From those not in the know, one of life’s biggest mysteries (perhaps a slight exaggeration) is how bikers communicate. Of course, we know that the secret is all down to clever Bluetooth communication systems. However, with the improvements in technology over the years, there are now more options than ever before. How are you supposed to know which is best for your needs?
Today, we want to compare two of the most well-known brands and two of their best products; the Cardo Packtalk Bold vs Sena 30K. What does each offer? What are the pros and cons of each? Let’s take a look!
Cardo Packtalk Bold
Over the years, perhaps the most common problem with Bluetooth communication systems for bikers has been the fiddly little buttons on the devices. Especially when wearing gloves, we’ve all been frustrated while trying to push a button the size of an ant. Therefore, the addition of voice activation with the Packtalk Bold is a huge move.
Whenever you say, ‘Hey Cardo’, the Packtalk Bold will jump into action and this is a feature we love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re riding with two friends or a full group of 10/15, you don’t need to use the annoying buttons, wheels, sliders, or other physical aspects. The voice activation can be used to change track, mute the audio, answer calls, and more.
Elsewhere, the 2019 Cardo models have been equipped with JBL sound thanks to their new partnership. With 70 years of experience in the audio market, JBL has been striving towards audio excellence in small devices right up to concert halls so their experience should be useful not only in the Packtalk Bold but in future models too. Regardless of where you may be traveling, the sound experience should be consistent throughout.
What about logistics? Well, Cardo says this system will allow up to 15 different riders to connect. However, there’s no decrease in quality even if you’re traveling along the freeway with one friend.
In perfect conditions, the manufacturers say that connectivity should work for up to one mile (1,600 meters). Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world and these conditions rarely exist. Fortunately, Cardo has addressed this by saying that even normal conditions should allow connection for close to 1,000 meters.
Elsewhere, there are lots of smaller features that deserve our attention. For example, the volume of the device will adjust automatically depending on the outside ambient noise. No manual adjustments while waiting at lights or traveling through a mountain pass, you can focus on enjoying your ride while the Packtalk Bold does the rest.
Additionally, we should mention;
- Built-in FM radio
- Switch from DMC to Bluetooth mode
- Smart audio mixing
- Call-answering technology
- Audio sharing
- 40mm-wide HD speakers
- ‘Cardo Connect’ app
While all these features are fantastic, the whole experience will be ruined if the battery is poor. Thankfully, Cardo has promised 13 hours of talk time. What’s more, plug the device into a 12V charger or battery pack and you’ll be charging while you ride. Suddenly, waking up and realizing that you haven’t charged the unit doesn’t need to be a major issue.
Also, the fact that you can select individual members of the group and talk to them privately through the system is another nice touch from Cardo.
Now we’ve seen all the features on offer, what are the main benefits and drawbacks of choosing the Packtalk Bold? What have customers been saying?
- High-quality audio both ways
- Dynamic mesh communications
- Detailed instructions for beginners
- Automatic volume adjustment makes the experience more enjoyable
- Integrates into the helmet nicely
- Battery life is strong
- Voice activation makes everything MUCH easier
- Works with up to 15 riders
Anything not quite so good? Any reason we should be looking to the Sena 30K?
- Some riders may have an issue with the price
- Others have had trouble with the Connect app and using specific browsers online
- Buttons are hard to use (the use of voice activation is a MUST)
We’ve seen what Cardo has to offer bikers, but how does Sena compare? Since this is a comparison guide, this one is going to be slightly different. We’ll take you through the main features and then show the main differences between the two. This way, you’ll be able to choose a product that meets your needs more closely.
- Open Mesh
- Voice Command
- Intercom for up to 1.2 miles
- Advanced Noise Control
- FM Radio
- Audio Multitasking
- Remote Control Compatibility
- Multi-Way Intercom
- Utility App
As you would expect from Sena, the sound quality is very good, and the smart volume feature is one that’s popular with riders. Let’s not forget, Sena has been in the market for over two decades now so has seen all the changes in technology as they’ve been introduced. In terms of basic features like audio quality, both Cardo and Sena are best in class; it’s in the smaller features that they differ.
When the 20S EVO was released, there was a sense of disappointment that it didn’t really provide competition to Cardo. There was no mesh communicator, the device wasn’t waterproof, and the whole thing seemed to be lacking. However, then came the 30K and everything changed.
With a mesh communicator and some new features, the Sena 30K was now able to compete in many areas. For example, ‘Public Mode’ allows the unit to become an open transmitter/receiver. Essentially, this leads to somewhat of a ‘the more, the merrier’ type deal. Although we’re unlikely to go out with hundreds of other bikers, it’s good to know the capabilities of large groups are there.
Furthermore, we found the base mounts to be better than Cardo. Why? The auxiliary ports allow MP3 and other old devices to be hooked up, but this isn’t the main reason. Instead, the base mounts are better because the device slides vertically onto them.
With Cardo, the device slides on horizontally which means that accidentally catching the release will lead to your Packtalk Bold making friends with the floor. With Sena, it will still sit on the base mount even if the release is pushed. A simple difference, but one that protects your investment, nonetheless.
As the third reason you might choose the Sena 30K over Cardo, it comes with plenty of useful and fun accessories. We know what you’re thinking, ‘but Cardo offer wire microphones, speakers, sticky mounts, boom microphones, Velcro, and plenty more. You’re absolutely right, but they don’t offer a travel charger…Sena does.
We mentioned the small improvements between the 20S EVO and 30K, but one thing didn’t improve; the waterproof function (or lack of!). Unfortunately, the manufacturers haven’t labeled the product as waterproof. You might use the 30K in the rain and have absolutely no problems, and this is great. However, only Cardo would send a replacement if the unit was damaged by water because Sena hasn’t given their customers this protection.
Furthermore, many customers have taken issue with the pricing. Depending on where and when you look, the 30K tends to be between $30 and $60 more expensive. Considering the Packtalk Bold does a similar job and benefits from all the brilliant features we mentioned earlier in the guide, you have to be absolutely sure that you want the Sena 30K before spending all that additional money.
Sadly, while reading customer reviews as background research for this guide, we found that some users were having issues with the unit automatically shutting itself off for no apparent reason. This being said, it seems to be a software issue more than a hardware fault so it’s something that Sena can address.
Which is Best?
This is the all-important question, and it’s a good one because you don’t want to spend lots of money only to then wish you made a different decision. Firstly, we should say that these are both fantastic products. Also, taking recommendations from other riders online is useful, but you still need to consider your own needs and what you want from the Bluetooth communication system.
If you’re in a location where rain is frequent, for example, buying the Sena 30K may be a risk. If your unit gets damaged by water, you’ll be forced into buying a replacement. With Cardo, you’ll receive a replacement because they actively say that products are waterproof.
If rain isn’t an issue, you might find the small additions with Sena actually make this the better product for yourself. You might like the fact that the unit attaches vertically (maybe you’re particularly clumsy!), the Public Mode, or even the travel charger.
For those hoping for us to choose one over the other, we would perhaps say Cardo edges it slightly, but this is by no means a ‘Cardo is better in every single category’ type decision.
Whichever you choose, we hope you have a great experience with it and enjoy your rides!