Cardo Packtalk Edge Test [Prototype First Ride Review]

So, like many riders, you rock a Bluetooth-powered intercom on your helmet for the myriad reasons riders do this. You might want GPS directions, FM radio, online music services, playing your smartphone’s music library, or talking to fellow riders via intercom. Perhaps you are thinking about adding this accessory to your helmet. There are just so many choices from countless manufacturers. One might shop by price, features, or both. However, if you’re the type of shopper that wants the entire experience, every option at a premium price, look no further than the new Cardo Packtalk Edge.

Cardo Packtalk Edge Test: Price

The Cardo Packtalk Edge is likely the highest-priced unit available at this time and offers every possible feature known to mankind. I’ve been reviewing Bluetooth comm units for nine years and believe that the Edge is the Big Kahuna of comm devices.

I joined Cardo’s press launch at Roland Sands Design HQ in Long Beach, California. The group heard the pitch while Cardo techs installed the Edge unit in our helmets.

We then set off on a ride from Long Beach through Santa Monica and Malibu, into the Santa Monica Mountains, and back to the beach.

Cardo Packtalk Edge Test: MSRP

All the while, our groups chatted on Cardo’s second-generation dynamic mesh intercom and, at the same time, I listened to music through the JBL speakers. When someone talked, the music volume automatically lowered to let me hear what was being said.

Both voice and music were crystal clear. The volume can blow out one’s eardrums, so no complaints about not loud enough sound.

We were informed that the units we tested were prototypes and that the final firmware update would be available at the end of April 2022.

Consequently, I was unable to test the Cardo Connect smartphone app interface. I have the feature on other Cardo models and think it’s the best, especially if your phone is mounted on the handlebar and accessible.

The Cardo Connect app shows a screen with four large buttons for Intercom, FM radio, Music, and Phone. This makes navigating the functions on the unit easier than most other brands—at least in the previous version. We’ll wait and see.

The Air Mount system sets the Edge apart from other motorcycle helmet intercom units. The base attaches to the helmet and is similar to those you’ve seen before. Uniquely, the Edge mates to the base magnetically, locking in securely, yet easily removed. Just place the unit above the mount, and it engages with a snap. The Edge has a sleek design, low profile, and is good-looking.

The Dynamic Mesh intercom is a super easy, one-button connection for up to 15 riders with great sound quality and excellent range. It features auto-reconnect, HD live Bluetooth intercom, and universal Bluetooth intercom. This intercom has a claimed range of up to one mile; mesh groups have a claimed range of up to five miles.

Cardo also claims its voice-recognition capabilities have improved. Say “Hey, Cardo! Music on,” and it’s playing. The easy-to-use voice commands include Siri or Google Assistant. “Hey, Cardo! Next track” and “Hey, Cardo! Volume up” are just part of the repertoire. This worked flawlessly for me.

Another feature Cardo has introduced on the Edge is wireless software updates. No computers or cables are necessary—your smartphone makes this happen. You may still update via computer and USB-C cable if you so choose. I did not try this out, as I am waiting for the new firmware to test it.

The unit is claimed to be waterproof, not just water-resistant. This is not exactly a worry in Southern California, but good to know. I doubt that I will drop it in a pail of water to test this claim.

The JBL high-definition speakers are 40mm in diameter. Many manufacturers are jumping on the JBL bandwagon, and for good cause. There is awesome sound, and it is louder than you’ll ever need, even at highway speeds on an unfaired bike.

Once the firmware updates, the Cardo Connect app should let users switch between audio profiles, such as Bass Boost, Vocal, and High Volume. The latter is perfect for high-speed riding with earplugs.

Previously, I installed 45mm speakers from another brand into my helmet and found them to barely fit into the speaker pockets. They were super tight, so I think 40mm is probably a safer size for universal compatibility. I cannot hear a difference between the 40mm and 45mm speakers.

Also available are parallel audio streaming and music sharing. I was able to listen to music and intercom at the same time. I had no passenger, so I could not test the music sharing. This is not a unique feature.

The Edge retains the Universal Bluetooth Connectivity feature that will connect to any other brand. Be forewarned that this utilizes the other unit’s hands-free profile, so that person will connect but lose phone and music functions from their own phone. I do not consider this feature a good one and still hope that someday the manufacturers will adopt full inter-brand mesh intercom compatibility.

Cardo Packtalk Edge Test: Bluetooth Helmet Communications

The FM radio function is retained. I did not try it for this review and await the Cardo Connect option for using it. Other Cardo models make it easy to tune and use with the Cardo Connect app. It has a function to find stations, and there are six user-configurable station presets.

Cardo claims fast charging with 20 minutes of charging, giving you two hours of run time, and less than two hours to charge completely. Claimed talk time is 13 hours, 10 days standby. I did charge the unit; it took about an hour because the battery had a partial charge. The Edge has adopted a USB-C charging port and cable, as have many new units on the market.

The Cardo Packtalk Edge has the latest Bluetooth 5.2, which is known for excellent battery life and other technical improvements. The antenna is now built-in, so the pop-up antenna is gone. Operation with the intercom is perfect. I cannot confirm whether that’s as good as the pop-up models for FM reception.

Two channels allow the Edge to connect to a smartphone and GPS simultaneously. That’s a nice feature that’s been around for a while. A three-year warranty is good and always comforting, especially given the Edge’s price.

The Cardo Packtalk Edge is priced at $390 for a single unit and $700 for a pair. It’s about the priciest unit on the market, though I believe you get what you pay for.

From what I am able to test and anticipate in the app, it appears that the new Cardo Packtalk Edge, while not revolutionary, is a solid piece of kit. The Packtalk Bold and Slim units will continue to be available for $340 each.