Most Bluetooth (BT) headsets require motorcyclists to mount a microphone in the helmet. This isn’t difficult in a full-face helmet, although the mic often touches the lips or twitches one’s mustache.
The problem magnifies when using a flip-up lid or an open face. In these cases, the mic can become tangled with the flip mechanism, or is subjected to hang out in the breeze, which can create static.
Uclear’s HBC200 Force doesn’t feature a tradition mic; it features one within each speaker. The Uclear’s speakers operate with “advanced ABF technologies,” allowing them to pick up your voice.
ABF (Adaptive Beam Forming) operates the boomless microphone by isolating the user’s voice, and, through the built-in microprocessor, effectively canceling out extraneous noises from angles and distances other than the operator’s mouth (learn more). This feature alone makes this a very popular helmet-communicator system changer.
The dual-pack HBC200 Force units arrive with nicely designed, all weather, rubber-clad headsets, speakers with built-in microphones, clamp and adhesive mounts, one single-port USB wall charger and one mini-USB cable.
Happily, common USB cables allow me to use an extra cable to charge both units at once, which is not possible with the included equipment. If you choose to use an aftermarket cable you should test it, making sure it will fit into the Forces’s cramped USB port. You may have to trim some rubber on the plug.
As with most headset installations, I start with mounting the unit. The Uclear HBC200 is the smallest one I’ve seen that includes a built-in battery. I mount the unit first, determining exactly where the cable that runs into the helmet will be positioned. When all is put together, there will be little or no slack outside the helmet.
And as with most brands, Uclear gives me the choice to use a removable clamp or a small, high-strength glue pad. Never knowing what headset I’ll need to install next, I always opt for the clamp. This assembly looks like a large paper clip with two levers, which removes from the unit upon installation.
Very clever, but if I were only using the Uclear HBC200 system, I would use the glue pad. It’s tighter to the helmet and more secure. An optional $59 universal accessory pack includes everything needed to use your Force unit on another helmet. Just unplug the unit and slide it up to release. Speaking of the plug, this one shares its single USB port with the charger so you must unplug the speakers each time you charge the unit.
Once charged, I installed the latest firmware revision, which I recommend be completed by users of all brands of headsets. These updates often add extra features and eliminate bugs found in earlier versions. You can check back from time to time for new versions.
Uclear’s instructions were a bit vague, and I couldn’t get my PC to recognize the device. But an email to customer service quickly solved my problem. Disconnect the unit and cable too, start the update program, plug in cable, hold main button for 12 seconds, and then click Next. This worked and the revision took about a minute. Unplug and it’s done.
Next I mount the unit on the helmet and plug in the cable connecting the two speakers. I route the thin wires around the crown of my Joe Rocket Speedmaster Carbon helmet by unsnapping three liner snaps, pushing the wiring behind them, and placing the speaker/microphone units in the perfect pockets that the Speedmaster helmet has thoughtfully included.
I note here that these speaker units are the largest I’ve seen, and unique looking in more ways than just the nub microphone that must be placed pointing forward. This is all easy and there is plenty of space for them to fit and not contact my ears to cause painful hot spots.
When listening to the same playlist I use when testing other headsets, I would rate these speakers as near top quality and able to be turned louder than my threshold of pain. Keep in mind that no headset can offer reference quality sound, but some are better than others.
Operating the Uclear HBC 200 Force turns out to be a breeze. Pairing to my Android phone is a one minute affair with no complications. Double pressing the main button (of three) immediately turns on the music player, and it’s easy to pause, go back or forward a track, or change the volume. High marks for being able to start music without first pulling out your phone as required by some headsets.
When a call comes in, whether listening to music, on the intercom, or quiet, I can answer by simply speaking or pressing one control. I can make a call using the power of my phone’s voice control by pressing a 2-key combination. It’s really simple, and hard to believe that the microphones in the speakers work, but they are effective. If you were listening to music, once the call ends the tunes automatically continue.
For those interested in the intercom capability in BT headsets, Uclear offers what it calls Multi-Hop Technology. With this technology, each unit can pair with two others, and by daisy chaining one to the next, the manufacturer claims that 10 or more connections are possible. The repeater technology also allows the riders to string out up to four miles by bouncing the signal from one to the next. As with all BT, your mileage will vary greatly.
Since Ultimate MotorCycling only had two headsets to test I cannot comment on this. I also wonder whether the units, therefore the riders, must remain in the exact order they were paired to one another to be effective. I would think so. This means you had better keep your place in the lineup. And what about if someone leaves the group?
I can say that operating the intercom with just one other is easy. Pair the two then press the Up button for 2-seconds and you are in full duplex communications. This allows both riders to talk at the same time, just like at the dinner table.
Intercom range seemed to max out between a quarter and a half mile depending on the terrain. Sound quality was good and, as with most units, produced a bit of static at greater distances. One button ends the intercom session in those cases, and the channel can be opened anytime you and your partners are closer together.
This headset, like most other Bluetooth communicator devices, are in a package of two with two cables but only one charger. To date, no manufacturer includes two separate chargers when two headsets are purchased. Sometimes there are two cables, or a two-headed cable, but only one wall charger, or a wall charger and a car charger. Do the manufacturers think the units will always be together, and even if they are why do I have to charge one at a time?
Like all good tech warriors, I have a small bag containing assorted wall plugs, mini and micro-USB cables, and a 4-port USB charger, which is inexpensive, commonly available and very convenient to charge four devices from one wall plug. You may find these items online at very low cost.
So, as I have found with the previously reviewed headsets, each has advantages and disadvantages. Here we have the ability to have large groups on a conference call but users may have to remain in fixed formation to take advantage of the range benefits of multi-hop engineering. Then there is no FM radio for those interested in that feature.
On the plus side, the HBC200 Force is simple to install and the clarity is great. It’s one of the easiest to use, operates intuitively, has a nice intercom, and is a pleasure to use. And don’t forget ABF!
Uclear HBC200 Force Price:
Unit $249.95 MSRP
Twin-pack $449.95 MSRP
For additional information, visit Uclear’s website.