As great as many helmet communicators are at enabling on-the-road conversations between a rider and a passenger, or between riders on different motorcycles, and at streaming music and taking/making cellphone calls, they can also be fiddly gadgets that require patience to master. Installing them on helmets isn’t always easy, especially the placement of the microphone, which is either attached to a flexible boom or is affixed to the inside of a full-face helmet with adhesive, in a convenient location.
UClear is a new player in the helmet communicator market, and they offer specific communicators designed for motorcycling, bicycling and snow sports. What makes UClear communicators unique is the use of military-derived technology that puts the microphone in the speaker unit itself, eliminating the need for a separate boom or wire to locate the microphone near the user’s mouth.
I tested a pair of UClear HBC 100 Moto helmet communicators, which can be used with full-face, open-face or flip-up helmets. The HBC 100 is compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled devices and supports various Bluetooth profiles (hands-free, headset, A2DP, AVRCP and intercom). Using a patented Digital Signal Processing (DSP) noise-cancelling algorithm, it offers adaptive noise suppression and echo cancellation, an intelligent “sweet spot” directed toward the speaker’s voice, enhanced speech signal detection, environmental and background noise cancellation and wind-noise filtering up to 148 mph. The rain and snow resistant unit has a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery with enough juice for up to 10 hours of talk time and up to two weeks of standby (a plug-in charger is provided).
Installing the HBC 100 in two HJC IS-Max flip-up helmets was straightforward. Two installation options are provided in the box: double-sided adhesive to secure the bracket to the outside of the helmet, or a U-shaped clip (similar to a binder clip used to secure a stack of documents together) that attaches to the lower edge of the helmet. I opted for the clip, which slid easily between the helmet’s shell and EPS liner. Removing the helmet’s comfort lining simplified the installation of the speakers in the recessed ear holes and hiding the wires. A small wire connects the speakers to the main unit. Pairing the two HBC 100 units to each other and one of them to my iPhone, a sometimes challenging process with other communicators, was also straightforward.
The large, raised buttons on the UClear unit—a power/call pickup button in front and up/down volume buttons toward the back—are easy to differentiate and use with gloved hands. Once I turned on both units, my fiancée and I were able to carry on a conversation as if on an open phone line (that’s what’s meant by full duplex communication).
During a weekend trip to Big Bear, California, Carrie and I were able to talk to each other with clarity. Some communicators make it difficult to understand the passenger or other rider due to wind noise, necessitating exaggerated, clipped speech. While we could easily understand each other, there was also significant background noise, as if the microphone was especially sensitive to wind. The UClear’s DSP noise-cancelling technology is supposed to prevent this. When Carrie and I stopped to take some photos, the wind noise went away (obviously), but we both heard strange pings and dings that made us feel like we were in an old episode of Star Trek.
Streaming music from my iPhone was easy, and the volume and fidelity were both quite good. But phone calls were another matter. When a call came in, the music was paused and I could hear the sound of the phone ringing, and a tap of the main power button accepted the call. But, with me standing out on the street and Carrie inside our house, we had trouble hearing each other. (To avoid distracted riding, I don’t take or make calls while on the bike.)
The UClear HBC 100 Moto helmet communicator, which retails for $149.95 per unit, is an innovative device that is easy to install, pair and use. I really like not having to deal with a mic boom—especially not having to worry about the foam cover getting saturated with saliva or sweat—and I like the clarity it provides with duplex communication and music streaming. On the other hand, the background noise we experienced is a significant drawback.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
UClear website: http://www.uclear-digital.com/
UClear store: http://uclearstore.com/