This review of the Cardo Freecom 4x comes during a long string of helmet Bluetooth intercom reviews recently posted here at Ultimate Motorcycling. There isn’t a bad one in the bunch. All have their strengths and weaknesses, so buyers can choose their favorites by computing the features, design, performance versus price equation.One may buy a helmet Bluetooth intercom online for as little as $50, and many brands are offered. However, my time is valuable, and my confidence level is low when looking at cheap units. I require the support of a major manufacturer before committing to using any intercom unit, or product in general—and I’m willing to pay for it.
I want great speakers, reliable and easy operation, and the latest technology. Bluetooth versions are not the same, and that is more important than you might think. The latest Bluetooth version is 5.2, and it introduces new high-quality/low-power audio, improved battery life, and a higher data transfer rate.The Freecom 4x utilizes Bluetooth 5.2 and is another solid motorcycle helmet intercom within an ultra-competitive space. I’ll try to be as granular as possible, as I can relate to the struggle of making the right choice.Cardo has been a frontrunner in Bluetooth intercom for motorcycle helmets for almost 20 years and claims to be the world’s leading manufacturer. Cardo’s lineup spans a price range of $100 to $390 per unit. The new Cardo Freecom 4x has an MSRP of $270, just above the Freecom 2x. You can save $60 if you are okay with a two-rider intercom versus a four-rider, with the rest of the features being the same.Installation of the Freecom 4x is typical of most intercom units. It is an easy 15-minute job, and there were no surprises, especially when using a headlamp to brighten the helmet interior details. Once I paired the unit to my phone and the Cardo Connect app (iOS and Android), I registered and was offered a firmware update. One button and seven minutes later, I was done. Easy. I could have updated the firmware via computer, but I didn’t try that.The Cardo Connect app is well-designed with lots of features. I can adjust various settings in detail, and there is a screen that allows me complete control of the phone, audio, FM radio, and intercom in one view. So, if you don’t want to operate with voice or button-press commands, you may use this screen if your phone is mounted within reach.The app allows me to choose between bass boost, high volume, or vocal audio profiles. As I often write, I am no audiophile, yet the sound from the JBL speakers is big, with great bass and rich tones. Most importantly, there is more than enough volume at any speed under any conditions—no complaints about inadequate audio gain with this unit.With the Natural Voice Operation, I can say “Hey Cardo,” and then give 23 different commands that span all operations, including access to Siri or Google Assistant (see graphic). If I prefer, I can use the three buttons and wheel to handle the chores. Natural Voice works nicely, as well. It is responsive and mostly accurate, though I often don’t think about using it.I like the way the control buttons are designed and work on the Cardo Freecom 4x. When I can mount my phone on the handlebar, I run the app controls. When the phone is in my pocket, I usually use the buttons on the unit, and Cardo has made this layout particularly nice.The three buttons each have a ridge formed in the button that’s hard to miss, even with heavy gloves—some others brands require hunting around. Music play is the front control and positioned so that when reaching for it, it falls right under my fingers. Then the control wheel makes stepless volume adjustment easy to use. A press upward on this will pause music. Cardo gets top marks for three user interfaces and operability.The JBL speakers fit perfectly into the nacelles on my Scorpion Exo-ST1400 Carbon helmet. Incidentally, installation in the Scorpion helmet is effortless. The thin space between the Scorpion’s shell and internal foam is just right for clamp-type mounting, rather than the glue-on type. Both mounts are included with the 4x.Earbud users rejoice—the speakers connect to the main unit with a standard 1/8-inch stereo plug that I’ve hidden under the cheek pad. Accordingly, this is one of the few units I’ve seen that will easily allow users who want to listen through their own wired earbuds while retaining all the features of the Freecom 4x. It is not necessary to mount the included speakers within the helmet, which leaves more space for earbuds. I tested this, and it works. However, I won’t ride with earbuds as they may keep me from hearing essential sounds on the road—your choice.The Cardo Freecom 4x includes an FM radio with six presets and scan capability. Reception is excellent when radio signals are strong, and presets are easily stored using the app via scanning or direct input of the frequency through a sliding scale—also in the app. I like that the app lets me bounce around between music, intercom, FM, and phone, all from one screen.The Live Intercom is Bluetooth-powered, though not the latest mesh radio technology. It works well, and met the claimed 0.75-mile range, subject to terrain. As with most intercoms, range varies, and there can be diminished reception when a rider has disappeared around a canyon corner.A Cardo insider told me that greater fault tolerance for these dropouts is engineered into the software, and this appears to be the case. Cardo calls it Live Intercom because the intercom is programmed to attempt reconnecting a lost intercom session for up to 10 minutes. With other Bluetooth intercoms I’ve tried, I had to manually end the session after a dropout, and then try to reconnect. That is now remedied. Connecting with other headsets requires a few minutes to get set up. However, once that is accomplished, it is easy to use, and allows music and phone call sharing with a two-second button press.I connected two Freecom 4x units and the earliest Packtalk (circa 2016). The hookup was easy enough, and the voices were clear. Because the Packtalk offers both DMC (Cardo mesh) and Bluetooth intercom protocols, I selected Bluetooth, which matches the Freecom 4x units.Claimed talk time is 13 hours from the battery, with two hours needed to fully charge. A 20-minute charge gets you 1.25 to 2 hours of use, per Cardo—that’s good at a lunch stop. Also, the 4x allows charging while in use. A USB-C type cable is included. The unit is claimed to be claimed waterproof—not just water-resistant.Two channels allow Bluetooth connections to two phones, a phone and motorcycle dash, or GPS. Universal pairing is also available, allowing a connection to motorcycle Bluetooth intercom units from other brands. I’m still waiting for the manufacturers to decide on a common intercom protocol, though I’ve stopped holding my breath.Cardo offers an excellent manual for the Freecom 4x, along with good online support.The Cardo Freecom 4x is a favorite among favorites. There are no missing features, and the implementations are best in class. If you can live without mesh radio capability, it’s an excellent motorcycle helmet Bluetooth intercom unit.Cardo Freecom 4x SpecsDIMENSIONS
Height: 1.9 inches
Width: 3.1 inches
Depth: 0.4 inches
Weight: 1.3 ounces
Speaker diameter: 1.6 inches
Speaker depth: 0.4 inches
Talk time: Up to 13 hours
Standby time: 10 days
Battery charge time: 2 hours (2 hours talk time after 20 minutes)
Working distance: 0.75 miles (maximum of 4 riders in a group)
Hello everyone and welcome once again to Ultimate Motorcycling’s weekly Podcast—Motos and Friends.
My name is Arthur Coldwells.
This week’s Podcast is brought to you by Yamaha motorcycles. Discover how the YZF-R7 provides the perfect balance of rider comfort and true supersport performance by checking it out at YamahaMotorsports.com, or see it for yourself at your local dealer.
This week’s episode features Senior Editor Nic de Sena’s impressions of the beautiful new Harley-Davidson Low Rider ST that is loosely based around the original FXRT Sport Glide from the 1980s. Hailing from The Golden State, these cult-status performance machines became known as West Coast style, with sportier suspension, increased horsepower, and niceties including creature comforts such as a tidy fairing and sporty luggage.
In past episodes you might have heard us mention my best friend, Daniel Schoenewald, and in the second segment I chat with him about some of the really special machines in his 170 or so—and growing—motorcycle collection. He’s always said to me that he doesn’t consider himself the owner, merely the curator of the motorcycles for the next generation.
Yet Daniel is not just a collector, but I can attest a really skilled rider. His bikes are not trailer queens, they’re ridden, and they’re ridden pretty hard. Actually, we have had many, many memorable rides on pretty much all of the machines in the collection at one time or another.
From all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!