Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Uclear HBC200 Bluetooth Headset Review

Yo. Once I had music cheaply installed in my lid it was inevitable that one day I would upgrade.

A wise man (for his years) once said to me, 'buy it once, because you get what you pay for’ and once again, he was right, so here's my review of the Uclear HBC200 Bluetooth Headset.
Lemme explain. I first splurged $50 on the Aldi bought Bauhn FDC-01 bluetooth helmet headset. While I was ok with the price at the time, I knew it would be an inferior product and that you do indeed, get what you pay for.

But I was unsure with the whole in-helmet-voice concept at that stage. Would I like it? Would I want to use it? Would it work? Would I kill myself while dancing and riding? And so I spent the $50 as a sort of ‘test’ if you will, and I was fine with that.

Turns out I was. And I needed to upgrade. The Bauhn version had indeed whet my appetite but it was crap, really. Cheap headphones, no bass, not a very nice sound and cheap connections all round. And a bulbous looking lump of turd stuck to the side of your lid. Not to mention that boom mic and it’s foofer sock thingy. It rest on my lips no matter where I positioned it. Which is what lead me to the purchase of the Uclear HBC 200 Force; Boomless.

At first I didn’t know what that meant. Which is quiet embarrassing given my experience in the music industry. Of course it means, there is NO BOOM MIC. Get it? Nothing. No mic required. Just two earpads and a cable to the doodah. I know, I couldn’t get my head around it either until I had actually bought, installed and used the bloody thing. And what’s a doodah? I was intrigued.

What Uclear have created to do away with the need for the boom mic, is called "a beam forming technology” and patented it. Without any technical knowledge of how this works, in laymans terms, there are senders and receivers hidden in the earpieces that create a ‘beam’ connection between by rushing around the inside of your helmet and meeting each other. Some seriously clever shit right there. And it works! I was amazed.

That little lump on the right hand side is the doodah[/caption] Installation was as simple as any of these things are, a bit of fudging around with helmet foam removal and tucking wires in here and there, slap on a clip to hold the doodah (it looks like a mouse but it's really the guts of the thing, and operation buttons) on your helmet and Bob’s your Uncle. Connection was straight forward, hold both buttons down for 2 seconds, it will flash blue, scan on your device (tested 100% with iPhone 4, 5 (Apple) and Nexus 5, Galaxy S5 (Android). It also connects to almost every other type of device you can think of really quickly, and easily. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I am well impressed. At freeway speeds you can still hear audio (with earplugs as well), calls are crystal and only on the odd occasion do you get any drop out, much like you might do travelling at speed in any situation using a mobile phone.

The Good

The Voice Activation feature is a godsend. You simple say ‘pickup’ when the phone rings and the call is answered. Perfect. Hanging up requires a tap on the large button on the mouse, but these are easy to find with a gloved hand and operate as they should, quickly and without fuss. While it is fairly limited in features outside all of that amazing technology (no volume up and down I thought was odd), it does other stuff that I won’t likely ever use, like a full-duplex intercom system allowing unlimited amounts of riders in a group to increase connections range up to .4 miles (whatever that means). It is claimed to be usable with up to ten users connected to increase the range up to nearly four miles while allowing non-line-of-sight connections.

Of course, it’s fully weatherproof. or 'Water and temperature resistant at operating temperatures from -30ºC (-20ºF) to 60ºC (140ºF). I can't imagine riding in 60ºC let alone needing to use my helmet. There was a firmware upgrade available not long after I purchased it, and while the process was a bit fiddly once I worked out what the tricky coordinated two-taps-together shit actually meant, it was straight forward (please don’t ask me to explain, I fluked it ok?). It also supports Bluetooth A2DP and AVRCP.

The Bad

It can’t record voice overlay while recording video while playing music, not that I have sussed that out anyway but it is an issue for potential motovlogging. But it also stops music playback while GPS instructions are being given, it would be nice if they overlayed too. Some notifications interrupt music which is a bit annoying but is more to do with managing my notifications than the device itself.

Battery

The battery life is AMAZING. I travelled all over the Snowy Mountains for 3 days and never charged it once. That’s listening to music, watching Ulysse GPS and any calls. It lasted a full three days which is really remarkable.

Sound/Audio

The sound is pretty darn good too. I listen to a lot of electronic music and I like bottom end and you are never going to get that without a decent size enclosure to create it but the Uclear simulates a bit of bass quite well, at speed it all but dissappers though. Call quality is unbelievable, and the people I’ve spoken with were not even aware I was riding the bike. Lift the visor up and they soon beleive you but behind a closed lid, the receiver couldnt even tell.

Design

The design is really sleek too which is important to me, and while I won’t go into the current state of laws regarding helmet accessories, I will say it is quite sleek (although rather Mouse like). The buttons are simply to identify through a range of gloves that I’ve used with it including shorties, winter gloves and race gloves. Once you get used to where you have positioned it, the on and off button (the same button) are very easy to find and tap with a satisfying haptic click.

Price

I scored mine for $199 AUD from a dealer (Peter Stevens), which is at the top of the range but still cheaper than some of the top Scala and Sena headsets.

Summary

Overall I am really pleased with my purchase and would be happy to reccommend it to you as a solid choice in the upper end of the market for bluetooth headsets. Get it here: UCLEAR HBC200 FORCE Sports Helmet Communicator Bluetooth Headset

Until next time peeps, stay upright.