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PRODUCT REVIEW: Scala Rider Q2 Motorcycle Intercom System

Headsets go high tech with no more wires

By Pamela Collins
8/14/2009

Communicating with other motorcyclists while riding can become a somewhat creative endeavor often involving various gestures, hand signals, horn beeping and muffled shouting usually never heard outside a helmet's confines. The Scala Rider Q2 Multi-Set communication system by Cardo Systems, Inc. remedies the problem, making helmet-to-helmet communication a much simpler and less eventful task.

The Scala Rider Q2 uses the latest Bluetooth technology to accomplish its mission. It not only allows riders (up to three) to speak to one another, but also talk hands-free on a (Bluetooth-enabled) cell phone, receive GPS audio instructions, listen to the radio, or listen to an MP3 player. All of this (except for the MP3 player) happens cordlessly -- no more wires to tangle or keep you attached to your bike. 

The Scala Rider Q2 components. The headset, the actual "brain" of the system, sits in the center of the box. With this teardrop-shaped unit a rider can control communication with other riders, with a cellphone, a GPS, FM radio or an MP3 player.
The Scala Rider Q2 components. The headset, the actual "brain" of the system, sits in the center of the box. With this teardrop-shaped unit a rider can control communication with other riders, with a cellphone, a GPS, FM radio or an MP3 player.

A teardrop-shaped, rubber-encased headset serves as "control central" for the system. A microphone and two ultra-slim (0.18 inches thick) speakers and their associated wiring handle speaking and listening duties. All three of these merge into a clamp-type fastener that cradles the lower left side of a helmet and is tightened by two screws. No holes or drilling needed. The screws just tighten the clamp to the edge of the helmet. Cardo Systems states the Q2 will fit all full-face and 3/4 length helmets. A charger, a carrying case, an MP3 cable and various installation aids come with the kit, which retails for $395 for the two-unit Multi-Set. 

Pam with the Q2 communication system installed on a full-face modular-style helmet.
Pam with the Q2 communication system installed on a full-face modular-style helmet.

With the helmet closed. The Scala Rider Q2 headset takes up little space on the side of the helmet and installed within 10 minutes.
With the helmet closed. The Scala Rider Q2 headset takes up little space on the side of the helmet and installed within 10 minutes.

Promotional literature claims installation only takes five minutes. I'd agree -- if you have three hands. If not, plan on needing more time and finding another set of hands to steady the helmet. However, installation is fairly simple and the instructions well written and easy to understand. Basically, you screw the clamp to the helmet with a supplied Allen wrench--one side of the clamp on the helmet’s exterior, the other between the shell and internal padding, positioning the clamp so the attached microphone sits directly in front of your lips. Should the clamp not fit over the helmet's shell, you can glue the clamp to the helmet (parts for that are included).


Opening the clamp in preparation of attaching it to the helmet. All the other components attach to this clamp.
Opening the clamp in preparation of attaching it to the helmet. All the other components attach to this clamp.

Screwing the clamp fastener to the helmet lower left exterior.
Screwing the clamp fastener to the helmet lower left exterior.

 

Then determine where your ears sit within your helmet and place the left and right speakers in their proper position. The speakers stick to the interior using hook and loop type fasteners (like Velcro). Tuck the speaker wires out of sight behind the helmet's padding. Slide the headset onto the clamp and voila -- installation now complete for one helmet. Repeat with the second helmet.

Positioning the speaker inside the helmet and hiding the wiring.
Positioning the speaker inside the helmet and hiding the wiring.

Pam with the Q2 communication system fully installed on a full-face modular-style helmet.
Pam with the Q2 communication system fully installed on a full-face modular-style helmet.

The headset "brain" unit with its lithium battery must be charged (like everything else these days). The Q2 supplies a petite dual voltage travel charger (good for traveling in other countries) that can plug into any ordinary outlet. Following a longer initial charge time, expect the unit to fully charge in three hours. I like the fact the headset disengages from the helmet for charging. I find it more convenient than other systems that house the rechargeable battery within the helmet, requiring you to literally plug in the helmet to re-juice.

Communicating with another rider requires "pairing" the two headsets -- that's Bluetooth talk for the process of allowing one device to "speak" to another. It's an easy procedure requiring nothing more than a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone or a GPS system. 

The ultra-thin speakers provide good sound quality and feel invisible once installed. They attach to the helmet's interior. The most difficult part of the speaker installation process comes from trying to determine their best placement within the helmet.
The ultra-thin speakers provide good sound quality and feel invisible once installed. They attach to the helmet's interior. The most difficult part of the speaker installation process comes from trying to determine their best placement within the helmet.

Large easy-to-locate buttons simplify control of the headset -- no fumbling here, even with gloved hands. A forward button powers the system. A large rearward button controls the radio and six station pre-sets. Upper and lower buttons regulate volume or manually change radio stations. 

However, most of the unit's operation needs no hands at all, a truly cool feature. To initiate communication with another headset, simply speak. To answer your phone, say hello. Simply stop talking when the call is over, and the Q2 hangs up. You can even use voice commands to dial a number. The Q2 uses a noise-cancelling, high impact balancing microphone with automatic volume control, meaning volume increases along with the ambient noise level and driving speed -- the rider doesn't need to manually adjust the volume.

My husband, Tim, and I tested the Scala Rider Q2 on several trips. I wore a full-face helmet and he wore a three-quarter helmet. I'd have to rate overall sound quality as pretty good, though I heard definite wind noise from his end. The automatic volume control works well and the new full-duplex technology eliminates "walkie-talkie" syndrome, where only one person can speak at a time. The Q2 allegedly operates within a 3/10 of a mile range -- not far, but adequate as long as you stay close together and don't let many hills separate you. My biggest disappointment came from the battery life. The literature states the units provide eight hours of talk time, but the most we received was five hours -- not even enough for a long day's ride. To my mind, long trips to new locations are when communication would be most essential, but the Q2 didn't deliver on that end. Also, though purportedly weather resistant, no promises exist regarding how the Q2 would fair in a downpour. 

Tim with the system installed on his three-quarter helmet.
Tim with the system installed on his three-quarter helmet.

The Scala Rider Q2 offers the latest technology and easy installation for riders seeking motorcycle communication. My only issue was with the battery life. For more information about this communication system visit CardoSystems.com.   

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