Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Sena 20S

All righty then, in yesterday's post I mentioned that I'd got myself a new gadget in the form of a bluetooth intercom so here's my initial review of the new toy - a Sena 20S.

Nice box I s'pose
On opening the box there was all sorts of stuff that I had to work out what to do with and a manual thicker than the Connie's.  After a bit of ooohing and arrring I eventually had to dive in and fit the thing to my HJC.  This next bit is missing the neat pictures of the install I had planned as I have recently discovered that if you don't put the SD card in the camera the pictures don't come out very well...

Anyway, I managed to fit the speakers and microphone in the helmet fairly nicely with all the wires completely hidden in behind the lining of the helmet.    The small microphone is about the only thing you can see inside the helmet.

Next up it was time to fit the charged up intercom onto the helmet clamp and fire it up to see if I could make it work.

Helmet bling!
With not a lot of bluetooth experience I grabbed the manual and dove in.  Within, oh, about 2 seconds I had the intercom hooked up to my phone and was talking to Mark while sitting in the lounge with my helmet on...Connecting to the Zumo took another 2 seconds.  Man, what a tough job!

On the road

Come Sunday morning it was time to hit the road and test the intercom properly.  I left home with music pumping from my phone and into my helmet.  I always wear earplugs to kill the wind noise and I was very pleased with the volume coming through to my noggin.  Stopping for gas I simply turned the volume down with the dial as I hadn't memorised how to mute it...

On the ride up to Waiouru I kept the music pumping but once Neil turned up with his SMH-10 it was time to try out the bike to bike feature.  We had a little bit of trouble connecting but I think that was because Neil's GPS was trying to tell home where to find Taupo.  We eventually got it sorted and I got to hear how hungry Neil was for the next 40 minutes or so...

Starting off on the road I thought that Neil was whispering to me but then I worked out that there was a separate volume level for the intercom function (and later the phone too) so I turned the volume up a bit and it was like normal speech over a telephone.  I also found that instead of pausing or muting the music completely the music volume was just lowered and I could just hear it quietly in the background.

At times we were probably at least 800 metres apart and sometimes one of us had traffic and even a few corners (ie out of line of sight) but still the reception was very good.  It was only later in the day when it was a bit windier that I occasionally had trouble understanding Neil - he was on his naked Speedy so I guess we might be expecting a bit much from a voice activated microphone?  He reckoned that he could hear me just fine so it's probably down to microphone placement and wind protection as to the quality you get from the microphone.

Later on I got a surprise when I got this ringing noise and after fiddling with the intercom I was talking to someone on the phone.  This worked just as well as everything else so far and the person on the other end of the line could not tell that I was on the bike - he reckoned it sounded a bit like I was in a small room.

The next thing I tested was the GPS by telling Captain Zumo to take me home.  Unsurprisingly I soon had voice instructions breaking in over the music to let me know of all the turns I needed to take - too easy.

So, first impressions - a pretty neat bit of kit.  But I still have a lot to learn with regards to driving it.  I managed to use the jog dial to switch the tracks I was listening to but there is so much more you can do - some functions can even be activated by voice.  I may need to read the manual...

One of the other neat things is the Sena app which I have loaded on the phone.  Like some of the other functions I have yet to work out, I still haven't played with the app much.  One cool thing in the app is that it has a quick reference guide for the intercom built-in - this could be handy on the road.

Oh yeah, battery life?  Well, we did just over 600km, so probably about 7 hours riding and some playing around with the unit at lunch time and the intercom was still doing it's thing when I got back into Palmy.  It will be interesting to see how it fairs on a longer ride but I do have the option of plugging in to charge while riding too.

So far all good news...


  1. Great to hear your initial impressions and such easy going fitting Andrew. I too am in the market and looked at this but have been thrown by the very tempting uclear HBC 100/200. They stick onto your helment and are boomless! Did you look at those? What made you go with the Sena? Last question, what model Shoei did you fit it too?

    1. Hi Dan, I went for the Sean as its the first intercom I've seen which can connect to other brands of intercoms and I have a few riding mates with different setups. It will be interesting to see how well it works with them.

      Oh, and I'm about to edit the post, I changed from a Shoe to an HJC-RPHA 10 Plus some time ago - sorry, brain fart.

  2. Can second that :-)
    My first impressions excellent too :-)

    1. Glad to hear it James. Next you'll be buying a Connie...

  3. Hmmm sounds more fiddly to use than a gopro.

    1. Nah, can't be that bad...

      I've just got to spend some quality time with it.

  4. Hooray, glad you liked it so far.

    We have an older version of the Senas and haven't had trouble with them. Brad's even worked after bouncing off the asphalt one trip. He went to fiddle with something and accidentally unhooked it.

    They seem to pair up well with each other and never have gone dead battery-wise on an all day ride.

    All you heard was "I'm hungry" I usually hear hubby's whistling and occasional hiccup and burp, lol. We use them on voice activated rather than push to talk.

    1. Good to hear you've had a good run out of your units. I'll try not to drop test mine though.

      I was a bit worried that Neil would here my singing to the music but I think I made sure that the intercom was off then. Got no complaints...

  5. I like their support. Even with the older SMH10, there is new firmware to enable the universal intercom feature. Most vendors would've just abandoned the older units and forced you to buy new if you needed the feature. We also use the voice activated feature.

    1. Good to know. When I installed the Sena app on my phone the first thing it did was tell me that there was a firmware update so I'm off and running on the latest version straight away - cool.