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Headwave Tag helmet speaker review

Headwave Tag turns your helmet into a speaker
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The Bluetooth Headwave Tag sticks to the back of your helmet and uses vibrations to turn it into a speaker, but the sound is pretty dismal and muddy.

We had hoped this would be a great invention that would do away with uncomfortable speakers or earphones, but after spending almost $500 on the device we were disappointed with the results.

However, to their credit, Headwave did refund us the money in full when we posted it back to Germany.

The unit is basically a speaker that drives the sound into the helmet via “surface transduction” which transmits vibrations through the helmet.

Headway founder and CEO, and motorcycle fan, Sophie Willborn, says it has “outstanding audio quality.”

“It’s like being in a soundbox,” she says. “The whole helmet is the acoustic resonance body so you can hear the music from everywhere around you. The best thing is, you can feel the bass. The whole helmet vibrates when you hear music with strong bass.”

However, our main criticism of the unit is that the sound quality is poor with little bass and no stereo effect.

Sophie says we didn’t fit it correctly. However, we tried it with a number of helmets and could never get the full 100% firm fit she said was required for quality sound.

Check out these photos which show only the tiniest gap.

There is also a substantial amount of sound leakage outside the helmet which Sophie says shouldn’t be a concern.

However, if you pull up at your next stop with your mates and your music is playing Kylie Minogue, it could cause some embarrassment!

It has one button on the back to turn it on and off and to pause play. The manual says you can also control volume and skip tracks, but that’s little misleading. They actually mean you can control those functions on your phone or music device.

Since it is just a Bluetooth speaker, there is no communication functionality, although you will be able to hear when someone rings you.

The unit sits about 4cm out from the back of your helmet which could be a concern in a crash. It is stuck on but may not tear off easily in a crash.

Sophie says the tape that attaches the unit has “extremely high tensile strength rated up to 300kmh”. It’s used for mounting spoilers, etc on the outside of cars.

If it does come off your helmet, it is claimed to be very robust and should withstand being run over by one of your riding colleagues as this video shows.

However, when we pulled it off via the centre of the unit as shown in their manual, the outer casing came apart a shown. Sophie recommends pulling it from the ends.

Headwave Tag

We had reported on the device back in February 2104 and it took almost two years to get the unit to market.

I think they need to spend a bit more time perfecting the sound quality, manual instructions and fitment, and give it a bit more functionality.

UPDATE: A second unit arrived, yet the results are the same. For more details, see the comments below from Sophie and my reply.

  1. I’m unsure how this could be anything other than a complete fail. It never ceases to amaze me how genuinely good ideas go by the wayside every single day, yet ideas like this get invested in.

    I mean the acoustic properties of every single helmet will be drastically different. How anyone could think a good sound quality could be achieved is beyond me.

  2. Some time ago Apple patented a device that turned the screen of the phone into a speaker.
    I don’t know what happened to it or whether it is in use but it was only mono as stereo would either cancel out the sound or shatter the glass. That is why this device is only mono I suspect. If this technology has any merit a better way to use it would be drive a couple of small disks near the ears from the outside of the helmet. That way it would be smaller lighter louder and stereo.

  3. I agree with Ferret, i reckon the only way this product could ever work well is if it was made by or specifically for a helmet, i think it would even have to be model specific .. perhaps even size specific ? my wife’s 53cm Shoei is a tiny shell compared to my 63cm Shoei ..

  4. So – as the original device manufacturer – I would like to point out a few incorrect details/omissions in the above review:

    1) Mark told me that he couldn’t get it to fit to his helmet – he had tried fitting it by placing Duct tape over the outside of the unit on 20 different helmets which incidentally is why the printing was destroyed on the outside (and likely why the unit came open). He also left the lining on the interior adhesive strip, which significantly reduces the flexibility of the unit (a contributing factor to why he couldn’t get it to fit on his helmets).
    2) He mentions that the manual indicates you can change volume/track on the TĀG which is not simply true. The manual states “Once you have paired TĀG with your device, use your music player to play, pause, stop, skip and adjust the volume.”
    3) The fact that he had no bass indicates that the resonance driver didn’t have a good connection with the surface of the helmet. You can actually see a pretty big gap in the shadow of the picture he posted. That is also causing the “sound leakage” he mentions – where you can hear music outside the helmet.
    4) The retail price of the unit is 299 EUR, not 500 AUD or USD. I’m unclear on how he spent “almost $500”.

    For anyone interested, I would encourage you to Google other reviews – there are a number of positive ones in both English and German readily available. Our other reviewers have not encountered these problems. I’m also happy to address any questions/concerns you might have personally and directly.

    Regarding the other comments posted here: The material has in-built flexibility which allows it to fit to different size/shape helmets. We’ve tested it with over 100 different makes/models of helmets (sizes and materials) and there’s almost no variation. We were surprised by this too – we’re happy for you to test it to satisfy your own curiosity.

    1. Hi Sophie,

      Maybe there is a lack of communication here, but you are wrong on three accounts and I’m wrong on one.
      I also haven’t updated the article after you sent me a second unit (for free) because the issues still exist.

      1) Regarding the duct tape, I first used that to temporarily find a place on the helmet where the device actually fits the curvature of the helmet BEFORE committing to using the supplied adhesive strip as a “permanent” fixture. I NEVER used the device with the duct tape and, of course, I removed the lining on the adhesive strip or otherwise it would not have stuck! I returned the first unit that I had bought because I could not get a proper fit. You then sent me the second unit which I was able to fit perfectly using your suggestion of flexing the unit out and mounting it from the centre first, something which is not suggested in the manual. I don’t see how you think some tape would make the shell come apart. If that’s the case, it’s not built very well. In fact, the shell came away from the unit when I tried to remove it with my fingers (not tools). There were no specific instructions in the manual for this process (although there is in one of your how-to videos), so I pulled from the middle. You later told me it was best to remove it from the edges. That advice should be included in the manual.

      2) You’re right about the play instructions in the manual. My impression of being able to play was assumed from the website. The only mention on the website of using the controls on your smartphone is in the FAQ section. I’m sorry for that mistake. However, I still maintain that one of the downfalls of this unit is that you cannot use it to skip tracks, etc. Hopefully you can add this feature to future versions.

      3) The picture in the article is of the first unit which I could not fit properly. The second unit is now a perfect fit with absolutely no gaps. Even so, you can still hear music outside the helmet. The sound quality is still below par. The bass is weak and the treble is muddy, despite your website stating: “With other options burdening you with entanglements or inferior audio quality, Headwave empowers you to enjoy your music while wearing a helmet, maintaining a high level of sound experience without compromising safety.” In fact, you later told me “I’m sorry you were under the impression TĀG was producing HiFi quality sound.” It’s also very quiet; nowhere near as loud as other internal speaker devices. Above about 60km/h I can barely hear it. There is also NO stereo effect. I had the mistaken impression it would be stereo based on your promotional material which says “Surround your senses with the fullness of sound”. To me, that means stereo, but how could there be from one speaker? When I brought this to your attention you agreed there was no stereo effect. I still find the promotional material misleading.

      4) I paid exactly $482.78 (that’s “almost $500”) for the device which you, of course, refunded when I returned the unit (I paid for the return postage, so I’m out of pocket). Are you not considering the exchange rate? It has improved since February and at the current exchange rate 299 EUR is about $441.

      I still have the unit stuck on a helmet but I never use it because the sound quality is so poor and too quiet at anything above suburban speeds.

      I don’t write sycophantic reviews simply because I have been given something for free. Readers are, of course, welcome to check other reviews. I stand by mine. In fact, if anyone wants this unit, I’ll gladly send it to them COD.


  5. I’ve actually heard of a similar review to Marks from a couple of guys on a BMW forum who tried this. Let’s face it BMW guys are the biggest gadget freaks on the planet. If this thing worked as well as its supposed to, 4 out of 5 BMW riders would have one.

    Would the increased thickness in the top of an Australian certified helmet cause issues? Probably not.

  6. This device could be useful for people using a GPS wanting the turn by turn voice instructions. That does not need high fidelity. But price is too much.

    Off topic but if you are not wearing ear plugs riding then you are damaging your hearing. The damage is irreversible, one day you will wake up and the ringing in your ears from yesterdays long ride is still there and then it remains there forever. Trust me I know…

  7. Being able to skip to next song and volume control are CRITICAL to helmet based audio. Pulling out phone to change volume or skip songs is not easy while riding.

    This product gets an “F” even if it did work as specified. Clearly not made by someone who rides.

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