Remember the old brick-sized cell phones with small briefcases for batteries? That’s kind of where motorcycle communicators used to be — large, clunky units with oversized push-to-talk buttons and limited functionality. In recent years, those communicators have gotten smaller, sleeker, and more powerful, with advanced features like voice command and smartphone apps. Best of all, you no longer look like you’re wearing a TV remote on your head.
Interphone just released three new high-tech models — Tour, Sport, and Urban — designed to make intercom use easier, more intuitive, and more hands-free. They’re a step up from the previous F5 series in both functionality and design…but how do they fare on the road? We asked three Twisted staffers to evaluate the top-of-the-line Tour model (single kit only). Read on for their honest appraisal.
Meet Our Reviewers
Brad Z: Longtime dual-sport rider and ex-motocross racer, now Twisted’s graphic designer. Doesn’t say much, but when he does, it’s a stroke of genius. Rides an ‘05 BMW R1200GS. Has frequently used intercoms while riding with his wife, so he doesn’t miss a word she says.
Erich P: New to motorcycling, new to motorcycle intercoms, longtime bicyclist and Spandex aficionado. Our digital marketing mastermind. Also an experienced musician, videographer, and seltzer expert. Rides a ‘15 Triumph Street Triple.
Greg G: Rides to work daily on his ‘15 Suzuki GSX-S750. Embarrasses the rest of us when we wimp out and drive in the rain. Works in Twisted’s product development lab. Laughs in the face of dangerous machinery. Has used Interphone products for years.
Interphone Tour Review Questions
What were your favorite features?
B:Audio clarity. I listened to podcasts and could easily hear every word while also using foam earplugs. I also listened to a live concert recording; that was great too, although it lacked bass. The unit paired to my phone easily the first time, and each time after that, it paired instantly after turning it on. Battery life was very good. Charged it before my test and rode 6+ hours without additional charging (it still said the battery charge was “high”). I like that feature too: when you turn it off, it tells you the battery status. That’s something my Sena doesn’t do.
E:My favorite features were the ease of use when connecting. The buttons were easy to feel even with gloves on, and turning on while suited up wasn’t an issue. I liked the phone call ease of use and quality of the connection. Rated for 20 hours, the battery life is really impressive.
G: One of my favorite features is the ability to listen to music while in “communication” mode. The previous models did not allow for this, so it’s a huge upgrade.
How does it compare to similar products?
B:I was able to do exactly the same things I do with my Sena SMH10. A lot of the functions are what your phone can do anyway. Other than the buttons and the mounting, I’d call them equal.
E: Hard to compare it to similar products, since I haven’t used any others. I did, however, like the way the install went. It was very easy.
G:The standard functions and features are very similar to other units on the market. A big upgrade from the older Interphone models is the voice-activated speech. You no longer have to press any buttons to activate the intercom; just simply start talking. Many of the other brands on the market have been doing that for years, so it was a feature I felt was missing from the Interphone products. I’m glad they added it.
What did you not like about it?
B:I did not like that the unit connects to the speakers/mic with a cable. This cable is always hanging out, owing to this design. My Sena SMH10 attaches the speaker/mic wires to the helmet mount, where they don’t hang out and can’t be unplugged. [To clarify: the Tour has a helmet mount, speaker/mic wires, and intercom unit. The mount is just a mount. The wires connect to the unit with a plug; that’s the wire that hangs out. The Sena has speaker/mic wires permanently attached to the mount, so the intercom unit just connects to the mount, and you can tuck the wires into your helmet.]
Call volume was lower than audio volume, but that might be my error somehow. I did try to raise the volume during a call and got the max volume beep. It could also be a setting on my phone.
It took a bit of feeling around with my fingers to find the correct buttons. This is something that should get easier over time, but it would be better if the buttons were varied with different sizes and locations.
E:I didn’t like the audio quality for music. I realize that’s not the primary function of this device, but the lack of any bass response was almost distracting. I used the set both with and without ear plugs, and at high and low speeds. The faster the speed, the worse the audio got. I’m guessing a larger windscreen would probably help this substantially. The volume buttons seemed to only work about half the time.
G:I’m not a fan of the new buttons on the unit. I found it much harder to tell where my finger was. On the old unit, you simply pressed the raised button; on the new unit, you must press in-between the raised ridges to find the button.
How well does it fulfill its primary function?
B:Completely, unless it dies in the rain. I didn’t try that.
E:For phone calls and inter-bike communication, it does a great job. The Bluetooth functions correctly.
G:The primary function can be different, depending on what you buy the unit for. For me, it’s all about being able to connect to my phone for music and GPS. (For others, it may be for intercom purposes only.) Either way, I feel the product completely fulfills this function.
B:…wear helmets. It you’re a helmetless freedom rider you won’t get to enjoy clear music or talking to your loved ones when you ride because you have to have a helmet to use this.
E:…want to communicate with other riders, make phone calls, and don’t ride naked sport bikes at excessively high speeds.
G:…like to keep in contact with other riders, or are simply sick of ear buds and want a new way to get some music playing while riding.