SENA SMH-10 Review Update: Don’t Buy the Sena SMH-10 Headset

I purchased a pair of Sena SMH-10 Interphone Motorcycle Helmet Bluetooth Intercoms on June 2, 2010. I’ve used them for over 6 months now, most notably for 15 days on a 4-month motorcycle trip from Boston to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. (If you’re curious about the trip, you can check out the trip blog at: http://www.CorporateRunaways.com .) I’ve reviewed the SENA SMH-10 Motorcycle Headset before based on early use and given it a positive rating. However, in the little over 6 months that I’ve been using them, our set of Sena SMH10 Motorcycle Headsets has had five serious failures, and the final was so catastrophic that I’ve just paid $600 (twice what I paid for the Sena) to switch to the Cardo Scala Rider G4. (I’ve since written a comparison of the SENA SMH-10 versus the Cardo Scala Rider G4.)

The first failure of my Sena SMH10 motorcycle headset occurred in August. The microphone in one of the headset clamp units stopped functioning on a multi-day trip. I could hear my partner, but my partner couldn’t hear me. We switched the transmitter unit and had the same problem, so the issue wasn’t with the transmitter itself but was with the headset clamp unit. I contacted Sena and they processed a warranty return for me – sending me a new clamp unit after I mailed them my existing unit. The RMA took a little over 3 weeks, and we used the headsets regularly, so I purchased a new headset clamp unit online and thought I’d keep the replacement from Sena as backup.

The second failure of our Sena SMH-10 motorcycle intercom happened in early October, on another multi-day trip. This time, my partner’s microphone stopped working in the same way mine had in August. We switched transmitters, and had the same results, so the problem was clearly the clamp unit. Luckily, I still had the replacement clamp unit that Sena had sent me in response to my first warranty claim, so we swapped clamp units and it worked fine. In the meantime, I sent an email to Sena, and they processed another warranty RMA for me. I also bought a second backup clamp unit, so at this point I had two backup clamp units.

The third major failure of the Sena SMH 10 headsets happened on day 4 of our trip from Boston to Ushuaia. We were in North Carolina when we turned on the headsets after lunch to realize that the partner could hear me, but I couldn’t hear him. We initially thought it was another microphone failure, but we discovered that this time when we switched the transmitter units, it worked fine on my base plate. We used it that way for the rest of the day, and I discovered on the following day that the pins on the transmitter unit weren’t lining up properly with the contacts in the base unit of the headset clamp mount on the helmet.

look close

If the transmitter was seated firmly, but not properly, the microphone pin wouldn’t line up and I wouldn’t be able to hear him. I discovered that if we pressed the transmitter down in the cradle after it had been mounted, this would cause the microphone pin to line up and I could hear him. It seems apparent, though, that this is a design flaw, as the pins don’t line up properly on my mount either – so we believe that this problem is going to happen with every transmitter/mount unit and we think it’s just a matter of time until Sena users have this problem.

The fourth problem with my Sena SMH10 motorcycle headset occurred on day 6 of the trip from Boston to Ushuaia. During the day, the speaker in my right ear stopped working on my headset. I could still hear in the left ear, but the right ear had shorted out. It came back a couple of times during the day, but later in the day cut out completely and didn’t come out. It seemed like a short in the wire based in the way it failed. We had brought the two spare clamp units along because we feared quality issues on the road, so I replaced the clamp unit that night and the right speaker worked fine the next day.

The fifth and final issue with my Sena SMH-10 motorcycle headset happened on day 15 of my trip from Boston to Ushuaia. I was seating the transmitter in the helmet clamp module when the tab on the bottom of the transmitter that holds it into the cradle broke off in the cradle.

SENA SMH-10 Headset Modules with Broken Tab

SENA SMH-10 Headset Modules with Broken Tab on Right

The headset was functionally unusable at this point. We tried duct-taping the headset into the mount, but the duct tape had enough play that the pins wouldn’t line up properly in the cradle. At the beginning, I could both hear and speak to my partner. At various points during the day, the right ear cut out, then the left ear cut out, and the microphone cut out. By midday, I could only hear my partner by physically holding the headset onto my helmet. By the end of the day, I couldn’t hear or speak with my riding partner at all.

Taping the Sena

At this point, given all of the quality issues and problems we’ve had with the Sena SMH-10 Interphone Motorcycle Headset unit, we were unwilling to try to process another RMA with Sena and get a new transmitter unit. We’re on day 16 of a trip from Boston to Ushuaia, and don’t anticipate that we could successfully complete an RMA where we’re currently staying in Mexico City. Even if we could, we believe that the quality of the units is not sufficient to withstand our trip.

The usability of the SENA SMH-10 motorcycle intercom headset is fantastic. However, we think that the durability and design need a lot of work. Based on the five major failures I’ve experienced with our SENA system, the variety of failures and what we believe are overall design flaws, I can not recommend the Sena headsets. I’m under the impression that this is SENA’s first entry into the motorcycle market – they’ve done primarily industrial applications before. It seems clear to us that while their customer service is responsive, their product needs some serious R&D and redesigning before it is of sufficient quality to withstand regular use.

In summary: I would advise anyone who is considering buying the SENA SMH-10 motorcycle intercom units to spend their money elsewhere. Based on the problems that we’ve had, we believe that this product isn’t ready for the motorcycling market and should be avoided.

*Note: this review of the SENA SMH-10 motorcycle intercom headsets is just the opinion of myself and my partner. This should in no way be interpreted as a factual representation about the quality of the product – just our impressions based on our usage. However, we feel that while our current trip is longer, our usage is representative of the average motorcyclist and our experiences could be a good guide for other motorcyclists.

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  1. Review of Sena SMH-10 Motorcycle Intercom | Motorcycles aren't Just for Riding - December 22, 2010

    [...] I’ll let my original review stay here, but I wanted to note for my readers that I would no longer recommend the SENA SMH-10 Motorcycle Intercom. I’ve had five major failures of the headset units, which I detail in my recent update to the post here. [...]

  2. Monday Q&A: Sena SMH10 Motorcycle Intercom | Motorcycles aren't Just for Riding - December 22, 2010

    [...] I’ll let my original post stay here, but I wanted to note for my readers that I would no longer recommend the SENA SMH-10 Motorcycle Intercom. I’ve had five major failures of the headset units, which I detail in my┬árecent update to my review here. [...]

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