[This review was first posted on the Deauville Owners UK site]
I do need a GPS (Satnav) to help find my way in and around Paris as do most car drivers. Riding in heavy traffic means I need to keep my eyes on the road at all times, even a quick glance in the mirrors at the wrong time can cause a “brown trouser” moment. Therefore, the idea of having Satnav directions fed directly to my helmet, while riding in the Paris traffic, prompted me to investigate a Bluetooth headset as my Satnav is Bluetooth enabled.
Although I am a “techie” (read dyed in the wool geek), I needed something that would work “out of the box”.
It had to have simple controls that were easily reachable
An Intercom (helmet to helmet and/or bike to bike)
And, most importantly, must work without stupid glitches that could distract me whilst riding (i.e. dropping the connection to the Bluetooth device).
Nice to haves
No physical connection to the bike or anything else (i.e. No separate controller in my pocket or on the bike) including a self-contained power supply
Connect to other Bluetooth enabled devices like MP3 player or phone (more about this later)
Note that cost was not a criterion until I had decided which one to buy (i.e. where could I buy it at the cheapest price) as I refuse to put a price on my life/health.
- Nolan n-com system
- Motorola Bluetooth Helmet Headset HS830
- Cardo Scala Rider Teamset Motorcycle Bluetooth Helmet Handsfree
- AKE BT Multi-Interphone Motorcycle Bluetooth Intercom
I have a Nolan N103 helmet so the decision was more or less straight forward, the Nolan n-com. The n-com fits completely into the helmet thus satisfying all my criteria. I did read all the reviews I could find on all the systems and any comments I could find on the forums. I even spoke to one or two bikers who had Bluetooth headsets (the Cardo Scala in particular).
The Nolan n-com
The Nolan n-com is a two part system, the Basic Kit2 headset and the Bluetooth Kit2.1, they don’t come as a “kit” and need to be ordered separately. The cost was at approximately ?170 ($265 at time of writing) for the two kits.
The Basic Kit2 headset allows for a non-Bluetooth connection to another helmet, Satnav, MP3, Mobile phone or intercom system. This connection can be used simultaneously with the Bluetooth Kit2.1 connection or just by itself.
The Bluetooth Kit2.1 ‘e-box’ contains the controls and the Bluetooth wireless system and slots into the receptacle on the side of Nolan n-com enabled helmets.
What’s in the boxes?
The Basic Kit2 contains the battery box (no battery as the battery is only required by the Bluetooth system), the ear-pieces, the microphone, fixing pieces (including an Alan-type hex key which is extremely important) and an adapter card (which is only required when **not** using the Bluetooth Kit).
The Bluetooth Kit2.1 contains the battery, the Bluetooth ‘e-box’, the battery charger, Multimedia Wire2 and the ‘e-box’ safety block. There is also an adapter for the Basic Kit headset in-case you have the old style headset.
For the most part this is very easy as there are videos on the n-com site showing how to do it (Nolan n-com videos). Also the Nolan n-com enabled helmets have clips and pre-cut channels in the styrene foam inner for the speakers, wiring, battery box, ‘e-box’ connector and boom part of the microphone.
There was only one glitch and that was fitting the Microphone clamp-stop, washer and screw. It is easier to remove the full-face locking mechanism of the helmet (on the microphone side only) to secure the screw, as the captive nut it screws into moves around too much. This is where the Alan-type hex key proved invaluable as it fits the screw-heads which secure this section. Careful you don’t drop any of the other captive nuts!
Using the n-com
There are 3 buttons on the n-com: Volume down; on; and Volume up.
With these buttons you control all the operations of the system. You press one or more of the buttons to select the functions, there are different sounds to confirm which operation you have selected. There is quite a lot to learn and I still haven’t got my head around all the functions yet but, as I purchased the system mainly for Satnav directions that is not a problem.
The n-com can remember up to 3 different Bluetooth enable devices so reconnection is seamless.
This is extremely easy. Even easier than child’s play!
Pair your Satnav with the Bluetooth Kit2.1 and that’s it! All voice directions now come through the headset.
In town the default volume is just right hear the instructions. On the open road (A-roads, Motorways etc.) you need to increase the volume quite considerably due to the wind noise in the helmet.
Using summer gloves, there is no problem feeling the buttons. Winter gloves are another story! The buttons are a little small and it is better to set the volume while stationary.
I do not listen to music in town (Paris). The levels of concentration required are just too high for distractions, if you want to stay alive! I have been riding motorcycles for over 25 years and have only ever listened to music when on long, out of town journeys (usually motorways). I don’t intend changing now.
The system is full Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) so you get full stereo. I have tried this sat on the sofa at home and it is fantastic!
The system is AVRCP (Audio Video Remote Control Profile). According to the instructions you can Start, Pause, Skip and Stop using the buttons so you have, nearly, full control over your MP3 system.
Pairing with a Bluetooth phone is very easy.
Again I don’t use the phone when riding so can’t tell you what it’s like on the move. I have had to make and receive a call while on the bike.
Answering a call is really easy. Once stationary, answering the call you press any of the buttons and “Bob’s your Uncle”. To hang up, you press the middle “On” button.
Making a call depends on your phone. My phone has voice commands so I stopped, pressed the “On” button for 2 seconds and spoke the number when instructed to do so, Easy!
Although both times I was parked next to a very busy road, the person I was calling was unaware that I was using a helmet Bluetooth system and one person asked if I was in my office! The sound quality in the headset was nothing short of outstanding.
The controls allow you to do the following:
- Answer a call
- Vocal call
- Hang up/Reject a call
- Cell phone connection (HFP profile)
- Call last number dialled
- Hang up the cell phone (HFP profile)
- Bluetooth peripheral Call transfer (HFP profile)
You can connect to virtually any Bluetooth device. It also has a special system for other n-com systems which allows intercom use while using the Satnav, MP3 or phone. The manual states:
“To use the N-Com Bluetooth Kit2 as a wireless interphone both helmets, the pilot’s and the passenger’s, need to be fitted with the Bluetooth kit.
N.B.: The N-Com Bluetooth Kit2.1 system also allows motorcycle-to-motorcycle communication between two Bluetooth Kit2.1 systems up to a distance of about 150 m (in open field, with no obstacles).”
I am really pleased with the n-com system. The sound quality is phenomenal. Using the Satnav is a “no brainer”! The other functions I’ve used work very well indeed. I’m looking forward to using the intercom system (both the helmet to helmet and bike to bike). Battery life is excellent. At ?170 ($265 at time of writing) it’s a bit pricey(!) for a set of Satnav speakers but, when you use its other functions, I think it is an excellent buy.
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