By September 11, 2013

Sena SMH10D-10 Motorcycle Bluetooth Headset/Intercom Review

Boredom is a major concern when you motorcycle a lot. Whether it be commuting or on long trips, the drone of the highway can be mesmerizing. And not in a Dita Von Teese kind of way.

Some people dislike listening to music while riding a motorcycle, but I think it is perfectly fine. Some state they can’t hear the road, but if you wear ear protection like you should be and/or ride at highway speeds you can’t hear shit anyway.

If you ride with other people (on your bike or along other motorcyclists) then communication is also a concern. There are some standard hand signals but communicating this way can be a pain in the ass, particularly if there are a lot of people involved.

Sedagive? and I have taken a few 6+ hour per day trips and the hand / body signals don’t cut it. Sometimes you just want to chat.

Eventually motorcyclists will search out ways to listen to audio as well as communicate with their fellow travelers.

The Sena SMH10D is my latest attempt. Here’s my review.

Not my first rodeo

About four and a half years ago I wrote about the Cardo Scala G2 Bluetooth intercom. In short, it was terrible. I spent $300 on them at the time, and they were not loud enough, were difficult to use, and didn’t pair easily with my phone. Worse yet, intercom reception was sporadic. The last thing you want to do while motorcycling is fiddle around with a tiny device bolted to the side of your helmet.

A second chance

A job change (more time on the motorcycle, yay!) and a child custody schedule change (alternating weekends, yay!) meant more motorcycling this summer. I had been getting by with Comply foam tips on my SkullCandy TiTAN canalphones, but they didn’t allow me to talk to anyone else.

I read about the Sena SMH10D Bluetooth motorcycle intercom online. It had gotten really great reviews for clarity, ease of setup, ease of use, and most importantly to me: volume. Several reviewers reported being able to hear the audio even while wearing high performance ear protection.

I was willing to give the Sena a shot.

Setup

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The Sena SMH10D can be purchased as a single unit or in a two pack. I obviously bought the two pack ;)

You get everything you need: two intercom units, boom microphones, charging cables, wind sock for the microphones, speakers and speaker pad extensions, and mounting hardware.

Installation was very easy on both of our helmets. The receiver part of the intercom unit clamps onto the outer shell of the helmet and is tightened via the included allen wrench. You need to position the intercom clamp far enough so that the center of the microphone is in the center of your helmet.

The speakers are backed by hook-and-loop and grab on tightly to the soft liner of all motorcycle helmets. The speakers need to get as close to the center of your ear canals as possible, so you’ll have to experiment with the speaker placement. Once you’re happy you can hide the cords in between your helmet liner / padding and the exterior shell of the helmet. Most helmets have a snap-out liner, making this even easier.

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The transmitter part of the SMH10D snaps onto the receiver part. Line up the pins at the bottom and snap into place. Easy.

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The Sena SMH10D mounted onto my Bell Star Contra helmet.

If you buy a pair of SMH10Ds they come paired from the factory. That’s awesome. Pairing them with your smartphone is very easy, MUCH easier than the Scala Riders I owned years ago. It took us less than five minutes to pair both of our Galaxy Nexus Android phones with the transmitters.

The units come partially charged, but I recommend charging them with the two supplied microUSB cords. The unit’s indicator light will change from red to blue when the transmitter is fully charged.

Operation

The Sena SMH10D has one big ass button and one little ass button. That’s it. You turn the unit on by holding the little button down while pressing down the big button. The unit will turn on, play a chime, and greet you with a “Hello!” After a short pause the unit will say, “phone connected,” and that’s it.

You turn the unit of by pressing the big button and little button at the same time. It’s very easy.

The large button turns; this is how you adjust the volume. There are many levels of adjustment here. This is important to me, as I want the volume to be as low as possible while still being able to hear my music / Sedagive? / phone conversation.

You can tap the large button (push it in briefly) to answer a phone call or initiate / end a intercom conversation.

You can activate the SMH10D with your voice, but I didn’t find this reliable. One problem with the unit is that you can set it to respond to both intercom and telephone with your voice. This seems to put the unit in a race condition: phone or intercom? Instead of a fallback (no phone call, then go to intercom) it just gets confused and eventually drops the voice connection. I wound up disabling both phone and intercom voice activation.

You can also daisy-chain the Sena SMH10 to a total of four Bluetooth intercoms. You connect A to B, B to C, C to D and A to D. I’ve become an anti-social rider so I haven’t tested this out, but if you ride in groups this might be a useful feature for you.

Usage

I am very impressed with the SMH10D. The volume is great, I never have to turn the unit up more than about halfway, even when I am cruising at highway speeds. The directional microphone does an excellent job at blocking wind noise. People say I sound crystal clear when I talk to them. I wear a full-faced helmet and ride behind a tall windscreen, so your experience may be different.

After dealing with all of the buttons and intricacies of the Scala Rider, the two button operation of the Sena is a welcome change. The last thing you want to do is fiddle with a bunch of buttons while you are motoring down the highway. If you wave to other motorcyclists, you can safely activate the SMH10D. The most complicated thing you can do during normal operation is skip tracks, which is done by rotating the big dial while holding it in.

I commute about six hours a week and the SMH10 has yet to run out of power. I charge the unit every Sunday and it is fine until I charge it again. I mostly listen to music, so voice communications may drain the battery more quickly.

No multifunction

If I could change any one thing about the SMH10 it would be to add the ability to activate my phone via one of the buttons. My phone can respond to various voice commands, and as more of us have Siri or Google Now or whatever Samsung’s thing is this would be a great feature.

I am not sure why the Sena SMH10 doesn’t have this feature, but it’s the only thing I would change.

Conclusion

The price on the Sena SMH10 has dropped $30 since I bought mine, making it an even better deal. I bought the pair for $270 delivered via Amazon Prime, and I think it’s still a remarkable value at that price.

Strongly recommended

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