Bluetooth communicators are a transformative technology for connected riding. But with so many options on the market, which unit is right for you?
Motorcyclists use Bluetooth communicators to receive calls, hear navigation directions, jam to music, and talk with each other while riding. We’ve evaluated the specs, audio quality, user interfaces, prices, and installation difficulty of all the major options to find the best of the best. To make things even easier for you, we’ve sorted our favorites into four categories that will cover just about every type of rider out there. Cardo and Sena remain the two top contenders for Bluetooth tech in 2022. We recommend matching brands with your riding buddies for the best connection quality.
The selection process
J&P Cycles handles all the latest Bluetooth units, and we are always listening to feedback from our customers on which communicators work best. We also try them for ourselves, and the very best of them earn spots on our personal helmets. Countless hours of riding, navigating, listening to music, and road banter brought us to this list of top picks.
Best Bluetooth for large group rides: Sena 50S/50R and Cardo PackTalk BOLD
Many of our customers enjoy riding in large groups at motorcycle events and rallies. These rides are a lot easier, and a lot more fun, with the ability to communicate with other riders in the group. Large groups pose a unique challenge for Bluetooth comms, though, because there are many devices linked together, often over long distances. That’s where mesh technology comes in. Mesh connections offer superior range and easier connections, and you’ll find mesh in our top picks for the category. For 2022, it’s a tie between Sena’s 50S/50R series, and Cardo’s PackTalk BOLD JBL. (For a tiebreaker, find out which brand other riders in your group will be using.)
The Sena 50S and 50R take mesh to another level with “Open Group” and “Private Group” pairing modes. Sometimes you want to connect with anyone in a group, while other times, it’s best to stay paired with a select group of riders. Sena’s innovations allow both scenarios.
These state-of-the-art units can pair with up to 24 mesh units over a range of five miles. They also feature upgraded speakers from audio experts Harmon-Kardon for improved sound quality, and the microphone is set up for voice commands for hands-free control. Sena automatically sends updates to the 50S and 50R for best performance.
Choose the 50R for Sena’s standard three-button control layout, or opt for the 50S if you’d rather have a jog wheel.
Best Cardo Bluetooth for large group rides: Cardo PackTalk BOLD
The PackTalk BOLD is Cardo’s competitor to the Sena 50 series. It can handle up to 15 riders across five miles of range, and Cardo’s Natural Voice command tech is very easy to use. Even better, the PackTalk BOLD is fully waterproof, so you won’t need to worry when riding through foul weather as you tour.
Two 40 mm JBL speakers deliver excellent sound quality, and digital sound processing in the background keeps audio clear. Connect the PackTalk BOLD to your smartphone for remote control, or change settings on the fly. A roller wheel interface makes it easy to make simple adjustments while riding, even with winter gloves. This would be our choice for the all-weather rider who doesn’t need to connect to quite as many other riders as the Sena 50 series, but still wants to participate in large groups over long distances.
Best Bluetooth for modular helmets: Shoei SRL 2
The Shoei SRL 2 has all the features of a Sena 20S unit, but the unit is repackaged to specifically fit the Shoei Neotec 2. Why is this significant? We found the Neotec 2 to be the best modular helmet out there for 2022, and it’s already a popular helmet with many riders, and the SRL 2 seamlessly integrates into the helmet for the best modular Bluetooth experience out there. Installation couldn’t be easier. (It will also fit the Shoei J Cruise 2, but that is not a modular.)
The SRL 2 uses Bluetooth 4.1 technology for up to eight intercom connections over a range of one mile. It also features a universal pairing protocol to talk to other communicator brands. The SRL 2 packs in an FM tuner, rider/passenger music sharing, and voice prompts to make life on the road a little easier. We especially appreciated the long battery life (10 hours of talk time) and the smartphone app that links up to the unit.
Best budget Bluetooth: Cardo Spirit and Spirit HD
Not everyone needs the latest and greatest Bluetooth hardware in their helmet, particularly those who’d rather listen to tunes and directions than join the “party line” connection of a big group ride. For these riders, we recommend Cardo’s excellent new Spirit communicator. It does a great job of covering all the basics without breaking the bank at less than $100 for the base model. Step up to the Spirit HD to connect with one other rider over a range of nearly half a mile.
Features include a short-range intercom to connect with a passenger, plus two Bluetooth channels for connecting to your phone, GPS, or motorcycle (if equipped). The Spirit can handle phone calls and navigation instructions with ease. Cardo’s app works with both iOS and Android devices, and the Spirit receives automatic updates as needed. It’s worth noting that the Spirit is waterproof. We also liked its fast charging feature that gives two hours of talk time from just 20 minutes of charging.
Best Bluetooth for half helmets: Sena SPH10H-FM
Half helmets can be a little tricky for Bluetooth communicators because they offer less space to attach speakers, batteries, and comms units. They also lack a chinbar to deflect wind from the microphone. In our testing, the Sena SPH10H-FM was the best choice for riders with half helmets for a number of reasons. First off, it was designed specifically for use on half helmets, which makes installation a snap. Sena’s Advanced Noise Control technology does a fine job of cutting down on wind and engine noise, and the unit supports four-way intercom over 760 yards.
The SPH10H-FM has an FM tuner, as you might have guessed from its model name, plus two Bluetooth channels for connecting to phones, GPS units, and other devices. Make adjustments on the fly with a simple jog dial or use voice prompts for hands-free changes. Seven hours of talk time and eight days of standby should be plenty for most riders.
Thanks for joining our review of the best Bluetooth communicators of 2022. From space-age to spartan, there's something for everyone. Don’t miss our other guides as we continue showing the best gear of the year.