We’ve been fans of the Cardo Packtalk System for the past three years, and it has proven to be an essential piece of gear on our cross country rides. So, you can imagine our excitement when we were offered a chance to review the newest version, the Cardo Packtalk Bold, while on a group ride in Malibu, CA! The new Packtalk Bold delivers the same excellent quality as the previous Packtalk version, with quite a few cool upgrades.
Helmet communication systems have become a growing necessity over these last few years. Gone are the days of simply wearing your mobile headphones and hoping for the best. Manufacturers are working on improving these devices from simple communication systems to actual group sound systems for your helmet.
Let’s consider Cardo Systems’ new PackTalk Bold. As a leader in the communications field with their Scala device, they developed a lot of the features we take for granted today, like automatic volume control, and firmware upgrades. Cardo’s PackTalk system introduced their Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC) system in 2016, and has set the standard for flexibility of group pairing. Where bluetooth pairing can be an unreliable hassle, DMC’s “set and forget” technology allows units to stay connected even after separation, without having to re-pair the units. Their next step in development has led them to upgrading their voice command system, allowing the rider to keep their hands on their bike, instead of reaching for the comm device.
Installation of the Cardo PackTalk Bold was quick and simple. The Unit comes with two mounting options. Choose from the adhesive mount which glues the device to the helmet, or the more secure spring clip mount which clips the device to the helmet. Then choose your mic, either the boom mic for a modular helmet or the adhesive mic for a full face helmet. For my Shoei NeoTec Helmet, I chose the spring mount and the boom mic. Both fit nicely inside the helmet, with no change to the fit of the helmet at all.
Next, you’ll mount the speakers. The Shoei NeoTec has speaker cut outs built in. Simply mount the speakers in the spaces with adhesive and you’re all set. In the past, I’ve had issues with helmet speakers sounding too low, so I mounted them on top of extra padding to get them as close to my ears as possible. Cardo provided additional padding in the kit, so I was able to get rid of my makeshift padding, which made for a more comfortable fit. After 10 minutes, the system was installed completely and ready for a test ride.
Pairing the PackTalk Bold to my iPhone was as simple as pairing any other bluetooth device. As soon as you’re paired, you can use it like you would any other set of bluetooth headphones to make calls, play music or get directions. The ease of use helps you get straight to riding.
Dynamic Mesh Communication – Up to 15 riders connected
We rode in a group of 8 riders, which meant connecting 8 devices. With any other system, this might be a chore, but with the PackTalk Bold’s DMC system, it took just under a minute. The first rider pressed 2 buttons on the unit to create the network, then everyone else did the same. We needed to be within 10 feet of the first rider to connect. Once a green light shows, you’re good to go. Cardo’s Proprietary Dynamic Mesh Communication System rocks for a few reasons. The DMC system can manage up to 15 riders, over a range of 1 mile between individual riders, and over a combined range of 5 miles in a group ride. Once you create the network and set it up once, it works every time you turn on the unit or go out. You don’t have to re-sync every device, every time you turn the unit off or move out of range. Imagine setting up your club network once, and never having to do it again. Awesome, right?!
As we took our test ride in the malibu mountains, the twists and turns naturally created separation from other riders. Those who were more than a mile off would drop out of communication, but would sync back in with the group immediately as they caught up. It was fun chatting as we rode through the mountains. This created a cool group ride dynamic. We were able to discuss riding conditions throughout the ride, talk about the scenic views, and warn each other of potential hazards. You may want to hop in an out of conversation at your leisure. Using the Cardo Connect app, you can easily hop on or off the network at the push of a button.
Natural Voice Commands
I’ve used Cardo’s Comms Systems since 2012, when I began using their SRC System in my Schuberth C3 Pro W Helmet. I’ve since been a a bit spoiled by their hands free communication, which worked great with my iPhone. While on the road, I could simply say “Siri Call Mom” and it would dial the number. While the iPhone voice commands worked great, the Cardo voice command system that controlled the unit wasn’t perfect. The PackTalk Bold has since benefited greatly from their latest improvements by introducing “Hey Cardo” prompts. These commands allow you to use the unit completely hands free, except to power it on or off. After learning the language, Cardo’s voice commands work seamlessly. You don’t need to shout, just talk at a normal volume and the unit will respond. There’s a bit of a delay between the “Hey Siri” command, but it works well. You can still use the buttons on the unit to control it, but with the voice commands, you won’t need to.
Sound – 40mm hi-def replaceable speakers for great sound + Noise Filtering
After hours of riding long distance, ear fatigue can be a real issue, and good speakers will mean the world to you. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to hear the voice of a loved one over the sound of the wind. To take it a step further, as a DJ and audiophile, speaker sound is super important to me. I never thought I could get great sound in my helmet, and often struggled with homemade remedies like extra padding to get the speakers closer to my ears. I’m happy to say those days are over! Cardo had partnered with JBL to produce a great sound in your helmet. The 40mm wide definition speakers are a game changer! Music sounds better, bass sounds fuller, and there’s no distortion or static at high volumes.
Can you hear me now?
I’ve taken tons of calls while riding, often using my bike as my office. I’m able to hear and communicate clearly. Because of their “smart audio mixing” technology, the outgoing sound is clear with little to no ambient sound coming through. People were often surprised that I was riding while talking to them.
Weatherproof – Rain, snow, mud and dust proof
If you’ve ever been caught in a Texas or Florida rainstorm, you know the need for a weatherproof communication device. With IP67 waterproof status, Cardo’s Packtalk Bold held up nicely through the rain, when I needed it most. After being caught in quite a few storms on the road, the unit never failed me.
Battery – 13 hours active time, 1 week stand by
When I’m on the road, I’m usually riding for more than 12 hours a day. This means I use my Comm System for Music, Business Calls, and Personal Calls, all while I’m riding. I can definitely vouch for the 13 hours of active talk time. It also charges fairly quickly, with a full charge in about an hour. Another really cool feature is being able to use the unit while it charges. You can plug into any usb power source with a micro usb cable and charge while you ride. This can be a life saver, especially if you’re listening for turn by turn directions, only to have the unit die on you.
Is it worth the money?
Cardo’s Packtalk Bold retails at an MSRP of $329.95 for single units and $579.95 for a DUO set. Considering the entire suite of features, from the DMC technology and voice commands, to the sound by JBL, it’s easily worth the investment. On a long distance ride, a great communication system is everything. If you’re considering a system for your self, or establishing one for the group, get more info here.
I’ve found some great deals on the Cardo Systems PackTalk Bold at Amazon.