I’ve finally had some time and nice weather to try out the Sena SMH10 on the road, mounted on my Shoei RF-1000 helmet.
The control unit, dock (clamp kit), helmet speakers, and microphone were easy to mount, but the clamp kit the actual control unit docks into needs a bit of extra care to mount onto the helmet properly without scratching it. Click here to read about my initial impressions.
As for the shape of the control unit with regards to wind noise and drag, its alright at lower speeds and doesn’t seem to have an effect. However, at higher speeds, it will come into play.
To test the SMH10, I rode around the city with traffic, and also on the highways reaching “speed limits”. I made a few phone call and listened to music.
All the controls are integrated into 3 buttons, which I suppose its good but can be a bit confusing at times, considering there are so many functions.
Normally I don’t like to refer to instruction manuals so I can try to figure out the functions on my phone. As you can see below, this isn’t one of those products… its too complicated:
Answer/End Call – Quick press of the jog dial
Volume Up/Down – Turn the jog dial
Play/Pause Music – Press jog dial for 1 second
Next/Track – Press jog dial and turn
Voice Command – Double press the jog dial
And here are are the stuff I did figure out:
Powering on/off – Press the jog dial and also the phone button on the back of the unit for a quick second
Pairing – Holding the phone button for 5 seconds
Overall, the jog dial is innovative and easy to use.
Ease of use
I would say the jog dial is useful, such as adjusting the volume, answering and ending phone calls, playing and pausing music. As for the helmet speakers, they were small and fit well in my tight fitting Shoei RF-1000. The Sena also comes with foam pads for adjustment if your helmet has more space, such as an Arai.
As mentioned in my initial impressions, the helmet speakers sounded like they were designed for communication and no more. When listening to music, the lower range is missing. The sound is very high, trebly, translating to phone conversations being very high pitched when the volume is turned up high. For instance, when I am going at higher speed and need to boost up the sound and then coming to a stop only to have it louder and hurting my ears.
On a stock motorcycle with stock exhaust, any music or phone conversation worked well up to 65mph. With more wind and engine noise, the sound does start to drown out meaning the volume needs to be cranked up, which means, higher pitch sounds. I’m surprised how loud I could turn up the volume actually, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.
One huge gripe I have is after finishing one of the calls where I had to crank up the volume, the notifying beep for ending the call was TERRIFYINGLY LOUD.
Another gripe of mine is when there is no music being played or phone call being made, it has a no activity digital sound that is always humming in the background. Perhaps this is because of the constant Bluetooth connection.
As mentioned before, the helmet speakers cannot be changed out for better ones because they’re hardwired right into the clamp. I did some research and it is possible, but requires an optional but expensive 3.5mm helmet clamp kit, so there is the extra expenditure for better sound.
As I rode, I initiated a few phone calls with different friends. I had attached the microphone into my helmet and velcroed it right in front of my mouth per the User’s Guide and even though the microphone is small, it had a thin foam pad on it which was just thick enough for my lips to rub against at times. My friends said they could hear me ok with distortion and I had to start yelling into it as noise around me picked up.
When the speeds picked up to about 65-70mph, it hit a barrier where it was difficult for them to hear me. It seems like this is pretty much the threshold for communication for the SMH10.
The Sena SMH10 wasn’t designed for music, but for low speed communication, it does the job. The controls once you figure out how to use it is one of its strongest selling points. The Sena SMH10 is a good communication device.
Upon testing the Sena, I would assume that all the other brands like Cardo Systems, Interphone, J&M, Midland, Nolan, O-tus (basically all the ones that didn’t got back to me for testing samples) would perform in a similar fashion as they are based off of the same technology. However, the Sena controls is a superior design to all the others in the category.