OK so to preface - this is my first BT communications headset. After years of earbuds and briefly experimenting with a cheaper non-brand name system - I decided It was finally time to take the plunge on the renowned Sena 20S - Opting for the EVO model strictly because the...
OK so to preface - this is my first BT communications headset. After years of earbuds and briefly experimenting with a cheaper non-brand name system - I decided It was finally time to take the plunge on the renowned Sena 20S - Opting for the EVO model strictly because the built in antennae meant fewer parts that can break. The primary reason for purchasing this device was for better media control with gloves for simple functions like changing tracks, pausing music etc, - but more on that later.
Installation was easy and almost fun with an HJC RPHA 11 Pro which features ample speaker cutouts. Any helmet made these days will have speaker cutouts. Installation did take about an hour, but I am a little OCD as especially where audio is concerned - better results all around are achieved both in what you hear and how you are heard if you simply take your time with installation.
That said, once I was up and running I was impressed with how well the Sena connected to my Google Pixel phone. Charge time for the device was under an hour and gave me time to read the manual. At no point was the pairing frustrating or confusing - another major thing I''d hoped was addressed with this purchase.
Going back to media controls - they were a little confusing at first. Press and rotate BACK on the jog dial to go to the next track!? Jog FORWARD to reduce the volume? "If you say so Sena" I thought to myself. Happy to say that once you learn the controls, life is so much easier than bluetooth earbuds!
Moving on, as mentioned I did not purchase this device for communications which seems kinda crazy I know, but at the same time what I DID immediately realize is that what''s special about the Sena is in how many functions it includes.In this regard it can be something to everyone - but in all cases it is an upgrade to whatever setup you''re currently using.
I have not yet tested communications, but from what I understand they''re hardly worth the hassle and have limited range. Passenger to passenger sounds somewhat intriguing, but I won''t pay $300+ for the convenience of having a passenger annoy me from the back of the bike.
Crucially, I quickly realized that even with a modern helmet - speaker placement is key with these systems to achieve usable audio. The speakers themselves are mostly garbage. I am not impressed with their amplitude nor frequency range. They are high pitched and tinny simply to achieve "loud" at the expense of actually sounding good. Of note, I immediately enabled the louder volume setting within the app.Which did work to a degree.
Now keep in mind, because of the broad spectrum of what this communications system is addressing, it is nigh impossible to pipe high quality audio (where hearing every word is important) through open ended speakers adhered inside a helmet. There''s a lot going on when motorcycling including vibrations, road noise, traffic noise & weather. The speakers still performed their duties somewhat admirably, but are mostly throwaway.
I went with the wired mic stuck inside as near to my mouth as possible for maximum performance.I was immediately unimpressed with Sena''s voice commands, as after several attempts in a static environment (not riding) to perform basic commands, the Sena failed to recognize anything. I quickly realized that it wasn''t the mic that was the problem - it was Sena''s crappy voice controls.
I switched to using Android assistant via the back button and life became much easier. Every function on the Sena can be triggered via physical input, making voice control totally unnecessary. What you really want to control is what your phone does, both Siri and Google Assistant have that covered. With proper microphone placement "call dad" "shuffle playlist xxx and "read me my last text" become second nature bliss.
The important takeaway here is audio quality. The whole system falls apart at the seams if you can''t hear it. As such I, and many others are now on a quest to find the best earbuds that work under the helmet for achieving maximum effectiveness of the overall system. So in a cruel twist of fate, I''m right back to using earbuds again but this time they''re wired, albeit with better media controls. Perhaps there is no perfect system?
The fact that other features like FM radio and "ambient mode" are a bust was also a little disappointing. Both work pretty poorly.
And then there are the problems that are covered ad-nausea in other reviews; such as the Sena not being waterproof, being on the bulkier side, and also being somewhat pricey, which is subjective. I got the Sena 20s EVO for $200 which I think is fair considering mesh technology is now out on the market with all major manufacturers, and probably even some new players going forward. Mesh technology itself is still not there however and has further issues with range from what I understand.
I purchased this device ultimately for music and for media controls and in that regard my expectations were met and surpassed. Like a lot of things motorcycle related - then comes the customization part to fit one''s individual needs. At the same time, just putting on the helmet with the speakers in basic form is refreshing. It is nice to know that audio is always there (in limited capacity) and is more than an upgrade for things like navigation or knowing if you missed a phone call, without the complexities of earbuds.
As mentioned before, there is no perfect setup - but because the Sena 20s EVO is so far from it, it is relegated to the status of "Decent, but could be better."
Ride safe everybody!