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UCLEAR Helmet Communicator - Product Review

  • Product: HBC 100 Helmet Communication System

    Manufacturer: UCLEAR

    Product Website: https://www.ucleardigital.com

    Cost (MSRP): $229.95

    Reviewed By: Lucky

    Overall Rating: Excellent

    [UCLEAR Profile]       

    Where to Buy: Participating Motorcycle Dealers, Amazon.com

    Manufacturer's Description:

    UCLEAR – Loud & Clear. Our exclusive wireless noise canceling communication essentials are designed to enhance the lifestyle of our customers. UCLEAR has been created with the vision to bring the patented Advanced Digital Signal Processing technology of military and industrial applications to the home consumer scene. This enables our collection of UCLEAR innovations to manage the dynamic surrounding noise with focus on speech clarity and the duplex conversation.

    Our HBC 100 is a Helmet Communicator without boom microphones

     • Make mobile phone calls
     • Listen and wirelessly control your music
     • Voice Command call pickup
     • Helmet to helmet intercom
     • Auto loudness adjustment
     • Patented Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology
     • Unique wind filtering technique effective up to 238KM/h
     • Concealed microphones, does not require boom microphones
     • Ruggedized weather resistant design
     • Powerful speakers ensure clarity under noisy conditions
     • Hassle free installation

     

    Review:

    I tested the HBC 100 system with multiple devices including the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4GS, Samsung Galaxy Phone, iPod 4G and a second HBC 100 for helmet to helmet communication.  Testing was also done using multiple helmet styles including my half helmet, a 3/4 helmet (with and without a face shield) and a full face helmet.  Each device/helmet combination was tested in various types of riding conditions including open road, busy highways and inner city.  Since I live in Southern California, I could only test it in one type of weather: SUNNY :-).

    The basic system includes the HBC 100 Helmet Communicator Control Unit, Stereo Speakers, AC Charger, and Mounting Hardware to mount the system on most helmet types - with the exception of a beanie style half helmet that doesn't have ear flaps (more on that below).

    If you plan on using the system on more than one helmet, I would recommend buying the optional Accessory Kit that comes with an extra set of Stereo Speakers, Mounting Hardware for the Speakers and Control Unit and a 12 volt Charging Adapter (cigarette lighter style plug).  Then to use your second helmet all you need to do is remove the Control Unit from its quick release mount, snap it on to the second helmet, plug in the speakers and you're ready to go!

    To use the speakers with a half helmet that doesn't have solid ear flaps you will need to purchase a set of audio ear pads which are sold separately.  The ones I used were made by Echo Helmet Accessories (see photo to right). They installed easily on my helmet using two velcro strips that hold them securely to the helmet straps and then the speakers are held securely and comfortably in the built in pockets.  Helmet audio pads can be found at most motorcycle dealers, motorcycle accessory stores and through many online sites at a cost of around $15.00.

    Installation and setup of the system is very easy and took me less than ten minutes.  The speakers are installed in the ear cavity of a full face or 3/4 helmet and held in place with velcro pads, or slipped into the pockets of the audio pads on a 1/2 helmet.  The wires running between the left and right speakers can be concealed by gently sliding them up between the helmet padding and shell with the edge of a credit card .  The main control unit is secured to the outside of the helmet using one of the included quick release brackets - one uses double sided adhesive tape to semi-permanently affix the bracket to the helmet, the other uses a clip style bracket that slips over the bottom of the helmet.  I personally preferred the adhesive bracket because it was a much cleaner look.  Once the system hardware was installed on my helmets, all I needed to do was pair it with my phone and to the second unit installed on my wife's helmet for helmet to helmet communication.

    Pairing the device with your cell phone or music player is very simple.  Just hold the Volume Up and Volume Down buttons for two seconds and the system is in "pairing mode".  Then follow the instructions on your bluetooth device (phone, music player, etc) to complete the pairing and you're ready to go.  Pairing the HBC 100 with another HBC 100 for helmet to helmet communication is just as easy.

    All of the functions of the HBC 100 are controlled with just three buttons on the main control unit that's mounted on the outside of your helmet.  The buttons are large enough to find easily and press, even with heavy gloves on.  All of the common functions used while riding are accessed by pressing just one of the buttons.  The system also works with basic voice commands such as saying "hello" or "pick up" to answer a call and voice dialing to make a call (if your phone supports voice dialing).

    My first test was to try answering a phone call with my helmet on before getting on the bike.  Ok, that was easy and since I was in a quiet garage the call was perfectly clear on both ends just as I expected.  So now it was time to hit the road and see how it sounded while riding.  I have got to admit I was very skeptical how my voice would sound to the caller since the system has no boom microphone - just these small little microphones on the end of each speaker that were in the audio pockets inside my helmet.  I figured I would give it what I thought would be its toughest test first: wearing my half helmet riding at 60+ mph.  I got on the bike and told my wife to call me in 15 minutes giving me enough time to get to the canyon where I could take the call at varying speeds.  I was riding through the canyon at around 50 mph when I heard the phone ring through the speakers (it was really cool because it rings with whatever ring tone you have your phone set to), so I pressed the answer button and couldn't believe how clear the sound was on my end.  My wife told me the call sounded great on her end too - just about the same as if I was standing still talking on my cell phone.  Then I increased my speed to around 70 mph. The volume of my headset automatically increased as the outside noise increased so the call was still clear on my end.  My wife said she could hear a slight wind sound, but could still hear my voice clearly.  Thinking maybe she wasn't being as critical as I would, I pulled into Cook's Corner (our local hangout) and found one of my friends to help me out.  I gave him my helmet and a quick lesson on how to use the system and sent him down the road. When I called him and he answered I just couldn't believe the call quality talking to someone riding a motorcycle.  I could hear him just as if he was standing outside on a cell phone with a slight wind blowing.  The only circumstance I found where the person you are calling can hear the noise from the engine (and my bike is pretty loud) is when you rev the engine while stopped (so don't do that if you're on the phone).

    On the way home I tested the music function using my iPhone.  The sound quality of the stereo speakers is outstanding.  And since the speakers are away from your ears - not inside them like when using ear buds - with the volume at a reasonable level you can still hear all of the surrounding sounds like cars and motorcycles approaching, car horns, emergency vehicle sirens, etc.  I also like the fact that I could control my iPhone music using the buttons on the HBC 100 helmet control unit (skip forward, backward, pause and volume) so my iPhone could stay safely tucked away in my windshield pouch.  And if a call comes in while listening to music, the music automatically pauses while you take your call and once the call has ended the music automatically resumes.

    Over the next couple of weeks I rode many times using the different phones and music players and different style helmets with the same positive results each time.  As expected, the sound quality of my voice to the person I was talking to was even a little better with the 3/4 helmet with a face shield and with a full face helmet, the person I was talking to said the quality was that of a land line even when I was riding at high speeds.  I think one of the most impressive things was the noise canceling abilities of the system when I was riding with my half helmet on a crowded freeway right next to an 18 wheeler.  My wife said the call basically sounded no different than if I was in my car on the cell phone with the window open.  Sure she could hear the truck; however she could still hear me just fine.

    Since the HBC 100 also supports voice dial when using it with a phone that supports voice dial, I tried making a few calls while riding.  To be honest, I found this to be a little awkward because if the phone incorrectly identified the person's name I was trying to dial, I had no way of knowing it was dialing the incorrect person since I couldn't see my phone (led to a couple of awkward situations since I still have numbers in my phone of people who I don't associate with anymore).  To be fair, I'll tell you I only tested this feature on my iPhone 3GS which only displays on the screen the person it thinks you are trying to call.  I know on some phones they actually repeat in voice who it thinks you are trying to call and asks you to confirm.  So the voice dial feature is something that will work better with some phones than others.

    Other phone features include: Incoming call ignore - just hold the answer button for two seconds and the incoming call is ignored and goes to voice mail; Call waiting answer - press the answer button to place the current call on hold and answer the new call, press again to switch back.

    The final test was the helmet to helmet communication between me and my passenger.  The sound quality was just as good as it was as when I used the system with the phones - maybe even slightly better.  Since we both have iPhones we were able to listen to music, initiate helmet to helmet communication which switched off the music, and if a call came in while talking to each other, it would override the helmet to helmet connection so the call could be answered.  I did find that helmet to helmet communication is really only practical when wearing full face helmets.  With our half helmets, I could hear my wife talking both naturally and through the speakers at the same time.

    As for the battery life, the company states the battery life is 2 weeks standby and 10 hours of talk time.  There is no doubt that it is at least that because I've been using it heavily for just under two weeks and forgot I was supposed to charge it.

    Overall, I was VERY impressed with the HBC 100 and would recommend this as THE system to buy for anyone in the market for a Bluetooth helmet communication system.  Not only does this system out perform all of the others I have tried, it does it without a boom microphone hanging out in front of your face.  Even after the guys at UCLEAR explaining to me how it works, I still think it's magic :-)

     

     

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    Note: Please only use the comment area on this product review if you have actually tried this product and would like to share your experience or opinion of it.

Comments

2 comments
  • TG
    TG excellant reveiw Lucky, very informative on all aspects of the system.
    April 13, 2012
  • ProductReviews
    ProductReviews That's correct, when used helmet to helmet the HBC-100 works only within Bluetooth range which makes them more practical for rider/passenger communication than bike to bike. UCLEAR does have an optional device - the WT300 Walkie Talkie Dongle - that...  more
    April 19, 2012