Need Sound Advice - K-Bikes.com - Excellence in Motion
 
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 17th, 2006, 6:27 pm Thread Starter
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Location: Batavia, IL,
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Need Sound Advice

I need an audio system on my GT. Here's what I know I need to have come through helmet speakers (over ear plugs):
1. intercom with my wife
2. Valentine radar
3. GPS

Here's what I think I will soon need:
4. music source, probably satellite radio
5. frs bike-to-bike

Nice to have:
6. cell phone

What do you have now and do you like it? Why? What else should I be thinking about or looking for in a system? I rode my RT for 4 yrs without anything, but the GT is too noisy to yell with my wife anymore.

I'm leaning toward Autocom's top of the line model but only because it is between the Baher and Starcom unit in price.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 17th, 2006, 7:51 pm
 
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I have the autocom.

I had it on my RT for a few years and now mine is being installed on the GT.

I think the first thing you should do is manage your expectations. These things do work but not in my opinion without some level of acceptance of the facts. Here are a few facts:

1. Listening to music with the in helmet speakers is NEVER going to be as good as listening to music with in ear speakers. That said, I don't like in-ear speakers (ear plugs) because you can't hear the traffic around you. I honestly believe that safe riding means using all of your senses with the exception of perhaps taste. I think the taste comes from having a BMW.

2. You will have some level of engine noise in the autocom. A good install will minimize this--but it will be there.

3. It is a bit fiddle prone. It takes time to get the VOX settings "tuned in" for your riding conditions.

4. Bike to Bike is uni-directional, meaning you have to teach yourself to talk when it is your turn. I highly suggest not trying to use VOX for this, instead using a Push to Talk button.

5. The cables do wear out and they are expensive to replace.

6. The cables will introduce noise (static) and you will need to keep the contacts clean.

7. Passengers in particular will forget to disconnect themselves from the system when they get off the bike. This leads to wear and tear on the plugs and cables slapping into the side of your motorcycle from time to time.

8. I love mine. I wouldn't want to be without it.



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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 17th, 2006, 9:10 pm
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The other major alternative is StarCom1, Autocom's competitor in the UK. The comparable StarCom1 unit is definitely less expensive and I've not seen any difference in "quality" or function vs my friend's Autocom.

I have installed two of them with excellent results - i.e. they worked straight out of the box for intercom, bike to bike, music and cell phone. If you need an additional input for gps or radar, you'll need their latest unit which is smaller and has more features.

There also is Baehr (very expensive) and some real low end units, but StarCom1 and Autocom are what I've seen most in the BMW arena. You could take a few minutes and look over their respective sites. Either will do exactly what you want.

The StarCom1 UK site here. There is a US distributor but the UK site is has all the details.

Autocom has a usa site here.

IBA 18417
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 18th, 2006, 12:32 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkMGT
I have the autocom.

I had it on my RT for a few years and now mine is being installed on the GT.

I think the first thing you should do is manage your expectations. These things do work but not in my opinion without some level of acceptance of the facts. Here are a few facts:

1. Listening to music with the in helmet speakers is NEVER going to be as good as listening to music with in ear speakers. That said, I don't like in-ear speakers (ear plugs) because you can't hear the traffic around you. I honestly believe that safe riding means using all of your senses with the exception of perhaps taste. I think the taste comes from having a BMW.

2. You will have some level of engine noise in the autocom. A good install will minimize this--but it will be there.

3. It is a bit fiddle prone. It takes time to get the VOX settings "tuned in" for your riding conditions.

4. Bike to Bike is uni-directional, meaning you have to teach yourself to talk when it is your turn. I highly suggest not trying to use VOX for this, instead using a Push to Talk button.

5. The cables do wear out and they are expensive to replace.

6. The cables will introduce noise (static) and you will need to keep the contacts clean.

7. Passengers in particular will forget to disconnect themselves from the system when they get off the bike. This leads to wear and tear on the plugs and cables slapping into the side of your motorcycle from time to time.

8. I love mine. I wouldn't want to be without it.



-mark=
2wheeler:

I have the autocom setup and it has performed perfectly for the past three years.

Mark:
1) I agree never will be like listening with ear plugs. However I don't know just how much less you will not hear surrounding sounds.

2) I have not had any problems with engine noise and I run everything off the bike ( xm radio.ipod, FRS, radar and telephone).

3) I agree it took me about 5 or 6 tries with my friend with me to set up the Vox. After the initial setup never an issue.

4) I disagree about the push to talk. For me I bought the push to talk switch/button and never use it. The Vox has been perfect for me and the guys I ride with.

5) I don't know how long you have had your autocom or how much you ride. I have not had one issue with cables wearing out up to this point. I ride about 10,000 miles a year and I use the system every time out (plugging/unplugging from helmet is the only cable/connection that gets any possible wear for my system).

6) Again I have had no noise what so ever. For that matter I have not ever cleaned any connections. Again the only connection that may need attention as far as I can see would be helmet connections.

7) Yes a passenger who is not a frequent rider may forget to unplug. I have forgotten on more than one occassion, nothing has happened to the bikes finish from one of the leads falling against the side of the bike ( they are all rubber leads at the end).

8) I agree it is a great setup for those who are willing to take the time to set it up correctly. I used this setup on several different bikes ( now that I think about it my autocom even has had more use than I stated above).

Bruce
Easthampton, MA
07 K1200S
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 18th, 2006, 9:14 am
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I have had a couple of AutoComs, one was the older 5-pin design and now the newer 7-pin. For some reason, I found the older 5-pin to be quieter with respect to op-amp noise (a hissy background noise) than the newer. New isn't bad, just it could be better. Of course, this is measured with in-ear phones which do a far better job of audio quality than anything else. Since you are going the "full accessories" route too, you'll need the biggest unit they make, probably their Pro Active 7.

I do get a noticeable "Pop" when plugging in the phone's lead, moreso with the older 5 pin than the newer model. Just a minor annoyance, probably static.

I had the Push-to-Talk, but only used it with the Bike-to-Bike FRS radio. For the most part, I could have done without it. The cell phone was good overall, but it is a distraction. I used that while I was stopped in a parking lot and it worked well.

I had the intercom tuned in for rider to pillon, but honestly, there were times I wished she would shut up and just sit back and enjoy the ride. Her discussing Home Depot and things to do later (plumbing and drywall) took the fun out of it for me (actually, I pucker up now when I hear Home Depot anytime! Ugh!). I ditched it when I went to the phones and used the "Mike don't work with the in-ears for some reason" excuse. Back to hand signals which I find less annoying - if you know what I mean. She don't have one for Home Depot.

Never had a cable fail in 10 years.

I did find the power leads needed a bit of fiddling. Negative direct to the battery. The positive on the RT had some sort of car stereo power lead on it to dampen alternator noise. Just about all devices (i.e. radar, gps, mp3 player) had a ground loop isolator on it and those are expensive through AutoCom. Otherwise, audio levels were poor and noisy. Some of it was really evident using in-ear phones over the stock supplied helmet speakers of the AutoCom.

On the GT, some Can-Bus thing was installed in the leads (by dealer) and it is hooked directly to the battery. It senses when the bike is one and powers up the AutoCom and visa versa. Works pretty well so far and is pretty quiet in operation.

Trick for me were the in-ear phones. I got some made at the Cycle World International Show. They weren't the immediately made ones - other than making the impressions - and they came from the hearing aid company Westone. They actually are pretty darn good on the bike and I have a $800 pair from Sensaphonics (musician's monitors) and they even beat those on the bike. I think you can order the Westone's off their website, but you need to go to a hearing aid fitter to get the mold impressions made to mail off to them. Fit's important too if you want good bass from them.

Regarding hearing sounds while riding, I tune out as much as I can which is why I like the in-ears. No sense going deaf from wind noise and howl. Bikes are noisy enough as is. I can still hear a siren at close range with the in-ear phones. Most car horns maybe not. Don't care though as by the time I hear them it'll be too late anyhoo. With most noise squelched, I find I can listen to the mp3 player at lower volume levels which is good.

Fwiw, I've had homeless come up to me asking for money after I got the phones in and helmet on. I think they hide out waiting until I suit up. I just tell them I cannot hear and point to my ears and they wander off. Had some gang-looking kids trying to borrow money at a gas pump too. Same excuse and they leave pretty quick if they figure the guy can't hear. Think it messes up their routine a bit.

I haven't hooked up the in-helmet mike for the auto-level volume control of the AutoCom Pro Active 7. Maybe some day I'll play with that one. Just haven't gotten around to burying it under the helmet foam yet.

I wouldn't pay a dealer to install it for you. They charge a lot to do it and it may not even work when you finally get it back (damhik!). Just follow the instructions yourself and spend some time looking for the right cables and ground loop cables. it isn't hard. Hook one item up at a time and try it. Then move along. The dealer failed on 3 of the items above and nothing worked other than the unit turned on withthe Can-Bus switch thingy. You wouldn't want to know how many hours and hundreds of dollars I paid for that dealer mistake. Least their Velcro sticked placement of the unit under the seat next to the Motditec lead worked well.

I and the pillon still forget to unplug at times. Oh, well. Maybe Bluetooth stereo...someday.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old Aug 18th, 2006, 3:05 pm
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brucev
2wheeler:

I have the autocom setup and it has performed perfectly for the past three years.

Mark:
1) I agree never will be like listening with ear plugs. However I don't know just how much less you will not hear surrounding sounds.

2) I have not had any problems with engine noise and I run everything off the bike ( xm radio.ipod, FRS, radar and telephone).

3) I agree it took me about 5 or 6 tries with my friend with me to set up the Vox. After the initial setup never an issue.

4) I disagree about the push to talk. For me I bought the push to talk switch/button and never use it. The Vox has been perfect for me and the guys I ride with.

5) I don't know how long you have had your autocom or how much you ride. I have not had one issue with cables wearing out up to this point. I ride about 10,000 miles a year and I use the system every time out (plugging/unplugging from helmet is the only cable/connection that gets any possible wear for my system).

6) Again I have had no noise what so ever. For that matter I have not ever cleaned any connections. Again the only connection that may need attention as far as I can see would be helmet connections.

7) Yes a passenger who is not a frequent rider may forget to unplug. I have forgotten on more than one occassion, nothing has happened to the bikes finish from one of the leads falling against the side of the bike ( they are all rubber leads at the end).

8) I agree it is a great setup for those who are willing to take the time to set it up correctly. I used this setup on several different bikes ( now that I think about it my autocom even has had more use than I stated above).
1. I used to have custom speaker ear plugs and I rode with them. I found that I was sometimes startled by things I had not noticed when I was riding. I guess I may depend on my ears a lot more than some.

2. My engine noise issues may be related to where I had the cables routed. I had the inputs sent up under the tank on my old R1200RT to bring the cables up by the handlebars. The noise was not bad.. but it was there. Right now on the GT I have the cables going under my seat and will decide later if they are to up and under the tank. I still have not figured out my tank bag solution yet. The BMW doesn't look that bad in person.

3. On the push to talk. I agree it is subjective. I just did not like using "start words" for using the FRS Radio. I did not use push to talk for passenger/rider communication.

4. On the cables. I had a lot of trouble with static and the connections between the helmet and the bike to become loose and problematic. I was not alone. I admit this was the older design. I didn't have any problems with it on my new system yet.

I recomend the Autocom. I just wanted others to know that this technology requires a bit of patience to get working right.

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