I’ve had three on-bike communicator systems and they’ve all fallen short of their promises. Pervasive wind noise, intrusive VOX controls, buzzy static, insufficient volume and uncomfortable installations were common problems. Previous systems also required a physical connection with wires, jacks and springy cables. Thankfully, the Bluetooth Cardo Systems Cardo Scala Rider G4 PowerSet does away with all that.
All Bluetooth pairings went smoothly through my Garmin Zumo 550 GPS, which delivers the MP3 capabilities and audible directional prompts, as well as providing the cell-phone interface. I found I could receive calls, answer them and disconnect by using the touch screen on my 550. However, initiating a call was not so easy.
The problem was not with the G4 system. It was the interface between my phone and GPS. The 550 initiates phone calls by using an address/phone list imported into it from the paired cell phone. However, my phone supports neither list exportation nor voice-dialing (without pressing a phone macro key). If phone service is your main buying point, explore your peripherals for compatibility.
I was, however, able to manually dial and then ride off into city traffic. No one complained about wind noise and most were surprised that I was talking from a moving motorcycle. The Scala G4 is the first I’ve used that actually delivers this quality. Good job, Cardo Systems.
The tested system had boom mics. Cardo promises a wired mic system designed for closed face lids. The speakers are thin and mount easily. The provided hook/loop pad sticks tenaciously to the interior plush of my Arai Quantum, no need to remove liner or cheek pads. The boom mic snugs up under the chinbar and is flexible enough to stay put when donning or removing the helmet. Volume is controllable, a nice touch. I like that I am able to “lock” the intercom channel open and avoid the always annoying VOX trigger.
The clamp attachment is robust and the user controls are large enough for gloves once the functions are understood. Some controls have multiple uses so pushing buttons while riding can be initially confusing. I carried the manual in my jacket and referred to it often. A 3 by 5 laminated card clearly listing each function would be nice.
The upsides include Stereo MP3 from an A2DP transfer-capable player, six preset FM stations with Automatic Gain Control, intercom connectivity with two bikes/four helmets or three separate riders, noise-cancelling technology with AGC, 10-hour talk-time, one week standby battery, audible status announcements and an installation that is incredibly simple. Software, as well as the user manual, is updateable via any PC that runs Windows XP or Vista. The G4 system will also pair with earlier Cardo headsets.
The proprietary battery system requires its own charger but that’s no big deal. The boom mic is a tight fit between mouth and chinbar and gets damp from breath condensation; however Cardo claims no problems in the long term. The unit is advertised as “rain resistant” and could be easily unsnapped from the helmet bracket and pocketed in heavy rain if need be. The system works super at gas stations, in parking lots or at medium road distances; however, the voice audio was sometimes muffled by ambient wind noise at higher speeds. Helmet shape is probably the culprit. Careful speaker placement and earplugs helped, as well as using the mic’s extra wind baffle.
All in all, I was impressed. The G4 system is a quantum step above any other that I’ve used.
For more information: Contact Cardo Systems at (800) 488-0363 or visit Cardo Systems