The concept behind this Headwave sound system is pretty cool: Rather than put speakers next to your ears, just pump the sound into the shell of the helmet and turn the entire helmet into a head-shaped, surround-sound speaker. It’s just a sound system, mind you, connected via Bluetooth to your mobile device and sending MP3s or radio into your lid, but there’s no microphone or handlebar remote.
It was way too crazy for me not to try, so I slapped it on my Shoei RF-1200 and turned it on. Just sitting at my desk I was blown away at how clear and loud the sound was, from banjo treble to hip-hop bass and everything in between. Obviously the real test is how it works on the road, and so on my commute home I selected an album on my phone, dropped it in my pocket and jammed out all the way to my garage. It works pretty well around town, but wasn’t quite loud enough for me on the freeway (note: I wear earplugs religiously).
Problem number one became clear as soon as I wanted to adjust volume. Because it’s one encapsulated piece stuck to the back of your helmet, you can’t reach it easily, and I usually keep my phone in my pocket. The other thing I noticed is that people with their windows down seemed annoyed at traffic lights. I experimented with turning the volume up with my helmet off (and then once while it was on Ari’s head), and you can hear the music pretty well outside the helmet too. Good to know.
Want some stats? Buckle up. It’s made in Germany out of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and it’s sealed so it’s waterproof. It’s 123mm by 61mm (about 5 inches by 2.5) and sticks up off the helmet about three quarters of an inch. There’s a nifty magnetic charger, instead of something standard like a micro USB, which helps keep it waterproof but also means if you lose that charger you’re boned. The battery lasts a claimed 6-8 hours—that might sound a little disappointing if you’re planning to use it on a full day’s ride. I only used it commuting and found it lasted about a week and a half before needing more juice.
To solve the issue of not being able to control the unit, I bought a little Bluetooth control unit online for 35 bucks (mine was made by Satechi). It clamped to my handlebar and allowed me to skip to the next track and change volume on the fly. Pretty easy. I think it should be an option from the Headwave factory, because it worked well.
Bottom line, it functions as advertised, and it’s a damned cool concept. I still prefer the standard, speaker-inside-helmet systems—because I like to be able to take phone calls and chat with my riding buddies—but this is the most innovative alternative that I’ve seen. If you’re a lone wolf with sensitive ear cartilage, you’ll appreciate that there’s nothing jammed inside the helmet and you can still hear your music, radio, or GPS. Yea, it’s a little pricey at $330, but that’s within range of the leading Bluetooth systems.
TĀG Headwave Sound System
An awesome idea, but slightly limited capability.