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Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Headset/Intercom Review

Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Headset/Intercom

Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Headset/Intercom.

Joe Michaud
August 9, 2012
Filed under Gear, Motorcycle Gear Reviews, Motorcycle Parts + Accessories + Luggage: Reviews

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Wireless Bluetooth motorcycle bike-to-bike headset/passenger intercom units continue to improve. New technology advances the breed and the pace of progress quickens.

But does the ad hype on the box accurately describe the real-world performance of the gear inside? The Sena SMH10 incorporates some of my wished-for improvements: more volume, the possibility of earbud audio and two mic design types—a boom mic for flip-up helmets, or wired mic for full-face models.

The boom mic design and speakers were easily clamped onto and installed in my Arai in 2-3 minutes. You can also stick the main unit on with the included adhesive pad if desired. Two simple controls manage everything, a phone button and the jog dial, and once understood are a snap to use.

Bike-to-bike the claimed range is 900 meters, or a little more than half a mile. To test it we used an SMH10 Dual Pack with two units; my companion stopped on the roadside and began counting out loud into his, while I rode on until I lost his audio. A quick odometer check showed a real-world range of just under half a mile on flat, unobstructed terrain. Static and garbled words preceded the link loss, as in all systems, yet whenever distance broke our link the SMH10 seamlessly reconnected once back in range. This would be moot, of course, using the Dual Pack as an intercom, with a passenger seated right behind you.

Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Headset/Intercom

Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Headset/Intercom

The SMH10 works flawlessly in both voice-activated and “open” mic modes, allowing us to switch back-and-forth as the amount of conversation changed. It linked easily with my Garmin zumo 550 and Droid2 Global Verizon phone. I was able to call up my address book and voice-dial outgoing calls as well as accept incoming ones—when stopped, of course. Stereo music can be supplied via Bluetooth audio device, a GPS MP3 library or by 3.5mm audio cable, and multi-pair communication is available for up to four headsets for group rides. Sena claims a talk time of 12 hours and standby of 10 days, neither of which we were able to accurately judge, as the units’ batteries always lasted longer than we needed. Who talks that much?

Wind noise is usually a problem for motorcycle communicators above a certain speed, eventually masking intelligible speech. Thanks to its greater volume output, though, the Sena’s performance is quite good at highway speeds from most audio sources, the exception being my Garmin zumo 550. Above 65 mph or so the GPS prompts were barely audible. Even after upgrading the SMH10 to its latest firmware version 4.0 via my laptop (another great feature!) and cranking the zumo to max volume, the verbal prompts were weak. Is it the Sena or is it the Garmin? Further fettling may solve it, and improved audio might be available through the Sena accessory SMH-A0303 helmet clamp, which allows riders to use earbuds. Check local laws regarding the legality of fitted buds.

All things considered, the Sena SMH10 is a fine system. The jog dial is simple to use and works well with gloves. No small buttons, no fiddly “trees” of settings and calibrations. The volume and fidelity are the best of any system I’ve tested. The single SMH10 kit retails for $219, and the SMH10 dual pack goes for $399.

Sena’s new budget-priced SMH5 system omits some high-end features like auxiliary input and conference pairing, has shorter range and battery life and only comes with a mini-to-standard USB cable. You can charge and update it from the computer, but it lacks the AC/DC and cigarette chargers that come with the SMH10. This reduces the price accordingly—the SMH5 single pack sells for $129 and the dual pack is $249. Visit the website to compare system specs and find the right one for you.

Comments

9 Responses to “Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Headset/Intercom Review”

  1. Adriane on August 9th, 2012 1:07 pm

    Is there any delay when rider (a) is listening to music and the rider (b) tries to communicate? We use Scala and there is at least a 5 second delay, which is not helpful in a situation where you need to reach the other rider quickly.

    [Reply]

    Parademic Reply:

    There is a slight delay, i’m guessing its around 0.03 of a sec if using the manually activated intercom, and about 0.5 of a sec on vox. Having used Scala and Autocom i’d say its a more similar experience to Autocom but without the wires.

    On a plus side its much louder if required and we’ve had 6 days of riding without charging it once ! Awsome kit and the best i’ve used so far.

    Gareth

    [Reply]

  2. Top 5 Motorcycle Communication Headset Systems-Freedom Cycle Las Vegas on May 25th, 2013 6:58 pm

    […] Rider Magazine […]

  3. Jon on July 23rd, 2013 2:06 am

    Nice review! How does the new “R” model compare? I see the volume is now a twisty knob to make it more slimline, battery life is apparently a little lower and sound is just as good. Are the slimline aftermarket replacement earphones any improvement? Is it better or is this previous model better?

    [Reply]

  4. Andy on August 9th, 2013 3:23 pm

    Not a big fan of Sena. bought a SMH10 unit and loved using it. Then, exactly 2 days out of warranty (and the same day I bought a second unit for my wife) the thing started glitching all over. For the money, they should last longer that a year (and about 50 hours of use). I have a couple of friends with Scala’s that have lasted them 4-5 years. May not work as well as Sena when working, but better build quality

    [Reply]

    andy Reply:

    I have to withdraw my complaint above. Sena replaced my main unit after requesting the receipt to show it was just out of warranty. They took care of me and deserve top marks for realizing that 2 days out of warranty wasnt cool. Back to using a very good unit!

    [Reply]

    Mike Reply:

    love, Love, LOVE our SENA SMH-10. Coming up on a year now, we used them religiously all summer. Although they have the capability to recharge while being used, we Never had one go dead. The SENA Technical Support and Customer Support are Awesome. We had a problem where, while updating the firmware, something went FUBAR and the firmware was completely erased. A new unit was on my doorstop in less than a week, no questions asked.

    [Reply]

    Mike Reply:

    And just to add…….they are constantly updating and upgrading. The new firmware just released allows for easy music sharing.

  5. Joe on September 24th, 2013 2:43 am

    I selected the Jabra WAVE for it’s design and flexible durability enabling me to use it under a motorcycle helmet and merge its Bluetooth capabilities with the Garmin GPS road guide I have installed on my motorcycle. It works perfectly with crisp clear sound over the noise of the wind and motorcycle while riding anywhere. I am also able to listen to Sirius XM radio through the WAVE and receive phone calls through the Garmin transmitted from my IPhone to the WAVE while riding. Due to safety concerns, I don’t always answer the phone but at least I can hear that I have received a call and generally pull over to make calls. The WAVE is very tough and comfortable to wear even when it is pressed tightly into my ear while wearing a helmet. Excellent device!

    [Reply]

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