Will spend a few minutes on this for any older guys that have been down the in-helmet speaker/comms path, over the years and swore off it.
It's been about a decade since I opened the wallet on anything that included in-helmet speakers. Every year for the last four or five, I try to do a long ride (week or two) with a couple of buddies who are tekkie nerds and, as nerds will, sport their Scala comms devices (all three of us are IT cats). They are newer riders (four or five years experience) and I'm the relatively crusty veteran. Any time the question, "why don't you..." I stopped them and let them know that I was installing speakers in helmets before there were cut outs in the foam and I'm not inclined to get suckered into another false prophecy of stereophonic and/or comms bliss.
Fast forward to 2014. Out riding with my wife in NC and she low sides her Ninjette in a decreasing radius turn, somewhere in the mountains. While I was giving the obligatory hand signal indicating "keep your eyes up and ahead", she didn't see the sign, went in too hot and then, rather than looking up and out, tunnel visioned herself into the woods. (Broken hand, but nowhere as bad as it could have been).
While I was running through the error chain that led to the catastrophic pilot error, one of the things that I couldn't shake was the thought that maybe I could have prevented said lowside if I'd been able to verbally communicate the difficulty of the curve, rather than relying on moto sign language.
With that in mind, the Ninjette was sold, the Spyder was purchased and I ordered a Sena dual-set from Revzilla. Here's my take, 5K miles in:
Packaging - The manufacturer does this right. Everything is in the box, you get extra parts and everything in the box is in it's own bag. Post-install (one Shoei modular and one HJC modular) I realized they did a nice job anticipating the variety of installs that are out there in the marketplace. So, A+ for planning.
Instructions - Solid B+. One of the few bright spots of getting older is that you realize that being methodical pays big dividends, over the long run. Twenty three year old me would glance at the instructions and then plow ahead. At fifty, I read the instructions fully and then reference them while installing the gear. While they were pretty good, I had to do a couple of re-reads and head scratches on a couple of the notes. No biggy, but not an A.
Install - On the Shoei (multi-tech), this was a total no-brainer. Everything was straight-forward and blew through it in less than 30 minutes, including the "old dude pre-read" thing I just referenced.
On the HJC that was "bluetooth ready", it was a little more challenging to a) get the clamping mechanism positioned properly and b) fitting the speakers into the holes. HJC cut outs weren't a proper fit. Since I had the Shoei experience in my pocket, I still got it done in <30 minutes (another Shoei would have taken 10), but I'd say it's best to take your time and make sure you don't force things. Solid A on installation. (A thought: If I were getting a Sena and a helmet at the same time, I'd probably get a helmet that didn't have that bluetooth-ready compartment built in. Not sure)
Operation - Based on the site reviews, I fully expected that the Bluetooth would be a hassle, voice operation would be unused and earbuds would be a must for what were sure to be sub par speakers. I must say, this is where I'm most pleasantly surprised.
Bluetooth - Rock solid, straight forward and connects to my iPhone 6 + the first time and every time I've ridden with the Sena. Dowloaded their app and at this point, I'd say the Bluetooth operation is as good as the system in my CTS. Grade A.
Earbuds/Aux connections - The first few times I rode, I connected an old iPod into the back jack and low-priced earbuds into the front jack (both on the base of the Sena). The best Deep Purple live from Japan experience I've had in years. When I swapped in some decent Bose earbuds, it was like riding with Richie Blackmore on the pillion. Actually, it was much better than that, since Richie was shredding his solos, but wasn't holding on to my belt and/or bumping up against me in turns. Easy A+. (this is the optimal configuration for traveling at hyper-speeds (90+ mph)).
Speakers - Since I'm not an audio engineer, not exactly sure how this works, but I've found that with foam earplugs in and the ipod/iphone cranked with the Sena volume cranked, I can enjoy music. Take out the plugs and it is miserable sounding, but put them in and the sound improves to the point where I was fine in my usual 60-80 mph highway ride. This is so refreshing as anyone who does long rides knows. The ability to enjoy tunes without earbuds in for 500 miles is really nice. While the music quality isn't as good, it is good enough and less hassle than plugging in earbuds with the wires, etc. I find that Pandora on the i6+ blue-toothed to the speakers with foam earplugs is a great, low hassle solution. Since no speakers in a helmet are going to be perfect, I'm giving this an A grade. (Note: As I already mentioned, I'm >50. I ride an old man's Ninja (Concours 14 with electric windscreen (with a Cee Bailey's aftermarket shield)), but the music is still decent with the windscreen in the full down (max wind) setting.
Voice Commands - You tap the unit with your left hand and you get to speak with Sena. I haven't mastered the tap yet (sometimes I get Sena and sometimes she just tries to initiate intercom because I whacked the button), but when I get it right, the voice commands work like a champ. Note: All that good stuff I said about the music from the speakers with foam ear plugs? Downside is that sometimes you cannot hear Ms. Sena to interact via voice.
Phone - All the comments on audio and bluetooth carry over to phone conversations. Mic works and while I don't do a lot of calls from my helmet, the ones I've done progressed flawlessly.
Unit is sturdy, you have back ups and options in the box and everything works as advertised.
In practice - Rode around Big Bend National Park with my wife on her machine and me on mine. The intercom was excellent within the line-of-sight horizon and because we were both behind relatively decent wind protection, very little unplanned activation from wind noise. I also appreciated the fact that it automatically picks the partner until back up on intercom, when it recognizes both units are inside the useable range.
Needless to say, I'm a believer. This product is pricey, but I'm really digging it. Also, I'd say this is a must have capability for those of you playing rider/coach with a new or low experience rider, especially loved ones.