November 8, 2021

Tested | Cardo Packtalk Bold

Tested | Cardo Packtalk Bold

Better late than never, right?
Riding and testing for this story was originally set to take place during the NZ Harley-Davidson Pan America launch around the upper south island back in July. So apologies to Cardo Systems, and thanks for their patience.

The Cardo Packtalk Bold is a helmet-mounted Bluetooth communicator, with speakers by JBL mounted in the helmet to listen to turn-by-turn navigation, music from your device, pillion communications or other riders in your group.

The Cardo Packtalk Bold is the only device in it's class with an IP67 waterproof rating. Meaning you can safely keep it on your helmet in any weather. With speakers by JBL, a company known for high-quality big-sounding PA speakers, you know the sound quality will be good.

Let's run through some of the features,
FM Radio, Bluetooth to your phone for phone calls, music, GPS navigation.
Voice control integration with "Hey Cardo" "Hey Siri" "OK Google" commands, Auto volume up and down when riding.
Audio sharing, allows you to listen to music while talking and/or stream that music to all others on the connection. Further to this, when one rider gets a phone call, they can merge the incoming call to the group comms through DMC, or drop out of the group to keep it private, the joining the croup again once the call ends.
DMC - Dynamic Mesh Connection is like the next generation of Bluetooth intercom connection. Where Bluetooth connections of yesteryear would drop out when you got too far apart and you would have to stop riding to reconnect, DMC is a self-healing network. Set the group up before the ride and as riders come into range, they automatically join the group. DMC also has a better range, with Cardo touting a claimed 1600m line of sight. The battery ain't half bad either with the box stating 13 hours of talk time and if you do find yourself running out of power, you can charge while you ride and still use the device.
The Cardo Packtalk Bold is also able to act as a bridge for any older standard Bluetooth device, so if you have a group of mates and one rider has an older or different brand comms device, you can connect to them via standard Bluetooth, and bring them (or bridge them) in on the DMC group. The downside to this is they will have to remain to ride near you, or the link will drop out and have to be reconnected manually.

Ok, so that's the features, how do the Cardo Packtalk Bold units actually stack up in the wild? We took 2 of the Cardo Packtalk Bold units to the south island on a 3 day 800km trip. We encountered gravel, tar seal, sun, wind, and rain, and this is what we found.

The first thing we noticed was that the claimed range of 1600 meters was a bit off. With more units in the group, you can certainly expand the range from the first rider in the convoy to the last, but we were struggling to get any more than 900m line of sight. Still, that was more than enough for our 2-person convoy.

The charging port on the Packtalk Bold is a Micro USB. In this day and age, where everything is going USB-C it would be awesome to see Cardo go this way, and maybe with the next iteration, they will. But for now, you need to remember to carry a different cable. That said, I took 2 wall socket USB-A plugs, and cables to suit all my devices, and the Cardos worked well.

Battery life is brilliant, we were easily able to ride all day with not even a low battery warning between us. Just remember to plug the Cardo units in when you get to your accommodation. But, even if they do go flat on you, you are able to plug them into a USB socket on the bike or battery bank and use them as they charge.

The sound quality is great. The JBL speakers really do improve the sound and experience of using the Packtalk Bold. I found anything up to 80kph was brilliant. Above 80kph they were still usable, but you do need to pump the volume up a bit.

I love the ability to stream Podcasts or music from my phone while riding, and in a commuting sense, there is a very strong case for the Cardo Packtalk Bold. There is a load of flexibility also, with voice commands and being connected to your smartphone you can make calls, answer calls, ask Siri for weather information, hear navigation directions, and more. While paired with other riders you can all enjoy your own music while still being able to talk or even share music between the group. All of this functionality works really well, but you do need to remember to download the app when you first get the device and change the language to English UK instead of the English US it's set to when you first get it. If you don't do this, you will have issues with voice commands. Putting on a fake American accent helps though. Also, sign up for the Cardo newsletters. This will mean you get notifications of software updates. I really appreciate this from Cardo. They're continually working to improve their gear. even if you bought it years ago, they're still improving the device.

Did I mention they're the only IP67 rated communications device? No? oh, well they are. Meaning it's basically waterproof. If your device dies due to water, they will replace it. There have been tests where they leave the Packtalk Bold in a glass of water for a week and it's fine when it comes out. That's impressive.

Ok, that's enough raving. There's not much else I can say, apart from cardo Packtalk Bold is my go-to for riding. I would be lost without it...
If you want something that is good to go, has massive functionality and manufacturer backup, go Cardo.

I used to say if you are looking at an intercom/bluetooth music device, then check to see what your mates have and get that, but these days, Cardo is just superior, and can easily be set up to connect to other non-Cardo intercoms. So, if you're in the market, kit your self out with the best gear available, and at the time of writing this, I say get a Cardo.
Cardo have also just released 2 more offerings to the NZ market that sit below the Packtalk Bold in the price scale, these are the Feeecom X and Spirit lines. I am in the process of testing these as I type this, so keep an eye out for those reviews.

Check them out on the website or ask for them by name from your local bike shop. they're a little pricy at around $600 each or a double pack for $1100ish, but they're well worth it. Mine is now 18 months old and still functions as it did when it came out of the box. You won't be disappointed.

Check out the Podcast episode focussing on the Cardo Packtalk Bold here.