What Does it Take to Make Your Radios Great?
Sound quality and patience! Clarity, volume, and depth are vital characteristics of a good communications setup. Unfortunately, the noise levels from a racing vehicle (considering aftermarket exhaust, prolonged periods of high RPM, etc.) can seriously complicate this process. We’ve had several attempts at perfecting these setbacks and have finally found a setup that works well.
What Do You Need?
- Rugged Radios Offroad Helmet Kit with Flex Boom (3.5mm input)
- Rugged Radios RRP660 Intercom OR RRP 6100 Racing Intercom
- Rugged Radios RM60 (and PTT button)
- Nice Set of Earbuds (2-channel Only- More On This Below)
- Stereo-to-Mono 3.5 mm Adapter (Very Important)
External Speakers or Not?
If you can help it, we recommend avoiding any external helmet-mounted speakers. This type of speaker is exceptionally prone to external noise infiltration and, from our experience, lacks significant depth-of-sound when playing music. When we first started using helmet communications for racing this was the speaker style that we started with- unfortunately, we found ourselves compensating for poor sound quality with volume. This not only exacerbated the original issue but also led to painful levels of high-pitched noise (especially over the duration of an hour-long event).
We’ve since strayed away from helmet-mounted speakers in favor of the 3.5 mm input boom, enabling the use of earbuds. The use of earbuds inherently offers passive noise reduction: through the use of foam or rubber ear-inserts, these earbuds are able to further restrict the intrusion of external sounds such as CVT noise, exhaust noise, and wind-buffeting. Ultimately this allows for a significantly better driving/communications experience. The clarity is exponentially more refined, volume levels can be maintained safely, and music-listening capability is phenomenal.
Trade-Offs With Earbuds
- Best Used With SNELL or SA2015 Helmets
- Requires Careful On/Off Placement of Helmet
- More Wires to Contend With
- Less Convenient
Again, we love using earbuds for our racing communications. In conjunction with our Rugged Radios RRP 660, the racing experience is absolutely revolutionized in this manner. However, some setbacks do exist with this setup. SNELL helmets (mandated by a wide array of racing sanctions) have wider ear-pockets to accommodate this type of setup. Any other style of helmet may not have the same specifications and thus, can lead to a less comfortable experience with the use of earbuds.
Another primary setback is that the use of earbuds requires more wires dangling around- depending on your current setup, this can get very messy! Unfortunately, certain earbuds may also not be sweat-resistant and thus may be far less reliable than the helmet-mounted configuration.
What Else Should You Know?
Get the adapters! Seriously, You Need This!
Prior to using the setup mentioned above, you absolutely must buy the 3.5 mm stereo-to-mono adapters in order to play communication sounds through your earbuds. The Rugged Radios RRP 660 is a phenomenal unit, all things considered, but utilizes a mono platform as opposed to stereo. If you proceed without the adapter, you will only hear sound through a single earbud (particularly the left earbud). The adapter fixes this issue entirely and costs roughly $2. It can be bought directly from Rugged Radios or on Amazon- get a handful of spares too (they may wear out overtime).
Buy the PROPER Earbuds- This is the Most Important Step
If you’ve made it this far, you’re ready for the best tip of the entire article. In order for this setup to work properly, you must have earbuds with a 2-channel input instead of the very common 3-channel input. A 2-channel input has 2 black rings on the 3.5 mm plug whereas a 3-channel input has 3 black rings on the 3.5 mm plug. Another easy way to tell is by the presence of a mute button- if your earbuds have a button that pauses or skips songs, it is 3-channel and will not work. We recommend looking at the pictures carefully before buying earbuds in order to find the correct 2-channel plug. The easiest way is to buy these direct from Rugged or scan Amazon carefully!
Driver of the #428 Draco Motorsports Polaris RZR. Co-Driver for the #804 Can-Am X3 during King of the Hammers. Ultra4!!