BMW Multi-Controller Now Adjusts Volume With Some Comm Units

For modern model Beemer riders who use the BMW media center on many of its recent models, the multi-controller (aka the “wonder wheel”) now adjusts the volume when using certain brands of helmet communication devices. This may not sound like a big deal yet for every day and every hour use, it is a game changer—no more reaching for the controls on the helmet-mounted comm unit, and instinctive volume changes.

In the past, the Menu switch, in conjunction with the wonder wheel, handled the full operation of the media center, but did not allow volume adjustment. Press Menu down, press the wheel to the right to get to the media center, then Menu down again, and use the wheel to scroll down to select a playlist or song. Finally, nudge the multi-controller to the right to start playing.

During my first encounter with BMW’s media center, I did all the above steps. The music started playing, and I intuitively thought spinning the multi-controller would adjust the volume. Who wouldn’t? I cannot imagine that any user of any modern device would not intuit that, once a track is playing, a scroll of the wheel would change the volume, especially because it has no function when music is playing.

On this first try playing music, I was certain that the function on my bike must be broken. I paired and re-paired my phone and helmet with no change in the outcome. There was no mention of this in the manual. I could not believe this was overlooked or deliberately left out.

Perhaps it worked with BMW’s own brand of helmet and communications units. However, as they are not imported into the US, I am unable to find that out. Perhaps they thought locking out other brands would be a good idea? I don’t know.

I did hear rumors a few months ago that “BMW would unlock its API to allow volume actuation during media play.” Well, it has happened.

I received an email from Schuberth telling me that the SC2 helmet intercom (a Sena 50S variant) used in the C5 and E2, and soon the new S3, would allow volume control from the wheel. Yes, it works. Sena builds the SC2, so it will probably work on some or all of Sena’s current comm units.

Associate Editor Kelly Callan reviewed the Sena 50S recently. I asked her to make sure her firmware was up-to-date. Kelly replied that Sena’s wireless firmware upgrades gave her the latest version. And, yes, the wonder wheel operated the volume on the BMW F 900 XR she was testing. Sadly, it was not the case with my old Sena 20S, even though I made sure the firmware was the latest version.

BMW Multi-Controller Now Adjusts Volume: Magic wheel

A nice feature of this control while making a volume change is on the bottom-right corner of the dash showing an indicator bar to let you visually know the volume level. This works for the telephone, too. Once the volume is set, the indicator disappears and the clock on other indicator symbols reappear.

I tried Cardo’s Packtalk Edge, and the wonder wheel did not respond for volume. I have a shelf full of comm units, and I will check them out soon. In the meantime, I have reached out to UClear and Cardo to comment. We will try to get a complete list of those units that allow volume from the multi-controller.

If you want to try your unit, confirm that you have installed the latest firmware. Then, pair the helmet and phone with your BMW motorcycle, and give it a try. Please email me your results.