Gear Review – Cardo PACKTALK EDGE Helmet Communicator

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One of the questions I ask all my “Meet a Reader” subjects is if they listen to music while they ride. It’s roughly a 50/50 split between “yes” and “f*** no, why would you ask such a dumb question,” but I continue to ask it because helmet communication devices are such a huge part of my riding experience. Whether it’s music, directions, or being able to talk to Vy when she’s on the back of the bike, devices like the PACKTALK EDGE have made my riding experience more enjoyable…and if all I want at a given point is to tune out the world and hear the engine…well, “OFF” is just a button press away.

The new Cardo PACKTALK EDGE.

If you haven’t bought a helmet communicator by now, I don’t think anything I say at this point is going to change your mind so I’m not going to waste time explaining how wonderful they are (and they are wonderful). I assume if you’re reading this it means you actually have an interest in this kind of product, so I want to focus on what’s new with the EDGE and what makes it better than the previous generation. Then we’ll have to decide if it’s worth splurging for in terms of an upgrade.

Cardo asked me to show up at the event with a helmet that didn’t have any comms in it, so I busted out my 40th Anniversary Freddie Spencer Arai Corsair-X. Cardo reps installed the EDGE, put me in a group with three other riders, and had us hit the road to see what the group communication functionality was like.

Photo by Barry Hathaway.

Improvement #1:
Volume! This is one of my biggest gripes with most comm systems – it’s fine at low speeds but once you’re doing highway velocities it can be hard to hear your companion. The EDGE (now paired with 40mm JBL speakers) is now loud enough where I don’t like having it at max volume, which is all I’ve ever wanted. Now I basically never have a problem making out what’s coming through the speakers, whether it’s music, directions, or Vy’s voice.

Improvement #2:
It’s not as noticeable as the bump in volume, but there’s definitely a slight increase in the sound quality (particularly with helmet-to-helmet communications). Cardo calls their system Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC), and it’s up to Gen 2 with the EDGE. The claim is that you can have up to 15 riders on the same network with a range of up to 1 mile

Or, you know, two riders a couple of feet from each other. Photo by Barry Hathaway.

Improvement #3:
Wireless Updates – now you can perform firmware updates just with a Bluetooth connection. It works great, however the first time I tried to update the EDGE I was annoyed to learn that the app won’t permit an update if your phone battery is at less than 50% (even if happens to be plugged in at the time).

Improvement #4:
Battery reminder – when you turn off the unit, a voice prompt tells you what the battery level is in 25% levels (Low/25%/50%/75%/Full). I love this because I am lazy and it makes it very easy for me to know when it’s time to charge it. The old unit would flash a LED a set amount of times on startup to let you know how much battery life was left, but I usually turned it on after putting my helmet on so I didn’t see the flashes. The voice prompt is a clever idea.

Improvement #5:
The “Air Mount” – thanks to the power of magnets, it’s now absurdly easy to pop the EDGE on. This is a case where it’s easier to show than tell:

That’s it! I will say that it’s a little fussier to take off the device with the new mount but the ease of install is definitely worth the trade-off.

Improvement #6:
The physical housing – it’s a little smaller (not significant in my mind), the buttons are easier to press, and now it uses a USB-C cable. These are all little things but they definitely make the overall package better.

Not everything is an improvement – I only have one minor issue with the EDGE vs the BOLD, and it’s the size/shape of the new jog dial. The new one is a bit shorter/wider, and I feel like the old one was slightly easier to use with gloves on, there’s just a little more room for your fingers. Not everything is a change, either – there’s solid carry-over features from the BOLD such as voice commands, the ability to charge while it’s on/mounted to your helmet, and being waterproof.

MSRP is $389.95, which sure feels like a lot as I type it out. With that said, it’s $50 more than the BOLD, and I think you’re definitely getting more than $50 in extra value. If you’re going to make the splurge for a new helmet comm, this is the one to get. I’m using the EDGE on a daily basis, so let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to get you answers!

Check out the Cardo PACKTALK EDGE!

P.S.: Interestingly, Cardo has recently partnered with Midland and Uclear to create an industry standard called “Open Bluetooth Intercom” (OBI). According to Cardo’s press agency, “only Sena opted-out of this historic partnership.” Historic might be a bit much, but is a bummer that Sena’s not part of this. Pairing is a pain and lots of functionality is lost when you try to connect different brands at this time, and OBI claims that they’ll be able to fix that. Hopefully the claim becomes a reality.