Cardo Scala Rider PACKTALK review
Here is the original blog post about our new PACKTALK intercoms, in case you haven't seen it yet: The evolution of our communication systems
So we have been using Scala Rider PACKTALK intercoms in our helmets for 7 months now - since we got them in California, back in May, 2017. We have ridden over 38 000 kilometres with them, used them nearly every day, through sunshine, rain or dusty weather. We have tried many of their functions, but still have a long list to try, but for now here is what we have experienced:
DMC mode. We have mostly been using PACKTALK on DMC (Dynamic Meshwork Communication) mode instead of the traditional Bluetooth. That allows us to talk to each other immediately after turning intercoms on (we don't need to click any additional buttons to start conversation), allows Asta to listen to music from her old phone in the background (in Bluetooth mode the phone doesn’t support such function) and in case we wanted to – we could easily connect up to 13 more riders with their PACKTALK radios to a group chat :)
Battery life. While using it on DMC mode our first “battery low” warning comes after 8 hours of riding with intercom always on and music constantly playing at high volume in the background from our phones connected via Bluetooth. And even after this warning the radio keeps working for about 2 hours more until it finally gives up. So we have a total of 10 hours working time which is more than enough for long riding days. In some rare cases when 10 hours was not enough (or if we had no chance to charge them at night), we could charge them while using them by connecting a cable from a portable power-bank or straight from the power outlet on the motorcycle.
Sound quality. The sound of the conversation was great from day one and we were surprised how much better it is comparing to our old Midland BT Next Conference devices. First amazing feature is that it turns off broadcasting when we are both silent – this means that we don’t have to listen to the noise from the partner’s helmet when we ride. Second great thing is the noise-cancelling it does to the sound it broadcasts when we speak - we can hear each other loud and clear and there is almost no background sounds even when we ride at 100kmph or more. Meanwhile the music quality and volume was on the average side in the beginning, but with the new firmware release we got in August, 2017, it was significantly improved and now music really sounds great. Asta absolutely can't ride without it. So if you are using the same model of helmet intercoms from Cardo and firmware version is lower than 3.2 on your PACKTALK go ahead and upgrade it via Cardo Community! It's super easy and you will not regret it.
Overall build. Those tiny radios are really well built. We are using them in harsh conditions daily and after all the heat we experienced in Death Valley in California (the max was at 45C/113F), all the sticky dust of Dalton highway in Alaska and all the rain and snow on never-ending Russian roads they are still working flawlessly. We love how comfortable it is to remove the devices of the helmets for charging (even though you can charge your PACKTALK while it is attached to your helmet) and how easy they click back on when we are ready for riding. We were advised by the staff of Cardo to make sure to always properly close the charger’s connection slot on the device after disconnecting it from the charger and we have developed a habit of checking it every time we attach the radio to the helmet to be sure that it’s really waterproof in case of an unexpected strong rain or a wet landing into some creek and so far we hadn’t have any problems!
SmartSet app. Cardo packed so many features to their PACKTALK communication systems, that even after many months of everyday use, we keep discovering something new every once in a while. A great thing is that with their SmartSet app it is easy to control our radios. With this application which works on both our iOS and Android mobile phones, we can access all the features of PACKTALK and easily control them without having to memorize the various combinations of buttons to click as we had to do on our Midland radios.
Working distance. Cardo advertises that the working distance of PACKTALK communication system is 1 mile (1.6 kilometres), but our experience shows that the connection becomes spotty at a smaller distance than that. But still, the range is long enough to comfortably ride at quite big distances even in heavy traffic when the possibility to talk to each other is most needed. Of course, we can’t hear each other when there’s a hill between us or a sharp curve around a wall of a rock, but as soon as there are no more obstacles, the smooth connection is restored. We had no chance yet to test full power of DMC technology with more than two riders, but according to the manual, it should increase communication range of PACKTALK radios as they use each other as range extenders. On theory you can reach 5 miles in range when there are more riders in a pack. We hope to test it out sometime soon.
DMC mode works great between two riders
Battery life is about 10 hours with conversation via DMC and music playing via Bluetooth
Sound quality is good. Even better after firmware upgrade to version 3.2
Devices are comfortable to use, well built and easy to clip on and off the helmet
SmartSet app makes it easy to set up and use PACKTALK
Working distance is smaller than advertised, but still long enough for comfortable use
IN CONCLUSION, we are still very happy about this upgrade. PACKTALK proved to be a great little device with a lot of power and possibilities. We haven’t yet tried many of its’ features, but the ones that we need every day, are easily accessible and controlled almost intuitively with just a few buttons on the radios or a very handy mobile app. Cardo did a great job with PACKTALK.