Is the hype around Bluetooth intercoms all that exciting? Well over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been testing out the new Cardo Freecom 1+, during my daily commutes and weekend rides. The truth is, I can’t imagine jumping back on a bike without one of these handy devices strapped to my helmet. With so many features that allow for a more pleasurable riding experience, the Freecom 1+ is such a functional and invaluable intercom system.
Ideal for the solo rider, the Freecom 1+ is packed with the most innovative technology. Listening to music, taking phone calls or enabling GPS smartphone navigation have never been more accessible. Bikers that often ride with a pillion will be happy to know that the intercom is also available as a dual pack, allowing communication, audio sharing, and other smart features between rider and passenger. There’s no wonder why Cardo is one of the leading manufacturers of motorcycle intercom systems. They consistently challenge and innovate the intercom market, manufacturing more advanced systems with every generation of products.
Wrapped inside an extra slick, yet highly durable waterproof shell, the Freecom 1+ comes with everything a solo rider needs. For maximum aerodynamic performance, the unit sits 16mm high, which caught no wind during my testing. Cardo claims to have 13 hours of talk time, which given the set volume of the speakers, I’d say that's a fair statement. In all honesty, I was thoroughly impressed by the battery life, especially for the size of the unit. It will last a full day of riding and then some, and with a speedy recharge time of only 4 hours, it’ll be ready to go by the morning.
The kit comes with 40mm speakers, which are upgradable to a pair of 45mm JBL speakers, for an extra $200. Worth the upgrade? Well firstly, the original speakers aren’t bad at all, far from it. Audio is clear and loud enough to hear when traveling 100kms+ on the highway. As advertised, the JBL speakers are an “upgrade”, yet probably not to the degree you’d expect. Sound is fuller, with an extra bassy bottom end and crisper top end. With a price tag of $200 attached, some riders will see value, especially if they own louder bikes and need that added volume. I found the stock speakers met my audio performance needs, plus they are thinner and more comfortable within the helmet.
Freecom 1+ is bombarded with modern features, such as automatic volume adjusters, FMF radio capability and audio sharing. The list goes on. Above is a brief rundown of what the device offers, as you could literally spend hours talking about each feature in-depth.
What’s inside the box?
Packaging is faultless, coming in a tightly compacted, aesthetic box.
- Freecom 1+ Intercom
- Dual Speakers
- Hybrid Microphone
- USB Cable
- Glue Plate
- Velcro and Assemble Attachments
Installation and Fit
Installation is relatively painless, completing the full set up within 15mins. The manual inside the box offers a step by step guide, alternatively, I found that Cardo’s Youtube channel provides some fantastic installation tutorials, which I naturally opted for.
Essentially, you’ll first begin by stripping the interior padding of your helmet, looking for any recesses inside the shell, allowing the speakers to fit comfortably. The speakers are thin and well-shaped, so I can’t see anyone having massive sizing issues here. The location of the speakers is important, as any pressure on your ears will quickly become painful and highly undesirable. So take your time, and ensure you're happy with the positioning, as it will also affect sound quality.
Ensure the wiring is routed neatly. I hid my excess length under the interior padding and as the wires are so thin, you don’t feel them at all. Stick the boom microphone using the velcro straps roughly where your mouth will be positioned. I mounted mine along the bottom of the skirt, but best experiment and play around with your possible options with your particular helmet.
The unit itself fits nicely on the side of the helmet. Users will be able to choose between either the clip-on clamp mount that slides beneath your helmet shell or the adhesive mount Both mounts are acceptable and secure, however over my testing, I preferred the clip-on clamp, as I saw this being more secure for long term use. Originally, I had concerns about the balance of the helmet being affected, yet the unit is so light, it thankfully wasn’t an issue.
Now as mentioned previously, each helmet will be slightly different, so ensure no pressure is on your ears, the intercom is secure, wires are tucked away, and that the microphone isn't rubbing against anything. Once properly fitted and positioned, the Freecom 1+ is one of the cleanest and invasive intercoms I’ve ever used. No wires are visible and the fit of the helmet is virtually the same feeling without the unit installed.
Set up and Functionality
Setting up the unit to connect with a smartphone is simple and easy. The manual inside the box does contain a quick start guide, however lacks to thoroughly illustrate each feature in-depth. Once again, I turned to Cardo’s helpful Youtube tutorials to give me the rundown of every feature and full navigation of the unit.
Once connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth, users must download the Cardo app. The Cardo Connect app works exceedingly well and allows users to control pretty much all the features of the unit. For example, your Spotify can be linked, GPS navigations, and even enable virtual assistants, such as Siri and Google Assistant. Being able to bark commands without a second thought, such as to call or change a song, is extremely useful and strangely addictive. It allows you the rider to focus on the road and the environment around you. In terms of connectivity, the Bluetooth signal was lost fewer times than I could bother tallying, so for the most part, pretty flawless.
The unit operates using 4 buttons, and it is recommended that you know the positioning and what specific combination of buttons commands what. The buttons are well spaced, allowing them to be operated using gloves. Running updates will require you to plug it into a computer, however, this isn't a huge hassle, as updates are few and far between.
Like I originally claimed, I’ll struggle to ever ride again without one of these devices strapped to my lid. With stiff competition on the market, Cardo continues to deliver leading advances in intercom technology, and at a price consumers can afford it.
With an aesthetic design, easy to operate system, and a durable, waterproof case, the Freecom 1+ is the most desirable solo rider intercom on the market.
Cardo warrants this product to be free from defects in material and workmanship for 2 years from the date of original purchase. This warranty excludes batteries. Retain purchasing receipts, and if found to be defective within the warranty period, it will be replaced at no cost to you.
Priced at a fair $249.00 AUD for the single unit or $469.00 AUD for the duo, this will be an investment, yet hardly one you’ll regret. The Cardo Freecom 1+ can be found in-store at Harley Davidson Canberra, 281 CANBERRA AVE, FYSHWICK, ACT 2606. Call (02) 6185 0516 today!