A staple of the modern rider’s gear, the Bluetooth communicator has revolutionized rider communication in recent years. Bluetooth comms provide low-profile, high quality connections between riders, phones and navigational devices. They can even be paired with some late-model bikes.
Top motorcycle Bluetooth 2021
Whether you’re listening to tunes and directions, leading a group ride, or talking to your friends on two wheels, Bluetooth comms can transform the ride. But which unit is right for you? We’ve got a full breakdown of the industry’s best to help you with your choice.
The selection process
Take a look at the average Zillan’s helmet and you’ll probably see a well worn Bluetooth communicator mounted on the shell. We use our comms units just as hard as our customers do, because they bring loads of utility, safety, and fun to our rides. We take testing very seriously, as well. New communicators are exhaustively tested over commutes, road trips, and even while shooting our bike reviews and other original content. If we recommend something, it’s because we actually use it!
We also answer countless calls, chats, and e-mails from customers about Bluetooth communicators, paying close attention to standout performers. Let’s take a look at the 2021 Gear Guides picks.
|Cardo Freecom series||Best traditional||$125 - $225||
|Sena 10C Evo||Best camera hybrid||$400||
|Cardo PackTalk series||Customers' choice||$290||
What’s a traditional communication unit, you ask? Most riders with Bluetooth units are using them for a few key features: talking to other riders, listening to music, receiving directions for navigation, and maybe answering a phone call or two. The Cardo Freecom+ series meets these needs admirably, and without excessive features that the average rider won’t use. The Freecom+ series also has reliable connection quality and range. There’s nothing more tedious than pulling over to restart or reconnect your unit because of a spotty connection.
The Freecom+ line includes a range of models with slightly different capabilities and price points, so you can pay for the features you’ll actually use. The Freecom 1+ is mostly for solo travelers who just need audio, navigation, and the ability to answer calls. The Freecom 1+ also has a (very) limited communicator-to-communicator range so you can chat with a passenger’s Freecom.
If you and your riding partner are on separate bikes, the Freecom 2+ allows two riders on two different bikes to communicate. Range is boosted to about a third of a mile. Choose a wired or boom mic to suit your helmet. Finally, if you typically ride with two or three other motorcyclists, you’ll want the Freecom 4+. Range jumps to three-quarters of a mile, plus it adds a jog dial, better speakers from JBL, and “natural voice” tech that integrates with Google or Siri. All these units are available in dual packs, which can save you a few bucks per unit.
Returning Gear Guides fans will recognize the Freecom+ line from last year’s picks. We simply couldn’t find a better basic comms unit for the second year in a row. Why pay more for features you won’t use, or pay less for a frustrating experience? That’s why we recommend the Freecom+ for most riders.
Many riders want video capabilities as well as Bluetooth communication while they ride. That’s where Sena’s 10C Evo comes in. Half communicator, half action camera, this hybrid device is our top choice for riders seeking a single, compact unit for both video and communication. The 10C Evo builds on the original 10C with some modern features to keep it competitive, like 4K video (30 fps, supports MicroSD up to 128GB) and conference communication with up to four group members.
Yes, a GoPro shoots better video and there are better stand-alone Bluetooth communicators. The 10C Evo is all about packaging both devices into one for a streamlined helmet setup. Motovloggers will be well served by this unit, or riders who simply want a helmet cam for “dashcam” purposes. Finally, there’s a budget aspect to consider. The 10C Evo’s $400 price tag is substantial, sure, but when compared against the price of a traditional Bluetooth communicator, plus a decent 4K camera, the Sena is actually a sensible choice for many riders. Looks like Sena still leads the pack in Bluetooth/camera hybrids for 2021.
Customers' choice Bluetooth communicator: Cardo PackTalk BOLD JBL and PackTalk Slim JBL
Customers have spoken: The Cardo PackTalk BOLD JBL and Slim JBL are the best all-around Bluetooth communicators available today. Their major selling point is Cardo’s mesh technology that allows up to 15 riders in a group, up to one mile apart, over a total group range of up to five miles! Mesh connections also allow group members to seamlessly leave and enter the multi-party intercom. No buttons or waiting around; the PackTalk automagically joins the group as soon as it gets connected. Other wins for the PackTalk include best-in-class noise cancellation, voice commands (multilingual), and up to 13 hours of talk time. The upgraded speakers from JBL have excellent sound quality for an in-helmet unit. All-weather riders will be glad to know that these units are IP67 waterproof and dustproof. They’re also designed for use with any riding glove, all the way up to bulky winter mitts.
Fortunately, the differences between the BOLD and Slim models are easy to understand. The PackTalk BOLD combines the battery and the communicator into one unit, whereas the Slim splits them into two separate pieces for a lower profile when riding. We recommend the BOLD for riders who will be swapping their Bluetooth communicator between multiple helmets. Opt for the Slim if you always keep your communicator mounted to one helmet.
We have to commend Cardo once again for building the customer favorite among Bluetooth communicators. The PackTalk units strike the industry’s best balance between sophistication, simplicity, and price.
Sena unveiled their 50 series of Bluetooth communicators just after we published last year’s Gear Guides, so we quickly started testing their latest and greatest to see how it stacked up against the competition.
The new models are definite improvements over Sena’s old models, and they're fine choices for the Sena diehards out there, but in our tests, Sena still fell short of Cardo’s PackTalk in terms of features, interface, and price. That said, Sena's been in the game for a long time, and for riders who've grown accustomed to Sena's products, the 50S and 50R are the units to have for this year.
That’s all for our 2021 Bluetooth Gear Guide. Hopefully you found some direction in the search for your next comms unit. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions on the finer points of Bluetooth communication. Over the next few weeks, we'll continue rolling out our top-ranked picks for the best motorcycle gear of 2021 for every kind of ride, so watch for the rest of our Gear Guides.