms have become more complex, with various combinations of button pushes or dial twisting needed for some of the functions.
The instructions provided with many of the Bluetooth intercoms we’ve reviewed are better than they were back in 2005 or so, but there isn’t much standardization between brands. It would be nice to further exploit Bluetooth functionality to separate the control system from the headset, for example.
We can imagine a standardized Bluetooth control system implemented as part of the motorcycle’s instrumentation, with handlebar controls.
An LCD panel could display the functions for the rider to select, while the music, GPS instructions, telephone conversation and yes — actual conversation with a pillion (!) is streamed to the microphone and speaker headset, with a tiny receiver built in.
Perhaps this is the next generation of motorcycle intercom systems?
Are Different Brands of Bluetooth Intercoms Interoperable?
This question often arises when discussing Bluetooth intercoms. The short answer in 2006 is no. But this is now common for motorcycle intercoms post-2014. For the longer answer, HBC responds:
There is a growing awareness of the functionality and capabilities of systems vis-à-vis unique and common user requirements.
Some developers and manufacturers understand the larger spectrum of “communicating” and some don’t…which is why we still have a wide choice of single and multi-purpose systems available — not a bad thing, just an observation on a pretty healthy and competitive market.
To the best of my knowledge, Bluetooth communications between brands is not possible, for many reasons, mainly marketing and sales based, as the technology used in most systems is not the roadblock.
At this point in time, the solution is to find a system that supports the use of common radio system (FRS/GMRS or CB or ??) between riders and/or passengers.
This option, while entailing some possible additional investment in money and usually time to configure everything, is viable and is used by many riders for group communications.
The trick here is to find a system that really can support the use of a commercial standard common radio.
It is relatively easy to implement support for a radio via Bluetooth or as a wired peripheral, but accommodating the individual switching and transmission timings of so many different radios is the hard part.
Any company wanting to engineer in or support use of a common radio needs to understand the personal communications parameters and requirements of the respective market areas.
Building and qualifying a small set of interface cables to serve a diverse range of radio sets is not a trivial thing, especially when individual models built by the same manufacturer use different specifications for switching, wiring, etc.
But with so many of the current leading systems implementing an interface or actually offering up the necessary components (Midland is one example) and given that so many coming-to-market systems have this feature engineered in, there are more and more options all the time.
But, on the downside, many of the systems have not yet fully developed specific or generic cables needed for the North American market, something that most of the major wired system vendors have already dealt with.
As I continue to research this issue, I should have a much better understanding of if and how well the current group of Bluetooth communications systems support a common radio capability and hopefully be in the position to provide further insight into this known and growing requirement.
There is an alternative, although it still involves the use of a common radio or the walkie-talkie feature of mobile phones along with a headset or ear-piece and microphone. I have used this on occasion using a bone conductive headset (in-ear speakers and bone-microphone) and this works well…a throat mike is even better.
And believe it or not, coordinated hand signals still works well and the cost is reasonable. But, being able to chat, provide road and condition alerts to the rest of the group and coordinate everything is just so much easier, and safer with a communications system, rider to riders and riders to passengers.
Note on the Obsolete Motorola Wireless Helmet Headset HS830: We still get questions on this system. which was one of the very first Bluetooth intercom systems for motorcycle use.
It has long since been superseded by modern Bluetooth intercom systems and Motorola is no longer producing the HS830, which is now a collector’s item!
Publication Date: December 2006
Owner Comments and Feedback
They are here to stay, and if you use a GPS system, they are in principle necessary. My experience of today’s headsets is that they are big and clumsy as they sit outside the helmet, and thus results in a high wind noise when you drive over 70 km/h (43 mph). For me it’s very disturbing.
Likewise, they are difficult to handle with thick gloves, and of course, because it is where it is, have a non-existent oversight. You have to fumble for the correct button.
For my part, I wish that there was basically a clean headset without a lot of features; it would keep them in size. So integrated in the helmet as possible.
The feature could be sitting in a “multi-unit” with a touch panel, mounted on the handlebar or the like. Then you have the opportunity to see what you press. The ultimate multi-panel can / could contain GPS, mobile phone and MP3 player. (Etc., etc. only your imagination say stop).
Smartphones are basically there, but not made for motorcycles, and the GPS features in them are not that developed yet.”
From “S.K.” (August 2011): “I just thought I’d give you a heads-up about the B+Comm communicator. (No, I’m not associated with the company, just a happy user).
Although most of the site is in Japanese, there is enough English there to navigate (on the website).
My wife and I have been using this unit for some time now, and find that once you figure it out, it’s a very nice device! Stereo speakers with good sound quality, choice of boom mic or wire for full face, (both are included with each unit) easy to use volume control, even with winter gloves, and a very simple and effective spring wire mount (or Velcro if desired).
It’s full duplex so no VOX waiting time, pairs easily, and 10-12 hour battery life. Recharges in 2-3 hours with included two-unit charger. It can pair with several other units, with my iPhone for music, with GPS, etc… any Bluetooth devices. The main unit unplugs from the speakers for easy charging.
To date, the only negative that we’ve seen is that when using the boom mic, if you move it back and forth a lot putting on and taking off your helmet, the mic may unplug itself. On multi day rides my wife wraps a strip of plastic tape over the connector to prevent problems. Having used quite a few different communicators over the years, this one is tops on my list.”
From “C.G.” (4/10): “Thanks for the generally great reviews. I’ve been monitoring them very carefully, trying to decide upon a Bluetooth intercom.
My wish is to find an easy, reliable unit for myself and my wife to share on one bike. Our needs are simple: a good intercom and the ability to share music from a single MP3 player without any cords.
In the XBi review you specifically mention that that unit will “share” stereo music. However, in the subsequent reviews I’ve read for the Sena SMH10 and the Cardo Scala Rider G4 units, the question of “sharing” of music is left out.
I couldn’t be sure if this was because these units couldn’t do that, or if it was simply a question that was overlooked.
I’ve since emailed Sena and found that their unit can’t “share”, and I’ve emailed Cardo and expect to find the same from them.
I assumed, with my limited understanding of Bluetooth, that even if a system couldn’t “stream” music from the rider’s to the pillion’s unit, like the XBi, that sharing could still be simulated by simply pairing each unit directly to the MP3. But I now understand (I think) that 2 Bluetooth units can’t simultaneously connect to the same MP3.
I’d suggest that this feature is a fairly standard desire for people looking into 2-up intercoms who want music capability. And as such, it would be really helpful going forward for that to be a standard question to answer in your reviews, in very unambiguous terms .
I’m a bit dumbfounded that manufacturers don’t see this as a critical feature and for intercom units. What does one do with such units?
Draw for straws each time you start the bike for who gets to listen to the music?
Anyhow, just a suggestion.
FYI, one of the things I also found from the Sena rep. was that they’re expecting to offer a headset option for the SMH10 within a month, that will allow connection of 3rd party in-ear earbuds (Again, I don’t understand why this isn’t a standard option, since it’s so simple to accomplish?)
Thanks for your great reviews, they’re invaluable.”
HBC’s Reply: Question: “My wish is to find an easy, reliable unit for myself and my wife to share on one bike. Our needs are simple: a good intercom and the ability to share music from a single MP3 player without any cords.
In the XBi review you specifically mention that that unit will “share” stereo music. However, in the subsequent reviews I’ve read for the Sena and the G4 units, the question of “sharing” of music is left out.
I couldn’t be sure if this was because these units couldn’t do that, or if it was simply a question that was overlooked.”
Answer: The Chatterbox XBi system does a really good job of sharing music, in stereo, between two paired units. This is a feature or capability that others should or will most likely emulate going forward.
Newer Bluetooth versions provide significant enhancements – capabilities, speed and power consumption, but in essence, the one to one relationship is still dominant. It is this feature or limitation (depending on your view) that is specifically relevant to your situation.
In essence a Bluetooth network, also known as a ‘piconet’ includes up to eight devices in a ‘wireless user group’, with one device assigned as the master, although the devices can switch roles, as negotiated or provided for.
The general rule is that data can only be transferred on a one to one basis, ie – master to one other device. Broadcasting (transmitting from the master to multiple devices) is possible, but notidely used (see below).
Bluetooth version 2.1 or 2.1 + EDR (July 2007) is used for the newest systems on the market and while there are significant enhancements, the ability to have one Bluetooth device ‘broadcast’ to multiple devices is always one of them.
The Editor asked me about ‘multi-point connections’, as this feature would seem to be a possible solution to the issue that you, and so many others, would like to have resolved.
While the overall multi-point connection capability is complex, in its simplest implementation the receiver (headset) can have two simultaneous connections or pairings – a feature found in newer motorcycle communications systems.
But for most implementations, the one to one principle still applies, so only one audio link can be open at a time.
My Sony Vaio on the other hand has a fuller implementation of the capability, but I am still playing with this as it’s a great feature that is not yet being fully exploited.
Whether this capability will be more fully exploited for Bluetooth headsets or communications systems remains to be seen.
An alternative solution, albeit more complex, is to use a hybrid system, like the Biker Com.
This system provides a control module for interfacing Bluetooth or wired devices, with discrete wireless links enabled to provide communications between the control module, the rider and the passenger.
AKE also has a small control module that allows multiple peripherals to be connected and the audio shared. I cannot (yet) confirm if the two systems identified use discrete wireless channels for the rider and passenger or if ‘broadcasting’ is used for some audio streaming.
Given the fundamental limitations of Bluetooth and to keep costs down, other manufacturers are pursuing a control module or hybrid approach.
But by the same token, newer systems are also using multi-channel Bluetooth and wireless chip technologies to provide more diverse solutions.
Also, here is some additional information:
In this instance if the user wants to have a single MP3 player (Bluetooth enabled onboard or provided via a Bluetooth adapter), the simplest and typically available solution is to use a headset system that allows stereo audio sharing, like the XBi.
The stereo audio broadcasting feature is key to this discussion. In reality the MP3 or its host Bluetooth Adapter is not the broadcast venue, its actually the master unit in a pair of compatible Bluetooth helmet systems.
As illustrated by the Chatterbox XBi system, the source stereo audio stream is pushed from the transmitter (wired MP3 player or via Bluetooth Adapter) to the master receiver unit, and as initiated, the stream is then redirected (audio broadcast) to a second paired system.
When this happens, and depending on the number of channels available between the master and second device, typically the duplex intercom capability will be lost or degraded, as these channels will become the carrier for the stereo audio shared between two modules.
Unless the system has multiple channels available for communication and audio, the shared audio needs to be stopped by intervention to allow an intercom session. Once the intercom session is done, audio sharing can be resumed.
Some newer Bluetooth systems have dual or multi-channel Master capabilities, allowing management of two or more streams simultaneously, which can or may bring us closer to a solution.
While I suspect the Biker Com was or is now using this feature, only the AKE BlueCom 102 Pocket Repeater specifically identifies this capability, but I have not yet had a chance to evaluate this product, unfortunately.
Unless the system has multiple wireless channels available for this type of streaming, the intercom will not be functional while the stereo audio stream is being ‘shared’.
So unless the user wants to get a hybrid system of sorts, I think the Xbi system is the most expedient option as the requirements seem pretty simple.”
From “B.B.” (5/09): “I own a Nolan N102 with N-Com and I find it works really well. I have coupled it directly to my cell phone with no problems and I also use it with my Tom-Tom Rider GPS.
The beauty of this system is I couple the N-Com to the GPS and the GPS to the Cell phone.
The Tom-Tom has a cell phone page where you can upload the directory of the cell phone into the GPS and then make calls from the directory from the GPS (but only while stationary).
The Tom-Tom will not allow you to do anything while moving except cancel a route, find the nearest gas station or answer or reject an incoming phone call).
You can also pair two helmets together for intercom. The N-Com has provision for a cable connection for auxiliary input, e.g. iPod etc, and also for cable intercom if desired.
I find the instructions to be straightforward and the system easy to use.”
From “M.D.” (4/09): “After reading your product reviews on the IMC Bluetooth and wiRevo products I am thoroughly lost. I own a Zumo 550, am not interested in cell phone calls while riding, am not really interested in talking to my passenger or another bike.
What I want is great stereo audio out of the Zumo, plus the turn by turn instructions from the Zumo and into my helmet via bluetooth. What should I purchase to get this done? Any advice would really help.”
HBC’s Response: With the zumo 550, only the wired output jack will provide stereo audio, as the Bluetooth stream is mono only, although the pending zumo 660 will rectify this in providing Bluetooth that supports the A2DP (stereo) protocol).
Your requirements are basic and for about sixty percent of my riding time, the same.
To get good stereo audio out of the zumo, you will need a good A2DP compatible Bluetooth adapter (BTA) – either of the IMC Camos BTAs used as part of the Camos BTS 300 evaluation would do the job. Many other BTAs on the market are compatible as well.
However, the zumo is not as ‘universal’ as some other devices in Bluetooth operations, so it is very important to check compatibility and proper function first.
BTAs can range in price from well under $100 to well over 100 depending on location and unit – their versatility however makes them a good deal, especially over the long term.
Along with the wealth of information provided on wBW, there are lots of other rider or user forums that will provide additional information regarding compatible Bluetooth devices that work with the zumo…the list is pretty extensive actually.
It is important to use an adapter that has Bluetooth 2.0 or 2.1+ or later – this will get you a very good A2DP (stereo) stream to your headset and provides other advantages, such as faster connectivity, more stable stream and power efficiencies.”
Editor’s Note: HBC is planning an article on recommended solutions for various intercom uses, such as rider-to-rider, rider-to-pillion, bike-to-bike and listening to GPS and music.
From “P” (4/09): “Hi, ( live in Southern California). Just got a new DL650. This wild Bluetooth helmet to radio thing started with the first ham radios with built in Bluetooth, made by Yaesu called an FTM10SR.
I installed it on my 07 DRZ400, paired it to an BlueAnt Interphone (I tried several helmet BT systems but the Interphone worked the best).
The whole thing took me about 3 months to get dialed in due to poor support from Yaesu. The radio had a remote tiny handlebar mounted waterproof head, VHF/UHF/AM/FM entire police-fire scanner, and a plug in for a mp3.
It was low power,10 Watts VHF, 7 Watts UHF, but I was able to make over 100 mile contacts ham to ham without repeaters (oh yeah, did I say these ham rigs are modifiable for FRS/GMRS?).
I still own it. There are radios out there that can go on a bike that pump some power out and don’t need a license for (in the U.S.).
For those riders that want the following:
Here is what I did with the new bike and new off-the-shelf system integration for 50 Watts VHF and 35 Watts UHF. It has a remote head on the dash; the body of the radio is under the seat and the antenna is on the back of the bike.
Of course I use an Interphone abd a Chatterbox XBI. Need to be able to talk/listen to ham/FRS/GMRS/MURS, get GPS instructions, listen to mp3 and have intercom.
But all this can be done with the XBI; I just like the way the Interphone sounds when it transmits audio out of the radio. Interested in the least?
New Bluetooth product out there boys and girls.
New long range communication for those that really want to reach out and touch someone, and yes, unfortunately it will work with CB radios (that’s a bad word around amateur radio operators ha ha ha!).
I am not totally nuts. Was medically retired from the police dept, am 43 with a 14 year old kid,a nd have a workbench full of Bluetooth adapters and such.
I am currently attempting to use a Jabra a210 generic 20 buck BT transceiver and mate it to one of my handhelds so my kid will have something on her quad. I got a couple BT helmet sets lying around……
OK, I started with a quad band (10 meters, 6meters, 2meters, 70cm),w hich most likely doesn’t mean much to you.
It’s called a Yaesu FT8900R. Suffice it to say that at times, I will be able to talk worldwide from my bike, along with the VHF/UHF. The radio has a remote head separated by a cable to the main body of the radio, which I stashed under the seat.
The next really cool part is the “Talksafe” outboard Bluetooth box. About the size of a pack of smokes. You feed it 12 Volts, plug one of its cables into the MIC jack of your radio, the other cable coming out of it goes to the external speaker jack of your whatever radio, and boom, instant Bluetooth radio.
Pair it up with most of the helmet systems (except the Blutek built-in piece of *&^% radio), put a momentary switch or what we call a PTT on the handlebars or in some cases hit the call accept button on the helmet and the radio transmits.
Hit it again and it unkeys, ready to receive.
Plenty of radios out there and good antennas, along with good BT helmet systems that work absolutely bitchen when hooked to a ham radio (or whatever radio) and this new Talksafe box.
I don’t work for the company or anything, just trying to get some fellow riders some decent comms. Here I am talking Bluetooth 100+ miles with the FT8900 ham rig and guys are saying a quarter mile is good. WTF? HA HA HA .
My install is ultra clean including the custom fabricated remote head bracket and fabricated rear antenna mount. I used a relay and have the PTT on the horn. In 30 years of riding enduros, I have never used the horn. Very usable system.
This system sounds much better then the original built in one on the FTM10SR on the DRZ. Guys tell me they cant tell I’m on a bike! I think Yaesu used a bad chipset with a lot of compression, clipping and gobs of aliasing. Meaning it can sound kinda robotic, but totally usable.
Sorry if I have wasted your time with this. I have been a ham operator for 24 years and according to the Talksafe company, RPF Industries, it looks like i am the first to integrate this system on a motorcycle in the US. They are in England.
They also have units that plug into handhelds! I’m just really excited at the comm possibilities with this system. The box is like 189.00
The new 2009 DL650 is a mobile communications platform and Disaster Assessment Vehicle for the Red Cross chapter I am on the Board of Directors for, and Director of Communications (Antelope Valley Chapter in Palmdale, California).
We handle 40 percent of Los Angeles County. Been a RC volunteer for almost 15 years and am also an active instructor in First Aid/CPR/Disaster Preparedness, and Earthquake survival. YES I LIVE 2 MILES FROM WILLOW SPRINGS!”
From “S” (10.08): “I have to agree with a couple of the comments of your readers regarding wanting a unit I can use (with) my own mic and earplug setup.
I’ve been considering getting a motorcycle intercom for the last couple of years and been looking at the Bluetooth models in the aim of finding something reasonable cost which allows me to use a throat mic and my Etymotic earbuds.
To me this is the ideal option, no need to worry about wind noise with a throat mic (race teams use them) or the contradiction of trying to block out deafening wind noise with earplugs yet hear music or voice from speakers.
With this setup it’s not necessary to worry about what helmet it’s connected too because I don’t need to worry about the helmet. Put the unit in my top pocket with wires going to Velcro throat mic and up to ears for earbuds.
Requirements for weight, water proofing, small battery size become less of an issue which helps manufacturing costs.
I was considering the scala teamset, now tending toward the newly released Chatterbox ibx. But as biker ranted on another forum the sellers provide very little information about the products on their websites other than a pretty picture of the unit and packaging.
Hope Chatterbox give you the opportunity to review one of these units at some stage. Thanks for a very informative site.”
From “J.F.”: “I’ve been reading your articles and product reviews for a very long time now – thanks for all you do, by the way!
I have become so disenchanted with this whole subject for years. Your list of “wants” for a Bluetooth system is dead-on. Why can’t a manufacturer just make this a reality?
They would clean up. I would be first in line to spend several hundred dollars, if only the unit does what is in your list.
My son and I have actually been assembling components to make out own device, but it is time-consuming and expensive if you don’t do this for a living.
My wife and I ride separate bikes and we have the Autocom units – they work, but I feel like I’m strangled in all the freak’n wires and cables! WE NEED TO CUT THE CABLES TO THE HELMET!!!
In 2008, it’s hard to believe that this is a problem so hard to solve! And, the manufacturers don’t seem to get it. I called Autocom last year basically outlining the system, and they acted like I was from Mars. The guy wanted me off the phone so quick it was frightening.
They are NOT listening to what the customers are telling them.
Thanks for listening. At least you guys communicate nicely!”
From “T.Z” (Responding to our “Problems With Bluetooth Intercoms” above: “Agreed! The problems we are trying to solve as consumers are:
There are a few more but that is my short list. I don’t think that is too much to ask.”
From “C.J.”: “Just been reading your information on Bluetooth intercom/headsets. I bought a Motorola HS830 some time ago and installed it in my Nolan N42 Jet. I use it with my Motorola L5 phone which I keep in a cradle on my handlebars.
Thought I would let you know that this system (about $120) DOES permit rider/passenger communication without a cell phone. There is an ‘a-b’ switch on the back of the device. Set one helmet to ‘a’ and one to ‘b’ and voila, there you have it.
Of course for bike to bike it’s limited to Bluetooth range (30 feet) whereas the Interphone system will go 150. But for $120 bucks the Motorola just can’t be beat.”
From GiMoto Canada: “GiMoto Canada Ltd. is the approved Canadian distributor for the Cellular Line Interphone. We first brought the Interphone (Euro power plug units) into Canada several months ago and provided the units to several magazines within Canada, the feedback has been amazing.
The key difference to the Interphone over other products including the Scala Rider Team is the ability to use the Bluetooth intercom feature from bike to bike! Cellular Line specifies the product has a range of 150m at speeds up to 130 km/h.
I have personally been at a greater distance and had a clear conversation with the other rider.
From “M.E.”: “I just read your comment about the unavailability of rider to passenger Bluetooth intercoms.
I too have been scouring the internet, manufacturers and motorcycle dealers for such a product…as have most of my motorcycle riding friends.
It simply boggles the imagination that such a beast seems not to exist yet.
Even products like the fairly new Chatterbox XB1, which was built from the ground up with Bluetooth in mind and can communicate with other riders 5 miles away, can’t communicate with the person sitting 3 inches behind you without some sort of wire going to them.”