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Technological progress is an amazing thing, no? We went from having to use simple radios to communicate while riding our bikes, to being able to bring along basic music players with headphones, integrating Bluetooth headsets, and now, building the Bluetooth right into the helmets themselves.
Torc T-14B Bluetooth Helmet
BILT Techno Bluetoth Helmet
ILM Modular Bluetooth Helmet
Origine O528B Pilota Bluetooth Helmet
AVE A-48 Adventure Bluetooth Helmet
Now, if you're anything like me, you're probably a bit suspicious: "What's the catch?" you ask yourself. "Can even the best motorcycle helmet with Bluetooth built-in hold it's own against the best of Bluetooth systems out there?
The thought of building a helmet with a Bluetooth system without sacrificing the quality of either intrigued me, so I figured it was high time to check a few out and see which was the best Bluetooth motorcycle helmet out there.
You've heard this term before, but how exactly does it work? A Bluetooth enabled device is fitted with a tiny computer chip that contains a Bluetooth radio and software that allows it to connect with other Bluetooth devices. By creating a small network, commonly referred to as a piconet, Bluetooth devices can pair with one another to share information.
Since Bluetooth technology is standard on almost every modern computer, phone, tablet, and different portable devices, it is a convenient method of linking these devices together and provides the ideal framework for helmet-to-helmet communications devices. As time has rolled on, Bluetooth has become low-cost, low-energy, easier to use, and will likely be seen on more and more helmets.
I could drone on and on about all the particulars, but if you're interested in finding out more, there are plenty of succinct and verbose guides covering Bluetooth basics, Bluetooth Security, and the current Bluetooth standards.
Just slap a Bluetooth system into a helmet, right? It seems like a simple enough concept to grasp, but there's a lot that goes into getting a Bluetooth system integrated into a helmet. In addition to following all the standard rules regarding helmet standards and making sure the helmet design adequately protects from the dangers of the road, the Bluetooth system has to be such that its various components fit within the framework of the helmet. It cannot impede the helmet's functionality, and still provide reliable audio and communication abilities at high speeds.
Think about all of the things that must be integrated into the Bluetooth system to make it useful for the advanced rider: high quality microphones and speakers, earpieces, a plug for charging the batteries, cable connection the components and an exterior control unit. It's hardly what one would call a walk in the park. To get a better idea of just how much planning is involved, check out this thesis on the development of a comms-enabled helmet. I for one was amazed by the amount of forethought and consideration required for the design.
For now, at least, you're going to get the best sound for music and communications from a pair of wired speakers or headphones. Why then would one want to choose a Bluetooth helmet for their audio needs? The main answer is in the level of convenience and the additional abilities Bluetooth provides.
With a Bluetooth system, you can connect to just about any modern device without the use of wires (which are notoriously annoying), and can link up your Bluetooth system with other riders who have Bluetooth, creating a kind of group chat session when you are on a ride. In addition, with a Bluetooth system, you can set your phone to answer automatically or reject calls, cycle through tracks at the touch of a button or with voice commands, and enjoy an all-around more user-friendly experience.
With the Bluetooth integrated directly into the helmet, you can enjoy all of those conveniences without having to track down, purchase, and install an external kit. This is probably the best option if you are slightly less technologically inclined or just don't want to bother with a lengthy setup process.
They go beyond nebulously scary ideas like "Bluetooth Radiation" that your dad keeps debating. When you get a helmet with a Bluetooth system built-in, for better or worse, the Bluetooth system you get is the one you're going to have to use from the outset. If it turns out to be a dud system, you're going to have a dud system until you obtain a replacement.
You might be able to try just using a superior external Bluetooth system after you've purchased your pre-installed Bluetooth helmet. However, there's no guarantee you'll be able to fit the new hardware in there, and even if you do, you have to ride around looking like the clown who bought a substandard Bluetooth helmet and realized it was a terrible decision.
Furthermore, as time goes on, that helmet Bluetooth system is going to become outmoded. Many Bluetooth integrated helmets you'll find on the market are running some version of Bluetooth 2.0 or 3.0. Many devices, including a few external communication systems, are Bluetooth 4.0. To further complicate matters, Bluetooth 5.0 has been announced, and it's only a matter of time before that will be worked into everything as well. Just be prepared for the possibility of having to get a new helmet to stay current. Now, without further ado, let's get into the full face, open face and Bluetooth modular motorcycle helmet reviews.
The Torc T-14B is fitted with Blinc Bluetooth technology. Blinc has some pretty good universal external communication systems on the market like the BL100, so going in I was hopeful about how this one would hold up. Calls and communication sounded pretty clear, even when riding. There's some wind noise that makes things dicey for your caller, but it wasn't so prominent that it ultimately impeded conversation.
Music, on the other hand, isn't quite as enjoyable through the T-14B's system. It isn't bad, by any means, but it's not nearly the same as the deep and rich sound you can hear using your favorite pair or studio headphones. Of course, this is to be expected, so it's not so much a serious drawback as it is a minor gripe.
As for the helmet itself, it's a strong full face constructed from a thermo-polymer-alloy shell. It's a stylish, modern design with an intermediate oval head shape that's suitable for a broad range of riders. It has a variety of standard features full face riders have come to expect from their helmets, like a removable/washable comfort liner, internal sun visor, and dual density EPS layering.
"The most technologically advanced helmet BILT has ever made" is the tagline you'll see most often associated with the Techno. When considering the integrated DWO Bluetooth system, there's definitely some truth to the claim. It provides all the functionality that you'd expect, being able to connect with mobile phones, GPS navigation, MP3 players, and also offers a rider-passenger or rider-rider direct intercom.
The speakers are good quality, though, as is common on Bluetooth helmet systems, however, the bass is not what you would call studio quality. There are also some additional wind noise issues that the Techno faces that helmets with superior ventilation don't experience as often. This can interfere with both communications and music quality, but doesn't have as much of an impact if you're just using the system for GPS directions.
The helmet has a polycarbonate shell and comes in black, yellow, silver, and white finishes. The interior liner is fully removable, as are the face shield and internal visor. The helmet includes a very sturdy double D-ring system for securing the helmet to your head.
I hadn't heard much about ILM before checking out this modular Bluetooth helmet, and couldn't really find out a lot of information about the company since they're a relatively new brand. Regardless, this helmet is actually pretty good. The Bluetooth system comes with two decent speakers, supports connectivity between most other Bluetooth devices, and includes a helmet-to-helmet intercom system.
The distance on the intercom isn't exactly fantastic (only 100 feet) but it's suitable for most urban group rides where you won't likely be too far apart from your partner. The Bluetooth system charges fairly quickly, and once at full power can go for about 8 hours if you're using it continuously, and will give you about 110 hours’ worth of standby time.
Calling is fairly clear and is benefited by the anti-noise microphone. The exterior helmet control system is also rather simple to use, with one-touch functionality for accepting/rejecting calls, and scrolling through music selections.
As for the helmet itself, it's a composite shell that's a bit on the heavy side. The real standout feature here are the awesome paint jobs. There's a blue model with some textured word art that's quite good, but the sketch-style white paint job takes the cake.
I wouldn't call this the king of helmets, but it's certainly in the running for best Bluetooth modular motorcycle helmet, at least until the field starts to fill itself with some stronger competition.
The integrated Bluetooth game isn't solely the territory of full face and modular helmets. ¾-style helmets are in on the game too, and the O528B Pilota is a strong entry into the arena. It's a Blinc integrated system that hits the general notes: Bluetooth device connectivity, music streaming, accept/reject call features, 2-way intercom (100-foot range), but also adds the ability to connect to XM radio as well. A nice touch for satellite radio lovers.
The Bluetooth Pilota also has 8 hours of talktime and 150 hours standby on a full charge. More than enough for most everyday riding needs. The noise-reducing mic helps keep communications fairly clear, even when riding at higher speeds, and the exterior one-button control is easy to operate while wearing your riding gloves.
The helmet has a Euro-style ABS shell, fitted with carbon fiber inserts. It's pretty tough and helps in keeping the total weight down. The interior padding is a very comfy suede that is both washable and removable. The face shield is a nice touch, slightly tinted, and flips up with ease. This is a solid open face helmet for those who prefer the ¾ style but still want built-in Bluetooth abilities.
This is another modular style helmet, manufactured by AVE, another newer supplier trying to stake their claim in the motorcycle gear market. The A-48 has an integrated Bluetooth system that provides the basics but suffers a bit on a few fronts. Calls come through clearly, and the microphone is of decent quality, but the volume from the speakers is low. When listening to music, in particular, this dulls the experience.
On the bright side, though, AVE gave the intercom system some good range (650 feet) and was able to fit this helmet with a functional Bluetooth system and keep it lightweight (only 3.64 pounds). Substantially lighter than some other helmets you'll find with a built-in system. The battery is also of high quality, providing 10 hours of continuous use and 130 standby.
The ABS shell is a sturdy composite that also helps filter out exterior noise. AVE equipped the A-48 with an excellent ventilation system that keeps the interior cool, a scratch-resistant retractable visor, removable anti-bacterial interior fabric, and an "EasyFlipUp" system that makes switching between full face and open face modes a simple one-button operation. It also helps keep the chin guard in position, regardless of whether you are wearing this helmet full face or open face.
The market for integrated Bluetooth helmets is still new, and there's room to spare for improvement. Of the current options, though, the BILT Techno seems to provide users with the most capabilities. In addition to the superior Bluetooth system, which offers plenty of features beyond simple device pairing, it has the greatest intercom range (1320 feet).
The 8-hour battery life provides plenty of time for an extended ride, and the speakers and microphone offer clear calling and exquisite sound quality in a range of conditions. The Techno is also a well-constructed helmet in its own right: tough polycarbonate, well fitting, and stylishly designed with multiple color options.
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