This review was co-written by Jim Pruner and Greg Phillips.
The wBW review library is flush with Cardo reviews and Sena reviews along with other brands like UClear and even Lexin. The market has provided many great options for riders to choose from!
This Packtalk Edge (aka Edge) review comes hot on the heels of my Cardo Freecom 4X review which scored very highly in my esteem. The ability to control all the features of the Freecom 4X using only my voice was the determining factor in me now favoring Cardo devices over the Sena ones I’ve been using for several years.
Are the Cardo Freecom 4X and Packtalk Edge perfect? Absolutely not, but overall I find them only slightly flawed to about the same degree as equivalent Sena devices. It’s the Voice Command feature being the tiebreaker that puts the Cardos on top, as mentioned above.
Thank You, Cardo!
We owe huge thanks to our contacts at Cardo (Kelsey and Zac) who arranged to supply wBW with six of these new Edge devices at no charge so we could have a whole team of reviewers run them through the paces.
This is going to be one of the most extreme and comprehensive reviews in wBW history! Let me explain.
The reason behind having six devices is that I’m participating in a group ride from Canmore, Alberta, Canada to the Mexico border on the Continental Divide Trail. Our group of 6 adventure riders will require Dynamic Mesh communication technology to ensure we can avoid obstacles and stay together while off-road under harsh conditions over a 3-week time period.
I can’t think of a better way to truly find out how this brand-new in-helmet communicator stacks up against the dust, rain, mud, and vibration we’ll undoubtedly encounter over approximately 6000 miles (round trip).
The Plan So Far
This review will only cover my experience with the Edge leading up to the big trip, but you’ll be able to see frequent updates on the wBW Facebook page during the Continental Divide Ride. Assuming all goes as planned, that ride will begin on August 27 2022.
To this point of product testing across the 6 devices, I’ve found only 1 significant issue with the Edge (a dead boom microphone right out of the box).
One of the other members of our group had to switch to the boom-style mic to get clearer audio in his Arai XD-4 helmet. The button mic was installed too far away from his mouth in the long nose of the XD-4.
A Synopsis of What Works on the Packtalk Edge
In the spirit of providing accuracy balanced with brevity, let me get the following details out in the open. The following lists what the Edge was capable of doing without any further comment necessary:
- It connects to my iPhone 13 Pro Max immediately upon startup
- Works smoothly with the Cardo phone app on Android & Apple devices
- Performs firmware updates when connected to my iPhone using WiFi or cell data
- Battery charges to full in less than 2 hrs and lasts all day even when used continuously except when using Mesh which cuts battery life to half of Bluetooth levels (12+ hrs for BT and approximately 6 hours for Mesh)
- The battery still reports at 50% after sitting unused for 15 days
- Installs easily in a Klim Krios Pro helmet, an Arai DT-X helmet, and Scorpion AT950
- The buttons aren’t wonderful but are acceptably usable while wearing gloves
- Plays music, radio stations, podcasts, and any audio coming from my phone perfectly
- Music sharing worked while connected via Dynamic Mesh
- Makes and takes clear phone calls
- Activates Siri on my iPhone nearly every time I request it verbally or 100% using the phone button
- Connects to navigation apps or devices that work concurrently with music playing in the background
- Connects via Bluetooth intercom to other Cardo and even Sena devices
- Performed as intended in temperatures as low as 41 °F (5 °C) up to a high of 100 °F (40 °C)
- Handled exposure to rain, dust, and dirt without issues
The list above covers the basic needs of any premium, in-helmet communicator, and should be taken for granted in the highly competitive market the Edge finds itself in today.
Now I’ll move on to comment on where the Edge excelled and failed during our testing.
Enter Greg “Fireball” Phillips to Help
My friend Greg is a former motorcycle racer and avid adventure rider with over 40 years of riding experience. You might recall seeing him help me write The 2019 Honda Goldwing vs Indian Chieftain Ltd comparison review and the 2020 Harley Davidson LiveWire review.
He’s the man organizing the Continental Divide Trail ride that we’ll undertake in August so it makes perfect sense to have him write this review with me. In fact… I may defer to him and just add my two cents here and there.
First Impressions of the Cardo Packtalk Edge
The Edge is as advertised: sleek, aerodynamic, polished, and premium in appearance. I have nothing to squawk about when it comes to the presentation of the box contents or the quality of build—other than maybe the somewhat shortish length of the charging cable. That could be twice as long to make life easier when charging it, but this should be “good enough for the girls I go with”.
It draws me in completely as I hold the Edge two inches away from the cradle or “Air Mount” and the power of magnetism compels the device from my fingers to land, bonded to the frame with an audible “CLICK!” It’s solid and not going anywhere.
Let’s get this baby installed in a helmet and see what it can do!
Jim says that I have over 40 years of riding experience, and that’s true. If we’re getting fussy, the exact number is 48 years. This means that I’m old, 62 to be exact. This is a high-technology item—and I’m old. You can see where I’m headed with this. There’s an immediate conflict.
I want to ride. I do not want to fiddle around in a parking lot turning things off and on, pushing 3 buttons for 4 seconds then another 2 buttons for 3 seconds all while yelling ‘hello’ into a microphone. I want it to be simple. And if most people think it’s simple, it’s not simple enough for me. It needs to be old man-proof. This is a very high threshold. With the Edge, this threshold has been met, mostly. There was a little bit of fussing around with our first pairing, but it was easily addressed.
So, my first impressions are very positive. Everything about it seems premium. The packaging is premium, and the device looks solid and well made like a premium item should look. The accessories all look like premium items; things are looking good.
Installation In Different Helmets
I installed the Edge using the clamping mount in both an Arai DT-X and Klim Krios Pro to test the difference. I used the remotely mounted button mic in both cases, which is a useful contrast to Greg using the sticky mount and boom mic in his Scorpion AT950 modular helmet.
In the Arai, I noticed the voice command accuracy dropped to about 90 to 95% due to how noisy it is at highway speeds. The Krios Pro is quieter and has a nice pocket of still air at the top of the chin bar in front of my nose to mount the mic. Accuracy is 98% with the mic in the Klim helmet.
In the Arai, I had to trim a small gap in the plastic tabs found on the left cheek pad to allow passage of the wires from the outside where the Edge mounts to the inside of the helmet near the speakers and mic. Conversely, the Krios Pro has a pre-drilled hole in the bottom of the cheek pad neckroll made to allow wires to pass through it to the inside.
I encountered no major issues getting the speakers into the cutouts inside the helmet, nor with routing wires behind the comfort liner despite the large size of the 3mm style speaker jack/connectors. I only had to find a nice gap between the EPS foam and the outer shell to house the connector.
Installation in my Scorpion AT950 modular helmet went like this:
Step 1, remove my Sena 20S. Step 2, install Edge. It all goes well. The instructions are mostly pictures, which are very good.
I do a lot of adventure riding and I’ve learned a thing or two over the years. One is that stuff will find a way to fall off and find its way into the wilderness, so it’s worth noting that both mounts (there are 2 different mounts included in the package) are very secure. I ended up using the adhesive mount, knowing the wires for the headphones and microphone will act as a tether should a tree branch take a swipe at the unit. All good.
It’s also worth noting that once you have the unit base mounted to your helmet, you can literally throw the Edge unit into the mount and it stays put. It’s a magnetic mount that Cardo calls the ‘Air Mount’. Fortunately, it takes a fair bit of effort to remove the Edge from the mount, which is perfect. A branch cannot knock it off your helmet.
The most important thing is that it works and that it works well. And it does. I can communicate with others, I can listen to music, and I can make or receive a call without issues arising. The mic seems to pick up voices easily without yelling into it and the speakers deliver a clear reflection of what is being said or played. I’ll learn more about that on the longer evaluation, but right now I think the unit works very, very well.
The Cardo Packtalk Edge Microphone Issues
As Greg will tell you below, one of the boom mics in our duo pack didn’t work right from the get-go, but since I prefer the button-style mic I gave my boom mic to Greg for use in his modular helmet. Had both of us needed a boom mic, this would have been a big problem, and Cardo needs to have a look into how many mics are defective from the factory. I’ve encountered a few people online grumbling about their voice command not functioning, and I suspect they’ve got faulty mics causing it.
The boom mic seems to have clearer and more resonating audio capability than the button mic does, but in a full-face helmet, I’ll always lean towards not having a boom poke me in the face each time I don my helmet.
Immediately after the installation, I’m playing music and just fooling around with the unit in my living room. Talking to Jim earlier that day he says the voice command is amazing—but it doesn’t work for me. I get nothing.
There must be a setting somewhere in the app I need to change, nope. So next I try making a phone call. I can hear, but the microphone isn’t working. This old guy surrenders and goes to bed. But I do take the helmet off first.
The next day Jim and I meet at The Fireball Garage before heading out for a ride, and I tell him about the microphone. He asks, “Did you try the other microphone?” (there are 2 in the kit, a boom mic that I used on my modular helmet and a button mic for non-modular full-face helmets).
No. No, I did not. So we do the switch and the button mic works perfectly. Great. So I install the spare boom mic from Jim’s kit and away we go. I think my very first words into the mic were, “Hey Cardo, music on”—and then Hells Bells rang in my ears. Rock on.
The next day, I called Cardo using their website’s number for warranty claims. I’m put on hold, but because my call is important they’ll get to me as soon as possible. It takes a while. A long while, 26 minutes to be exact.
I have my phone on speaker while I wait. My wife asks, “what the hell is that noise?” It’s their on-hold music. I have a very broad range of musical tastes but this was something else. I’d call it techno jazz, but I really don’t know. I think the plan is to get you to just hang up because you can’t take it anymore. I expect it’s a devious and effective plan to drive you to use their email system for warranty support.
Once I did get through, the process was fast and easy. They trusted my diagnosis and said they’d send me a new boom mic. The process is that they send you an email with questions including your name, shipping address, the unit’s serial number, and a photo of the receipt. You send it back and they process it all. Their email did include a message about possible delays because of supply chain issues.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been waiting 3+ weeks without receiving a replacement—but I did receive a call from UPS 3 days ago to confirm my address for a shipment from Cardo. I’ve never had UPS confirm my address before. I find it interesting that UPS had my phone number—but was not sure about my address. Perhaps a typo made it into their system.
***UPDATE!*** New microphone was received in good condition about 4 weeks after the warranty claim was initiated. Ouch.
Dynamic Mesh vs. Bluetooth Intercom
I just got home from another RevZilla GET ON! Adventure Fest in Sturgis, SD where I met up with some friends made there last year.
We all were running Cardo devices that were Dynamic Mesh-enabled, and we linked them together for some off-road rides. I have to say, linking up with only one other person is child’s play using the Cardo app, but getting four devices or more to handshake was challenging.
My feedback for Cardo on this is to copy what Sena does with their app. Sena has an individual QR code in each person’s app that the group just scans with their camera to get the group connected up. It’s straightforward and one thing I like more about the Sena app than the Cardo one.
Out on the Road
Once everyone was paired with the group, off we went into the woods to ride amongst the trees, rocks, big rocks, gravel, and dirt everywhere.
The audio quality was very good up until some of us disappeared behind hills when the signal was lost—even while inside the one-mile range. The devices were great at repairing that connection each time at least, so I would rate it excellent overall. It would be unreasonable to expect these devices to hold a perfect connection without a line of sight, in my opinion.
The ability of the Mesh system to extend the range to five miles by leapfrogging the signal from one rider to another was fascinating. At one point, I was way up high on a hill and more than 2 miles away from the farthest members of the group, but still connected thanks to the Dynamic Mesh.
The first thing I need to ask about this is why would I bother switching from Mesh to Bluetooth if I’m satisfied with Mesh? It turns out Bluetooth is the only easy way to link with other non-Mesh enabled units (even with brands other than Cardo). So I tried pairing the Edge unit with an older non-mesh Sena 20S. I just switched the Edge to Bluetooth and paired it. Super simple. It was very easy to do using the app on my phone. Even an old guy can do it.
But what’s more important is how well does Dynamic Mesh perform compared to Bluetooth? I found that both worked perfectly. We tested the range and at first, there was seemingly no functional difference between Mesh and Bluetooth.
However, once we went out of range and came back in range, the Mesh connection healed immediately, and automatically while the Bluetooth required some action on the part of the user. With Bluetooth when the other rider came back in range and was visibly close enough I just pushed the volume button and it reconnected.
Mesh is better because it’s less involved overall, but it’s good that Bluetooth is there if your riding friends have not upgraded yet.
The Cardo Voice Command Feature
Some things are so darn good that once inserted into your life, you can’t imagine how you got by before having them. The Cardo Voice Command is one such thing, in my humble opinion.
I’d heard about how good it was from my Cardo-using friends back when I was only a Sena user, and once I began using it on the Freecom 4X, I swore I’d never take my hands off the handlebars again to poke at buttons on a device.
Through two Cardo reviews now, I’ve never touched a button other than when turning on or off the device… with one lone exception while riding by an airport!
Airports vs. Cardo Devices
I don’t know what it is that airports project into the airspace surrounding them, but it’s the Kryptonite of Cardo devices.
I passed by the Billings, Montana airport a few days ago on my way home from Sturgis when all hell broke loose and my Edge refused to summon Siri on my iPhone or execute any other verbal commands until I rebooted it. Aliens? Covid? Communist spies? I’ve no idea.
Other than that, it’s operated at roughly 98% accuracy in my Krios Pro helmet. Even when I mumble or fake a Scottish accent, this thing is nearly flawless.
I adore the Cardo Voice Command feature. It lets me keep my hands on the bars where I want them to better control the motorcycle. As mentioned in my Freecom 4X review, I think this makes any Cardo device equipped with Voice Command safer than those of competitors requiring more effort to use.
The Cardo Voice Command is amazing. Once the Edge is powered up, there’s no need to touch the unit. There are commands to learn—but they’re no more difficult to learn than the button sequences on the unit itself.
I like this feature and how well it works. Having said that, I preferred to use the wheel on the unit to adjust my volume settings more than using a verbal command. It’s also a little bit weird to end your phone call with “hey Cardo, end call” because the person on the other end of the line can hear you say it before the Edge hangs up. But it all works, and it all works very, very well.
Jim makes a note that this is a significant safety feature and he’s right. The voice command is gold. It’s exceptional. Well done, Cardo!
What’s Cardo Voice Command?
The voice command feature allows a rider to verbally control all of the Edge functions.
It even can activate Siri or Google to execute features (like a phone call). The photo below has a list of all available Cardo Edge commands.
More than just the accuracy of this feature makes the Cardo superior to its Sena rivals.
With a Cardo, you awaken the device’s voice command assistant and issue a command request in one flowing phrase. “Hey-Cardo-music-on” results in your phone’s music pumping out of your in-helmet JBL speakers. Sena devices don’t have the same flow… even on their fanciest 50 series systems.
Timing Your Pauses
For example, a Sena 50R user must pause briefly after saying “Hey Sena” to get the device to listen for the actual command words that follow. With the Cardo Edge or Freecom 4X, you don’t have to do that.
Fail to get the timing right on the pause and the Sena often won’t recognize your command and nothing will happen. The older 30K and 20S models are even clunkier still.
Over-the-Air Firmware Updates
The Cardo system again is superior to the new (and equivalent) Sena wireless update system on their 50 series devices, which isn’t truly wireless since it still requires a special WiFi adapter cord/antenna assembly in order to work.
Enough said. It’s just too easy to update the device wirelessly on a Cardo Packtalk Edge.
I had zero issues updating the firmware. When you open the instructions box, the first thing you see is a slip of paper telling you to do a firmware update. It’s simple and easy to do using the app on your smartphone.
Incidentally, the reason I have the app on my smartphone is that that’s Step 1 in the instructions—get the app.
USB C Charging Cable
Another great example of the attention to detail Cardo put into the Edge is that they chose to use a USB C-type charging cable.
The end that plugs into the Edge itself is bidirectional, unlike the USB mini connectors all my Sena devices use.
A USB Mini connector has to be inserted the correct way or it can damage the charging port. This is admittedly a small attribute to praise but one I appreciate when I’m tired at the end of a long day of riding and struggling to find enough energy myself to recharge my comms device.
The PackTalk Edge Intercom Connects Easily to Sena Devices
The Edge can trick Sena and other devices into thinking it’s a smartphone when it comes to establishing a Bluetooth intercom connection with it.
That’s a huge bonus if you ride with friends that don’t own a Cardo device.
All you have to do is initiate a regular intercom connection using the Cardo app and then activate the phone pairing feature on the Sena. Bingo! They’ll link up and you can chat while out on the road.
I used this method to connect the Edge to one of my Sena 10C Evo devices without a problem.
I linked the Edge to my old Sena 20s without issue. You can’t use the Mesh technology for this, but you can hook up with your old-school Sena buddy very easily. Remember, I’m a 62-year-old guy that doesn’t want to fuss around. I want it to be easy, and easy it was. Not only that, it worked very well.
This is a big deal. It may be the single biggest reason to buy the Cardo instead of another unit. In the past, what unit you had polarized your riding group into cliques. Now, it doesn’t have to.
The JBL Speakers in the Cardo PackTalk Edge
I would say the two are very close in quality, but these JBLs sound a bit better when it comes to clarity at high volume than Sena’s HD speakers, which is saying a lot.
Mounting the speakers in your helmet as close as possible to your ears is necessary to fully appreciate how good they are. Get them too far away, and you won’t hear the bass or midrange, and they’ll sound quiet at highway speeds.
The 40mm speakers are a perfect size to install in the pockets of most helmets on the market now, but in the Krios Pro, I just attach them to the microsuede liner using the velcro backside instead. Additionally, the option is there to upgrade to the 45mm JBL speakers Audio Pack that Cardo offers if you like.
I haven’t personally seen these 45mm speakers, but I’m told they have a step on the back that will still fit in the speaker pockets of most any helmet, despite the larger diameter on the rest of the assembly.
The 40mm JBL speakers that come standard with the Edge are excellent.
I wear earplugs with a ceramic insert. They’re custom-made and keep the wind noise down. The JBL speakers were clear with excellent sound. All the right sounds make it through the ceramic insert.
On some other units, I’d find the bass vanishing from some songs at highway speeds—bad enough that it was sometimes difficult to tell which song I was listening to. Not so with these speakers. It’s worth noting that there are 2 different things the speakers need to do. One is to deliver amazing music over wind noise and the other is to provide a crystal clear voice of your riding buddies or whomever you have on the phone. These speakers do both. The music is amazing and the voice clarity is exceptional.
Deep Thoughts From a Big Guy
Let’s chat about my fat head for a minute.
Every inch of me is big. It’s just how I am. That includes my head, which has no trouble filling the empty space in any helmet. The JBL speakers are thin enough, but only just thin enough to fit in the speaker wells in my Scorpion AT-950.
Like Jim says, getting the speakers next to your ears is important, but I find that if the speakers touch my ears with any amount of pressure, my ears soon ache. So, the speakers are thin enough, but only barely in my situation.
As speed goes up, wind noise also goes up. We rode at highway speeds, into a substantial headwind, and Jim’s voice was clear and easy to understand even at elevated environmental sound levels.
***This only happens if you have the Automatic Gain Control feature activated in the Cardo app settings*** – Jim
Rumors about Charging While in Use?
Rumors are out there saying you can’t charge the Edge while it’s powered up, but I was able to charge mine with it running.
I dunno where this idea came from, but the myth has been busted.
Do you really need to do this? Yes, you do.
You’re on a road trip with buddies and the day goes sideways when you have a mechanical issue, like a flat tire for example. You communicate all day and get things sorted but you’re way behind schedule. You’re on hour 15 as you roll into town looking for a motel. You need the units to work. This is why long battery life matters, and why charging while riding can be important. Once again, we’ll be testing this during the Great Divide Ride.
However, there may be a hitch in the plan. The charging cable is notably short. It’s half the length of the charging cable included with my Sena. I know that I won’t be able to route the cable from the Edge to my on-bike USB charge port while riding. I do believe that pretty much any gas station will have one available for only a couple of bucks along the way, but a longer cable would be nice.
The Packtalk Edge “Air Mount” Mounting Plate
When I first saw advertisements for the Edge air mount, I couldn’t believe a magnet was being relied upon to hold the device to the helmet. Logically, Cardo didn’t design it that way because this isn’t their first rodeo, so to speak.
The magnet merely guides the device into the clamping holster it sits in. Once seated, there’s a plastic latch locking it in there. I have no concerns about it separating while out on the road, and would confidently say the entire clamping device would come off the helmet shell first if something like a low-flying albatross smacked into your head.
The Electrical Connectors Might Become An Issue
On the other hand, as you can see in the photo above that the Edge connects physically to the speakers and mic via metal tabs on the underside of the cradle. I took the photo above after eating Greg’s dust all day out on the trails in the Foothills of the Rockies here in Alberta.
I was pleased to see no dust had intruded between the two surfaces bearing the electrical contacts in that time, but I wonder if it’ll be sealed properly 3 years from now, after many more vibration-filled miles off-road when the warranty period is over for the Edge?
I would suggest Cardo install a rubber seal around the edge of The Edge to prevent this. The two surfaces that touch already have rubber on them, but I don’t foresee it lasting long if dust and grit gets in there too many times.
I’ll have to ensure I clean it regularly out on the Continental Divide Ride.
I love the Air Mount feature. It mounts as easy as easy can be. You can throw it at your helmet and if you’re a good shot, it mounts itself.
The good news is that it won’t unmount itself. In fact, removing it from the mount takes a fair effort. This gives me confidence that neither a tree branch nor a wind gust will be knocking it off my helmet.
How Strong Is The Air Mount? H2 Strong
I happen to have a Kawasaki H2, and I’ll carefully volunteer that I ‘wind tested’ the mount into a very substantial ‘headwind’. Everything held in position without issue.
What Could Be Improved on the PackTalk Edge?
The Charging Light Indicator
When the USB C cable charges the Edge, the LED glows red until the device is fully charged. Then the light turns off completely—leaving me wondering whether the battery is full or something interrupted the charge.
Couldn’t it just stay on steady green once fully charged to reassure me?
Battery Life Readout
I’d love to see a numerical display on the fuselage of the Edge showing the remaining battery life as a percentage. Either that or a light bar indicator, perhaps?
Add a Muffler to the Microphone
Why hasn’t a manufacturer put a better wind muffler on their mics yet?! That would seem to be an easy fix for wind crackling issues creating audio problems during intercom communications.
Improve the App Intercom Functionality
As already mentioned, I’d like to see Cardo copy Sena by creating an individual QR code in the phone app to scan when adding riders to a new intercom group. That would be easy to do, I think.
Powering On or Off?
The button sequence is the same when you power the unit up or down, but I’m not always sure which I’ve done. I’d like it to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Goodbye’ accordingly.
Years ago I had an SRC-System Pro ™ by Cardo on my Schuberth C3 Pro helmet. Communicators have come a long way since then but not only did it announce hello and goodbye, it said, ‘Hello Greg Phillips.’ Cardo knows how to make it awesome.
A Better Charging Port Seal
The charger port cover seems a bit flimsy. We’ll see how it holds up on our Great Divide Ride in August.
Dust Intrusion Concerns
I’m concerned that over time, more and more dust will get under the Edge unit into the connections—but so far it’s been clean under there. The Great Divide Ride and the endless dust we encounter on the ride will test this to the limit.
Stay tuned for updates…
Final Thoughts on the Cardo Packtalk Edge Duo Pack Communicator
The Cardo Packtalk Edge is all new and maybe not quite as bulletproof as the Freecom 4X was during my testing—however, the Edge is lovely all the same.
Value Per Dollar
The Edge is expensive, and some people might not feel enough value is there from a fancy magnetic Air Mount and over-the-air updates versus paying less for the Packtalk Bold instead.
Those people might be correct from what I can tell because the Bold still has Dynamic Mesh along with the majority of the same features the Edge has. The Bold’s only real downfall is having to use a cable to upgrade the software on it. For reference, it costs $305 for the Bold versus $389 for the Edge.
You could even buy the Packtalk Black for $350, which has the best of the best 45mm JBL speakers included. Arguably, the Packtalk Black and Bold have a simpler design and as such seem more robust. They’re already proven performers, unlike this relatively unknown new Edge design.
Yep, the Black is probably the best value per dollar—if that’s what matters to you most.
For myself, I place a high value on the new “farkles” found in the Edge and would wait for an end-of-riding-season sale to pounce in order to get the wireless updates and Air Mount.
If you’re already a Bold owner, I wouldn’t recommend upgrading to the Edge, but if you’re running an older Sena (20 or 30 series) or Cardo I think there’s a strong case to make the jump—or instead go for a significantly less expensive Bold or Black model.
- Manufacturer: Cardo Systems Ltd
- Price when tested: $699.96 US for the Duo pack (Revzilla)
- Assembled in: Ukraine
- Colors: Black
- Review Date: July 2022