Sometimes, two seemingly separate things are designed to go together perfectly; fish ‘n’ chips, mac ‘n’ cheese or drum ‘n’ bass. That is the case with the Shoei GT-Air II helmet and the Sena SRL2 motorcycle intercom system. The SRL2 has been designed specifically to fit within the helmet – as well as two other models from the Japanese manufacturer – and work seamlessly as a result.
Opting for an intercom headset that is intended purely for (effectively) one helmet is a bit like ticking the ‘sat nav’ box when ordering a new car. It will only work with that car and while there are a host of standalone or aftermarket sat navs available, the integration that the manufacturer’s own version offers can make the ‘fixed’ nature of it and the need to upgrade it from time to time worth the effort.
And so it is with the SRL2. It uses the same basic functionality and architecture as the company’s 20S Evo that we reviewed recently but packaged to fit entirely within the helmet. The unit basically comprises a pair of speakers, a control unit on one side and an antenna on the other with the battery fitting to the rear of the helmet.
1. Sena SRL2 Intercom
Fitting is simple – the speakers slot into recesses in the helmet’s liner and the control unit replaces the plastic triangular section on the left side and the antenna, the right. The battery and brain fit in the lining at the base of the neck and the microphone fits into a purpose-created housing in the chinbar and the cable held out of the way.
Once fitted to the helmet, if doesn’t change the way the lid feels at all and you don’t even know it’s there, other than you can occasionally feel the speakers against your ear depending on how your head moves inside the helmet.
It may use the same platform as the 20S Evo but the controls are a very different proposition, three buttons look after the functions; plus, minus and a centre function button.
Various combinations of short and long presses on these three do everything you need though it can take a while to remember how long to press each button to activate each function. It doesn’t take long, though and if finding the buttons is an issue – they can be tricky with thick, winter gloves on, for example, then one of the company’s remote controls can make life easier.
Again, like the 20S Evo, it pairs easily with a smartphone for reproducing the phone’s audio functions: music with control of tracks backwards and forwards; making and taking phone calls; and sat nav instructions if you use a phone-based system. It will also pair with an aftermarket sat nav for instructions and even some bikes for their on-board or phone-based navigation apps.
It will also pair with up to eight other Bluetooth (not mesh) intercoms with a range of up to a mile so you can stay in touch with other riders or a pillion passenger if that’s your thing. If it’s not and you just want to stay connected to your phone, then you can use either Sena’s built-in voice control or Siri if you are listening to music on an Apple phone.
If you are, then you won’t be disappointed. The sound quality is really good though the volume could be higher – you may struggle if you’re on a really busy road or picking up lots of turbulence.
However you can use the Sena app to increase the volume though quality does suffer as a result. It’s still pretty good though; music is clear and nicely balanced and calls are easy to hear at both ends. The voice control works without any problems and once you’ve got the hang of what buttons do what, it’s far easier to use than you would imagine, even with gloves on.
Ultimately, £230 is a fair chunk of money for an intercom that will only work with one helmet. And that is the key issue when choosing any integrated intercom – how likely are you to keep the helmet in question? For me, until it reaches its five-year service life.
I love the GT-Air II and the SRL2 intercom fits it perfectly. It’s unobtrusive, doesn’t stick out to generate any turbulence or noise and works flawlessly. It and the Shoei are here for a while yet.
Integrated design fits perfectly
Uses Sena’s existing well-known platform
Headset and intercom functionality
Integrated battery so have to ‘charge’ whole helmet