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Music and motorcycling share a unique synergy, captivating our hearts, particularly those who embrace adventure and street touring rather than high-speed sport/off-road riding, where the emphasis lies on the thrill of the ride rather than engaging in mind conversation. And that’s where motorcycle Bluetooth headsets come into play (pun intended). Even so, it can be overwhelming to look for a new type of gadget for the first time, and this very much extends to the motorcycle Bluetooth headsets realm.
Which to buy? What type to consider? Which has the best intercom range? With these questions in mind, and with insights from my extensive 50+ years of motorcycling experience, allow me share with you my selection of the best motorcycle helmet Bluetooth headsets for music:
Headset ModelCategoryPlayback TimeGet Yours Cardo Packtalk EdgeBest All-Round13 HoursRevZilla | Cycle Gear | Amazon Sena 10RBest Audio Quality10 HoursRevZilla | J&P Cycles | Amazon Lexin G16Best Value For Money15 HoursAmazon FreedConn TCOM-SCBest Budget8 HoursAmazon Cardo Freecom 4xBest For Solo Rider13 HoursRevZilla | Cycle Gear | Amazon
Before I delve into the detailed reviews of each headset and explain why I consider them the best in 2023, let me highlight factors that influenced my selection process.
Key Factors When Choosing the Perfect Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset for Music
A motorcycle Bluetooth headset serves the purpose of wirelessly connecting me to other riders or my mobile devices. With this seamless connection, I can effortlessly make and receive calls, receive navigation instructions, and communicate with others while on the go. But our primary focus here is being able to listen to music while riding, and so, the following are the factors I consider most important for this application:
Prioritize headsets with a universal mount for easy adaptation to your specific helmet style, facilitating an effortless transition to a new helmet in case of an upgrade.
Sound Fidelity and Noise Canceling Tech
Go for solid mid-to-high frequency performance to overcome wind noise past 75 mph, regardless of ambient noise.
In addition to fidelity, I also consider headsets that are simple and intuitive to use, making my life a lot easier on the road. The ability to use a Bluetooth intercom with motorcycle gloves without any inadvertent actions is a make-or-break factor in my decision.
Bluetooth Version and Compatibility
Many of us tend to buy communication systems based on what our buddies have, just to take part in group rides. But if your primary goal is to listen to music, I advise against choosing a Bluetooth version below 3.0 (5.3 is the latest) and prioritize the capability to stream and play high-quality music over group connectivity. That’s not to say you can’t have both.
Protection from the elements is an essential requirement for both a new motorcycle helmet and the Bluetooth headset you’re looking to mount on it. So, pay attention to the waterproofness or ensure it’s at least water-resistant with a rating not below IP65, with IP68 being the best.
Water molecules alone may not instantly cause destruction, but they can initiate oxidation reactions that corrode the metal parts and impair proper functionality of electronic devices.
Intercom and Pairing Multiple Devices
In practice, I need my comms unit to handle calls, music, and conversations with my pillion or other rider groups. Even when riding solo, I value headsets that can provide GPS directions while music plays. Avoid units with a range of less than 3 feet (1 meter) to ensure connectivity with other devices.
Battery Life/Playback Time
Usually not a big issue for most units and riders, but if you have plans to tour the best motorcycle cities worldwide, then you should consider how to keep your new setup juiced and ready for the next ride. Having one with a swappable battery, or one that comes in pairs, is an added advantage so that you can keep one charging while you use the other. I recommend a minimum playback time of 8 hours.
Now, let me review my top best motorcycle helmet Bluetooth headset picks.
Top 5 Best Motorcycle Helmet Bluetooth Headsets for Music
Headset Model Category Bluetooth Version Playback Time Cardo Packtalk Edge Best All-Round 5.2 13 Hours Sena 10R Best Audio Quality 4.1 10 Hours Lexin G16 Best Value For Money 5.0 15 Hours FreedConn TCOM-SC Best Budget-Friendly 3.0 8 Hours Cardo Freecom 4x Best For Solo Rider 4.1 13 Hours
I know, I know, there is no one-size-fits-all Bluetooth device, and the market continues to overwhelm us with countless options, but in my reviews, I will only recommend headsets I have personally encountered. I firmly believe in offering recommendations grounded in firsthand knowledge, prioritizing the sharing of my insights rather than relying on hearsay, as my ultimate objective is to guarantee that you derive the maximum benefit from my expertise. Here goes:
1. Cardo Packtalk Edge: Best All-Round
SpecificationsProsCons ● Playback Time: 13 hrs. ● Speakers: JBL 40mm stereo ● Bluetooth Version: 5.2 ● Waterproof: IP67 ● Group Intercom: 2-15 riders ● Unit-to-Unit Range: 1.6 km (1 mi) ● Group Maximum Range: 8 km (5 mi) ● Voice Commands: Yes ● Built-in FM Radio: Yes ● Helmet Mount/Compatibility: Universal Air Mount ● Weight: 48 g (1.7 oz)✔ Backward compatible, which I can connect with older BT versions ✔ Ergonomic control wheel is really easy to find and manipulate with a gloved hand and does not roll inadvertently ✔ Receives natural voice commands in Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, French, and English ✔ Easy-to-follow graphical installation manual✘ Only admins can add devices to an intercom session. And if any of us accidentally gets locked out, we’ll all need to reboot our devices to rejoin the session ✘ Charging port cover is difficult to seat, and the charging light doesn’t seem to change color when fully turned off
When asked about the new Cardo Packtalk Edge, Alon Lumbroso, the CEO of Cardo Systems, stated:
“We’ve taken the world’s best motorcycle intercom (Cardo Packtalk Bold) and elevated it to new heights, a testament to Cardo’s commitment to quality, purposeful innovation, and user-centricity. Our newest flagship product embodies our innovative spirit.”
I couldn’t agree more, and here are my reasons.
New Air-Mount Is a Breeze
For years, I have regarded the now-discontinued Cardo Packtalk Bold, which is 1.1mm deeper than the Packtalk Slim and weighs 17gm more, as the epitome of excellence. But now, the Packtalk Edge outshines them all as the ultimate upgrade. With its brand-new, user-friendly universal air-mount system, I can effortlessly fit onto almost any helmet, including my AGV’s AX-9 adventure helmet without taking it off first.
I needn’t worry about it falling off if a tree branch slaps me in the face as I ride because Cardo enhances the magnetic mount with a thoughtful plastic clip on the base. Unseating it requires more force, about 20 pounds on my luggage scale.
I have also come to learn that the Edge is the only Cardo member that runs with the air mount, setting it apart from the Packtalk Neo, Packtalk Custom, Freecom and Spirit models, which rely on a clickable helmet mount.
Efficiency At Best
The new Edge’s Bluetooth® 5.2 technology increases the data rate to 2 Mbps from the 1 Mbps featured in the Bluetooth 4.1 of the Bold, while also reducing the average power consumption by 15% to 50%. Just the same, Cardo claims 13 hours of music playback time for both versions, possibly due to the Bold having a smaller body (49 mm x 91 mm x 25 mm) and, hence, a smaller battery (850 mAh).
Premium Sound With Volume
And unlike the more budget-friendly Spirit HD and Spirit, the Edge stands out with its 40mm-wide, high-definition JBL speakers, delivering a premium audio experience on par with the Cardo 45mm JBL Audio Speaker Set. As an avid audiophile who enjoys music while riding, I couldn’t help but drool over its ability to provide high-fidelity sound even at speeds exceeding 75 mph. My GPS navigation and phone calls, too, never sounded so good.
Until I have the opportunity to road test the new Harman Kardon Sena speakers, Cardo wins on the audio quality front. The 40 mm JBL kit is just unreal.
Throw in the 3 JBL Audio profiles in the mix, and the Cardo Edge reaches a maximum volume of 120dB (30% louder than Packtalk Bold), exceeding the Sena 50S, which peaks at around 60dB. It’s worth noting, though, that you should exercise caution, as 120dB can be as loud as a fighter jet taking off!
Sleek and Durable
It’s also lighter, weighing in at just 1.7 oz compared to the Sena 50S’s 2.26 oz, and offers a wider range of FM radio reception (76-108 MHz) with 6 preset stations. And to cap it all off, a generous 3-year warranty. I have yet to come across another motorcycle Bluetooth headset with more than 2 years of technical support and repair coverage in case this unit malfunctions in the mud.
Other than the music fidelity, the intercom rider-to-rider range is important when putting that capable DMC tech to good use. Cardo claims a 1-mile (1.6 km) range on the official website, but in practice, I was only able to get 0.7 miles (1.1 km) on a clear interstate highway in humid weather. Not bad, but not as advertised!
2. Sena 10R: Best Audio Quality
SpecificationsProsCons ● Playback Time: 10 hrs. ● Speakers: Sena Premium 40 mm HD ● Bluetooth Version: 4.1 ● Waterproof: No ● Group Intercom: 2-3 riders ● Group Maximum Range: 0.9 km (0.6 mi) ● Voice Command: Yes ● Built-in FM Radio: Yes ● Helmet Mount/Compatibility: Double Sided Adhesive/Velcro ● Weight: 22 g (0.78 oz)✔ Allows full-duplex intercom conversations with other riders (plays your voice back at you over the intercom) ✔ Auto Multitasking allows incoming audio from two-way radio (from other group riders) to play in the background of intercom (conversation with pillion) ✔ The built-in Audio Boost feature increases volume when riding at higher speeds ✔ With Sidetone, I can hear a full duplex of my own voice playing back in headset while talking on the intercom✘ The GPS voice instruction interrupts intercom conversation ✘ Settings menu is complex. You have to keep your owner’s manual nearby to get some things right
Five reasons I went with the 10R as the superior choice audio quality, over the 10s, all have to do with its advanced noise control, HD speakers, audio multitasking, customizable sound settings, and dual Bluetooth module. It continues the legacy of the SMH series, borrowing from the DNA of the Sena SMH10D-11.
Despite being a 2016 model, the 10R remains a popular Bluetooth communication device for many due to its user-friendly simplicity and longevity, serving well for over 10 years if you can live without mesh—which personally, I have no qualms about.
And its tiny construction (2.8 in x 1.4 in x 0.5 in) allows me to mount it solely on the chin bar space, unlike its predecessor, the SMH10 standard (3.3 in x 2.2 in x 1.5 in), and the 20S-EVO (3.7 in x 1.9 in x 1.0 in), the next generation of the original 20S. In addition, I can run the coil directly to the speakers, eliminating the need for a boom mic, which sort of gets whacked around a majority of the time.
As a solo rider, I’m staying off the grid most of the time, so, I reckon, I wouldn’t miss the mic much even if I lost that altogether.
The separate battery also allows you to swap out the battery alone and keep it charging while you use a second one, giving essentially limitless playback time. I know, I know, it’s less appealing than swapping out the whole unit as with the 10S (I found the 10S battery lasts at least 30% longer than 10R), but you know, an external battery has its perks.
For instance, if the 13 hours of playback time drops below 8 hours, I can simply buy a replacement battery and slap it on to get more music miles off the whole communication system.
And of course, in true Sena Series 10 fashion, the 10R is compatible with the handlebar and wrist remote. Which I find very convenient considering that I ride more than one motorcycle on consecutive days and wouldn’t want the inconvenience of having to clamp and unclamp the whole thing on the handlebars.
Reliable For All Season
Sena claims that the 10R is water-resistant rather than waterproof, but in a glowing review by Mike L., a verified purchaser on Amazon, he confidently states:
“I have ridden in relentless downpours for hours, and my Sena 10R unit hasn’t skipped a beat. I braved a 3.5-hour ride (covering 150 miles) on the freeway amidst pouring rain.”
It’s experiences like these that make me lean towards recommending the more affordable 10R priced at $239, rather than the pricier flagship model, the Sena 50C Harman Kardon Mesh Intercom & Camera priced at $445 (which I wish had waterproof capabilities considering its hefty price tag), when you’re conquering rainy rides on your BMW R 1250 GS, arguably the best adventure motorcycle for rain.
But if you must go the 50 Series way, perhaps the middle-priced Sena 50S could be an appealing choice, offering superior sound quality courtesy of Harman Kardon speakers. Or, the 50R, the only waterproof Sena unit, which proves ideal for riding through rain in Oceania or tackling the dusty deserts of Namibia come 2024 for the 8th Int. GS Trophy.
Go for the Sena 30K if you’re looking for a Sena product with a longer intercom range (8,000 meters).
Despite being a modestly priced pick, I find the feature-packed nature of the 10R a bit cluttered to begin with, and the myriad of instructions doesn’t seem to provide much assistance. But fear not, everything is in the little book they ship with the device, so you’ll need to take some time to learn the basics. And once it’s paired, don’t touch anything! Just kidding.
But seriously Sena, an embedded help system, like the one we have in the new Interphone F5MC, would be nice. Thank you, Sena!
3. Lexin G16: Best Value For Money
SpecificationsProsCons ● Playback Time: 15 hrs. ● Speakers: 40 mm HD ● Bluetooth Version: 5.0 ● Waterproof: IP67 ● Group Intercom: 2-16 riders ● Group Maximum Range: 4.5 km (2.8 mi) ● Voice Command: No ● FM Radio: Yes ● Helmet Mount/Compatibility: 3M Tape/Bracket ● Weight: 50 g (1.76 oz)✔ It’s the only headset on this list with a headlamp ✔ Simple and intuitive user menu ✔ USB Type-C fast charge ✔ Emergency SOS Strobe that shines 3x short, 3x long, and again 3x short.✘ Buttons are larger but lack indicator marks to tell which button you’re on when using thick textile or leather gloves ✘ Huge microphone that feels in your face
No list of the best motorcycle Bluetooth headsets would be complete without a value-for-money option, which I find in the all-new Lexin G16 Rider Intercom, the best motorcycle intercom for rider and passenger. It’s a newer iteration of the B4FM, which was already a fascinating and capable Bluetooth HiFi Stereo Headset. And for under $50, I can easily connect an additional helmet with the Lexin G16/B4FM Pro Accessory kit.
Overcome Volume Limitations
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the issue of insufficient volume to enjoy music while cruising down a monotonous highway at 75+ mph and having to pull over to receive calls. With that in mind, the G16 now takes it up a notch to offer you a fuller music and chat experience (I know the B4FM wasn’t necessarily bad, but it certainly didn’t excel).
The bass now registers more prominently, and the treble has a less pronounced presence thanks to a dedicated faithful amplification chip and Advanced DSP Ambient Noise Cancellation to aid the Qualcomm CSR main chip.
Given that I wear Hi-Fi earplugs, it would be an overall improvement in sound quality, which I will wholeheartedly appreciate.
Enhance the Audio Experience
What’s more, the G16 takes a leap forward with Bluetooth 5.0 technology, saving battery power by 15 to 50%, a considerable upgrade over the Bluetooth Classic 3.0 of its predecessor, the Lexin B4FM.
Besides, it processes connections twice as fast, operates over four times the range, and handles over eight times the data for an incredibly responsive experience (34-200 milliseconds), all at a cost that is less than half of the newer mesh technologies offered with high-end Sena 50R and 50S.
Expand Your Rider Circle
The evolution has also seen the G16 expand the rider circle, or “pack” as we call it in Cardo world, from 10 to 16, leaving the likes of Cardo Freecom 4x and Sena 10R, both of which only support up to 4 riders, in the dust. Combining this with the Music Share feature—reminiscent of the direct pairing functionality found in Samsung phones—I can now ride with a bigger and tighter-knit community, sharing in rhythm and conversation.
All I need to do is press and hold the Music Share quick toggle, taking me to the Music Share settings. From there, I simply enable the feature using the toggle at the top and select “Everyone” under the “Share Devices With” option. But remember, you can’t do all these while riding, as safety comes first.
Waterproofness You Can Count On
You’ll truly appreciate the significance of the G16’s IP67 waterproof cloak that guards against water and moisture entry if you’ve been out riding in Seattle during the monsoon. The first number, ‘6,’ in the rating represents maximum protection against ingress of solid objects (completely dustproof), while the ‘7’ means that the G16 can survive submersion under three feet of water for up to 30 minutes at depths of 13 feet underwater.
In contrast, the Sena 10R, which is only water-resistant (classified as IP65) and not waterproof, also offers a good, albeit lower, level of protection against water splashes from any angle.
4. FreedConn TCOM-SC: Best Budget
SpecificationsProsCons ● Playback Time: 8 hrs. ● Speakers: Generic ● Bluetooth Version: 3.0 ● Waterproof: IP66 ● Group Intercom: 2-3 riders ● Group Maximum Range: 0.8 km (0.5 mi) ● Voice Command: No ● FM Radio: Yes ● Helmet Compatibility: Clip-on ● Weight: 45 g (1.59 oz)✔ Sound quality is fairly decent considering the low-price point for the entire package ✔ Audio multitasking switches to calls and back to music automatically while riding. ✔ Simple fuss-free installation with plastic clips or sticky plate mount ✔ Microphone picks up clear audio✘ Doesn’t feature dedicated voice control as in Sena and Cardo devices ✘ Three devices connect, but only two can talk at a time
And now, for the budget option before we call it a wrap, the FreedConn TCOM-SC. It’s a step up from yelling with your visor up (although I’m aware there are cheaper options out there) and comes highly recommended. My aim is to provide something ‘under $100 that still makes sense as a motorcycle music playback companion’ for the budget user, and that’s where the brand FreedConn shines.
But does affordability equate to functionality?
Bluetooth Classic Gives You Range and Rate
Interestingly, I choose to stick with the older TCOM-SC even when there is a newer TCOM-VB with the new generation Bluetooth 5.0 because the Bluetooth Classic (1.0-3.0) still has a higher data rate of up to 24 Mbps compared to its replacement, which can only manage a modest 2 Mbps. Streaming music requires higher throughput and no amount of buffering and signal processing can make up for the quality lost over slow connections that often suffer attenuation.
The newer Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tech is undoubtedly better for battery longevity and a larger number of chat participants, but it sacrifices both range and data rate. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if a pair of the older comms pull a longer stretch of road than the fancier options like, say, the Sena Spider ST1 and RTI.
Plus, I don’t have to worry about compatibility with the newer model because it’s backward compatible.
More Than Just an Intercom
As a sort of disclaimer, I should mention that you may want to look elsewhere if your primary objective is intercom functionality. Yes, the TCOM-SC is best suited for keeping you company with your favorite music well past the 8th hour on the saddle, but it’s good, not great, as an inter-helmet communicator for six riders.
It still performs better than the FodSports M1S Pro, where I can connect three riders, but only communicate with one at a time.
The LCD screen also gives me a quick overview of the frequency, connection status, and battery level. I wouldn’t want to give up that little luxury as it would hand me intuitive control over the TCOM-SC, whereas configuring even pricier gadgets, like the Lexin G16, can feel like memorizing morse code!
Above Average Listening Experience
What may come unexpectedly is the decent audio quality (and by ‘decent,’ I mean as can be expected from stereo headphones under your specific helmet), even at speeds above 50 mph, where the bass just starts to yield to wind noise and buffeting. I must admit that audio quality is highly subjective; hence, you’ll always come across some negative reviews of even the top-notch products, be it Cardo or Sena.
The key is to manage your expectations, and if you are not an audiophile or don’t own high-end in-ear monitors (IEMs), you should be satisfied with this purchase, and that’s all that matters.
Note that the TCOM-SC is designed for the right-hand side of your helmet, and you can mount it on gear either using the sticky plate mount or the plastic clips.
5. Cardo Freecom 4x: Best For Solo Rider
SpecificationsProsCons ● Playback Time: 13 hrs. ● Speakers: 40 mm HD JBL ● Bluetooth: 5.2 ● Waterproof: Yes ● Group Intercom: 2-4 riders ● Unit-to-Unit Range: ● Group Maximum Range: 1.2 km (0.75 mi) ● Voice Command: Yes ● FM Radio: Yes ● Helmet Mount/Compatibility: Universal Clickable ● Weight: 37 g (1.31 oz)✔ Extra stereo plug to use my own earbuds for a more pristine listening experience ✔ Persistently attempts to reconnect for up to 10 minutes if I fall behind and out of range in a group intercom ✔ Two channel connections allow pairing to a phone and GPS or motorcycle dash ✔ Marked buttons with distinct ridges to identify them easily when using thick motorcycle gloves✘ Infrequent static and limited range on the Bluetooth intercom ✘ Daisy chain connection of Bluetooth only intercom means that if I drop out, I may take part of the group with me, and the automatic reconnection is not as quick as with DMC
As a Bluetooth purist, I’ve truly enjoyed using my now-discontinued Freecom 1 Plus, but it’s time for an upgrade! And if you’re anything like me—a big Cardo fan—you might find yourself torn between the Freecom 2x and 4x, but my ultimate choice would be the 4x because my rides aren’t simply same without Siri (or Google Assistant if you’re a droid) onboard for the occasional, “Hey Cardo” rejoinder.
What’s more, the Cardo Freecom 4x stands out as the most advanced Bluetooth music system meant for solo riders, or at most, a rider, and their pillion, with an effective unit-to-unit max-range of 1.2 km/0.75 mi.
Immersive Audio Adventure
Speaking of first impressions, it’s a delightful music experience with room for an occasional chit-chat when I am not rolling solo. I know it has to do with the 40 mm JBL speakers, the same kind found in my Cardo Packtalk Edge. The sound profiles are also the same—great at idle but inevitably drowning the bass above 100 mph.
I mean, it’s to be expected unless you have a perfectly quiet helmet like the Schuberth C4 pro or perhaps the Shoei Neotec II Plus.
Versatile Mounting Options
The mounting system is also pretty liberal with clip-style or a 3M adhesive pad, which helps the module go on just about any helmet, not just the ones Cardo bothered trying. In the case of my AGV K1 track helmet with cut-out speaker pockets, I can use Velcro to position them just over my ears for the best sound.
Like the Sena 10R, the 4X has Bluetooth-only intercom, which despite missing out on larger group chit-chat, is more intuitive with automatic reconnection on startup. But I must mention the rugged and slightly bulky design. And while it is more user-friendly with your motorcycle gloves on compared to the small buttons on the Packtalk Slim, it presents a unique problem of its own.
The volume wheel can easily roll off the edge of your jacket when you shoulder check, so be mindful of this if you have a short neck profile or if you wear a turtleneck biker jacket.
Even with my trusty Freecom 1 Plus, I have never had the unit die on me on account of charge as I typically don’t ride for more than 5 hours at a time. With the 4x, you can expect 13 hours of playback and shouldn’t anticipate low-batt problems as this hasn’t been a known issue with Cardos, including their latest player, the Neo, which the founder Abraham Glezerman says:
“Falls between the top-of-the-line Packtalk Edge and the Freecom 4x.”
I also love the fact that it has a fast charge, and I can hypothetically plug in and charge as I go if my bike has a normal 5V, 1.0A USB charging port.
FAQs — I Have the Answers!
Q: Can You Listen to Music With a Bluetooth Motorcycle Helmet?
Yes, you can listen to music with a Bluetooth motorcycle helmet with the right headset, whether it’s built-in or aftermarket. Most units connect to a mobile phone to play music, answer calls, and receive GPS directions, while some even have FM tuners to enjoy radio broadcasts.
Q: What Are the Loudest Motorcycle Helmet Speakers?
The Cardo Packtalk Edge’s 40 mm JBL speakers are the loudest motorcycle helmet speakers, reaching an impressive maximum volume of 120 dB, equivalent to the sound of a fighter jet taking off nearby. They’re the same the same size as Uclear Pulse Plus drivers.
Q: How Do You Communicate While Riding a Motorcycle?
To communicate while riding a motorcycle, use a motorcycle helmet intercom 2-way headset, which allows you to have conversations with your pillion and other rider groups. The alternative would be using hand signals, which is not ideal.
Q: What Is the Range of Sena Bluetooth?
The Sena 10R has a maximum group range of 0.6 miles (900 m). But the claimed range and actual range may vary depending on the amount of radio interference and weather conditions wherever you ride.
Q: Can You Listen to Music on Sena Bluetooth?
Yes, a Sena Bluetooth headset allows you to stream music from your phone or from the cloud using an internet connection.
Q: What Is the Longest Range of Bluetooth?
The Lexin G16 has the longest Bluetooth range of 2.8 miles (4.5 km). The Cardo Packtalk Edge comes in a distant second at 1 mile (1.0 km). But keep in mind that actual range in practice (outside of controlled testing facilities) may vary drastically.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations:
- Washington State Legislature
- National Technology and Development Team
- Government of British Columbia
- Cardo Systems
- Sena Technologies
- Lexin Motorcycle
- FreedConn USA