Good, cheap, fast: pick any three.
Sometimes when you buy something cheap, you get exactly what you pay for—a cheap product that sort of works, but not very well. Other times, you get a product that works almost as well as an expensive name brand product for a small fraction of the price. That is the case with the Allros T10 Bluetooth helmet communicators I recently bought.
The most well-known and popular brand in the Bluetooth headset arena is Sena. They've been around for years, and they're known to make good reliable communicators. A Sena has been on my to-do list for a while, but since I generally ride alone I haven't had any need for communications until recently when my wife took more of an interest in riding with me. One day she forgot her earbuds and really missed them, so I decided to find an affordable solution to install a Bluetooth receiver in her helmet that she couldn't possibly forget.
My Amazon research led me to choose the Allros T10. At the time it sold for $46.99, less than half the price of the Sena SMH-3S, their least expensive model. There are even less expensive Bluetooth helmet units out there, but all they do is connect to your phone for streaming music. The Allros T10 was the least expensive one I could find that also had the all-important helmet-to-helmet intercom. If I was going through the trouble for her, there was no reason why she shouldn't be able to talk to me as well.
Setting It Up
Installation was a breeze, just like Kate described. Interestingly, the Allros comes with two different microphones, one that sticks to the inside of your full-face helmet's chin bar, and a boom mic that sticks to the side and places the mic out front. The Sena SMH-3S requires you to order the specific model containing the specific mic you want, while the Allros includes both. I used the stick-on mic in my wife's helmet. I experimented with both mics in my modular helmet (this wouldn't be an option with the Sena), and chose to use the boom mic. A nice side effect of this is we now have backup microphones, the unused ones from each other's kits.
The Allros unit is much larger than the tiny Sena, but its weight is unnoticeable on the side of the helmet. I also find its big blocky rubber buttons much easier to operate with gloves than the slimline Sena. Pairing for the first time is tricky, both to your phone and to another headset. I recommend doing this first pairing in the comfort of your home rather than standing in the garage, geared up and ready to ride. After figuring out the necessary combination of button presses, we each got paired to our own phones, as well as to each other.
I first attempted to pair her Allros T10 to my Nuviz, which this video says is possible. While they did pair, we never got any intercom communication between the two. Nuviz's online documentation is down, and their support never answered my queries. Since the Allros T10 worked so well otherwise, I decided to buy one of my own, and use it to communicate with my Nuviz rather than the Nuviz's wired headset. That plan worked perfectly, and so did pairing the two intercoms to each other.
This is where we found the one major disadvantage of the Allros T10. It connects to your phone (or my Nuviz), and it connects to another intercom (two others, actually), but it does not connect to both at the same time. This means we have to choose whether we want to talk to each other or have audio input from our phones. This could be a deal breaker for some people. It may be well worth double the price to have all of your communications pair up at the same time. I would not blame anyone for thinking this way and buying a more expensive unit instead, just for that.
For our bare-bones budget, however, it's a problem we can work around. The communication quality is excellent once our helmets are paired together. Even at highway speeds, we can talk to each other in a normal voice with little wind noise. Part of that may be due to my bike's tall windshield, but the audio filtering is still excellent. It must use a narrow notch filter that only allows human speech frequencies to pass through. I can barely hear any engine noise through the headset unless I'm really wringing the bike out.
Since my wife rides on the back of my bike, the intercom's range is not a concern. Allros promises crystal clear communication within a 512-yard range and good communication within 1,312 yards. I have not put these claims to the test personally.
And the sound?
When I'm riding alone, the headset pairs to my phone automatically. Audio is clear, but severely lacks in bass. That's to be expected from small, thin speakers. They simply can't produce low notes without expensive electronic magic. It's clear that the speakers, like the intercom audio filters, were optimized for communication in the human voice range rather than the wide range of tones that music uses. What notes it can reproduce are clear and loud, just like the intercom.
When it comes to batteries, it has a built-in battery that can not be replaced. It lasted for a full day of riding with my wife, as well as a full week of commuting, with several "long ways home" thrown in there before it needed recharging. Allros says the T10 needs just three hours to recharge. I put it on the micro-USB charger overnight and it was at full power the following morning.
The Allros T10 is no Sena, but it's also far more affordable than even a refurbished Sena. It's limited in what it can do, but it will do everything the more expensive Sena can, just not at the same time or in as attractive a package. Maybe someday I'll upgrade, but for now, the Allros T10 appears to have broken the old rule of "good, cheap, fast: pick any two." If you can live with its functional limitations, it can do all three at once.