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Sena SHM5 Bluetooth Intercom Headset

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 compatible.

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 headsets.

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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