Wired For Sound.
I’ve broken a sacred rule of riding. I bought an intercom. There I’ve said it…
Years ago, the only beats I heard came from the engine, I’d talk to myself inside my lid, and no one could hear me strangling cats in tune to the top 40 .
Now I like to share my auditions for the X-factor with The Pillion. True the occasional burp also spews forth, quickly followed by a sharp poke to the ribs from The Pillion.
Sharing is caring right?
When I started looking around for an intercom, all the usual suspects were considered, Cardo Scala, Sena and U-Clear, which are all Bluetooth units. One that was suggested to me that I hadn’t considered, was the Starcom system.
The Bluetooth systems all appealed to me for various reasons:-
- Easy to fit.
- They can be paired with phones, music & GPS devices
- I could talk to my pillion & a few other riders (4 to 10 depending on the system).
- On some models I could listen to FM radio.
- They were all light weight.
What I didn’t like about the Bluetooth systems was:-
- The units have to be recharged periodically.
- Some units don’t pair with everything with ease (They’re fiddly).
- They can drop out.
- You can’t talk between units (Sena to Scala to U-Clear).
- If I wanted to hook up a CB to the system, I needed either a CB with Bluetooth capability (expensive), or an interface unit in addition to the intercom (also expensive).
One thing we have here in Australia that may not be available in other countries is the UHF* CBRS*. This is by far the most utilised radio service for travelers, farmers, truck drivers and other interested people. Along with the usual calling and emergency channels, there are dedicated 4WD, caravan, repeater and truck/ highway channels.
The system uses narrow band FM with up to 5 watts transmit power and 80 channels. CTCSS* & DCS* mute systems are also available, so that interfering signals on the same channel can be eliminated.
I really wanted to be able to connect UHF to the system, but the additional Bluetooth interface at $300 plus was prohibitive.
Reluctantly I took a look at the Starcom. I really didn’t like the idea of having wires dangling everywhere, but it did do everything the Bluetooth units would do, plus it had some advantages:-
- It was easy to fit. The main control unit is about the size of a 20 pack of smokes and fits under your seat, or some other available space.
- You can use phones, GPS & music just like the other systems, either hard-wired or at additional cost with a Bluetooth interface.
- Rider to pillion intercom.
- Light weight.
- You never have to recharge the unit.
- The hard-wired system has no problems with dropouts.
- Quick release DIN plugs allow for cable separation in an emergency.
One thing the Starcom can’t do is link between riders on a private Bluetooth link. This didn’t particularly worry me though, because it’s not like I was going to be discussing the state of the nation with anyone while riding anyway.
You can easily hook a UHF CB into the mix. It’s a simple plug and play affair, with either Push To Talk (PTT) or voice activated operation (VOX). No special Bluetooth adapter required. The bonus of using a CB is that the range is increase considerably, unlike Bluetooth, which if your lucky you might get 500m (1600 feet).
Also its an open system, so if you get into trouble and are out of mobile phone range, you can call someone for help. Bluetooth does not allow for this.
So I bought the Starcom Advance.
I don’t use (refuse to use) the mobile phone function, but I do use an Ipod for the travelling tunes, this will sit either in my vest pocket or tank bag depending on the ride i’m on.
I also have a Uniden UHF hand-held CB connected into the system for longer trips. It’s handy to get road reports, or to let the driver of a B-Double* know that you want to pass.
Whats the sound quality like?
Pretty good really, in fact with the ear plugs (see separate article here) the wind noise is reduced so much that the volume doesn’t have to be as loud as you would think. This is probably because the stereo speakers are so close to your ears, and the ear plugs are tuned to reduce noise rather than sound… if that makes sense(?)
Also, having a curly cord hanging from your lid is not as bad as I thought. It’s not heavy and doesn’t flap about in the breeze. If you decided to go this route, use a stick on cable clamp like the one in the photo below so that there is no pull on the wires to the mic and speakers.
The only problem I have with Starcom is that The Pillion doesn’t appreciate my singing… or burps.
- UHF: Ultra High Frequency.
- CBRS: Citezens Band Radio Service.
- CTCSS: Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System
- DCS: Digital Coded Squelch
- B-Double: Consists of a prime mover towing a specialised lead trailer that has a fifth-wheel mounted on the rear towing another semi-trailer, resulting in two articulation points.