Bluetooth headphones dramatically enhanced the way we consume our audio outside of the home. The freedom from wires allowed all kinds of innovative uses of headphone technology that was either previously difficult (or unfeasible).
There is arguably no better example of this than in motorcycle headphones. Cruising around without a care in the world listening to your favorite tunes is one of the greatest feelings a biker can experience. It’s a game changer for many people, once you start listening to music while riding your motorbike – you can never go back.
Headphone manufacturers were quick to notice the almost addictive pleasure that Bluetooth headphones provided for motorcyclists. It didn’t take long before a lengthy list of great (and not so great) headphones (custom made for riding your bike) were available on the market.
There are a few specific considerations that need to be taken into account when buying headphones for use on your bike. We will discuss them here today alongside a list of what we think are the top 5 best headphones for motorcycles.
#1 Sena 20S-01
Sena is one of the leading motorcycle headphone manufacturers in the world. They are a company run by bikers, for bikers. They know exactly what makes motorbike headphones good (and bad). The 20S-01 is arguably the best product from the best brand and has all the functionality you would expect from a pair of premium motorcycle headphones (and more). The Bluetooth technology that underpins most motorcycle headphones is often seen as the weak link in terms of audio fidelity. The compression algorithms that enable instant playback wirelessly reduce the quality of the audio stream (this is true for every Bluetooth device in the world).
However, many people are unaware that there is a difference between the various versions of Bluetooth. The newer versions provide better quality, range, and reliability compared to the older versions. The 20S-01 has modern Bluetooth 4.1 technology built in to provide you with supreme quality while on the move. The audio quality these little headphones can produce is simply superb considering they are in ear devices. They are fully capable of delivering stunning, crystal clear HD audio with crisp high frequencies and surprisingly full bass tones. The 20S-01 has noise canceling functionality (like all good motorcycle headphones) which is an essential feature. The noise of the wind rushing past your face combined with the roar of your bike’s engine create a less than ideal environment for rocking out to your favorite tunes.
Noise cancellation technology can be hit and miss, there is a huge amount of variation in quality. To avoid going into the boring details we will simply let you know here that the 20S-01 has some of the best noise canceling functionality on the market. Take our word for it. The 20S-01 also has a very capable intercom system that allows you to communicate with other bikers joining you on your ride up to 2km (1.2 miles) away. The inbuilt microphone is of a high quality and is more than capable of keeping you and your buddies in constant crystal clear radio contact.
One of the biggest issues Bluetooth headphones can have is random sporadic connection dropouts. This was much more of a problem in the earlier days of Bluetooth connectivity than it is today (because the tech has improved greatly). But unfortunately, random disconnections can (and do) happen.
When a disconnect happens and you are on foot, then it’s no more than a minor annoyance. Simply reconnect and you are good to go again. But when you are riding along on a motorcycle, reconnection can mean stopping the bike, taking off your helmet, and reconnecting. This is obviously a less than ideal situation.Learn More at AMAZON
Because Sena is a company run by bikers, for bikers – they know how annoying this can be. This is why they have included a “shake to connect” feature on the 20S-01. It’s a magical function that allows you to reconnect by simply shaking your head. It’s a capability that is immensely valuable and is one of the main reasons we have picked the 20S-01 as our top pick.
The 20S-01 is a pair of headphones that has been made by bikers, for bikers. They have thought of every problem that makes headphone usage annoying for motorcyclists (and then fixed each and every one of them). There are arguably no better headphones in the world for use while riding a motorcycle.BUY NOW at AMAZON
#2 Sena SMH10D-10
Our number two pick is another pair of headphones from Sena. We know this might look a little bit suspect, but quite honestly they are simply the best brand. The SMH10D-10 is more suited to being used as an intercom system than for audio playback. However, they provide excellent quality audio considering the price. Unless you are a hardcore audio junky we doubt you will be disappointed by the frequency response and fidelity of their audio output. The SMH10D-10 costs around the same as the 20S-01 above, but has reduced functionality.
So why on earth are we recommending it if it’s a lower quality product for the same price?
It’s because you get two of them in the box.
The SMH10D-10 comes with two identical headsets which mean you and your riding partner can have one each to stay in contact with one another. The range of the intercom functionality is reduced compared to the 20S-01 but is still very respectable at up to 900 meters. We love the way that you can combine 4 of these headsets into a single conference call with your buddies while riding. It’s so much fun having a group chat while riding, it changes the whole riding experience into something that is super social throughout (instead of when you are just stationary).LEARN MORE at AMAZON
The noise canceling technology included in the SMH10D-10 is of a similar quality to the 20S-01 but is a little bit worse at high speed when there is a large amount of wind noise. However, this being said – it’s more than acceptable by anyone’s standards. You can still hear clearly, you will just have a little bit of ambient background noise. The battery life is excellent with up to 12 hours of talk/playback time (and a standby time of 10 days). The SMH10D-10 is compatible with most helmets and should clip right in without any issues.
The SMH10D-10 is perfect for a couple who like to ride together, or for a biker who likes to be social while cruising along. The audio playback functionality for music is not the greatest quality in the world, but it’s more than acceptable. It’s a more affordable way to enable communication while on the road than the 20S-01, but it’s also a slightly inferior product. (It does not have the shake to connection functionality which we would really miss).
However, compared to most other things on the market the SMH10D-10 is an excellent product that is priced very competitively. If communication is your priority, we highly recommend you add this product to your shortlist.BUY NOW at AMAZON
#3 FreedConn Helmet Communication Systems
FreedConn is reasonably small brand compared to a something the size of Sena. They have been around for some time now quietly making affordable, quality products. Their headsets are much cheaper than both of Sena’s products we listed above, but they are also of a lower quality. However, we are comparing apples to oranges here. If you are looking for a budget friendly way to reliably listen to great audio (and communicate with other riders) – FreedConn’s products are more than worthy of your consideration.
The audio quality is acceptable. You will get great audio throughout the entire frequency spectrum, but there is a notable lack of bass in some tracks. (But it’s important we keep this in perspective here. These are much better headphones than the free earbuds you get with any smartphone). The noise cancellation technology contained within these little ear buds is more than acceptable by anyone’s standards, but could certainly be improved. The same could be said about the Bluetooth 3.0 technology that’s used (it’s older tech, but it still works well).LEARN MORE at AMAZON
Again, we think that this product has been designed as an intercom instead of going for audio playback quality. The built-in microphone is more than acceptable, and the intercom range of 800 meters is adequate for most situations. Some additional (silly) functionality like an FM radio receiver has been built in, but honestly – who actually listens to the radio anymore these days…
To be honest there is a lot that could be improved about these headphones. The audio quality is “acceptable”, the noise canceling is “OK”, and the intercom range could be better. However, you get what you pay for with headphones and these are a very affordable product (that can be relied upon to get the job done to a satisfactory level).
Unless you already own a pair of premium motorcycle headphones we doubt these headphones are going to disappoint you. FreedCon’s headsets are a great value option that is worthy of anyone’s consideration.BUY NOW at AMAZON
#4 Sena SMH10D-11
You might think that this model number sounds a bit familiar… If you do, you’re right. It’s the next generation of the SMH10D-10 we ranked at number two on our list. By and large, this is the exact same product as the SMH10D-10 above. So we won’t repeat ourselves retyping it all (go back to the SMH10D-10 section for a recap if you like). The differences between the two products are small, but we felt they were worth listing as two separate entries. The main difference is the price (the SMH10D-11 is around $10 more expensive). This isn’t exactly a massive difference.
They are very similarly priced because they are essentially the same product.LEARN MORE at AMAZON
All the components are identical, it’s just the software that is different. The SMH10D-10 has firmware that is not upgradeable and SMH10D-11 has firmware that is upgradeable. This might not sound like a huge deal, but Sena is well known for releasing regular software updates that vastly improve functionality. The most notable example of these updates is a recent one that allowed the SMH10D-11 to connect to other devices (from other brands) via intercom. This is a huge advantage if you are out with different riders who have different headsets from different brands (but not so advantageous if you only ride with one or two people regularly).
If this additional functionality is worth the extra $10 or so is a personal choice. We don’t feel it’s a game-changer, but it’s certainly a nice feature to have. We found it difficult to decide if the SMH10D-10 or the SMH10D-11 should be in the number two spot above. But because the universal functionality might not be required by everyone (and the SMH10D-10 is cheaper) we recommended that at the number 2 spot instead of the SMH10D-11.
However, the SMH10D-11 is a viable option for anyone who wants the additional functionality. To be honest, if you don’t care that much about the $10 price increase – we actually recommend the SMH10D-11 over the SMH10D-10. It’s always better to be future proof.BUY NOW at AMAZON
#5 Sena SMH10R
Another Sena! We know we probably look biased right now including 4 Sena products on a list of 5. But honestly, they are the kings of motorcycle headphones. Nothing really comes close to them.
The SMH10R is the lightest, thinnest, and most comfortable headset out of all of the products on this page. It’s a product that has been designed to work around you instead of you working around it. The audio quality is highly impressive which means it can function well for music playback, or as an intercom. Bass notes are deep and clear while the higher frequencies are sharp and crisp (without sounding tinny). The SMH10R has a great intercom range of up to 900 Meters. This is less range than the 20S-01 (but more than most other products on the market). Like the SMH10D-11 above the SMH10R has universal intercom functionality which means you can connect to up to 4 other riders – regardless of their headset’s brand.LEARN MORE at AMAZON
The noise cancellation technology is top notch and blocks out even the loudest wind noise at high speed (enabling you to talk and listen as per normal without straining to hear what’s going on). The thing we really love about this headset is the voice control functionality. Instead of fiddling around with buttons and knobs, all you have to do is speak to the headset like Siri on an iPhone. The voice commands can be used for all kinds of frequently used features like volume, connecting and disconnecting, GPS, and calling people from your phone.
The SMH10R is an awesome lightweight low profile headset that is arguably one of the most comfortable on the market. The voice control features are an awesome addition and transform the way you interact with your audio (and other riders) while out and about on your bike.
When this functionality is combined with the awesome audio quality and noise canceling technology – it’s easy to see why it made our list.BUY NOW at AMAZON
So there you have it, our top 5 best headphones for motorcycles. This list has been curated in order of recommendation, but all the products we have mentioned are great.
We know that we have listed a lot of Sena’s products on this list, but honestly – we are being impartial when we say they are simply the best. They are one of the only brands who’s products are made by bikers for bikers – it’s difficult to go wrong with them.
Whichever product you choose from this list you are going to be in good hands. We highly doubt anyone could regret purchasing any of them.
So what are you waiting for! Get your gear on, crank up the volume, and get on your bike!
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