Noise-cancelling Bluetooth motorcycle headset needs no installation
Motorcycles can be a serious hazard to your hearing. Engine noise and wind noise build up with speed to a roaring cacophany, and if you add in a Bluetooth headset for communications, podcasts, audiobooks and music, you can easily end up with your ears ringing at the end of a day's ride. That's a sign of permanent damage.
Like many riders, I get about with a Bluetooth headset – a Sena 20S – as well as a pair of foam earplugs. That means, in order to hear my audiobooks, I have to blast it at permanent full volume. Not an ideal solution.
We've been keeping an eye out for some time now waiting for a proper implementation of active noise cancellation technology for motorcycle riders. Sena brought out its Intelligent Noise Control helmet back in 2015, but we're yet to try it out. This Kickstarter project has the potential to be even better.
The MPlus is a stiff but flexible collar that fits around your neck, with a pair of earphones attached and a detachable boom mic. You pop the earbuds in your ears, pull on your helmet and you're away. You can adjust it to five levels of noise cancellation, from "kill it all as best you can" to "let me hear what's going on as if I wasn't wearing a helmet" and even "boost the ambient sound so I can hear my idiot mate trying to talk to me with a full face lid on."
The system uses feedforward and feedback mics, which MPlus says makes it better for noise cancellation than a regular set of ANC earbuds. The proof will be in the pudding, but these jiggers certainly have our attention.
On top of the noise cancellation, they operate as a Bluetooth headset for phone calls and media, and as a Bluetooth intercom between bikes with a range of 150 m (~500 ft). That's not terrible, but it doesn't challenge the Sena and Cardo gear, which can keep you connected and chatting at more than 15 times that distance under ideal circumstances.
The form factor is a bit weird, but it does offer some advantages. For starters, there's zero installation involved, so you can use it with most any helmet and hook a friend up without needing to bust out the Allen keys and mess about with their lid. You can also use it without a helmet – so if your buddy's riding in the car you can still chat on the highway. Twist controls on the end of the collars let you answer calls or skip through your playlist, and that chunky collar holds a ton of lithium - noise cancellation can work for up to 72 hours, and even running the intercom you're still good for 20.
We're quietly fascinated, although there are plenty of ways for these things to potentially disappoint. If the noise cancellation doesn't do the trick, you won't have any foam earbuds in to save your ears. If the earbuds poke out too much, they might pull out when you try to put your helmet on. The cords might pull when you swivel your head, and if they're not strong, they might break. The collar might not work over or under your riding gear.
But if they do what it says on the tin, this could be a very exciting little gadget. Turning down the outside world on a plane and listening to podcasts at low volume routinely gets me to the end of a long flight feeling much less frazzled and brain-fried. If these things can let me do the same on a long, fast motorcycle ride, I'll be delighted. We've asked for a review unit and will keep you updated.
MPlus is on Kickstarter now for a launch price of US$159 a unit, which is a bit cheaper than most Bluetooth headsets. Manufacturing will start in March 2020 with deliveries beginning in April. Standard Kickstarter disclaimers apply.
Source: MPlus Kickstarter
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I just spent the summer trying to come up with an idea for a wired motorcycle headset, trying to figure out how to integrate a mic that is removable/stays with the helmet. The one issue they haven't solved for me is allowing people to choose their own headphones - so far I have found one pair of sleeping ear buds that leave little enough outside the ear to allow the helmet to be on without discomfort.
Putting the tech around the neck is interesting, but I wonder about wire fatigue in high speeds (in the States we often cruise at 70MPH in the slow lane) and discomfort from the electronics on a sweaty neck in summer (it might be interesting if that could be secured to a jacket collar instead).
Lastly, price. I feel like there is a massive untapped supply of motorcyclists who would pay $50-$99 for a good helmet BT non-intercom system with ANC that works. This is part of why I was trying to figure out how to do a wired helmet headset - the prices, while they may be completely in line with the costs of production, just seem to me too high for what most riders would want: a simple, reliable way to connect with mapping, music, voice commands and phone while riding. I'm not saying riding in groups isn't fun, I just think there's a lot of rides who don't do it often enough to justify $300 USD to do it.
... And why isn't that lady wearing a full face and a jacket?