My BMW R1150 GSAA at Deals' Gap

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Sunday
May192013

Sena SMH10 Bluetooth Pairing with the Garmin Zumo 665

With the old Autocom in place on the GS, the misses and I could 1) Talk to one another, 2) Hear voice prompts from the Garmin 276C and 3) Listen to audio from the XM receiver. In addition, I could also make 2-way radio contacts via the Autocom's interface to my various Icom handheld radios. The objective of this wireless transformation was to retain the same functionality, but get rid of those pesky wires.

Immediate Success? Yes and unfortunately no.

Our Sena SMH10 headsets came factory paired to on another. So far, we've used them in the house, testing out the tap to open the channel and tap to close the channel functionality. This is almost the same as push to talk on a radio except that you don't have to keep the button pressed. It seemed to work well, but with the Autocom, we were used to just speaking to the other person when we wanted to. Sena does allow you to keep the channel open at all times, but I suspect that any wind noise that might get picked up by one or both helmet-mounted microphones might be a distraction in this mode. More experimentation is needed.

So, with Number 1 out of the way, what about number 2 and 3? This is where the fun began. I first paired my Sena headset to the Zumo 665 and immediate enjoyed the benefits of voice prompt and XM radio audio streaming into my Neotec. Cool! Not really thinking about it much, I paired Elizabeth's Sena with the Zumo and my education began. I quickly realized that the Zumo ONLY supports one paired headset at a time. Mine or hers, but not both. Disappointment set in as I walked from the garage into the house and explained to Elizabeth that... we had a problem. She corrected me quickly by say "You have a problem." Ouch.

Taking time to think about this limitation, it made sense. Consider an iPhone or other Bluetooth-enabled device able to play music wirelessly through some external speaker device. You can pair that phone with as many of these devices as you want, but you can only connect to one of them at a time!

Consulting the interweb, I found that Sena solves this problem with the SM10 Dual Stream Bluetooth Stereo Transmitter. A phone call later to Rocket Moto, my wallet was sufficiently lightened and a SM10 was on its way to me. This small, battery-powered adapter connects (gasp) via a cable to the Zumo 665 audio and then is paired to both rider and passenger headsets, allowing them to hear all the same audio from the Zumo or other non-Bluetooth audio device. I'll follow up on this in a future post once the installation and pairing has been completed.

Back to my experience riding the GS with the Sena SMH10 paired with the Zumo... Good, but initially not great. My initial impression of the audio from XM receiver was that it sounded a lot like AM radio to me - at any speed. The voice prompts from the Zumo were fine if not louder than needed. They are of course mono and not stereo anyway. I experimented with the Zumo's audio mixer settings, dropping the voice prompt audio down to 60% and that seemed to work well, even at freeway speeds with earplugs in.

Then, something changed... I can't explain it yet, but on yesterday's ride back from a tire change at Ed Gray's place, the audio I was hearing from the Zumo's XM receiver improved dramatically. I was hearing true stereo separation and it was very clear. I'm actually wondering if this has something to do with the order in which the devices are powered up. If the improvement doesn't stick, I'll post a follow-up on this later.

With just a few weeks to go before our first big trip, we have some additional shaking out to accomplish to make sure everything's working as expected. I really don't want to be forced to fiddle with settings along the way. Stay tuned.

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