The Cardo Spirit is the best value motorcycle Bluetooth headset on the market.
There, I said it. And I have put in the hours necessary to make that statement.
I’ve used the Cardo Spirit HD almost daily for years. Why? It’s easy to use, low cost, and tough as nails. It performs just as well while thrashing two stroke dirt bikes in the jungle as it does cruising the high plains of Kansas on a bagger.
However, that doesn’t make the Cardo Spirit for everyone.
Also, I had to make one crucial change to the standard Cardo Spirit setup to take this unit from bearable to fantastic.
Let me explain…
- Quick Verdict: Who is the Cardo Spirit for?
- Where the Cardo Spirit HD Wins
- The Cardo Spirit’s Catch: Sound Quality
- Save the Cardo Spirit with This One Trick!
- Installing the Cardo Spirit HD in Any Motorcycle Helmet
- Comparing the Cardo Spirit HD to the Cardo Spirit
- Can I use one Cardo Spirit in two helmets?
Quick Verdict: Who is the Cardo Spirit for?
The Cardo Spirit HD and regular Spirit units are offered at such a steal of a price because they sacrifice two things: intercom participants and range. With both units you’re limited to two riders connected to the intercom, over a range of 0.4 miles (600 meters) for the Cardo Spirit HD and 0.25 miles (400 meters) for the regular Cardo Spirit.
That makes the Cardo Spirit ideal for riders who only ride with one buddy, a passenger, or as lone wolves who only need music and GPS directions to keep them company.
That is (almost) where the downsides to the Cardo Spirit end. I’ll get into the other key piece later – it’s easy to fix, and won’t hold you back from a great experience with the Spirit.
If you do think you’ll ever be chatting with a large group, you’re better off with a Cardo Packtalk unit, like the new Packtalk Bold or Slim covered here.
Where the Cardo Spirit HD Wins
Tons of motorcycle gear for some reason completely misses the mark when it comes to the needs of actual riders.
The Spirit is something different.
The Spirit shows that Cardo is listening.
The first way that shines through? How easy the Cardo Spirit is to use.
So Easy a Caveman Can Use It
This right here is the biggest reason I use this unit every day when I’m riding around town on my bike.
Having some phone connection issue with your Bluetooth unit? Not a huge deal if you’re using it 5 times a year for big group rides.
But if you’re having that issue every day? You’ll want to gouge your eyes out.
The Cardo Spirit is just dead simple. You get easy 4 button controls that are simple to feel and use with a gloved hand. But try not even touching the unit: just use Siri or Hey Google for any command from skipping songs to asking for directions. Works like a charm.
You get all the high end ease of use features of any premium Bluetooth unit like the Sena 50S or Cardo Packtalk Neo for a fraction of the price, too.
Volume automatically adjusts based on road noise around you, and lowers while you or your intercom-connected buddy are talking. You can also charge the unit while you’re using it… which is a feature even some $400+ units missed.
The Cardo Spirit is just plain easy – connect your phone to it once, and for every other ride you just turn it on and go. Music, GPS directions, FM Radio (on the HD) and calls automatically route right to your helmet.
Perfect for Two Riders
If it’s just you and one riding buddy or a passenger, the Cardo Spirit does everything you need. You won’t notice the difference between this $100 unit and a $500 high end Mesh unit. You get 13 hours of battery life (10 with the normal Spirit) and a charge time of just 2 hours to full.
What about range, you ask?
You might balk at the 0.4 mile (600 meter) and 0.25 mile (400 meter) range of the Cardo Spirit HD and regular Spirit, respectively.
Sure, these look like rookie numbers on paper. But after testing this unit with a buddy on multiple trips spanning several continents and terrain types, trust me: that’s enough range for two riders.
If you are further than a quarter mile away from each other, you’re no longer riding together.
Simple to Set Up
Not only is the Cardo Spirit easy to use, it’s simple to set up. Cardo puts a solid clamp mount and sticky mount in the box, along with a sturdy boom mic and low-profile wired mic.
I’ve set up the Spirit in both full face and modular helmets; it’s easy, quick, and long-lasting in both. The boom mic also holds its position very well, making it ideal for modular helmets where the chin bar might be brushing past it often.
Waterproof and Durable
Cardo bills the Spirit as fully waterproof. Why should you trust them?
Well for one, I’ve battled tested this baby through monsoons. Short of going scuba diving with it, I’ve put it through its paces weather-wise. There’s no corrosion on the unit anywhere, and it still works flawlessly. Like it just came out of the box.
I hear reviewers pointing to that rubber flap over the charging point and yelling from their armchairs: “Water will get right in there and RUIN everything!”
Calm down; it’s just not true.
And even if your unit does break down: Cardo certifies it as waterproof, so they’ll stick by their two year warranty and replace the unit for you even if it’s water damaged.
Oh So Low Price
All of this durability, functionality, and get-out-of-my-way-so-I-can-ride ease of use comes in the Cardo Spirit for a QUARTER of the price of high end units that do…
That’s right. If you only need to intercom with one other person, you’re throwing away money by buying a Cardo Packtalk or Sena 50S. Just get the Cardo Spirit.
But there is one upgrade you’ll need to make first…
The Cardo Spirit’s Catch: Sound Quality
So here is where I give you the bad news – followed by a quick fix.
The 32mm speakers in the Cardo Spirit might be best described as glass crushing machines designed to scratch through your eardrums with a cacophony of horrid screeches.
The 40mm speakers in the Cardo Spirit HD are not much better.
BUT! Cardo was smart enough to make the speaker connector to the main control unit a plain old 3.5mm headphone jack… meaning any headphones or helmet speakers will work here.
And if you’ve read my helmet speakers review you know what comes next…
Save the Cardo Spirit with This One Trick!
All you need to do is upgrade those speakers…
Thankfully, Cardo teamed up with the audio experts at JBL to design a custom helmet speaker set made for motorcycling. Their wonderful love child is the Cardo JBL 45mm speaker kit.
I use this set daily, and in my Shoei RF-SR it pumps out clear sound, strong bass, and comfortable treble even when turned up to 11 on the highway.
However, if you have a noisy helmet, no amount of speaker size is going to help you hear clearly without blowing out your eardrums.
If your helmet isn’t quiet enough, either get a quieter helmet or pick up these awesome earbuds from Amazon. They’ll plug in to the Cardo Spirit’s 3.5mm headphone jack and sit nicely in your ears without any pain, given their low profile. Don’t worry too much about sound reduction – it’ll reduce overall noise levels, but not specific noises like oncoming cars.
Now that I’ve saved your ears, let’s move on to how to install the Cardo Spirit HD. It’s a cinch.
Installing the Cardo Spirit HD in Any Motorcycle Helmet
Installation for this unit couldn’t be easier. First, you have a few choices to make.
Sticky mount or clamp mount? I prefer clamp, just because it’s easier to slide off and reuse, but still sturdy enough that I never worry the unit will fall off.
Boom mic or wired mic? Generally wired makes more sense in a full face helmet, while boom is your only option for open face and modulars.
Now you’ll want to pull the padding out of your helmet and get to work with the sticky pads. Stick the speaker sticky pads to each speaker first. Then, play around with the helmet on to make sure you seat the speakers right over your ears – if they’re just a bit off, you’ll lose a lot of volume and fidelity in your music.
Once you’re confident where the speakers should go, stick them in. Set the wires along the foam inside your helmet so they’ll be tucked away when you snap all the padding back in.
Slide the clamp mount on (or stick on the sticky mount) to the left side of the helmet, and connect the speakers with the 3.5mm headphone jack. Then put the mic in place, sticking it to the inside of your chin bar (for wired) or over your left cheek on the inside of your helmet (for boom). Connect the mic to the main unit.
Snap all your pads back in, and you’re ready to rock.
Need a visual guide? Here’s a video I found helpful that goes through installation for any helmet type.
Comparing the Cardo Spirit HD to the Cardo Spirit
Hung up on whether to splurge the extra dough for the Spirit HD? Here are the differences.
|Cardo Spirit HD
|IMAGE OF BOX (take from manufacturer)
|IMAGE OF BOX (take from manufacturer)
|0.25 miles (400 meters)
|0.4 miles (600 meters)
|32mm (upgrade to 45mm)
|40mm (upgrade to 45mm)
|Charge While Using
|Auto Volume Control
|Over the Air Software Update
|Cardo Connect App
|Two Year Warranty
|Check Amazon’s Price
|Cardo Spirit – Amazon
|Cardo Spirit HD – Amazon
|Check Revzilla’s Price
|Cardo Spirit – Revzilla
|Cardo Spirit HD – Revzilla
Can I use one Cardo Spirit in two helmets?
You do get two mics and two mounts included in every Cardo Spirit box, so can you use one unit in two helmets?
Unfortunately not. For one, you’d need another set of speakers. But more importantly, you’d need another mount piece with cable leads where the removable unit clips in. That isn’t sold separately, so you’ll have to buy a second unit.
You’re better off buying a dual pack of the Cardo Spirit HD (sold here) for a bit of savings. Then you get double everything, so your second helmet can be perfectly outfitted to your taste as well (and usable by guest passengers!)
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