There’s nothing quite like the experience of riding a motorcycle. The speed and acceleration releases a burst of adrenaline, while the hum of the engine and the close connection to your surroundings can simultaneously make you feel at peace. In fact, research commissioned by Harley Davidson suggests that the act of riding a motorcycle can yield some of the same benefits of exercising. However, there are some annoying aspects of motorcycling that can ruin the experience. For example, communicating and looking up directions can be a major hassle. You can’t use your smartphone in an ordinary way because you need both your hands to steer and maintain control of your bike.
Bluetooth motorcycle headsets solve this pain point by providing you with a safe and easy way to interact with your smart devices while you’re focusing on the road. Voice-activated controls let you do things like interact with map apps, place and take calls and flip through a music or podcast playlist.
The best Bluetooth motorcycle headset for music
Cardo Packtalk Bold JBL
Most Bluetooth motorcycle headsets are waterproof, but not all of them will survive complete water immersion. The Cardo Packtalk Bold JBL does. Its better-than-average water resistance makes it a good choice for motorcyclists that live in the pacific northwest and other parts of the country that have wet climates. Its best feature, however, is its built-in JBL speakers. JBL technology provides better-than-average sound quality. Another bonus is Cardo’s patented intercom system, which supports up to 15 riders.
- Voice activation. Cardo advertises its button-free feature by claiming that you’ll “never touch a button again” when you need to communicate during a ride.
- IP67 waterproof rating. The Packtalk Bold JBL won’t break when exposed to water, even if you leave it submerged for half an hour.
- Better-than-average speakers. The JBL speakers are designed to support both music and voice. They’re probably a cut above the competition in terms of sound quality.
- Sound volume increases with wind noise. Calls and music come in louder when the ambient noise inside your helmet goes up.
- Compatible with OK Google and Siri. In addition to Cardo’s “Hey Cardo” voice assistant, you can use the Packtalk Bold with the two most popular voice assistants for smartphones.
- Proprietary DMC connection system. Cardo’s Dynamic Mesh Communication system is convenient because it allows for fast and easy pairing with other Cardo devices.
- 1.6 kilometer range. When there are more than 5 riders in the network, you can communicate from up to 5 kilometers away.
- Pricey compared to other motorcycle headsets. The Packtalk Bold’s JBL speakers probably added some extra production costs.
In a nutshell
If you like to listen to music during your motorcycle rides, you may want to consider Cardo’s Packtalk Bold JBL. Its built-in JBL speakers have better specs than competing Bluetooth motorcycle headsets. With Cardo’s proprietary intercom mode, you can communicate with up to 15 riders simultaneously. It’s rated IP67, which means that it’s certified to survive complete water immersion.
The best Bluetooth motorcycle headset for instructors
The SENA 30K’s main selling point is that it’s equipped with features that cater to motorcycle instructors. You can either set up a private network, or simply create a public network with the press of a button. Intercom mode supports up to 16 riders, which is more than enough flexibility to accommodate the needs of both motorcycle clubs and motorcycle schools. On top of that it has above-average range, as well.
- Ideal for clubs and motorcycle instructors. The 30K-01’s group communication features make it ideal for enabling large numbers of riders to converse.
- Patented Mesh Intercom feature. A single button press instantly connects your headset to all 30K devices within a one-mile radius.
- Hassle-free operation. The 30K-01’s user-friendly features eliminates typical pain points involved in creating standard motorcycle communication networks.
- Switch between public and private network modes. Public mode automatically connects nearby cyclists, while private mode stops others from listening into your group’s conversations.
- Five-mile maximum range. While in private mode, you can communicate with as many as 16 riders from up to five miles away.
- Integrates with other motorcycle headset networks. You can either use SENA’s proprietary network to communicate or switch to Bluetooth mode.
- Audio multi-tasking. You can switch between several different use cases (music, FM radio, GPS, etc.) at will.
- Larger than typical Bluetooth motorcycle headsets. The oversized form factor may be a downside for those that would prefer a more discreet design.
- Mesh Intercom mode uses up a lot of battery time. While the batteries will carry you through a full day of use if you stay in Bluetooth mode, you’ll only get about six hours of talk time in Mesh Intercom mode.
In a nutshell
Equipped with features like a five-mile communication range and a 16-rider intercom mode, the SENA 30K is a good choice for motorcycle instructors and motorcycle clubs. You can either set up a private network with a limited number of people who can talk or a public network that lets anyone within range participate in the conversation.
The most user-friendly Bluetooth motorcycle headset
Cardo Freecom 4 Plus
The best thing about the Cardo Freecom 4 Plus is its innovative control wheel, which lets you instantly flip between various modes. When your hands are busy, you can use the voice recognition to operate the device instead. In addition to OK Google and Siri, Cardo has its own voice assistant app that you can use: Hey Cardo. Noise reduction is another area where the Freecom 4 Plus shines. It even automatically adjusts the volume up or down in response to the presence of ambient noise.
- Unique control system. The Freecom 4 Plus’ control wheel lets you switch among the various modes with a flick of a finger.
- Voice recognition. Another way to control the Freecom 4 is with your voice. It supports Hey Cardo, OK Google and Siri.
- JBL speakers. The sound quality probably won’t blow you away, but offers more clarity and bass than what you get with most other motorcycle headsets.
- 13-hour battery. You can use your Freecom 4 all day without needing to worry about running out of juice.
- Automatic sound adjustment. The speakers get louder when ambient noise increases.
- Audio mixing. A recent firmware upgrade added the audio multitasking to the Freecom 4 Plus’ feature set.
- Extra long range. You can communicate from up to 2.4 miles away, which is almost double the usual range that competing motorcycle headsets offer.
- Doesn’t support Cardo’s patented DMC feature. Dynamic Mesh Communication is not supported, which is why it can’t be used with more than four riders.
In a nutshell
All the most popular motorcycle headsets have a voice command feature, and so does the Cardo Freecom 4 Plus. However, its control wheel gives you another way to interact with your headset. With a flick of your finger, you can switch modes instantly without having to rely on voice commands exclusively.
The most stylish Bluetooth motorcycle headset
SENA 20S EVO
Even though there is truth in the old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” it’s also true that some motorcycle headsets are just plain clunky looking. The SENA 20S EVO doesn’t have that problem, thanks to its unique shark fin design. The batteries aren’t bad, either. You can get up to 13 hours of talk time out of a single charge. Like other Bluetooth motorcycle headsets, 20S supports voice recognition and audio multi-tasking. If you want to go on a ride with some friends, you can set up an intercom system and communicate with up to eight riders at a time with this device.
- Rugged, shark-style antenna. The antenna design is an improvement over previous SENA devices.
- Fluid audio multitasking. Switch between various functions without gaps or interruptions.
- Multiple control options. You can use the SENA app, the motion sensor or voice recognition to control the 20S.
- 8-rider intercom system. The intercom mode lets you quickly connect to a small group of riders.
- 1.2-mile range. The range is slightly longer than most other motorcycle headsets.
- 13-hour talk time. The better-than-average battery performance is another perk.
- Comes with lots of accessories. You’ll find an allen wrench, all kinds of foam speaker covers, mounting plates, chargers, port covers and several other accessories in the box.
- Average sound quality. The speakers are loud enough, but other motorcycle headsets offer better audio dynamics.
In a nutshell
The SENA 20S EVO is one of the most stylish Bluetooth motorcycle headsets you’ll find. The visual appeal stems from its shark-like antenna system, which represents a step up from previous SENA designs. Another selling point is its above-average battery performance. A single charge lasts for 13 hours, according to SENA.
The best budget-friendly Bluetooth motorcycle headset for rider-passenger communication
If you’re working with a limited budget or simply don’t want to spend a lot of money on a high-end motorcycle headset, the LEXIN LX-B4FM might be your best option. It’s much less expensive compared to the competition. Its Bluetooth 3 chip is somewhat out-of-date, but it still provides enough connectivity and reliability for rider-to-passenger communications. Another nice thing about this headset is that it’s one of the only ones we’ve seen that natively supports Samsung’s voice assistant, Samsung S.
- Budget-friendly price tag. The LX-B4FM offers great value for its price.
- Works with Apple Siri and Samsung S Voice. You can interact with your smartphone via either of those voice assistants.
- High-volume speakers. The speakers are loud enough to be heard at very high speeds.
- Low-profile, lightweight design. It’s smaller and lighter than most competing headsets.
- Choose between two different microphone types. The box comes with two different microphones: a boom mic and a full-face mic.
- Extra long battery life. You can talk for up to 15 hours on a single charge, which is more talk time than you get with most Bluetooth headsets.
- Simple setup. Pairing only takes a few minutes.
- Doesn’t work with OK Google. If you prefer to use Google’s voice assistant, there are better motorcycle headsets out there.
- Out-of-date Bluetooth chip. The LX-B4FB’s Bluetooth 3 chip can still link to Bluetooth 4 and 5 devices, but it would be more efficient if it supported the new version of the protocol.
In a nutshell
For rider-to-passenger communications, LEXIN’s LX-B4FM makes a lot of sense. Its range is shorter than more expensive Bluetooth headsets, but you don’t need range if all you want to do is talk to your passenger. Since it’s inexpensive compared to other Bluetooth motorcycle headsets, you’ll save money. This could be a benefit if you need to buy two devices.
Buying guide for Bluetooth motorcycle headsets
Speaker quality and type
You shouldn’t expect to get true hi-fidelity sound out of a Bluetooth motorcycle headset. With that being said, some headsets do sound better than others. If your prospective headset doesn’t advertise what kind of speakers it has, that’s one clue that it probably has a basic speaker driver. Larger speaker drivers usually mean more expansive sound and deeper bass tones. A small speaker driver will do if you don’t plan on using your headset to listen to music.
Voice assistant compatibility
If you have a voice assistant preference, make sure that you find out which voice assistant your prospective headset supports before you buy. Some headset manufacturers have their own proprietary voice assistants, while others link into OK Google, Siri and others.
Most new Bluetooth motorcycle headsets run Bluetooth 4. However, some are still using Bluetooth 3. All Bluetooth versions are compatible and can communicate with each other, but the newer releases offer better energy efficiency and reliability.
Eight hours of talk time seems to be the industry standard among Bluetooth motorcycle headset manufacturers. Some offer less talk time, while others can run for up to 15 hours continuously before they run out of juice. This consideration may not be much of a factor for casual riders, but could be something to consider if you’re planning a long motorcycle trip with friends.
Up until recently, motorcycle headsets could only do one thing at a time. If you switched from one task– like music streaming, for example– to another, you’d have to put up with a few seconds of downtime. Headsets with an audio multitasking feature can perform two audio tasks at once, like continue playing music while you listen to map navigation cues.
Wind shielding / noise reduction
It can get pretty noisy inside of a motorcycle helmet. Wind can cause noise in excess of 90 decibels. To put that number in perspective, that’s about the same amount of noise that a lawnmower makes. Headsets with wind shielding and noise reduction features make it easier to communicate at higher speeds.
If you only want to talk to your passenger, range probably won’t be much of a concern. On the other hand, range should be one of your top priorities if you’re a motorcycle instructor or if you’re part of a motorcycle club. The industry standard seems to be about one mile.
Basic Bluetooth motorcycle headsets max out at Bluetooth 3 or below. This makes them not as energy efficient as mid-range and high-end headsets. However, they’re typically a lot less expensive. You can get a high quality basic headset for about $75.
If you’re willing to spend about $150, you can find features like high-definition speakers, support for Bluetooth 4 and intercom connectivity. The number of intercom participants typically maxes out at around eight participants.
Top-of-the-line Bluetooth motorcycle headsets can support larger intercom networks. They also have more efficient batteries and better range compared to budget and mid-range headsets.
Frequently asked questions
Q: My headset won’t connect. What’s wrong?
A: As a first step, try rebooting both devices– your phone and your Bluetooth motorcycle headset. If that doesn’t work, find out if there are any firmware updates. If updates are available, download and install them. Then, repair your devices. If these basic troubleshooting steps don’t solve your issue, the next step would entail opening a ticket with the manufacturer’s help desk.
Q: Is it safe to listen to music on my headset while I’m motorcycling?
A: There are several pros and cons to consider. On one hand, music can increase your concentration and keep you from falling victim to highway hypnosis. However, it’s also true that loud music can stop you from hearing critical sounds that might alert you to danger– like the honk of a horn or the squeal of a tire. If you do decide to listen to music, don’t turn up the volume too high.
Q: I’m interested in making friends with other motorcycle riders. How can I find clubs in my area?
A: Thanks to the internet, you have plenty of tools at your disposal. In addition to social media, you may want to try asking around at various motorcycle dealerships. Motorcycle safety courses are another occasion for networking.
- Don’t forget to keep your headset’s firmware up to date. These updates help your device run more efficiently. Some firmware updates even add new features and capabilities.
- Be sure to follow the mounting directions exactly. If you don’t install your Bluetooth motorcycle headset properly, it might fall off in the middle of a ride. This could cause a dangerous distraction.
- Most headsets come with accessories that let you customize the way it fits inside your helmet. Take advantage of them!Test out your headset before you go for your first ride with it. You may discover that the microphone is out of place or that the speaker is positioned in a place that makes it hard to hear.