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Bluetooth Headsets – The Good, The Bad and The “I Can’t Hear You”

bluetooth headsets

Bluetooth headsets have come a long way in terms of their advances in technology. However, researching riders reviews of Bluetooth Headsets has been a real eye-opener. There are quite a few Bluetooth Headsets that promise the world with a price tag to match and yet, they have consistently not been delivering. Some speakers have only lasted a few months, and despite companies professing their loyalty to their products, some of the firmware updates have not been rectifying intercom connectivity issues.

If you have been dying to get your hands on some of the newer models that are harking their newer technological advancements, you might just want to press the pause button. Headsets with ‘extreme’ features and functionality may have compromised on the simple yet critical requirement of sound quality.

So what we have done here is to review the highest rated Bluetooth headsets on the market this year and reconciled those reviews with riders feedback. We have researched the top riders forums, motorcycle communications feedback websites, riders feedback channels and comments left on the big Bluetooth company sites from the riders who have bought their headsets.

But we don’t want to be all doom and gloom. More sophisticated hands free Bluetooth headsets are now in the mainstream. Functionality including increased intercom connections, multi-device connectivity, mobile phone calls via Siri, music playback controls, increased battery time, longer standby periods, improved range via multi-hops and universal compatibility are continually evolving.

From our research, we have listed what we think are some of the better Bluetooth Headsets on the market today. If you want more information on key features to look for in a Bluetooth headset, check out What Should I Know About Bluetooth Headsets.

1. Sena SMH1OR Bluetooth Headset

Sena SMH1OR Bluetooth HeadsetBluetooth headsets

We are kicking off with one of the most prominent Bluetooth headset brands on the market today which is the Sena. Just a bit about Sena first- they have been around since 1998 providing wireless communication solutions for riders specifically in Bluetooth hardware and in software design. They have a good name in the market and are progressive when it comes to technology advances. They have many Bluetooth models for motorcycling plus other powersports and outdoor sports such as snowmobilers, cyclists, skiers, snowboarders, hunters and rock climbers.

The Sena SMH1OR Bluetooth Headset is a less expensive headset with full capability when it comes to playing/streaming music, GPS nav system and integrating with a phone. You can call hands free on your Bluetooth mobile phone, listen to stereo music, or voice instructions of GPS navigations by Bluetooth wirelessly and have intercom conversations in full duplex with a passenger or other motorcycle riders. The SMH10R has average sound quality for both incoming and outgoing sound. It is possibly one of the most popular headsets today and maintains a loyal fan and rider base.

Riders installed in: Shoei RF1200, Bell Bullitt, HJC FG17, Shoei RF1100, Shoei GT Air


  • Talk Time: 8 hours
  • Stand-by Time: 7 days
  • Battery: Can be used while charging on rides (2.5 hour charging time)
  • Sound: Integrated audio booster. Individual volume control for each audio source
  • Profile: This has a lower profile on the outside of the helmet once fitted. There is a Sena model with the dial on this side.
  • Water resistant
  • Universal Pairing: Allows pairing to other brands of Bluetooth headsets
  • Intercom pairing: 4-way conference intercom
  • Range: Can connect up to half a mile to 980 yards in open terrain
  • Technology: Bluetooth 3.0, upgradeable firmware
  • Installation: Note some Bluetooth units will require clamping on top of the helmet, some will be stuck on. Note that anything attached to the helmet will create drag on the helmet. For this particular headset it is sticky mount only
  • Warranty: Expect 2 years


The Sena SMH10R Bluetooth headset has been criticized for sub-par or average sound quality. Some riders have experienced a buzzing at high volume, ear buds can help with this. Takes a while to get to know the controls.

Rating: 4.5 / 5


2. Sena 20S Bluetooth Headset

Sena 20S-01 Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication SystemBluetooth headsets

This is the big brother to Sena SMH1OR and is the latest in the Sena range with intuitive voice prompts and commands. It is the 4.0B Bluetooth model, and has multi device layering. This means if you are listening to music, the Sena 20S Bluetooth Headset will still enable you to get GPS navigation commands. If you are talking to another rider, you can listen to music at the same time. The group intercom can be configured via an iphone or android app. It has a built in FM radio tuner and offers a versatile jog dial.

Riders installed in: Shoei X11, Shoei RF1200, Arai 2013 Signet-Q, Scorpion EXO-R2000


  • Talk Time: 13 hours
  • Stand-by Time: 10 days
  • Sound: 4.0 Bluetooth technology means increased high definition audio quality. Wind noise cancellation.
  • Profile: Moderate in size
  • Intercom pairing: 8 paired riders. Intercom group management enables users to manage intercom participants by group
  • Universal Pairing: Allows pairing to other brands of Bluetooth headsets eg with a Cardo. Bluetooth protocol support: HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP, PBAP
  • Technology features: Advanced Bluetooth 4.0, firmware upgradeable. Audio multitasking caters for a blend of incoming and outgoing audio which allows for a superior experience which is seamless and smoother to your ears. Dual Bluetooth module communication system
  • Range: Can connect up to 1.5 miles away from other rides in open terrain.
  • Installation: All in one helmet clamp kit
  • Warranty: Expect 2 years


Radio signals can fluctuate and are faint at times with the Sena 20S headset. Although it claims to be water resistant in inclement weather, the manual states to keep product away from water. Some complaints about the voice commands not being recognized consistently. Loud beeps when change feature selection. There may be some bugs with the firmware so, be sure to road test this first to be sure it is the one for you.

Rating: 3.0 / 5


3. Cardo Scala Rider Q3 Bluetooth Headset                    

Cardo Scala Rider Q3 Bluetooth HeadsetBluetooth headsets“Saving 16% = $35”clickprice

Cardo Systems has been around since 2003 and, like Sena, is well known in the motorcycle market for their communications systems and their head protection helmets. They offer a wide spectrum of products from entry level to advanced ‘rich’ communication and entertainment systems. Of note is that Cardo develops customized accessory solutions for Schuberth and TomTom. They credit themselves with developing the world’s first Bluetooth headset for motorcycle helmets.

Now to the Cardo Scala Rider Q3 Bluetooth Headset. The universality with the ear buds allows the removal of the speakers in a helmet replacing with preferred custom molded ear buds or phone ear buds. VOX activation means you can make and answer the phone and intercom calls hands free.

Riders installed in: C3Pro, HJC RPHA Max, Shoei Neotec


  • Can be used for Dual sport sports – saves money if you want to use this for your snowboarding or cycling.
  • Talk Time: 8 hours
  • Stand-by Time: 7 days
  • Profile: Reasonable in size
  • Sound: Speakers have moderate clarity. Included is a noise cancelling mic.
  • Water resistant and dust proof
  • Intercom Pairing: 4 riders linked together – requiring toggling between each rider to speak and listen. Rider to passenger intercom in full duplex.
  • Capability: Boom mic hybrid and caters for music and GPS, control phone and music.
  • Technology features: AGC technology: Self-adjusting speaker volume according to speed and ambient noise. Online platform allows the customization of settings and updates can be received via a computer.
  • Range: Half a mile connectivity to other riders


The speakers in the Cardo Scala Rider Q3 Headset have had a lot of criticism and intercom connectivity has not been praised amongst reviewers. Music sharing limited to rider and passenger. Large control buttons – create drag. GPS only supports HS profile. Only compatible with other Cardo Scala rider models for intercom conversations. Check warranty because if you buy the product from an alternative retailer, Cardo may not replace the item. Not recommended for kids as on a louder bike, the volume needs to be up loud.

Rating: 4.3 / 5


 4. Cardo Scala Rider G9x Bluetooth Headset

Cardo Scala Rider G9x Bluetooth HeadsetBluetooth headsets     “Saving 17% = $50”

The previous Cardo G9 has been superseded by the Cardo Scala Rider G9x. Voice recognition or prompt commands technology supports a hands free device. Music can only be shared amongst rider and passenger. The speakers can be removed from the helmet clamp and replaced with earbuds. Recommendations to add a wired mic or a boom have been suggested. VOX activation means receiving and making phone and intercom calls hands free.

Riders installed in: Icon Airframe, Shoei RF1200,



  • Talk Time: 13 hours
  • Stand-by Time: 10 days
  • Profile: Moderate in size
  • Sound: Built in FM-radio with RDS, can input 6 station presets and smart auto scan.
  • Water resistant
  • Intercom Pairing: intercom can toggle between 9 riders
  • Technology Features: Group signals – can send a message to 8 other riders in your group instantaneously. Can have a mobile phone conference with rider, passenger and external caller.
  • Range: 1 mile connectivity
  • Installation: helmet clamp


The Cardo Scala Rider G9x cannot stream music to other riders, Bluetooth enabled GPS must support HS profile to work successfully. Intercom connectivity limited to Scala riders and note sometimes this is limited depending on the Scala model. Dependency on a computer with Windows XP /Mac OS x 10.5. Reception can be terrain dependent. Sound quality not great, one of the most common complaints in fact.

Rating: 3.4 / 5


 5. U-Clear HBC200HD Bluetooth Headset

U-Clear HBC200HD Bluetooth HeadsetBluetooth headsets

This headset is also known as the 10-10-10 headset because it caters for 10 riders, it has 10 hours of talk time and has 10 stand-by hours. It is a headset suitable for the big V-twin rider, is great for the Harley market with their open faced helmets and has a serious amount of customization available. The U-Clear HBC200HD headset has patented ABF technology and a full duplex intercom system designed to expand the reach, range and quality of communication by 765 yards (700m) between each of the same unit models. Boomless mic incorporated into speaker housing– meaning it will easily pick up voice commands from speakers in your ears.

Riders installed in: Shoei RF1200, Shoei GT Air



  • Sound: Patented ABF/DSP technology isolates voice and eliminates background noise
  • Talk Time: 10 hours
  • Stand-by Time: 10 days
  • Profile: Not too prominant
  • Water resistant, and weatherproof rechargeable unit
  • Upgradeable firmware
  • Intercom Pairing: 10 riders. Has universal pairing – can connect with other brands of Bluetooth communicators even if the riders have other brands of communication systems
  • Technology Features: multipoint Bluetooth connections for syncing multiple iphones, iPods, or GPS units and advanced Private intercom.
  • Range: Super group intercom connecting up to 10 riders. Multi-hop up to 0.43 miles between each rider-translated this means with 10 riders connected, the Multi-Hop Technology extends maximum range to nearly 4miles and allows for non-line-of-sight connections. This will depend on the terrain.
  • Installation: Metal mounting bracket, easy to install.
  • Customer service -it is reviewed as excellent


Apparently with the U-Clear HBC200HD wind noise has be a slight issue with some riders. Other riders have praised the sound quality, so best to test drive this if you can.

Rating: 4.8 / 5

Final Tips

If you are buying any of the Bluetooth headsets online, check out what comes in the box eg. does it come with cigarette charger, a mounting adapter, rubber or speaker pads and velcro? Is a tool to install included eg. Allen wrench?

If you are installing the headset yourself, check everything that you will require to do the install is included. Once again, if you are not exactly sure about what features you want when it comes to headsets, then go to our article on Bluetooth Headset Key Features for more information. If you are also contemplating a ready fitted Bluetooth helmet, checkout our Top 10 Bluetooth Helmets.

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