Google+ Two-Wheeled Tourist: Product Review: Blinc M2 Bluetooth Helmet Headset

8.24.2011

Product Review: Blinc M2 Bluetooth Helmet Headset

I had the chance to take the Blinc M2 Bluetooth helmet headset for a test drive for the last week or so in hopes that I would potentially add it as an item at the motorcycle store.

Contents of a full Blinc M2 Headset package.
Here's my independent review:
The Blinc M2 and its counterpart, the Blinc M1 are standalone Bluetooth helmet headsets that are designed to universally fit all types of full and open-face motorcycle helmets through a combination of clip installation or adhesive plate and in-helmet speakers with a wind-resistant microphone. The only difference between the M1 and M2 is that the latter includes an integrated auto-seek FM radio. Blinc also has two additional headsets, the Blinc 1 and Blinc 3 that are exclusively integrated into several models of Torc helmets.

Additionally, both the Blinc M1 and M2 are claimed to be capable of bike-to-bike intercom up to 1500ft. in open space. I will not discuss this feature in this review because I only received one Blinc M2 unit for trial. However, the potential of being able to speak to another rider on the road does add to the value of this device for long-distance travel.

Installation: Using my Shoei RF-1000 helmet as the guinea pig, I was able to install the speakers in its recessed ear ports in just a few minutes. The actual Blinc M2 device was clipped on the left side of the helmet. Tools used: 2.5mm Allen key and Velcro. My biggest concern was that the length of the built-in microphone was quite short. I did improvise a little bit and tucked the entire microphone neck underneath my helmet's quick-release cheekpads.  

The Blinc M2 unit is quite low profile and clipped quite nicely to the side of my helmet. The unit can also be installed by adhesive plate if desired.
Close-up of the "improvisation" I did with the microphone piece by sandwiching it underneath my helmet's cheekpad. I think the microphone could've been longer.
Durability/Weatherproof-ness: The outside casing of the M2 has a rubbery feel and the unit itself does feel very solid and able to take a beating. My only concern, however, is the headset's connection to the underside of the M2 unit. Although Blinc does claim that the unit is windproof and weatherproof, I would've liked to have taken this system through a rainstorm or severely cold weather to see how it would react to standard Midwest conditions.
Close-up of Blinc M2 unit.
Detail shot of the underside of the clip-mounted unit. Sound connection (right) is a three-section, mini stereo cable.
Bluetooth: Aside from just answering phone calls on the bike, the Blinc M2 is designed play music through any phone with A2DP technology. This Blinc M2's Bluetooth Connectivity was tested on three devices: HTC Droid Incredible (Android smartphone), Garmin Zumo 550 (motorcycle-specific GPS), and the iPhone 3G. Here are the results of the tests.
  • HTC (Droid) Incredible: Bluetooth connectivity was quick and simple. Once I put both units in discovery mode and entered the passcode (which is "0000" by factory default), I immediately was able to take phone calls and listen to my phone's local MP3 player and streaming music from Pandora Radio. Sound quality was excellent and was pretty close to plugging in a physical set of headphones.
  • Garmin Zumo 550: Bluetooth connectivity was also quick and simple with this unit, just like the HTC Incredible. The headset allowed me to listen to the unit's built-in MP3 player and hear voice directions. I could not hear the unit's XM radio through the headset (a known issue for any Bluetooth headset and this Garmin unit). Sound quality was quite poor for both the music and voice directions and resembled that of a standard telephone.
  • iPhone 4G: The Blinc M2 was unable to connect successfully to the sample iPhone. I am wondering if this is a problem with this specific Blinc M2 unit because online video demos for connecting a phone via Bluetooth to the headset do use an iPhone as the pairing item and is visually as easy as connecting the Android phone.

Phone call quality: When attached to the HTC Incredible phone, call quality was excellent at low speeds up to 35-40MPH. I had issues, however, with maintaining a clear conversation and hearing the other party at speeds over 60MPH, even with my windshield fully raised and helmet's faceshield completely closed. The speakers were very difficult to hear over the regular wind noise of the motorcycle ride. For the speaking aspect, it could potentially be due to the location of the microphone or the fact that it wasn't directly over my mouth.

Across-the-board problems/issues:
Volume control: Despite the fact that there is a volume control on its "multifunction button," the knob is useless and unresponsive for both the phone and the GPS connections. In fact, I had to physically pull out my phone and change the volume from the device itself. Also, when experimenting with the FM radio, it took quite a bit of turns to adjust the volume to the point that I couldn't figure out if I had changed anything.

What did you say?: In addition to being unable to turn the volume down while riding, there is no "mute" button on Blinc M2. The only way that music can be switched off is by receiving a phone call. I was able to do a short, faux mute by just pushing the phone button and enduring through an ear-piercing set of tones.

Dimensions/length of headset: As I had mentioned in the beginning regarding installation, the microphone is way too short to reach to the end of a full-face helmet. Also, the cord connecting both speakers together was too long and had to be tucked in quite a bit. Then again, since this is a "universal-fit" headset, it has to adapt to all types of helmets. In summary, make the goose-neck microphone an inch or two longer and it'll make quite a few more helmet wearers happier.

What's the MP3 button for?: There's an MP3 button at the bottom of the Blinc M2 unit that I never figured out what it was for. I wonder if it is specific to certain devices.

No audio passthrough: Unlike a few other popular Bluetooth helmet headsets, this Blinc M2 does not include an auxiliary audio port for directly plugging in an MP3 player or other sound-emitting device.


Final verdict/conclusion: If you're looking for something to just answer the phone and listen to music, this device will do the job, and if it's through a smartphone, quite well at that. However, you'd have to be one to be completely satisfied with a certain level of volume of sound that can only be adjusted at a full stop and fiddling with the actual paired device.

At the price of $139-159, this addition to your motorcycle gear is definitely an affordable bridge into the technology of Bluetooth helmet headsets. However, its features are limited and will definitely make you want an upgrade very quickly. For my long-distance touring needs for a headset with more versatility, I would save my pennies and just pick up the Scala G4 by Cardo instead.