When you’re shopping for a Bluetooth wireless helmet headset, it helps to think of features in terms of rungs on a ladder. First rung, speakers, mic and comm unit, with the capability to connect one or two Bluetooth devices, such as a cell phone or GPS.
Second rung, same unit connects to a passenger unit; third rung, same unit connects to multiple devices; and so on. Right around the 10th rung is where the left side of my brain explodes from confusion and I fall off the ladder. Fortunately, Cardo’s Scala Rider Q2 stops well short of insane complexity, but features all of the above as well as bike-to-bike communication via Bluetooth plus an FM radio.
One Q2 can be used alone to make and receive calls wirelessly on your Bluetooth cell phone, get voice instructions from a GPS and listen to the Q2’s built-in FM radio. The comm unit base installs easily on most helmets in a few minutes using a small adapter in the clamp if needed, and the speakers simply fasten inside the liner next to your ears with hook-and-loop. Tuck the wires up between the liner and shell and you’re done. The boom mic comes with an extra foam windsock, and on a full-face helmet can simply be swung in and out of the chinbar in front of your mouth as needed. Plug the dual-voltage AC charger into the small water-resistant comm pod on or off the helmet, and when the light goes off in an hour or two it’s fully charged. The charge is good for a couple of days worth of riding.
I can’t get into a lot of detail in this space; suffice to say that in frequent use over the last six months, I found that a single Q2 does everything it’s supposed to very well except for the FM radio sound quality, which is too tinny for anything except talk radio. Don’t buy it for that. In fact, if you’re not going to take advantage of the Q2’s ability to communicate in full duplex with one or two other Q2s, you can just get the regular Scala Rider (May 2006) or Scala Rider Teamset (April 2008) and save some money.
It’s the full-duplex communication among Q2s up to a claimed 1,640 feet over wide open terrain that sets it apart from the rest of the line. In testing we found that this worked very well between a rider and passenger, allowing much more natural, telephonelike conversation both on and off the bike (as long as you leave your helmets on). Each Q2 wearer can also enjoy his or her own phone or GPS connection, and listen to their own FM radio.
Between two riders things get a little trickier. First of all, although the system will pair with up to two other Q2s—e.g. your passenger and riding buddy—the designated main unit can only converse with one at a time. Pressing a button on the main unit once or twice allows you to switch back and forth. The other limitation is, of course, range. This is a Bluetooth connection, not FRS or CB radio, so while you do get used to your riding buddy’s connection going in and out, as the claimed max range is about 3?10 of a mile it only takes going around the corner with some buildings between you to break the connection. Still, like most bike-to-bike systems, a set of Q2s can be quite useful when you’re traveling as long as you’re willing to learn how and when to use them. And for rider and passenger the full-duplex connection between a pair of Q2s is a big improvement over the one-way connection in other Scala Riders.
The Scala Rider Q2 retails for $219.99. A Q2 Multiset with a pair of them—each equipped with a jack for connecting an MP3 player—is also available for $395.95 (though none of the Cardo Scala Rider motorcycle products have the A2DP profile needed for stereo Bluetooth). Study Cardo’s website to figure out which unit(s) will work best for your situation, take the time to learn how to use them and you won’t be disappointed.
For more information: See www.cardosystems.com or call (800) 488-0363