Sena SMH10R Bluetooth Headset Review
The Sena SMH10R could be one of the more capable as well as more complex Bluetooth (BT) headset devices that we’ve yet reviewed. The number of menu choices for various functions can be challenging but worth it to the right kind of buyer. That is, one interested in the kind of flexibility that will allow the usual phone/music/intercom functions and add GPS, 2-way radio hookups and multiple Hands Free Profiles (HFP) channels for other scenarios.
Unboxing the unit reveals the smallest BT device available. Unfortunately, one must deal with mounting a separate battery and I haven’t decided whether this is good or bad. Included are the rubber-covered, water resistant unit along with both boom and wired microphones (for open face/flip-up or full-face helmets), speakers, speaker pads (to mount speakers closer to the ears if the helmet indentations are too deep), micro-USB cable, cigarette lighter charger, Velcro-style and double-sided tape mounts for all components.
While not difficult, the SMH10R installation is slightly more complex than other brands due to the separate battery which is unique to this headset. Because of this separate battery, I had thoughts of embedding it into the helmet liner and making it disappear. However, no helmet manufacturer would approve of riders gouging out small sections of the liner to fit the battery, and because I change units often, so I let that idea fade away.
The SMH10R comes with car-style charger and micro-USB cable, but no wall charger. This is just another example of the mysteries of what manufactures choose to include and omit. Readers of my reviews know I carry a bag of assorted chargers and cables. I suggest you envision your charging needs and buy any extra components before you travel.
Installation offers the choice of using the supplied hook-and-loop or double-sided tape. No clamp fasteners are included as are with most other brands. Once the main control unit was mounted I decided to position the battery, which is about the same size as the control unit, symmetrically on the other side of the helmet instead of at the back, which is the way I’ve seen others do it. The rest involves the same plugging and distributing of the speakers and microphone as is done with other makes. I’m able to route the very thin wires under the helmet liner and the built-in pockets on the Joe Rocket Speedmaster Carbon helmet make positioning the speakers a cinch.
As always, before installation I charged the unit and updated the firmware—this is my recommendation for any brand you choose. Once installed, you are ready to rock. In the case of this headset, once I registered online I was able to access the download site. I downloaded and installed the Sena Device Manager. I did get an error message saying that the software could not find the drivers, but when I closed that error window the drivers finished the installation successfully.
Once the installation is complete, you’ll need the manual to implement the configuration you want. Choices include phone pairing, multipoint pairing (for GPS or 2-way radio or second phone), phone selective pairing (music or phone hands free only on your smartphone), VOX phone (voice activated), VOX intercom, VOX sensitivity, voice prompt (enable/disable), delete all pairings, factory reset and exit.
I won’t get into the nuts and bolts of these choices, as there are too many combinations and permutations to cover. The manual is thorough, clearly written, and includes five case studies in which Sena describes and illustrates typical setups of popular BT devices. These cover the spectrum of connections you may want to make. Suffice it to say that this headset will do as much or more than most others.
The first step is to pair the smartphone and that’s a snap. The three control buttons on the headset are crisp feeling and easy to find. My first test is to make and receive phone calls. One center-button key press puts me in voice command and that works nicely. The same button answers the phone, or I can just say any word to pick up. Sound quality during calls is about industry average which is pretty good and those I spoke with reported high-quality sound.
Next, I tried my usual music playlist by pressing that center button and it starts the player and can stop it, too. The other two buttons control forward and backward song skipping. Sound quality, as with the phone, is very good and as loud as, or louder than, necessary. Automatic gain control turns up the volume as you pick up speed and separate volume settings for each device allow custom tailoring to your needs. Keep in mind that even with the quietest helmets, you will hear road and wind noise and you should not expect the quality of sound you get at home with your headphones.
The result of our test of the intercom, like the rest of its features, yields flawless operation. Every make of headset has its strengths, weaknesses and limitations. This is the nature of BT at this time in its evolution and the SMH10R’s limitation allows only four intercom connections. Sena claims this unit will allow conference calls between the four, as do some other headsets, by daisy-chaining the units together. For this test we only had two headsets and, once paired to one another, the intercom channel is opened and closed with one button press. Communication was clean and crisp out to about quarter-mile or more. The sales literature states 900-meter range, but we did not achieve that during the tests. As always, your mileage will vary with the terrain.
We were also able to integrate Sena’s SR10 BT Two-way radio adapter with the headset (See Sena SR10). The SR10 was then connected to a FRS/GMRS type 2-way radio. Communication was crisp and clear, but if you are talking on the intercom with a passenger or other riders when the radio call comes in, you will hear both the intercom and 2-way at the same time and may need to ask for a repeat of what was said. My advice when purchasing a 2-way is to use a CB radio. CBs can produce more static sounds than the mostly quiet FRS/GMRS radios, but their real-world range is far greater.
The only feature missing from the SMH10R is FM radio which is found in some other brands. Personally, I don’t use the FM even when it is available as I’ve found it too much trouble to stay on a good station that I like. You may feel differently if you stay in an area in which you can receive one good station without the need to hunt around. An alternative might be to stream a music app off your smartphone, especially if you have an unlimited data plan.
The Sena SMH10R has all the bells and whistles one might want, save FM. Buyers of this device will know that it is capable of just about any kind of configuration they may want to create in the future and the separate battery is replaceable, which is doubtful in most other units. Eventually all rechargeable batteries fail. This unit also allows charging while in use. If you want flexibility in your BT headset we suggest you take a good look at the Sena SMH10R.
Sena SMH10R Price:
For additional information, visit Sena’s website.