This review of heart Freecom 4x joins a long line of helmet bluetooth intercom reviews recently published here at Ultimate motorcycling. There is no bad in the bunch. All have their strengths and weaknesses, allowing buyers to choose their favorites by calculating the features, design, performance, and price.
You can buy a Bluetooth helmet intercom online for as little as $50 and there are many brands on offer. However, my time is valuable and my confidence level is low when looking at cheap devices. I need the support of a major manufacturer before I decide to use an intercom or any product in general – and I’m willing to pay for it.
I want great speakers, reliable and easy operation and the latest technology. Bluetooth versions aren’t created equal, and that’s more important than you might think. The latest Bluetooth version is 5.2, introducing new audio quality with low power consumption, improved battery life and a higher data transfer rate.
Utilizing Bluetooth 5.2, the Freecom 4x is another solid motorcycle helmet intercom in a highly competitive space. I’ll try to be as granular as possible as I can relate to the struggle to make the right choice.
Cardo has been at the forefront of Bluetooth intercom for motorcycle helmets for almost 20 years and claims to be the world’s leading manufacturer. Cardo’s offering ranges in price from $100 to $390 per unit. The new Cardo Freecom 4x has an MSRP of $270, just above the Freecom 2x. You can save $60 if you’re okay with a two-rider intercom versus a four-rider intercom, with the rest of the features being the same.
The installation of the Freecom 4x is typical for most call stations. It’s an easy 15 minute job and there were no surprises, especially when using a headlamp to illuminate the details inside the helmet. After pairing the device with my phone and the Cardo Connect app (iOS and Android), I registered and was offered a firmware update. One button and seven minutes later I was done. Easy. I could have updated the firmware through the computer, but I didn’t try.
The Cardo Connect app is well designed and offers many features. I can fine-tune various settings, and there’s one screen that gives me full control of the phone, audio, FM radio, and intercom all in one view. So if you don’t want to work with voice or keystroke commands, you can use this screen when your phone is mounted within range.
With the app I can choose between Bass Boost, High Volume or Vocal Audio Profile. As I often write, I’m not an audiophile, but the sound from the JBL speakers is big, with great bass and rich tones. Most importantly, there’s more than enough volume at any speed and in any condition – no complaints of insufficient audio amplification with this unit.
With Natural Voice Operation, I can say “Hey Cardo” and then give 23 different commands that cover all operations, including accessing Siri or Google Assistant (see graphic). If I prefer, I can use the three buttons and the wheel to do chores around the house. Natural voice works well too. It’s responsive and mostly accurate, although I often don’t think about using it.
I like the way the control buttons are designed and work on the Cardo Freecom 4x. When I can mount my phone on the handlebars, I run the app controls. When the phone is in my pocket, I usually use the buttons on the device, and Cardo has made this layout particularly beautiful.
The three buttons each have an edge molded into the button that’s hard to miss even with heavy gloves – you’ll have to hunt around with some other brands. Music playback is the front control and positioned to fall right under my fingers when grabbed. Then the control wheel makes the stepless volume control easy to operate. Pressing this button up pauses the music. Cardo gets top marks for three user interfaces and usability.
The JBL speakers fit perfectly in the nacelles of my Scorpion Exo-ST1400 carbon helmet. Incidentally, installation in the Scorpion helmet is effortless. The thin gap between the Scorpion’s shell and the inner foam is just right for clamp attachment rather than adhesive attachment. Both mounts are included with the 4x.
Earbud users rejoice – the speakers connect to the main unit with a standard 1/8-inch stereo plug, which I tucked under the cheek pad. Accordingly, this is one of the few devices I’ve seen that allows users who want to listen through their own wired earbuds to still retain all the features of the Freecom 4x. There is no need to mount the included speakers in the helmet, leaving more room for earplugs. I tested this and it works. However, I will not drive with earplugs as they may prevent me from hearing important sounds on the road – your choice.
The Cardo Freecom 4x includes an FM radio with six presets and a scan function. The reception is excellent with strong radio signals and presets can be conveniently saved via the app by scanning or directly entering the frequency using a sliding scale – also in the app. I like that the app lets me switch between music, intercom, FM and phone from one screen.
The Live Intercom is Bluetooth powered, but not the latest mesh wireless technology. It performs well and meets the claimed 0.75-mile range, depending on the terrain. As with most intercoms, range varies and reception can be affected once a driver has disappeared around a canyon corner.
A Cardo insider told me that greater fault tolerance for these dropouts is built into the software, and this appears to be the case. Cardo calls it Live Intercom because the intercom is programmed to try for up to 10 minutes to re-establish a lost intercom session. With other Bluetooth intercoms I’ve tried, I’ve had to manually end the session after a dropout and then try to reconnect. This is fixed now. Connection with other headsets takes a few minutes to set up. However, once that’s achieved, it’s easy to use, allowing for music and phone call sharing with a two-second button press.
I have connected two Freecom 4x devices and the earliest Packtalk (circa 2016). Hookup was easy enough and voices were clear. Since the Packtalk offers both DMC (Cardo Mesh) and Bluetooth intercom protocols, I chose Bluetooth to match the Freecom 4x devices.
Claimed talk time is 13 hours from the battery, with two hours taking to fully charge. A 20-minute charge will give you 1.25 to 2 hours of use per cardo – that’s good for a lunch break. Also, the 4x allows charging while in use. A USB-C cable is included. The device is said to be waterproof — not just waterproof.
Two channels allow Bluetooth connections to two phones, a phone and a motorcycle dashboard or GPS. Universal pairing is also available, allowing connection to Bluetooth intercom units for other brands of motorcycles. I’m still waiting for manufacturers to settle on a common intercom protocol, although I’ve stopped holding my breath.
Cardo has an excellent manual for the Freecom 4x, as well as good online support.
The Cardo Freecom 4x is a favorite among favorites. No features are missing, and the implementations are best-in-class. If you can live without mesh radio functionality, it is an excellent Bluetooth intercom for motorcycle helmets.
Cardo Freecom 4x specifications
- Height: 1.9 inches
- Width: 3.1 inches
- Depth: 0.4 inch
- Weight: 1.3 ounces
- Speaker diameter: 1.6 inch
- Speaker depth: 0.4 inch
- Talk time: Up to 13 hours
- Standby time: 10 days
- Battery charge time: 2 hours (2 hours talk time after 20 minutes)
- Working distance: 0.75 miles (Maximum 4 riders in one group)
- Bluetooth: 5.2
- Cardo Freecom 4x Single: $270 MSRP
- Cardo Freecom 4x Duo: $500
- Half Helmet Kit: $45
- Second set of helmets: $80
- Second helmet kit with JBL speakers: $120
Cardo Freecom 4x photo and screenshot gallery