The more we rely upon our smart devices, the harder it is to spend time without them. Yet motorcycling is, by its nature, a singular activity, best done with total concentration on the road ahead. Yet we are presented with more and more ways to integrate personal electronics into our riding experience. Many of these involve Bluetooth headsets either built into helmet designs or devices that can be added to your existing helmet. While we’ve reviewed a number of the latest Bluetooth helmet devices, we wanted to look at a cheaper alternative. Perhaps you’re not ready to give up that $900 helmet just yet, so what are your options?
The simplest solution is to use earbuds plugged into your phone. These won’t function particularly well for phone calls, since you need to press a small button to answer, and wind noise on the microphone will undoubtedly be a factor. However, we decided to test some of the newest, smallest earbud designs to see if they could enhance the riding experience.
Phiaton BT 110 Bluetooth
The first earbuds for review are the BT 110 from Phiaton, where BT stands for Bluetooth. This is relatively new technology, with the Bluetooth receiver packed into a module on each earpiece, allowing you to use these earbuds without physically connecting them to your phone.
The Bluetooth modules are surprisingly small, and we were able to squeeze them into our helmet without difficulty. Pairing the BT 110 to your phone is a one-step process that takes seconds. You can then stream navigation using the latest Bluetooth 4.0 technology. They can also answer calls if you can press the small answer button on the three-button controller.
The earbuds are water- and sweat-resistant, designed for athletes but certainly suitable for riding. They come with silicone ear accessories, making them comfortable to wear.
The earbuds require two hours to charge and are claimed to provide 4.5 hours of music or call time. We weren’t able to verify this precisely, but it seems reasonable.
Having no aux plug, you can’t plug the BT 110 into aircraft seats, for example, if that matters to you.
We found the Phiaton BT 110 on Amazon for $99, which is good value for such smart technology.
**V-Moda Zn **
The Zn from V-Moda is a conventional earbud but very small size for the quality. They use zinc housings so are very light. There are 8mm drivers, which are tiny yet produce audio quality far beyond their diminutive dimensions. The drivers are distortion-free at iPhone sound levels, thanks in part to special audio filters between your ear and the drivers.
These earbuds are described as “high resolution,” and they live up to the claim. They provide a richer, more detailed sound than the Phiaton, producing more bass and accurate reproduction.
Being so small and light, they are very comfortable to wear. They also slip inside a helmet without any difficulty. Thanks to the low-profile design, they were completely unobtrusive while riding, and the great sound is even apparent on navigation instructions. They also boast a tangle-free cable, which makes them less frustrating to use than many earbuds. There is a 24K gold-plated aux plug to ensure no sound quality is lost through the connection. Furthermore, the detachable silicone “earhooks” help to secure the units in each ear.
The superior sound quality comes at a price. We found the V-Moda Zn on Amazon for $179.99, which places them above an impulse purchase. However, we were delighted by the audio quality, comfort, and small size.