Cardo Systems Packtalk Bold Review
Finally, Someone Listens to Me
By Alfonse Palaima
As any strong-headed man would do; I muscled my way through the install and introduction. Luckily, it’s not my first time using one of these types of things. My goal? Attempt to understand the button map and user interface of the Cardo Packtalk Bold without knowing any of it in advance—kind of like navigating a new country without knowing the language. I get my kicks in such a way, and so I went.
Installation of the Cardo Packtalk on my Bell SRT-M modular helmet was simple and as expected. Depressions in the foam leave plenty of room for the ear speakers, and the myriad of options/pieces included in the kit gave me freedom to explore. This being a temporary test product, I opted to use the mounting kits as delivered, the plastic piece that slips in between the shell and foam liner, instead of the 3M sticky pad. Also, as I wear a modular, I used the boom microphone instead of the adhesive mic that mounts to the inside of the jaw bar. The boom leaves less dangling wires to be caught in the mandible of the helmet.
Charged, mounted, and powered on, the Cardo Packtalk welcomed me and I was ready to go. Pairing with my phone is also standard operating procedure. Right from the first note, I noticed deeper bass than other Bluetooth connectivity options on the market, including my daily-use SENA 20s. Get up to speed, and what? Really? Awesome! There’s an auto column-gain feature built into this thing—wow. That’s a first. And a plus. And it’s subtle and adjustable too, as your motorcycle increases in speed, the volume slowly rises. Nicely done, Cardo. With this innovation, when you rocket away from the traffic signal and settle into a cruising speed, you’re not immediately jabbed in the ear with sound. Even without using the smartphone app, music (from Spotify) will play straight through to the helmet.
As I continue to poke around the Cardo Packtalk Bold, the volume roller is the most obvious to locate. The rest of the buttons will take some getting used to. I’m not omniscient, I know my weaknesses!
So after a glance at the quick-start guide, I find that a double-tap of the leading button (a bit clumsy with gloves, but pressing in the general area will get you there) turns on the FM tuner. The top button is for intercom use, the bottom for phone calls.
A forward swipe on the roller button increases the volume; think of it as increasing direction, motion, or speed. This roller is also used for channel changing or track selection. Note that the volume of your phone plays a factor in the units volume as well. But what makes the Cardo Packtalk Bold different is that you don’t need the buttons at all.
If you’re technically inclined, you might be already be using devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, or Siri and XXX on your smartphone. Electronics that you can talk to and expect to work. Yelling at your TV doesn’t count here, nor does it work! But ask your Cardo Packtalk Bold to turn on the radio, and it does. Increase the volume? Yes. Call your buddy? Dialing. Ask for directions to the nearest gas station? Eh, we’re not there yet. But soon, perhaps, as systems like these are approaching the capabilities of the computer-controlled dashboards we find on our bikes.
But listening to you talk isn’t all that the Cardo Packtalk Bold can do. As a communications system, it takes another giant leap forward with the Mesh tech. My Sena 20S can only pair with two people. Riding with my club, I have to pick and choose to with whom I connect. With Mesh tech the system can connect with up to 15 people.
Cardo Connect App
Keeping everything working while you’re riding is the Cardo Connect app. With its simple and bright interface, it works well no matter where your phone is located, be that on your dash or in your pocket. Four simple glove friendly buttons control the phone, intercom, music, and radio. If your gloves aren’t the type to operate the touchscreen, just tell Cardo what you want to do—“Hey, Cardo, radio on”—and, well, rock on!
For more reliable speaking control, don’t pause between keying “Hey, Cardo” and the demand you make: speak clearly in a complete sentence.
Cardo Packtalk Bold, Single $329.95; Dual pack, $579.95