With Sena finally catching up to the Cardo Packtalk with their Sena 50R and 50S, we’ve decided to actually test out the difference between the two systems, we’ll mainly be taking a look at the greatest change between the two: the speakers and the battery.
Cardo Packtalk Slim vs Sena 50R Tested + Video
In comparing the Sena 50R vs the Cardo Packtalk Slim, we’ve already run over the specs between the two systems in a previous post and video. Nonetheless, we’ve heard your comments and suggestions so we’ll be getting into the nitty gritty of the 50R and the Cardo Packtalk Slim Bluetooth intercoms.
This means we’ll be leaving most of the main specs out here and focus on the actual test of the mic, the speaker quality, and the battery. So, with the Sena 50 R coming at a recommended retail price of about 330 Euros, or 370 USD, and the Cardo Scala Rider Packtalk Slim coming at 340 Euros, or 380 USD, let’s take a look at how the two stack up.
Received Speech Quality
For our speech test, we wanted to check the reproduction quality that you’re getting from Sena and Cardo, since you want to be able to hear your buddies as you ride. So, for our setup we’ve paired a phone to each system and started a call. We kept the systems at their top volume and the volume of the device constant to get a consistent result across both.
We read our test phrases from another room to avoid the test microphone picking up any extra noise. We’ve read from the standard test phrases from List 15, which was developed by Harvard for testing microphones. We then recorded the playback from the speakers in both helmets.
As far as the speech reproduction of the two systems, it’s about the same, and you can hear how each system did in our Cardo Packtalk Slim vs Sena 50R Video. Things will sound better in person because we’re dealing with additional microphones here, but both reproduce the phrases reasonably well. Now, onto the speaker volume.
Since one of the main changes to the 50R are the new, upgraded HD speakers, this has also led to many questions over how well the sound quality stacks up to Cardo’s sound by JBL speakers. Especially since JBL is already such a well-respected speaker company and when riding at speed down it can sometimes be hard to hear the system.
So, has Sena finally cracked it? To find out, we ran several tests. First, we’ll do our volume test by putting the system in a helmet with our 360 head and cranked up the volume with a decibel meter placed by the speaker next to one ear as if someone were listening to the speaker. We then tested the volume using a single tone to get a consistent reading.
So, when testing the Cardo headset, we got a reading of about 86 dB, which is a decent result that is all thanks to those JBL speakers in the helmet. Looking at the Sena 50R’s HD speakers now, they managed to put out an impressive 92dB, which, as you can hear, is already very loud.
So, in this case Sena have made the louder and the smaller speaker, but how well does it do for playing music? Which brings us to our next test where, to get a full picture of the speaker’s ability to produce a range of frequencies, we ran a frequency response test.
During this test we slightly changed the setup with our decibel meter and speaker placed outside our helmet. We placed the decibel meter microphone facing a single speaker outside 2cm away to replicate what you would hear if you were wearing the helmet with one speaker in each ear.
For our test, we used pink noise to see how the speakers perform across all frequencies. Pink noise is a closer approximation to how the ear perceives sound than white noise. For these graphs, we have the peak as the line on top, which in this case is the target, and we have the input response underneath. The closer the two lines are and the flatter they are, the better.
Looking at the Sena 50R Bluetooth communication system first, the line is overall fairly stable from the upper bass all the way into the midrange, which is what you want, since you hear in the range of about 20-20,000 Hertz. There are small, but sudden peaks just at the end of the upper bass, which may mean that it will come on a little strong. The 50R does quite well heading into the treble range, which isn’t surprising considering it gives you feedback in the form of beeps.
But, according the graph, this does have the side effect that the upper ranges are going to be more pronounced when listening. The Packtalk Slim, in contrast has a smoother line as it travels through the different frequency ranges. And not only does it come in closer to the line in the treble range but the overall trend is smoother. In the mid to lower bass, you have a similar set of peaks to the 50R.
Nonetheless, it’s best to keep in mind that these are, at the end of the day, speakers designed with a size restriction, so they won’t be quite on the same level as something like a 500 Euro home setup.
Lastly, for the speaker fidelity, we kept the same setup as the volume test, but instead of playing a tone, since we like to stay classy here at Champion Helmets, we played our favorite 360 tune so you could also get an idea of how the two sounded.
We used this song to test the speaker’s dynamic range as well as the sound reproduction for the bass, mids, and treble. We did this test off the same phone to make sure that we were getting the same playback, we also kept our decibel meter handy and we recorded the playback for you as well.
Unfortunately, as far as fidelity goes, this is a lot more subjective, but there are still some conclusions that we can draw here. But first, for a good idea of the dynamic range and the fidelity we’ll play back the main test segment from the beginning of the song.
If you’re curious about how they sounded, you can check out our video comparing the Sena 50R and the Cardo Packtalk Slim. Obviously, since we recorded this with microphones, the speakers of both will sound much better in person and you likely won’t be listening at maximum volume but you can still get a general idea of the two.
When not at the maximum volume, the Sena 50R does sound much better. The main difference here is that though the 50R came out much louder again, the Cardo came out with a crisper sound.
Lastly, we come to the battery life and recharge time of the battery pack for the Sena and the Cardo. On the surface, both advertise 13 hours of battery, though the Sena also adds the caveat that you only get 8 hours on mesh. But we’ve decided to put this to the test too by playing the radio until they die to approximate a full day of riding and listening.
We then charged them back up again to also check out how long it would take before you can head out on the road again. Before we play the test, a word of warning that we sped everything up, so beware that the system’s lights are going to be flashing rapidly alongside the timer.
Overall, we got good results from both systems. We started them off with the radio in the morning and left them both to run throughout the day. You can see our timer for the battery along the bottom of the screen here and you can see the state of the system’s battery in the flashing light.
Since it’s good to know how much time you have before your battery dies completely, we also kept track of how long it was before the system gave a low battery light warning and when they actually died.
For the Cardo, the first low battery light came on 9 hours and 24 minutes in, but the Slim little Packtalk powered on through for another hour and a half until it died 10 hours and 57 minutes in. Which is still fairly close to the advertised talk time of about 13 hours.
The Sena 50R, in contrast, first gave a warning signal 12 hours and 53 minutes into the test. But, it was only 8 minutes and 15 seconds later that the Sena 50R died. Time of death, 13 hours and 1 minute into the test, so right on the money for the system’s advertised 13-hour talk time. So, good results all around, but, be warned with the Sena, once you get your low battery warning, you won’t get as much time to respond as with the Cardo.
Battery Recharge Time
Finally, we have our test where we let the systems charge and timed how long it took for the systems to reach full battery again. We used the same model charger with an output of 5 Volts at 1 Amp to ensure a fair recharge rate of each system. On recharging, we were pleasantly definitely impressed with the 50R’s battery, which lived up to the hype and really did recharge in an hour.
Though the time we recorded was an hour and 53 seconds, this is still a pleasant surprise. The Cardo also performed very well recharging in 2 hours and 50 minutes, which, considering its not designed for quick charge, so that’s also a great result.
A Final Note to Consider
Before our final results, there was one small thing related to how the two systems stack up. First and foremost is the fact that the Cardo is certified to IP67 waterproof standards while the Sena stays suspiciously silent on the matter, which suggests that it is, at most, only weatherproof or water-resistant, which is definitely not the same as waterproof.
Using the Cardo gateway, the Packtalk can also bridge other riders into the DMC mesh while the Sena also allows you to bridge non-mesh riders into the mesh 2.0 intercom.
So, to sum up, both systems do well in different places. For speech fidelity, both systems do about the same, which is not surprising which gives them 3 stars each. For the audio fidelity the Cardo, with its JBL speakers came out excellent earning 5 stars while the Sena 50R was strong, and earned 4 stars.
But, if you have a loud bike or constantly find yourself turning up the volume, then the Sena 50R is for you with its 92 dB of volume, which was 6dB more than the Packtalk. Which means the Cardo earns 3 stars for maximum volume while the Sena earns 4.
For battery, if you plan to push the limits, then the 50R would be a strong contender with its long battery life of 13 hours, which earns 5 stars, while the Cardo was slightly weaker at 10 hours and 53 minutes, which earns the system 3.5 stars. Though the Cardo had a shorter life, it gave you a warning much further in advance.
For recharging as well, the Sena comes out on top with 1 hour to a full charge earning it 5 stars and the Cardo again earns 3.5 stars for its 2 hours 53-minute charge time. For weatherproofing, the Cardo earns 5 stars for being fully IP67 certified while the 50R earns 3 stars for being weatherproof.
For connectivity, both systems also do well with 4.5 stars for the Cardo with its 15 rider DMC mesh and bridging ability and 5 stars for the 50R with its 24-rider mesh and bridging function. Lastly, for the range, the Packtalk earns 3.5 stars for its 1.2 km (0.7 miles) range, though this is boosted when in mesh, while the 50R earns 5 stars for its 2km (1.2 mile) range.
If you’d like to see more on either the Sena 50R or Sena 50S and the Cardo Packtalk Slim or Cardo Packtalk Bold, then don’t forget to check out our site at ChampionHelmets.com where we have our lowest price guarantee and you can find the systems at a discount in our helmet bundle deals.
So, that’s all for the Sena 50R vs the Cardo Packtalk Slim. We’re mainly seeing a lot of catch up on the part of the Sena with the added benefit of more time and newer technology, including Bluetooth 5.0. But the system still does excellent in terms of battery life and recharge time. Cardo, as usual, stays on top due to their high-quality focus and just all-around strong design.
If you’re curious to learn more about how the two systems compare, don’t forget to subscribe and check out our YouTube Channel. On our channel we not only have our Sena 50R vs Cardo Packtalk Slim Test Video, but our helmet road tests where we also take the latest helmets out on the road, measure their performance, and bring you the data.