Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Cardo Freecomm1 volume levels

I still get to ride occasionally.  As I was renting a bike with a GPS, I wanted in-helmet audio.

Reviews on all in-helmet Bluetooth devices are mixed, no doubt because different helmets, bikes, and riding styles all affect how we perceive the volume levels.

I ride exclusively with 32 NRR earplugs in.  I can't understand how people ride without earplugs; seems to me you'd go deaf very soon.

I also have an "older" Uvex helmet I purchased in Germany.  (My HJC was killing me on my rental supermoto, which has much more wind exposure - the wind was pushing the front edge of the helmet into my forehead.)  Uvex has long since stopped making motorcycle helmets, but my helmet is still A-OK.

The Uvex includes a motocross peak (sun shade), which I always have on - even on the highway.  It adds some noise.

My Uvex has no speaker cutouts, so I had to make some.  This would place the speakers right on the shell, but I used the Cardo spacing pads to move them closer to my ears. 

Owing to the way the liner works, the helmet liner covers the speakers.

Finally, I was using the system on a touring bike with a BMW Motorrad GPS unit.  The bike had a windscreen but not a fully effective one.

This all makes for a situation pretty close to worst-case for an in-helmet audio system:

-  High-rated earplugs
-  Relatively noisy helmet
-  Non-optimal speaker placement
-  Speakers covered by helmet liner
-  Significant wind noise at higher speeds

I am happy to report that the system was audible and understandable even under these conditions at highway speeds (~ 65 MPH).

However, be aware that the audio was not great.  Voice prompts were audible, but distorted.  In a few cases they were difficult to understand.  However, they were loud enough to direct attention to the GPS screen so I didn't miss a turn.

At lower speeds, the system was just fine.  I was able to hear and understand the GPS without difficulty.

I imagine this setup would suck for music, as the audio quality will not be adequate.  But one is unlikely to expect earplugs and perfect audio quality to go together.

From what tiny experience I have had with the system without earplugs - which has exclusively been when I am NOT riding - the system appears loud enough to listen to music if you don't wear earplugs.  I would not recommend this since the noise levels are likely to damage your hearing, but to each his/her own.

I am also unsure about holding a conversation, at least at highway speeds.  My Freecomm1 has no two-way audio because I don't need it, so I can't test it.  However, I believe it should be possible to hear a riding companion at slightly lower speeds (< 50 MPH) even with 32 NRR earplugs in.

Hopefully this helps someone who is worried about using the Cardo Freecomm units with earplugs.

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