Riding distractions of any type may not be your thing, and we support that fully! Obey all local laws when riding. For those of us who do choose to ride with communication/audio entertainment options, we’ve reviewed this device.
Does your head feel heavy when you ride? Well, you may not just be tired. It might not be because your helmet isn’t carbon-fiber. It could be you’ve got too much stuff attached to your lid—camera, Bluetooth headset, Mohawk—and need to lighten your load.
Sena has just the thing. It’s the new SMH10R Bluetooth 3.0 headset, and I have to admit I’m impressed with the engineering that’s gone into this product. It’s compact, light and almost as easy to use as Sena’s other headsets.
Sena pulled out all the stops to get this little guy as small, light and slim as possible. It’s intended for riders who want the lowest-profile headset possible, and it delivers. The control unit is miniscule and incredibly light (less than an ounce), as the battery is in a separate module. The battle to shave precious grams didn’t end there—mounting is by Velcro or double-sided tape, saving the ounce or more a clamp adds to your head (new mounting kits are $7 from Sena). The unit also substitutes a more traditional three-button setup for Sena’s thumbwheel control, saving more weight and possibly adding some durability and waterproofing as well.
Functionally, the headset is similar to other Sena products, including the SMH10 and SMH5 I tested last year. It uses the latest Bluetooth 3.0 profile and supports the AVRPC profile for audio devices—this means you can use play, pause, play next track and replay last track with the push of a button, whatever the device. You can also press a button and call up your phone’s audio command menu (AKA Siri for iPhone people, or ‘hey, you’ for Android-ers). Battery life is about 75 percent of the standard SMH10′s 8 hours of talk time and a week of stand-by (the same as the SMH5), but the intercom’s range and capability is the same—900 meters and you can pair with three other riders. Other features include a voice-prompted setup menu, multiple device functionality and conference call capability. One glaring omission is an FM tuner.
Installation is fairly easy. Sena provides the user with double-sided tape and Velcro to stick on the battery and control unit. The rest of the stuff gets hidden under the helmet linings and pads. The microphone is a very tiny thing that Velcros to the inside of your chinbar (a boom mic is also included) and the speakers, I noticed, are bigger diameter than the ones I got with the SMH5. Once installed, the system adds less than four ounces to your helmet. Better yet, since the control unit and battery are separate, the weight is better distributed on your head. One frustration with fitment: the battery is curved and fits best right over the DOT sticker on the back of my HJC RPHA 10, so I had to offset mount it to make sure I could stay legal in California.
Charging is by USB port. You can just plug the cord into the back of the control unit—no need to remove it from the helmet to charge. In fact, you can actually charge while you’re riding, if you use the accessory cigarette-lighter cord ($5), oir you can carry a spare battery pack ($22) and change it out. You can also plug the unit into your computer to update firmware or set preferences.
Learning to use the 10R isn’t as easy as it was with the 5—the 5′s Jog wheel was easy to figure out and offered better positive feedback (although was more prone to accidental inputs, especially when adjusting my visor or helmet vents). The three small buttons on the 10R are workable with gloves (once you get used to their placement), but not as easy as the old wheel. I think Sena prefers you rely on voice-prompted commands, and there is an extensive voice-command menu, but that means if you talk, yell, sing or scream in your helmet, as I apparently do with embarrassing frequency, you can trigger some command functions, which is annoying.
However, it’s easy to turn off voice prompts, and you can perform all functions with the buttons if you take the time to read the manual. Siri or Android voice command is available with a three-second push of the button, although in my experience Siri has a hard time figuring out what you want if there’s too much wind noise (“Call Dirck Edge.” “Okay. I’m looking up businesses to trim your hedge. Would you like a list of phone numbers?” “No! I said CALL DIRCK EDGE!” “Okay. I’m getting you directions to the mall so you can buy an album by Percy Sledge.”).
In use, I’ve decided that the 10R’s advantages outweigh its disadvantages. Battery life is good, sound quality and microphone pickup is outstanding (as good as the other Sena and Cardo sets I’ve tired) and I’m getting used to the interface as well—and I love it’s slim, unobtrusive style. As an intercom, I have yet to try it, but it works the same as the SMH10 so it should be satisfactory for group riders and riding couples. Of the several headsets I now have lying around, it’s my go-to set.
At $219, the SMH10R is priced identically to the larger SMH10 and represents a good value in a motorcycle Bluetooth headset.