Cardo Scala Rider Q2 Multiset Review
The Scala Rider Q2 MultiSet is a Bluetooth-compatible communications system offering two-way rider communication, ability to take and make mobile phone calls, GPS integration, and MP3 player connectivity (mobile phone, GPS, and MP3 require user-supplied compatible equipment).
- Full-duplex operation–no need to wait for your "buddy" rider to stop talking in order to be heard
- Voice connect capability
- Mobile phone and GPS pairing options
- Input source prioritization
- MP3 player connectivity
- Integrated FM radio with six channel presets (user-settable)
- Optional passenger intercom (requires additional headsets)
- Weather-resistant finish
- Two speakers (monaural)
- Flexible microphone boom
- Automatic Gain Control (AGC) to increase/reduce volume according to ambient noise
- Flexible mounting options
The Scala Rider Q2 MultiSet is packaged in a high-quality simulated 'carbon-fibre' finish box. The various components are nestled in two stacked plastic trays, providing protection during shipment and making it easy to find the various components while you install the Scala Rider Q2 on your helmets.
The package includes carry pouches for the main electronic control unit. This is a nice touch as the Scala Rider Q2 control unit is easily detached from the helmet mount, making it a snap to take the unit with you when leaving your helmets on your bike.
The Scala Rider Q2 is light weight and has a black rubberized water-resistant finish. Despite its light weight, the components are sturdy and well-made. The fit and finish is very good.
The Scala Rider Q2 is water-resistant (though not waterproof). The manual states that the unit is designed to be used in light rain or snow (!) conditions.
The charging jack and volume buttons are at the rear of the unit, and the charging jack is protected by an attached, tight-fitting rubber plug.
The user manual contains an introduction and overview of the system capabilities and orientation diagrams, set-up and installation procedures, and operation instructions.
Set-up and Installation
The units are 'paired' and ready for use right out of the box, so there's no real set-up needed if you just want to use them as a bike-to-bike or passenger intercom, which is probably the most common scenario.
If you have other Bluetooth devices such as a mobile phone or GPS unit, you can pair your Scala Rider Q2 to your device prior to or after installation. The user manual covers pairing, which is a simple process.
The speakers' velcro backs make mounting simple but you might need to move them around to get adequate ear clearance. Finding a comfortable position required a few tries. You might have to get used to feeling the speakers against your ears if your helmet is snug around the ear area.
The preferred installation method is to use the included clamp device. A self-adhesive "glue plate" is provided as a back-up method if the preferred method can't be used on your helmet. The glue plate mounting is permanent (meaning: once mounted, it can't be easily removed, so you'd better position the mounting plate correctly the first time!)
The speaker wires need to be tucked in behind helmet padding or trim. A little extra effort here is called for–dangling speaker wires could catch on something while riding.
Can you hear me now?
A quick pre-ride check verifies that I can hear and be heard by the other Q2-using rider.
Hitting the street for the first time with the Q2, it seemed strange to converse with someone on another motorcycle. In my experience, motorcycle riding has always been a relatively solitary experience, even when accompanying other riders. You get used not being able to speak to or hear the other riders, so you're in your own world most of the time. The Scala Rider Q2 can open up a whole new world.
After getting over the 'strangeness' of being able to hold a conversation while riding, I quickly got used to chatting while riding. I'm no longer 'riding alone' though the other rider is mere feet away–no need to use hand gestures or slow to a crawl for a quick on-bike conference. Conversing this way quickly became completely natural sooner than I expected. With the Scala Rider Q2 you can call out scenic views or road hazards, or discuss an upcoming rest stop while on the road.
Gloved hand use
The control buttons require a firm push to operate. The volume up/down buttons, which are smallish oval-shaped buttons on the back of the unit, take a bit of groping to find while riding.
The controls (though easy to locate once I became familiar with the unit) were a bit more difficult to operate while wearing thick winter gloves, though the difficulty diminished with increased familiarity.
I was able to hear the other rider's helmet noise when using the Scala Rider Q2. The severity depends on microphone placement, riding speed, helmet design, wind conditions, and motorcycle type (fully-faired touring bikes offer greater rider protection against wind noise than a sportbike or standard motorcycle), among other things.
In our tests, background noise didn't cause much trouble below approximately 70 MPH, above that speed communications became increasingly garbled, though at 70 MPH I was able to understand the other rider's words. Greater speed usually translates into greater wind, engine, and road noise, so you will probably want to reduce speed if you need to communicate using the Scala Rider Q2.
The automatic volume control increases volume as ambient noise increases, letting you focus on the ride rather than constantly tweaking the volume controls.
The voice actuation feature is nice, though it failed to operate as expected on several occasions. Not to worry, though, because a quick tap of the Ctl button brings the unit to life.
Mobile phone use
If you are so inclined, you can take a call while on the road. Personally, I'd prefer not to take calls while riding but the feature did come in handy when I was riding to work, and was expecting an important call. Slowing down and upping the caution level is advisable when taking a call, to reduce wind noise and to help avoid costly mistakes.
The integrated FM radio is a nice feature, though I think it's less useful if you are traveling long-distance or to remote rural areas. If you do most of your riding in the same general area, you'll probably stick with a few of your favorite stations–daily commuters might find this feature most valuable.
The radio has six user-settable channel presets. Tapping the [connect] button moves to the next preset (and a sequence of soft tones coming through the speakers indicates the preset number – the tone repeats three times for preset three, for instance).
Finding a new station requires that you hold the up or down volume buttons for three seconds for each search. Storing the newly found station as a preset requires that you tap the [connect] button within 20 seconds of finding the new station. Finding and storing new channels in the preset memories can be a bit frustrating (and certainly a distraction while riding), so if you need to search frequently due to faint signals for shifting terrain, I'd opt to avoid the radio feature when not in an urban setting – the MP3 player connectivity may be a better choice in those situations. Which leads us to...
MP3 Playback Connectivity
The Scala Rider Q2 includes an input jack for MP3 player connectivity using the included cable. The system provides monaural sound from small speakers, so I expected adequate but not spectacular sound quality. Testing with my iPod Touch confirmed my expectations. Still, it's nice to be able to listen to your MP3 collection if you desire.
I liked the Scala Rider Q2 and its features, though most of the time I found myself using it as a simple 'buddy' intercom. The ability to take an incoming cell phone call makes this a very handy accessory for those who want to stay in touch while on the road. The automatic prioritization of input sources makes the headset all the more useful (and usable).
The Scala Rider Q2 is a great accessory and is definitely useful (and used) during our rides. It would make a great gift for any couple who ride together, whether on one bike or two.
Disclosure: Cardo Systems provided the Scala Rider Q2 MultiSet used in this review.