With technology constantly advancing it can be hard to keep on top of all the latest updates, and reviews can quickly become out of date, so this article will keep track of new features added to motorcycle intercoms from the market-leaders, Cardo and Sena…
Note that we will not always be in a position to test these updates.
If you’d like to chat about this article or anything else biking related, join us and thousands of other riders at the Bennetts BikeSocial Facebook page.
While Cardo and Sena intercoms have been ‘compatible’ in the past, the process of pairing the Sena as a phone was clunky and awkward. A new over-the-air update now promises to allow Cardo owners to connect to current-generation Sena, Interphone, Midland and UClear Bluetooth intercoms in the same way they would any other Cardo device (music sharing is not supported).
The update adds cross-platform Bluetooth compatibility to the following Cardo devices:
It’s important to understand that this update will only allow Bluetooth communication cross-platform compatibility, not Mesh, which also means it won’t work with Mesh-only devices like the Sena Spider (full review of the Sena Spider ST1 here). The Cardo Packtalk Custom will also need to be running the Gold or Platinum packages.
This is a significant update, and one that will no doubt be welcomed by many riders. We’ve been unable to test how well it works for groups of riders, but did successfully pair a Cardo Packtalk Edge with a Sena 50S, though it’s worth noting that the Cardo has to open the communication with a press of the button on that device, rather than the Sena. If the Sena user tries to open the connection, they receive a “Intercom failed, try again later” message. We had the same results pairing a Cardo Spirit HD and the Sena.
There appear to be some issues when mixing audio, for instance from a GPS, but Cardo continues to develop the system, and having a simplified connection for basic comms is still a significant step.
Riders looking for group communications would still be best advised to invest in a mesh device, in which case you should all be using intercoms from the same brand.
I spoke to Dan Emodi, chief marketing officer at Cardo Systems to find out more about this important move:
In simple terms, what did Cardo have to do to enable Sena to connect to its devices via Bluetooth? Was any collaboration required with Sena?
We studied Sena’s Bluetooth intercom implementation, and using the capabilities of our latest 5.2 Bluetooth generation of devices, were able to ‘teach’ our communicators to identify a connection to a Sena, and adapt accordingly.
We have approached Sena several times and invited them to join the OBi (Open Bluetooth Intercom) industry consortium – which now includes Cardo, Midland, UClear, and Daytona, but to no avail. We then went ahead and developed the compatibility on our own.
Why is Interphone not part of the new compatibility?
At time of launch, we were yet to complete all necessary Interphone tests. We have since run all the required tests and are now able to publicly announce that all Interphone latest Bluetooth devices (such as the U-COM 4,6,7 & 16) are all compatible.
Is there any chance we’ll see mesh compatibility between Cardo and Sena in the future?
Unlikely. While Bluetooth is a common protocol with slight variations (or ‘flavours’) in intercom adaptations, Mesh implementations differ greatly. To make Sena’s Mesh compatible with Cardo’s DMC, both companies will need to closely cooperate in developing a new hybrid protocol that will be able to combine both. We did offer Sena to cooperate in developing such a protocol, but they chose not to take us up on the invitation.
I asked a Sena representative if they welcomed the Cardo Bluetooth compatibility, and if they would like to see more compatibility between brands, including Mesh, but they declined to comment.
Sena’s GoPro voice command update allows the Sena 50R and Sena 50S to use the following commands:
“GoPro camera on”
“GoPro check camera” for the camera battery status
“GoPro start recording”
“GoPro take a photo”
“GoPro Camera off”
This control is performed using an independent Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection – so won’t take up one of the Sena’s phone or GPS connections – and adds voice commands to the Sena that are translated to camera controls thanks to the Open GoPro API Program.
Note that this is a control update only, not a means of recording your voice to the GoPro.
Sena says it’s aiming for the update, which is compatible with the GoPro Hero 8, 9, 10, 11 and Max, to be rolled out to other intercoms in its range after it receives feedback on the 50 series.
Sena’s new Mesh Reach-Out allows users of Sena’s Mesh-equipped intercoms to press the mesh button three times to send out an intercom request message, which will alert any other users within up to a 100m range who are not already connected to a mesh network that they have an invitation to join.
While Mesh will usually automatically reconnect after a rider drops out of range, this could be useful for those who forget to turn Mesh on, or if they come across another group they’d like to connect to.
This update currently applies to the following Sena devices:
Vloggers and YouTube influencers rejoice, as Cardo adds an intercom recording feature to its flagship devices.
Using the excellent Cardo Connect app, owners of compatible devices can press a button to start recording their voice while riding – complete with the excellent noise cancellation – as well as anyone else connected via Cardo’ Mesh group intercom. The update works with the following Cardo intercoms:
These are ‘DMC generation 2’ Cardo intercoms, but generation 1 models – the Packtalk Bold and Packtalk Black – will be recorded if in a group with someone using one of the gen 2 deveices.
We tried this system using a Cardo Packtalk Edge and an Android phone, and were very impressed. Recordings are in mp3 format and can be shared direct from the Cardo app, plus on Android they’re saved into a ‘Cardo Connect Recordings’ folder, which can be easily accessed.
Cardo advises to avoid streaming music and phone calls to allow for uninterrupted recordings. The only way we think this could be improved is to add the ability to start and stop recordings from the intercom itself, though the ‘buttons’ on the app are large and easy to use with touchscreen-compatible gloves.