Sena SHM5 Bluetooth Intercom
For years now I’ve managed to communicate with my regular
pillion by means of taps on the back, squeezing of the leg and the
occasional shouted snatch of conversation while stopped at traffic
lights. That was until Sena offered to send me a set of its SMH5
headsets for review.
Surely a wireless comms system has got to be better than permanently
bruised kidneys, so I took them up on the offer. What I received
in the post was, and I’m quoting directly here, “a Bluetooth
v3.0 Stereo Headset with Bluetooth Intercom.”
The Bluetooth that Sena are so keen to mention allows the system
to be wireless, not just between rider and pillion or the rider
and any other riders in the area who are in range and matched but
also other things that you’d like to whisper in your ear;
sat nav or mobile phone or mp3 just so long as they are Bluetooth
While matching the headsets so I could talk to my pillion wasn’t
necessar - they came from the factory that way - that didn’t
stop me from doing it, in the interest of a fair test and not just
because I didn’t realise they were paired from the off. The
pairing process also highlighted a neat trick that the SMH5 has
up its virtual sleeve – it tells you when it’s done
something or you‘ve asked it to do something, such as change
from intercom to mobile phone setting.
The actual changing between the options, the devices it talks to
if you like, is really simple. Well it is once you get the hang
of it. It’s either a case of push the red button on the back
or twiddle the dial on the side. The only problem is knowing whether
to push and for how long or to twiddle. It would probably helped
if I’d read the instructions before I first tried using the
When I did relent and take a look at the instructions it couldn’t
have been simpler, lots of really easy to understand pictures.
Anyhow, once I’d got the headsets installed on two helmets
it was time to talk. Incidentally, fitting them to the helmets was
really easy. There are various options to hold the headsets in place,
adhesive backed Velcro is one but I used the bracket that slides
over the outer shell of the helmet and tightens down with a couple
of little Allen head screws. Then it’s simply a case of more
Velcro to hold the earpieces and microphones inside the helmet.
Now where was I? Oh yes, riding and talking. Now that is a novelty.
The sound is remarkably clear and, while there is some wind noise
from the microphones, it’s no worse than riding without ear
plugs. The situation is helped a bit by putting the furry baffles,
supplied, over the microphones. This makes them look like miniature
versions of the type of thing TV reporters use on outside broadcasts.
Most of the time I was able to easily chat with my pillion. The
only issue was on the motorway when I wound the speed up, then the
background noise makes it difficult to hear what was being said.
Could well have been “slow down!”
I would comment on the usefulness of being able to answer my mobile
phone through the SMH5 but I turn my phone off when I‘m riding.
I don’t have a SatNav for the bike so I can’t tell you
how the voice instructions from that work out through the SMH5,
and my old MP3 player doesn’t have Bluetooth capability either,
so I can’t comment either way on those options.
Now for the niggles. The microphone plugs into the cable for the
earphones and this in turn plugs into the headset itself. The connections
are small and feel a little flimsy and on a couple of occasions
they came apart while riding. In itself that’s not a deal
breaker, but to reconnect them means pulling over and gloves off
to get them together again. A bit of electrical tape wound around
the connectors would easily solve the problem but it’s probably
a good idea to leave them as they are as it’s better to have
something come unplugged than snap a cable.
I had a few issues with the microphone too. The kit I was supplied
with includes boom microphones, which are basically a stiff bendy
pipe with the mic on the end. Occasionally, turning my head to one
side I’d catch the boom as it passed under the edge of my
helmet on the collar of my jacket just enough to nudge it off its
Velcro mount. However, there’s the option of a wired mic which
would fit inside the helmet in a much tidier manner.
These are all small points and the more time I spend using the
SMH5 the more I’m getting the knack of where and how to route
the microphone arm and cables that join it to the headset.
Is it worth the £170 asking price though? Well that depends
on how often you ride with a pillion or regular riding partners.
After more than 10 years of having to make myself understood with
vague sign language it’s proving to be good value.
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