We know that for many riders, it’s the solitude and isolation that makes motorcycling so attractive. However, others like to stay in touch and if you like listening to music, sat-nav instructions and making or taking phone calls when you are riding, you will need a Bluetooth headset.
If you ride in a group and want to be able to communicate with them while you are on the road or with a pillion you are carrying, then you also want an intercom. And while virtually all headsets include intercom functionality, if you want an intercom first and foremost, then this review may not be for you. However, if you’re looking for a headset to connect to your smartphone or sat nav, then it definitely is.
That is not to say that the Cardo Freecom 4X won’t work as an intercom – it certainly will, using Bluetooth to connect up to four riders over a distance of up to 1.2km according to the manufacturer.
It will also automatically re-connect if riders drop out, for example get separated by more than the maximum range or around a bend – Bluetooth intercoms tend to work on line-of-sight and when they can’t see each other, they often drop their connection.
Because I tend to ride on my own, then the real functionality of the Freecom 4X is as a Bluetooth headset for – primarily – my smartphone, as like many people, I tend to use it for everything; calls, music and navigation. And for that role, it is exceptionally good.
At first sight, it may seem that the controls are on the small side and may be difficult to use with a gloved hand. However, the buttons are easy to find and use and the thumb wheel, while small, is also fairly straightforward to use, particularly for changing the volume.
It’s a little more complicated to skip tracks forwards and back, for example, having to remember button-push combinations but that becomes virtually irrelevant once you suss out the excellent voice control.
Simple saying “Hey Cardo…” much like instigating Siri on an Apple iPhone causes the system to perform certain tasks simply by saying them out loud. Unlike Siri, you can’t just say whatever you want but must use pre-programmed phrases but they are easy to remember.
“Music on/off”, “Next/previous track”, “Speed-dial” or “Answer/Ignore/End call” all do exactly what you would expect. You can use the buttons if you prefer but this is so easy and so reliable that why would you take your hands off the handlebars if you didn’t need to?
Occasionally it gets a little confused and turns the radio on instead of music but that’s rare and in any case, you just tell it to turn the radio off and music on and you’re where you want to be.
You can pair it with Cardo’s smartphone app which allows you to tailor the settings, including pre-setting a number for the speed-dial – your wife, local pizza shop, whatever you want.
You can also change the audio settings if you want, including boosting volume if you find it isn’t high enough for the bike and conditions you are riding in. However, this is another area where the Freecom 4X scores very highly.
Like other high-end systems in the Cardo range, it comes with 40mm JBL speakers which give it excellent sound quality, particularly for music.
Unlike many headsets, bass is deep and meaty, the mid-range section for vocals is clear and precise and the top-end is accurate and detailed.
I generally leave my phone on shuffle when listening to music and I have an eclectic taste, with music from six decades and everything sounds superb with no distortion or unbalanced staging. It really does sound superb and call quality is also excellent, at both ends.
Another advantage is that you can buy the system as a double pack, if you want to chat with a pillion for example and share music with them, saving over buying to individual units. You can also buy a second-helmet kit so that you can use the same headset yourself in more than one helmet.
Speaking of which, as the headset unit itself is so small, you can easily pop it off the helmet and into your pocket if leaving your helmet on the bike at a meet, for example, but also to charge it. Battery life is governed by how you use it but I’ve ridden for whole days with it on and never run out.
If you want to connect wirelessly to your smartphone to listen to music and make or take calls and either use its native navigation or indeed, an app or even connect to a separate sat nav, this unit works exceptionally well.
It’s easy to connect and the sound quality is excellent thanks to the JBL speakers. The ‘Natural Voice’ control works very well, meaning you don’t have to take your hands off the bars to control it and once paired with the smartphone app, you can update it over the air and tailor a range of parameters.
The fact it also works as an intercom and can be bought as a twin pack is an added bonus and highlights the attention to detail that has gone into it.
• Exceptional sound quality
• Reliable voice control
• Availability of second-helmet kit
• None we can think of
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