Ever had to honk and wave your arm like a lunatic to let your friend on the bike ahead know you need to stop and pee? Fiddled with your phone to change the song? Missed a turn because your fellow riders disappeared ahead? Have you ever thought to yourself – there’s got to be a better way?
Turns out there are gadgets made for just this – motorcycle bluetooth headsets that let you chat with your fellow riders, hear GPS directions, listen to music and make phone calls seamlessly from your helmet.
Choosing the right device for your needs is not an easy task, however. That’s where we come in: we’re here to help you understand the different communicators on the market and the best ones for different needs. Most reviewers write as if you have a PhD in motorcycle Bluetooth communicators – but we break it down for you in terms any rider can understand.
- How do I choose the right motorcycle bluetooth headset for me?
- Best for Group Communication: Cardo Packtalk Bold or Slim
- Best for Music and Passenger Communication: Cardo Spirit
- Best for Riders on a Budget: THOKWOK BT-S3
- Best with Integrated Camera: Sena 50C EVO
- Best Pre-Integrated Bluetooth Helmet: Sena Stryker
How do I choose the right motorcycle bluetooth headset for me?
When it comes to motorcycle bluetooth headsets, there are a ton of options all lumped into the same category. Would you be better off with a Sena 30K, or a 50R? How about a Cardo Freecom 2+ or a Packtalk Slim? Some devices are really best suited to one specific use case, like bluetooth communication or music.
We’ll go through a few of the most key use cases served by bluetooth headsets today and let you know the top picks for each.
Best Bluetooth Headset for…
|Group Communication||Cardo Packtalk Bold or Slim|
|Music and Passenger Comms||Cardo Spirit|
|A Tight Budget||THOKWOK BT-S3|
|Capturing Video||Sena 50C EVO|
|Integrated Bluetooth Helmet!||Sena Stryker|
More on why we made these choices below…
Best Motorcycle Helmet Communicator for Group Rides: Cardo Packtalk Bold or Slim
Communication with your fellow riders is really the original intent of these Bluetooth devices, so you’ll find a lot of options in this category from the big manufacturers – Sena and Cardo – and other smaller brands. For this category, we looked at intercom qualities most closely: intercom range, total participants supported, connection quality and stability, and sound quality during conversation.
Prices for good group communicators run high – from $250 to almost $400. However, these devices will come with the best-of-the-best technology and features in every way – smooth voice control, strong intercom signal, good sound quality and multiple mic options.
Over personal experience and a deep reading of other expert reviews on the web, we can say with confidence that the best motorcycle helmet communicator for group communication is the Cardo Packtalk Bold and Cardo Packtalk Slim.
Both of these devices share the exact same technology, but Cardo gives you a choice of the bulkier Bold or the (you guessed it) slimmer ‘Slim’ option, which breaks out the battery into a separate module that can be installed at the back of the helmet.
What are the highlights of the Packtalk Bold and Packtalk Slim that make them the best group communication devices?
Cardo Packtalk Bold and Packtalk Slim Highlights
Best-in-Class Noise Cancellation
For one, the noise cancellation on the microphone is best-in-class. For a headset in a helmet, wind noise is an ever-present issue. All the top units on the market today will lower the volume of your music and other audio when you speak into the microphone, but if the system mistakes wind for your voice, you get a pretty choppy experience. The mic will wire wind noise to your speakers, over your music. Not great. The algorithm Cardo uses to identify and block out wind noise while speaking is top notch.
Seamless Voice Commands
The voice commands of the Packtalk make hands free operation simple, and even give you access to your phone’s voice commands. No fiddling with your headset while you’re riding – keep your hands on the bars.
Effortless Pairing and Reconnection
The Packtalk also supports up to 15 riders in its Dynamic Mesh Communication mode with easy pairing. Reviewers like this rider note that once initially paired with your regular riding buddies, the Packtalk systems seamlessly connect on every ride with literally zero configuration via Mesh intercom. When a rider goes out of the 1 mile intercom range, the headset automatically reconnects when they come back into range. These units also come with bluetooth communication as well.
Waterproof, not Water Resistant
The Cardo Packtalk is also fully waterproof, with an IP67 rating. Most high end units are at least water resistant, which usually does the trick practically, but only offering water resistance means the manufacturer warranty won’t cover water damage. Many riders complain about this from Sena – which could offer a waterproof headset but chooses not to.
Sound by JBL
Cardo outsourced their speakers to the audio pros JBL, leading to a high-fidelity audio experience coming from the Packtalk headset. No one in the industry is doing this, and it shows.
Specs of Cardo Packtalk Bold and Slim
|Intercom Range||1 mile / 1.6 km|
|Bluetooth Version||4.1 – 4 riders|
|Mesh Tech||DMC – 8+ riders|
|Talk Time||13 hours|
|Voice Controls||Yes – “Hey Cardo”|
|Physical Buttons||Buttons and Roller|
|Charge Time||4 hours|
|Extras||JBL speakers, audio sharing, charge while using.|
Runner Up: Sena 50R and 50S
Our runner-up for best bluetooth headset is the Sena 50S and 50R, the evolution of the older Sena 30K unit. There are several reasons we didn’t like this unit, even though it does have many of the top of the line features you’ll find on the Packtalk series.
For one, some are still giving the low battery warning just minutes before shutting down, a problem also observed on the Sena 30K and still not fixed. However, the Sena units do give a bit more hours of talk time: closer to 17.
The Sena units also have the latest bluetooth versions and next generation Mesh technology supporting basically limitless participants, and new speakers with great bass response – however, they don’t measure up to the JBL speakers of the Cardo units. Sena does use Bluetooth 5.0, which reviewers have experienced as slightly better when it comes to intercom range.
Best Bluetooth Headset for Music and Passenger Communication: Cardo Spirit
Some riders just like to fly solo – on many mornings, I myself am one of those riders. In this case, a top of the line headset and communicator system has far too many features and carries too high a price. Thankfully, there are many options at a lower price range for listening to music, making phone calls, and tuning in to FM radio. These units often come with the ability to chat with a passenger as well.
Priorities for these types of riders are good speaker quality, decent mic quality, and easy buttons or voice commands for operating their phone and the unit easily. Intercom range and number of participants, as well as the latest Mesh technology, are less important.
The best bluetooth device for listening to music and chatting with a passenger is the Cardo Spirit.
The Spirit is Cardo’s least expensive Bluetooth unit, but it comes with all the features and reliability you’ll need for talking to a passenger or even one other rider as long as you’re within line of sight. The Spirit comes in Cardo’s larger Freecom lineup, which is their mid-range Bluetooth headset line. The Spirit is meant for a rider and passenger to communicate, while the Freecom 2+ and Freecom 4+ are meant for 2 and 4 riders to communicate with each other. There is also a Spirit HD version that allows the user to manage sound profiles and includes 40mm HD speakers, instead of the standard 32mm.
What makes the Cardo Spirit our top pick for riders who just want to listen to music and chat with a passenger?
Cardo Spirit Highlights
Users of the Cardo Spirit rave about its easy installation and simple interface on a very slim unit. It’s also fully waterproof, a feature that’s unfortunately rare on motorcycle bluetooth headsets. The mechanism to clip the unit to the mount is sturdy and easy to operate, even with a gloved hand. The unit comes with both a sticky mount and a clipmount, both of which work very well – we personally tested this unit in pouring rain and scorching desert.
Great Sound Quality
Reviewers mention 32mm speakers on this unit can lose clarity at high volumes, but upgrading to the Spirit HD with 40mm speakers fixes this. Plus, Cardo offers JBL speakers as an add-on unit. Get the best price on that here. The noise cancelling on the mic of this bluetooth headset also rivals Sena’s Advanced Noise Control.
Killer Features: Audio Sharing, Call to Intercom, Charge while you Ride
Cardo has really leaned into customer needs with their latest offerings, consistently evolving their products to address some of the common outstanding pain points in motorcycle bluetooth headsets. Battery life on the Spirit series is stellar at 10 hours (13 for the Spirit HD), but in case you forget to charge, you can charge this unit while you ride.
You can also share the music you’re listening to with your passenger’s Cardo unit, and route incoming calls to both of you. Want to tune into the radio? No problem – this bluetooth headset has a built-in FM radio with 6 preset stations.
Specs of Cardo Spirit
|Talk Time||10 hours (13 for Spirit HD)|
|Charge Time||2 hours, with Fast Charge delivering 2 hours of talk time in 20 minutes of charging|
|Voice Controls||Yes – “Hey Cardo”|
|Physical Buttons||4 Buttons|
|Extras||32mm speakers, audio sharing, charge while using.|
Best Helmet Bluetooth Headset for Riders on a Budget: THOKWOK BT-S3
After you’ve bought your top of the line bike, invested in a good helmet, jacket, gloves and boots for riding, and filled up your tank, it’s understandable to be a bit dismayed when Sena tries to charge you $400 just to chat with your pack.
Especially when a pair of wired headphones sells for $20, we wanted to make sure we picked a unit in this round up for those riders on a budget. To find the best one, we looked for bluetooth headsets under $100 that sported decent intercom range, talk time, and hands free voice control features. You won’t find Mesh technology on these units, but you will find the basics and decent battery life.
That search led us to our pick for the best motorcycle bluetooth headset for riders on a budget: the THOKWOK BT-S3.
What makes the THOKWOK BT-S3 our top pick for riders who want a budget motorcycle bluetooth headset?
THOKWOK BT-S3 Highlights
With a name that sounds like an experimental Star Wars battle droid, you might be surprised to hear this headset sells for just $50. This bluetooth communication headset packs quite a lot for that small price tag as well – including group intercom for 3 riders with a half mile range, voice control, FM radio, and a waterproof housing.
Decent Sound Quality
This headset features DSP echo cancellation to cut down on wind noise and amplify voices over intercom, making both your conversations and your music come through more clearly even at high speeds. The bluetooth communication standard on this unit is a bit outdated, but as long as you stay close to your pack, it should do just fine.
I certainly suspected that a bluetooth headset for under $50 would have a few exposed wires, but this unit comes in a fully waterproof housing. Feel free to ride in the rain confidently.
You don’t need to sell your other gear just to afford a bluetooth headset – and this unit is proof.
Specs of THOKWOK BT-S3
|Intercom Range||0.6 miles / 1 km|
|Bluetooth Version||3.0, 3 riders|
|Talk Time||6 hours|
|Physical Buttons||4 Buttons|
|Charge Time||3 hours|
|Extras||Great bang for buck|
Best Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset with Integrated Camera: Sena 50C EVO
Whether you’re a moto vlogger or just like to post clips of your rides on Instagram, having a camera attached to your bike or helmet is a must. Thankfully, some bluetooth headsets not only sport an intercom system but cameras – even 4K cameras! Even better, these units are often cheaper than buying a camera and intercom system separately.
Our pick for the best bluetooth motorcycle headset with a camera just came out in 2022 with Sena’s Quantum lineup: the Sena 50C EVO.
What makes the Sena 50C EVO our top pick for riders needing a camera on their rides?
Sena 50C EVO Highlights
4K Video and Lens Rotation
The Sena 50C shoots video in 4K at 30FPS or 1080p at 60FPS with image stabilization, and the lens rotates up to 30 degrees to level your shots. In photo mode, you’ll shoop 12MP 4:3 photos and bursts up to 8 shots per second. In Time-Lapse mode, you can choose between shooting a frame every 1, 2, 5, or 10 seconds.
Easy Audio Voiceover on Video
With a separate bluetooth headset and camera, like a GoPro, narrating audio can be a huge pain often involving a second mic installation. The 50C EVO allows your voice to go straight into the video recording using the existing intercom system microphone.
Record the Past with Video Tagging Feature
Sena’s Video Tagging feature allows you to save 60 seconds of past footage along with 120 seconds of future footage with just one tap. Talk about convenient: this really nails the needs of a motorcycle rider that can’t be fiddling with camera controls and needs to focus on the road. This also cuts down on storage needs, capturing interesting moments without the dreaded “I forgot to pause” filling up your GoPro’s SD card with an hour of roadside lunch footage.
Big Battery and Smart Battery Management
This headset sports a bigger-than-usual battery with 22 hours of talk time and 1.5 hours of video recording with only 2.5 hours to a full charge. Long battery life is a must for this unit to keep the camera going through long rides. Sena got even smarter with an auto-shutoff feature to ensure the headset doesn’t die while you’re out.
Top Notch Comms Features
On top of all the great video recording capabilities in this unit, you get a fully capable communication unit with Bluetooth 5.0, Mesh 2.0, and Harman Kardon sound engineering for the speakers and microphone.
Specs of Sena 50C EVO
|Intercom Range||1 mile / 1.6 km (5 miles / 8 km with 6+ riders)|
|Bluetooth Version||5.0, 4 riders|
|Mesh Tech||Yes, Mesh 2.0 with Open Mesh for limitless riders connected|
|Talk Time||22 hours, 1.5 recording|
|Voice Controls||Yes, with voice assistants (Siri, Hey Google)|
|Physical Buttons||Jog Dial|
|Charge Time||2.5 hours|
|Extras||Camera shoots in 4K at 30FPS video, with still shot, burst, and time lapse photos, up to 128 GB on SD card|
Best Pre-Integrated Bluetooth Helmet: Sena Stryker
You may not be aware that some motorcycle bluetooth headset makers actually sell pre-installed units inside helmets, saving you the hassle of installation and calibrating the placement of speakers and microphones for you. These helmets are actually very affordable, coming in at price points that rival buying a similar headset and helmet then doing the installation yourself.
So if you want to skip out on installation and just go for a ride right after you take your helmet out of the box, take a look at our top pick for integrated bluetooth motorcycle helmet: the Sena Stryker.
What makes the Sena Stryker our pick for best motorcycle bluetooth helmet?
Sena Stryker Highlights
This helmet comes with top-notch Bluetooth 5.0, intercom supporting up to 4 riders, plus Mesh technology unlocking almost limitless connections and longer range in bigger groups. Of course you’ll get FM Radio, voice control, and Advanced Noise Control to keep your conversations and audio crisp. This helmet even features an integrated taillight!
Quiet and Snug
The build quality and sound isolation of the helmet itself, combined with the quality of the pre-packed bluetooth headset speakers, leads to a quiet and snug enclosure. Wind noise is blocked out even at high speeds, while music and voice sound quality over both bluetooth and Mesh intercom are further improved with Sena’s Advanced Noise Control technology.
Integrated Form Factor
Since all the internals of the headset can be packed inside the helmet itself, Sena is able to achieve a very slim package while also boosting battery life up to an incredible 18 hours of talk time. Simple buttons on the outside allow for quick control of the bluetooth features while on your motorcycle.
Interested in other integrated bluetooth motorcycle helmets, like modular lids or even a half helmet? Check out our full guide to bluetooth motorcycle helmets here.
Motorcycle Bluetooth Headsets: FAQ
Motorcycle bluetooth headsets are not the easiest piece of tech to understand. We break down your most frequently asked questions here.
How to install and mount a bluetooth headset in your motorcycle helmet?
Installing a motorcycle bluetooth headset is similar for most bluetooth headsets, and it’s not as hard as you might think. Most headsets have a unit that clips on to the side of the helmet, a set of speakers, and a microphone to mount. Before you install the unit, turn it on and pair it to your phone to make sure all the components work – speakers, mic, voice control and all. That way, if something is broken, you find out before you go through the installation process.
The control unit can be clipped to the left or right side of the helmet’s outer shell. If you have a modular helmet, make sure you clip the unit far back enough that the modular part doesn’t mess with your device.
To install the speakers, just unsnap and remove the cheek pads of your helmet. Some helmets have recesses for speakers which makes placement easier – otherwise, try to discern where your ears sit in the helmet and place the speakers right there. Use the included sticky pads to secure the speakers in place.
Place the boom or wire microphone just below the speaker on the side where you’ll attach the bluetooth headset control unit. Use the included sticky pads to secure the microphone. The microphone end should come out right in front of your mouth.
Plug everything into the unit on the side of your helmet, and you’re done!
Here’s a great video tutorial on installation – just 15 minutes.
Can Cardo work with Sena? Are other brands compatible?
Most bluetooth motorcycle helmets using similar Bluetooth or Mesh network standards should be able to communicate with each other – including Cardo and Sena. For example, a Cardo Freecom 4+ can pair with a Sena 30K over bluetooth. However, both Cardo and Sena’s Mesh standards are slightly different, so you’ll have the smoothest experience if everyone is on the same brand.
Which is better: Sena or Cardo?
The biggest name in the motorcycle bluetooth headset space used to be Sena, but Cardo (formerly Scala) and several other lower-cost makers are pushing the envelope and providing great technology at affordable prices. As with most technology gadgets, you often get what you pay for, with cheap units lacking the same range, reliability, and durability as those from Sena and Cardo. When it comes to these two brands, there are still some differences to note.
Sena products are often the highest price for the features included, and some riders have gripes with the strength of their noise cancellation algorithm and general ease of use. They also don’t provide a truly waterproof headset, which is shocking considering they are the market leader in bluetooth headsets. However, they continually push the envelope with standards like Mesh 2.0 and a stellar line of pre-integrated bluetooth helmets.
Cardo is newer to the motorcycle bluetooth headset space, but some now believe they make the best motorcycle bluetooth systems around. Cardo certainly focuses heavily on usability and has addressed many of the gripes of Sena users. Most of their units are fully waterproof, for example, and they include convenient features like audio sharing and charging while in use that differentiate their units from other bluetooth headsets.
In our opinion, Cardo is starting to edge out Sena. However, the best choice for you is probably what your pack uses, as that will give you the best connection and intercom experience.
What is the best Sena headset?
The best Sena headset on the market today is the Sena 50R and Sena 50S. The sound quality from both these units is stellar through Sena’s new HD speakers, and they support both Bluetooth 5 and Mesh 2.0 for a range of intercom capabilities. You’ll get access to your voice-activated phone assistant (“Hey Google”/”Hey Siri”) as well as rapid charging and a choice of a jog dial on the 50S or 3 button setup on the 50R.
What’s the best motorcycle bluetooth headset for a half helmet?
Half helmets are a tricky proposition for motorcycle bluetooth headsets because of the increased wind noise – both around the mouth and ears. Most headsets with a boom mic will perform to a decent degree in a half helmet, but the best setup for a half helmet wearer might be one of two options: earplug-style earbuds for sound or a purpose-built integrated bluetooth half helmet from Sena: the Cavalry.
Most bluetooth headsets include a headphone jack for inserting your own headphones. Given the wind noise around the ears while wearing a half helmet, you might want to buy a decent pair of in-ear headphones to use for your unit’s sound. A boom mic on a headset with good wind noise cancelling, like the Cardo Packtalk Bold, will take care of your own voice over intercom.
If you want the best sound quality experience in a half helmet, consider the Sena Cavalry – a DOT-approved lid for under $200 with incredible voice and sound quality without a boom mic. Somehow, Sena achieved great sound quality by integrating microphones into the brow of the helmet. The Cavalry was discontinued by Sena in 2020 but you can still find it here on eBay for now.
Is it safe to listen to music while riding?
As with anything involving a motor vehicle, being aware of risks and reducing distractions is paramount to ensuring the safety of everyone on the road, including you.
Listening to music while riding can elevate your experience and actually make you less drowsy on long rides, but your music shouldn’t be so loud that it drowns out the sound of other vehicles. A good noise cancelling bluetooth headset can actually improve your ability to hear oncoming traffic or other hazards. That’s because these headsets are designed to cut down constant, ambient noise like wind without affecting one-off noise like the sound of tires and an engine approaching from behind.
Cardo’s Automatic Volume Control and other noise cancelling algorithms – included on the Cardo PackTalk Bold, Cardo PackTalk Slim, and Cardo Freecom series – cut out ambient noises well without affecting other outside sounds.
How do I improve the mic in a bluetooth motorcycle helmet?
Improving the mic on a bluetooth motorcycle helmet or bluetooth headset is usually a matter of placement and sound isolation. A few tricks to try include moving the boom closer to your mouth, bolstering the size of your helmet’s chin mesh with some extra material, and switching out the mic you’re using (either boom or wire style).
Some cheaper units may lack the quality of noise cancelling algorithm necessary to cut out wind noise as well, making your voice quality just plain bad. In that case, it might be time for an upgrade.
Can you use Airpods while riding a motorcycle?
Absolutely! This is actually something I do regularly, especially when I’m trying on a new helmet or renting one and can’t install one of my motorcycle bluetooth headsets in it. If you simply want to listen to your music on shuffle, Airpods are a good alternative to a full-blown bluetooth headset. I recommend Airpods Pro, since the seal they create with your ears blocks out wind and exhaust noise very well. The noise cancelling is even better for highway rides – I found that it helped me hear traffic around me.
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