Sena 20S Bluetooth Headset
Was really looking forward to getting the 20S
When the 20S was announced, I was so excited about upgrading from my older SMH-10R. So much so, in fact, that I encouraged my touring friends to pre-order theirs, too. That has turned out to be somewhat of an embarrassment. It truly is painful for me to write this review. But we've been waiting almost 5 full months for fixes for the most glaring issues.
We received out 20S units in late June 2014. Immediately we noticed problems with an electronic whine/buzz in connected earbuds. We embarked on a 4,000 mile trip on July 4th. That's when the shortcomings of the 20Ss really hit us. The earbud buzz/whine was tolerable. But the other flaws were not. We ended up spending HOURS, literally HOURS fiddling with the units. In the course of the 10-day trip, they worked properly for maybe 30 minutes. The rest of the time we were fighting intercom outages and loss of intercom every time any of our Zumo units alerted or gave driving directions. We had to pull over at least three times per day to see if we could resolve the problems by doing things like powering up, resetting, reconnecting, etc. Every evening, we worked with the units to see if we could determine if the issues were due to our learning curve or due to deficiencies in the firmware. By the end of the trip, some of the group simply turned their 20S OFF and refused to be bothered by them any more.
The worst of the issues was the 20Ss randomly dropping Intercom to one or more in the group of 4. The only way to determine if communications was working was to ask, "Can anyone hear me now?" At least 10 times per day, the answer was silence. Hmmmm, guess no one could hear me. That resulted in many miles passing under our wheels while we poked at the JOG button, turned the unit ON and OFF and back ON, trying, trying, trying to restore communication between the four of us. We only had all four units intercomming for possible 2 hours TOTAL out of the 10 days of 10 hours per day riding. There was always someone missing.
Sometimes, this was caused by the units simply turning themselves OFF. No button pushing required. Silence might indicate that the unit had powered itself off with no notification by the Sena lady. Turns out, it does it all the time; sometimes within 5 minutes of connecting with another 20S. We were constantly calling,"can you hear me now".
Occasionally, we'd succeed in reestablishing communication after a half hour or more of riding and trying. Had no idea why.
The other issue that affects operation is that the A2DP port is meant for the phone to give it highest priority, I guess. However, everyone I know pairs their Zumo GPS as a phone so that the XM radio, audio books, and MP3 player works. That would be just fine, except every time the Zumo alerts or gives driving directions, intercom is blanked out . . . sometimes never to return. It would happen at the most critical times of our trip . . . like when looking for a restaurant or gas station in an unfamiliar area. Instead of being able to communicate our intentions with each other, the GPS blanked out the intercom. We had to resort to hand signals.
OK, now the good.
The audio quality is phenomenal. The wind noise filtering is like no other. One can ride with a half face helmet and his/her transmitted audio is 100% noise free! Wow!
The ability to use the phone is very good. My wife cannot tell whether I'm at 80 mph on the Interstate or parked at a gas station. It's that good.
At the time of this writing, I'm in hopes that Sena will address the issues that their customers have brought up on the Sena forum. They have good technical support people, but they can only help with the units as they have been produced. They cannot help with the problems and priorities between functions.
I must say that the factory support is as good as it can be. The four of us that bought in June all had our 20Ss replaced with new ones when we complained about the buzz in the earbuds and the lack of FM radio operation. Both of those issues were fixed with hardware changes and didn't cost us anything except a little inconvenience. I'm not sure whether or not the development team is working on the other issues. Only time will tell.
I sincerely want my Sena 20S to work reliably and am holding out for firmware changes that will address the issues we're having.
November 26, 2014
Great evolution of the Sena brand
OK, it took me a while to write a review for this product because I really wanted to use it, figure out the issues, and try to solve them, instead of blasting off a review in frustration.
Yep, the 20s has much improved sound, range, and noise cancellation. I have both an SMH10 and a 20S, so I think I have a good basis for comparison. It's a solidly built product. I like the new helmet mount. It feels a bit more solid than the SMH10. The antenna needs getting used to. It's not flimsy, but coming from the SMH10, which doesn't have an antenna, I forget to raise it most of the time.
Which brings me to the first "con" of the design. You may have read many reviews about choppy intercom or music or GPS sound. First of all, make sure to upgrade the firmware to the latest version (1.2 at the time of this writing). Secondly, apparently for smooth functionality of the 20S, you *MUST* have the antenna raised.
As with most 1st-generation devices of any kind, it takes a bit to smooth out the rough edges. Thankfully, Sena has great customer service, and appreciates feedback and questions to help them improve.
Why did I upgrade from the SMH10? Mainly for the new audio multitasking feature. I usually ride lead for my group, and the SMH10 allows the intercom or the GPS directions to come through the audio, not both. The 20S audio multitasking advertises that it seamlessly blends both signals simultaneously.
Here's the 2nd (sort of) "con": getting this feature to work correctly. Right out of the box, and after upgrading to the latest firmware, I couldn't get audio multitasking to work properly. I got dropped intercom, choppy audio, and no GPS directions. After contacting Sena support, they had me do a factory reset, remove the pairing from my phone, and start fresh. After doing that, I got audio multitasking to work flawlessly! Now I get music in the background while on intercom with my friends, and my GPS directions seamlessly overlays itself over all the signals! Yay!!
I gave this product 4 out of 5 stars because it's a bit finicky to setup, and some features, like the group intercom, only works with other 20S units. You can still have multi-point intercoms like the SMH10, but I still would have liked a 1-button connection to everyone in my group.
The voice commands work pretty well. Noise, of course, plays a role in how well the 20S interprets your commands. I've found the boom mic to work best (I use a Nolan N85 helmet).
All in all, I really like this product and will recommend to others, especially to ride leads due to the audio multitasking feature.
November 15, 2014
Awesome so far
I've read many negative reviews on this site but I haven't had the same experience. This unit is top notch when it comes to build quality, accessories, sound quality, battery life, noise reduction, and software. If you take the time to read the instructions, it's very easy to use. I can talk to my wife at 70 mph and she says it sounds like I am at home. It will take time and patience to run the wires for the mic and speakers, as they each have sweet spots to get the most out of them. I am using the included speakers with the foam spacers behind my helmet padding, and placed them perfectly to get some very decent bass in my music. It took about 4 rides to get them to the right spot and they are very loud and clear. I don't really use the voice commands because my phone is not very good with them (note 2-it's like it is listening to somebody else). The ambient feature is pretty cool to be able to hear better with the helmet on. I haven't tested the intercom range yet, or the radio feature. Do people still listen to the radio? Why anyone would torture themselves with the radio is beyond me. Using this device for phone, navigation, and music streaming is flawless so far. I'm very satisfied with the build quality, also.
November 13, 2014
The 20s blew me away!
My wife and I purchased the dual 20s package and we have had them three days. The sound quality is AMAZING! My bike is overly loud (thanks to the previous owner) and yet she can hear me and not the bike or the wind. What's more she cannot hear me open and close the steel garage door on our garage when I put the bike up. Yet, we can converse clearly. She's telling me that the sound quality is better than the bluetooth built into my 300c.
Definitely upgrade the firmware and configure via the PC. The app is nice, but the PC is much quicker. We have been able to listen to FM radio, and music stored on our phones while talking on the bike. The "whiz bang" features are all wonderful, but what really blew us away was how clear the sound is and how it's able to filter out noise.
November 4, 2014
Works very good
Better than they said. Works very good EZ to set up.
November 3, 2014
I have paired my Sena 20s with the Shoei Neotec and earplugs.
I'm not sure Sena knows we actually use these systems on motorcycles at Highway speeds. This is my biggest issue with the system. With technology today, there is no reason they can't give us some good speakers. I can hardly discern the music, and forget about answering a phone call. My old system from their main competitor was much better. My second issue is with how the bluetooth mounts onto the base. I'm very carful and take my time when mountain and un-mounting of the unit, but there is not really a positive detent when doing either. Overall not a great design. My last issue i have a an intermittent pausing of music playback. When it does pause, there is a little static pop, then the music comes back on. The system works and is just fine on secondary roads, but for the cost and the success of their previous units, I expected a bit more from this unit. Will be difficult for me to consider any future models with other choices out there.
November 2, 2014
Seems to work well except for FM Tuner
I bought it for the Bluetooth features for phone, listening to audio books, and other distractions from within my helmet. I ride mostly solo and have not used the bike-to-bike communication features.
I seems well laid out with lots of tweaks such as supporting separate headphones (a spaghetti hassle when putting on and taking off the helmet), and the Aux input and FM tuner.
I personally wish the speaker volume was a couple of notches louder. I had to go to a less effective set of ear plugs to clearly hear all the audio. I haven't seen any effect from their "audio boost" feature.
The FM tuner is the most disappointing feature. They did a very poor implementation of this feature. It reminded me of a child's toy radio of 30 years ago that might receive a station or two. The first 20S unit could only get a single strong station clearly. A replacement unit got maybe 3 stations clearly. My cheap ($35) Sansa MP3 player with FM tuner can get at least twice as many stations clearly, and the car radio - too many to want to write down. I'm wishing for a re-design during the warranty period, but I'm not too hopeful. Note that I live in SE Michigan, and the main stations are a few miles away, and it could be more effective in a more populated area. However, the cheap Sansa shows what should have been done.
October 27, 2014
no bass in the speaker and fm radio not very useful.
There is only treble in the speakers and the volumes at jnterstate speeds can be too low sometimes. Fm radio hardly ever catches anything. Dunno if its the helmets blocking signal or what but when I turn my slightly it gets better sometimes but then im not looking where im going.
October 27, 2014