Wireless technology has made huge advancements over the past few years, this is exemplified in none other than the Cardo Packtalk. Not long ago, the only option we had for communicating while riding in groups was Bluetooth connectivity. Although Bluetooth is still usable and viable in most cases, it is far surpassed by the new Dynamic Mesh Communications (DMC or Mesh) technology. This seamless drop-in/drop-out connection is just one of the Packtalk’s many advanced features. The Mesh network allows up to fifteen riders to connect with one another and is far more stable than a Bluetooth connection. In this Cardo Packtalk Bold review, I’ll talk about why this has become the most widely used and loved intercoms systems for motorcycle riders worldwide and why it is my personal favourite helmet Bluetooth device.
- Innovative features
- Mesh technology is incredible
- Complete voice control
Introducing the Cardo Packtalk Bold
Talk time: 13 Hours
Charging Time: 4 Hours
Mobile Phone Voice Control: Yes
Bluetooth Mobile: Yes
Bluetooth Version: 4.1
FM Radio: Yes
Headset Voice Control: Yes
+ Uses Mesh Technology
+ All features can be controlled with voice commands
+ JBL Audio System – Best Intercoms Speakers On The Market
− Fairly expensive
− No USB-C
− Must connect to a PC to update
As with most other intercom systems, the fitment process is mostly dependant on the helmet you are wearing. Some helmets will be slightly more difficult than others to fit a Bluetooth intercoms device on. Thankfully, the Cardo Packtalk Bold is relatively simple to attach to most helmets. The speakers are generally placed in a cutaway inside the helmet on either side by the ears, while the microphone is typically wired and neatly routed to stay out of the way. Additionally, Cardo has included a boom mic in the box for open-face and modular helmets. The Cardo Packtalk Bold uses a 3.5mm TRS cable, which has slightly more bulk than other connectors, but it allows you to plug in earbuds of your choice.
The included Cardo mounting system is incredible, featuring both an adhesive slimline pad and a compact clip. The adhesive pad works just as expected. Nothing moves around, and minimal bulk is added to your helmet. The clip adds slightly more bulk but is still incredibly effective at securing the Bluetooth unit in place. The clip slides between the outer shell and liner. This ensures that the fitment is safe and secure. Once mounted, one of the first things you will realise when riding is how aerodynamic the Cardo Packtalk Bold is. Additional buffeting and bobbing are minimal to the point where it feels negligible.
The Cardo Packtalk Bold comes with JBL speakers, a reputable brand with many experts putting the better part of a century into the research and development of their technology. As a result, these speakers have unmatched clarity in motorcycle helmets. Cardo has even included three sound profiles, which alter the EQ curve accordingly. The first sound profile is standard, just a flat EQ line with no alterations or “enhancements”. This means that the song will be extra clear, but depending on the EQ and compression techniques used when mixing the song, it could leave you wanting more.
This is where the two other profiles come in. First, bass boost, as the name implies, makes the bass louder. This can be hit and miss, though, because some songs already have very loud bass, and making it even louder will make the entire song lose clarity. It can even make the speakers make an awful crackling and popping noise that will stick out over most other things. In the right conditions, though, it can make a song sound like it has a lot more depth. The third profile is vocal, which is slightly more complex than bass boost. In simple terms, though, it makes voices louder and more clear than instruments.
Realistically, when you ride, it is expected to hear less of the bass to mid-range frequencies due to the amount of wind and vibration. Therefore, it could be beneficial to use the bass boost in these cases. Additionally, it would be nice to get an option to set up custom EQ curves. However, the inclusion of these three profiles allows the Cardo Packtalk Bold to be versatile enough for almost every situation.
Apart from that, the intercom sound quality is excellent, plus Cardo prioritises sound sources, which mean if someone starts talking while you are listening to music, the music will automatically dim a considerable amount. The clarity is absolutely astounding. It is easy to distinguish what a rider is saying over all of the wind noise. Thankfully, there is next to no delay between someone saying something and you hearing it. It can be difficult to hear a specific person in a big group chat if everyone is talking at once, but you can overcome that with the Bluetooth connections described in the intercom section. It’s safe to say that these are the best quality intercom speakers on the market.
Mesh intercom technology is utilised in the Cardo Packtalk Bold, alongside Bluetooth intercom compatibility. Although it is documented that the maximum Bluetooth range is 1.6km, it’s dependant on terrain, other vehicles, and all sorts of other obstructions. Therefore, a more reasonable distance is roughly 1km. This is an issue that is shared across all motorcycle helmet Bluetooth intercoms. Thankfully, this doesn’t stop the Cardo Packtalk Bold from being efficient at long-range communications.
Mesh technology allows a group of up to fifteen riders to be connected, seamlessly dropping out when exiting comms range and then dropping back in as soon as you enter range again. Mesh is a WiFi connection rather than a Bluetooth one. This also means if five out of nine riders fall behind and out of range, they will stay connected to each other and reconnect to the others when they catch up. You can also set up secondary Bluetooth connections with specific riders for a private conversation.
The max range while using Mesh is 1km if you don’t want interruptions. However, it is theoretically much higher. For instance, assume there are four riders, all 500m apart. This would make the first rider 1.5km away from the last rider, but they can still communicate. This is because Mesh can piggyback off of riders to reach further. This means it has the potential to have the biggest range out of all motorcycle helmet Bluetooth devices.
Unfortunately, Sena and Cardo Mesh networks are not compatible, but it is possible to bridge a Bluetooth user into the conversation. Networks only need to be set up once. This makes using the Mesh network set and forget. After that, you’ll need to forget the network manually.
The Cardo Packtalk Bold has a unique feature that truly allows it to stand apart from the competition, voice activation. Many Bluetooth intercoms units allow you to control your phone with voice commands to the unit. However, this is the only model that allows you to control the Bluetooth unit itself. Initially, I noticed that the device had a tough time with some of the phrases. However, I figured out that if I changed the language on my smartphone app to English UK, this stopped being a problem.
It is also possible to use “OK Google” and “Hey Siri” commands while connected to your phone. Admittedly, the additional wind noise makes this slightly more difficult because I can say the same commands while walking around, and it works more. However, this is not a problem that I had to deal with when using Cardo voice commands.
Thankfully, if you prefer to use the Cardo Packtalk Bold traditionally, the buttons are easy to find and use, even when wearing thick gloves. The jog wheel is positioned so that movement from the rider will not interfere with the controls. The Cardo voice commands work so well that you can avoid using physical controls altogether. Below is a picture of the voice commands and the phrases needed to activate them, taken straight from the manual.
The Cardo Packtalk Bold is micro-USB compatible. Although you won’t get the faster-charging capabilities of the modern USB-C cable, micro-USBs are more affordable. It takes four hours to charge the Packtalk Bold fully, and from that, you get twelve hours of talk-time using Bluetooth. The Mesh network uses slightly more power, and it lasted roughly ten and a half hours for me. So if you are using it purely for music, you will be looking at roughly eleven hours of use before needing to charge.
There are plenty of additional features that the Cardo Packtalk Bold come with. They are even IP67 rated, which means it is 100% protected against small particles like dust and sand, and it’s been tested to work for at least 30 minutes while under 15cm to 1m of water.
There is also a smartphone app that you can integrate with the device for many new features. For example, the app can inform you when an update is released. Unfortunately, you’re required to connect the Packtalk Bold to a PC to update it. Sadly, not every motorcyclist has a PC at home. Other than that, updating is all browser-based and incredibly easy. Finally, the Cardo Packtalk Bold comes with an FM Radio, which you can completely control via voice activation.
It is a fairly pricey device, but it still feels like you are getting a huge amount of value with the purchase. Still, this can be quite a turn off to many people, especially if they are mainly concerned about communicating with the passenger.
The Cardo Packtalk Bold is one of, if not the best Bluetooth intercoms device on the market. Next to no competition from the incredible Mesh network to the high-fidelity JBL speakers ensures crystal-clear intercoms and music. Although they are not the most affordable device, I firmly believe that it is worth every cent. The only things I can think of that would make my experience even better is USB-C and the ability to update your device without using a computer. Other than this, I would highly recommend this Bluetooth intercoms device to all riders.