For years now, I’ve been using a set of Sony Bluetooth earbuds/phone remote when I ride. They’ve been OK for listening to my XM unit, or my phone, but, of course, far from perfect. The phone is pretty much unusable since all the other person can hear is the whoosh of wind, and me, faintly, screaming like a maniac.
So, after saving up for a few weeks, I plonked down $289 for a Scala Rider G9 Bluetooth unit from Cardo Systems. For a price that steep, I thought, it better work great.
Happily, I can now report to you that it does.
The G9 is the latest and greatest from Cardo Systems, and they claim lots of great features for it.
Talk time: up to 13 hours
Standby time: 7 days
Charging time: 3 hours
Radio on time: 8-10 hours
Certified Waterproof and Dustproof (IP67)
Intercom conferencing with up to 4 other scala rider users (up to 1.6 km in Full Duplex)
4-Way (2 drivers and 2 passengers)
3-Way (3 separate bikers)
2-Way (rider-to-rider or rider-topassenger)
Intercom “One+8” – toggle between 8 additional G9 users
Click-to-Link: for spontaneous intercom connections with any G4/G9 user
Mobile Phone Conference Mode (rider, passenger, outside caller)
Mobile Phone / GPS device
MP3 Player – Stream stereo music via A2DP (cable connection also included
for older MP3 players) Plus: Built-in FM radio with RDS, 6 station presets and smart auto scan
Priority Management: No need to manually disconnect from intercom or music to receive incoming phone calls or GPS instructions!
iPhone™ Compatible – iPhone is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.
Up to 1 mile / 1.6 km Bike-to-Bike intercom with flip-up antenna for extended range
Built-in FM Radio with 6 presets
First off, unlike some of the other bluetooth systems, the G9 is fully iPhone compatible, and transmits great stereo using iPhone proprietary (of course) bluetooth system. If it works with iPhone/iPod’s maddening “We don’t follow the standard everyone else in the industry does” arrogance, it’ll work great with an Android phone, too.
The unit itself comes in two pieces. One piece is the mounting bracket, which contains both the boom microphone and ear speakers, and the other piece is the removable Bluetooth control unit. In addition to the boom microphone, the system comes with a wired microphone, which is useful for mounting on the chinbar of a full-face helmet. The boom mic works better with modular or other than full-face helmets.
You have two mounting options. There is a clamp mount which fits between the outer shell and padding of the helmet, but, if that’s not a possibility, the unit also includes an external glue mount. But, a warning about the glue mount: it’s permanent, and uses a bonding epoxy that, given 24 hours to cure, will be a permanent fixture on the helmet.
Once mounted, the speaker wires are run under the padding of the helmet to the ear cutouts in the padding. Since many helmets now come with speaker pouches built into the helmets, the speakers will fit quite nicely in there. The boom mike is mounted on a plastic coated metal gooseneck that’s plenty long and flexible enough to reach your mouth.
My helmet is a Shark Evoline 2 modular, so there aren’t speaker mounts, but I was able to pull out the cheek pads, and cut out the earhole padding, giving me the perfect spot to mount the speakers on the included Velcro pads that can be stuck to the helmet’s inner shell. There’s plenty of room with the padding removed so that the speakers don’t uncomfortably press on my ears. The speakers themselves are fairly small and thin, with reasonably substantial wires connecting them to the mounting unit.
The Bluetooth control unit slides onto the mount, and is removable for recharging. The rubber-covered control buttons are large and chunky, which makes them easy to manipulate with gloved hands. each button has multiple functions, which depend on tapping or pressing and holding the button to activate different functions.
Connecting the Bluetooth control to a phone is fairly easy and painless, and it mates in seconds.
Once on the road, you can listen to the built-in FM radio, your iPod/iPhone music, skip tracks, change the volume, make a phone call, or listen to your GPS, either via the buttons on the Bluetooth control unit, or via voice command. For instance, saying “Radio On” activates the G9’s built-in FM radio.
Which brings me to a drawback. If you start singing along to your iTunes, or start yelling at something infuriating you hear on talk radio, the G9 will shut everything down to listen to what you have to say, so it doesn’t miss your voice command. So, you have to remain silent, and just scream in your mind, instead of using your outside voice.
The sound is surprisingly loud, so you don’t have to turn the unit all the way up to listen to it. Just set it to a comfortable volume before you hit the road. As you go rise along, and the ambient noise changes, the G9 will raise and lower the volume appropriately, so you don’t always have to fiddle with the volume buttons, and you can still hear clearly.
Music sounds good on the speakers, although, given their size, some might argue that they don’t have quite enough bass response. That’s inherent with any small speaker size, though. There’s a reason your home stereo speakers have 12- or 15-inch woofers, after all. I would dismiss this quibble, as the wind noise inside even the best helmets are going to destroy any pretense of audiophile-level sound quality anyway. Personally, I think the sound quality is very good for such small speakers, and I don’t find them tinny at all. Indeed, I had to turn them down on the highway, because they can get uncomfortably loud.
The really important thing I noticed is that, unlike noise-canceling earbuds, you aren’t completely cut off from the outside world. You have a better sense of situational awareness of the other sounds on the road.
To me, when you couple that with the usable volume and quality of the speaker sound, makes the Scala Rider G9 the best of both worlds.