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Bluetooth motorcycle intercom

Old 06-10-2009, 12:18 AM
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Bluetooth motorcycle intercom

You encounter (or perhaps create) all sorts of new challenges when you ride a motorcycle more than you drive a car. There are obvious ones: dealing with rain by obtaining waterproof gear; adding a topcase and panniers for luggage capacity. But there are some creature comforts that you take for granted in a car that you donít have on a bike. Sometimes itís nice to be able to talk to someone youíre traveling with, and sometimes itís nice to listen to something other than wind noise.
I tried using my old BMW K1200LTEís onboard intercom and radio to solve these problems, but the concept of a wired headset seemed problematic. Furthermore, the ďcompatibleĒ headsets I purchased were not, and I wasnít interested in spending $260 for a pair of the approved BMW headsets. I wound up selling the KT1200LTE anyway, and I put my comm search on hold.
That is, until I found out about the Scala Cardo Q2 Bluetooth motorcycle intercom. They were wireless, had a built-in FM tuner, an AUX jack for an MP3 player / satellite radio, and a range of up to 500′. This meant that I could talk with my passenger, or perhaps another riding buddy. I am really glad I didnít spring for those wired headsets now.
Would the Cardo Scala Q2 headset meet my expectations? Unfortunately thereís still a long way to go to make these live up to the hype.

Installation was very easy and straight-forward. The Q2 has a docking station that is held to the helmet via two bolts. Cardo was nice enough to provide both an allen wrench and two sizes of clamps in case you have a thicker helmet. You use hook-and-loop tape (velcro) to affix the two speakers to the inside of the helmet. The hardest part was making sure the soft padding of my helmets went back properly. Overall installation took about twenty minutes for two helmets.
I bought the ďTeamSetĒ version, which comes with two headsets. One advantage to this is that the headsets were already paired via Bluetooth. Some people reported problems pairing their headsets; I didnít have to deal with this at all.
Operation was as simple as the installation. There are two very large multi-function buttons that can be easily manipulated with a gloved hand. There are two smaller buttons along the posterior end of the headset for volume control.
The Cardo paired instantly with my HTC Touch. I was getting really excited at this point, because everything had gone so smoothly. I put my helmet on, forced Starbuck onto the back of Cylon, and off we went.
The headsets are voice operated (VOX) by default. However, neither one of us could reliably trigger the microphone. I knew from Internet reviews to expect the mic to activate on the first or second word, which meant Starbuck would hear ďor not?Ē instead of ďStop here or not?Ē I attempted to prime the headset by saying ďBREAK BREAKĒ but it still didnít activate the mic. At one point I even screamed into the microphone. No luck.
We enabled full-time transmission modes. The microphones would go to standby if no one talked for thirty seconds in order to extend battery life. This mode made everything a LOT better. It was awesome being able to hear Starbuck, and it made riding a lot more fun. She helped me look out for traffic hazards, and it was fun to hear her squeal as we took a corner a little more sharply than she liked.
Unfortunately the volume was not nearly as loud as it should be. We both wear earplugs (I wear -33db earplugs, she wears -30db I think), and I am sure this is part of the problem. The Scala Q2 just simply does not get loud enough to hear each other at speeds above 60MPH.
This is a huge problem, as this is the bottom level of the speed at which we travel on the highway. I typically cruise at 75MPH+ when riding solo. One of the reasons I bought this headset was to listen to music and/or talk to people to break up the monotony of riding on the superslab.
Worse yet, the AUX jack is not powered by the headset, which means that your MP3 player or whatever is responsible for the volume. I tried three different audio devices at maximum volume, and the music was inaudible at speeds great than 45MPH. Since the main road near my house has a 45MPH limit, I can only listen to music during the five minutes it takes to get from my driveway to the main road, and the two minutes it takes me to get from the highway to work.
Lastly, the unit is not waterproof. I killed my first one during my rainy ride to Georgia, but Abeís of Maine was kind enough to replace it.
I really wish the Scala Q2 was louder. I searched the Internet for tips, like using foam to put the speakers right next to my ears (didnít really help) or replacing the speakers with headphone earbuds. The latter involves soldering, and Iím not too keen to do that. What an obvious design flaw to not power the AUX jack, but itís irrelevant as the headset isnít loud enough on the other channels anyway.
Iíll review it another time, but I tried an inline amplifier to boost the volume. It didnít help, either.
Unfortunately riding without earplugs is not an option for me, so the Q2 is going up for sale unless thereís a firmware upgrade or hack to make it louder.


bluetooth motorcycle intercom
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