Let’s get this out of the way right here: The Cardo Packtalk Headphones are an extremely niche product. However, for riders who have already bought into the Cardo Packtalk system of communicators and also fall into that niche, the Packtalk Headphones are a tremendously useful tool. Also, just for the sake of clarity, the Packtalk Headphones do not come with Packtalk Bold or Black communicators; they are simply an accessory.
So, what is the niche that the Packtalk Headphones fit into? They are ideal for people who want to communicate with riders in a fairly self-contained environment. For example, an instructor/coach teaching a rider on a motocross track or other similarly-sized location can give real-time feedback to the rider instead of pulling them over to periodically give them notes. This is a huge time-saver, allowing both praise and corrections to be given as the student is actually trying new skills.
Although I am a long-time proponent of helmet communicators, my first time using these headphones came over the weekend while dirt riding with my daughter. Being able to coach her about her form while she was actually trying the technique dramatically shortened the time it took for her to be more comfortable with the new skill. I could call out things, like when to turn her head or the point during the turn at which she tended to drop her elbows, and the communication wasn’t just one way. She could ask me if what she was doing was better or if something needed to be increased or decreased. All of this was as natural as having a conversation.
Admittedly, I could have used the Packtalk Bold mounted to my helmet like I do when we ride together, but standing still while wearing an off-road helmet in 95° F heat gets uncomfortable pretty quickly. Wearing the headphones meant that the session ended when she got tired, instead of when I couldn’t take the heat any more. In the future, since it’s just about impossible to shoot photos while wearing a helmet, I can see myself incorporating the headphones into my MO photography kit since every member of the usual MOrons has a Vardo Packtalk on one of their helmets. (I’ve put mounting kits on almost all of my helmets that didn’t come with a communicator built-in.) This way, I will be able to give instructions to the rider(s) while simultaneously shooting since the riders will be relatively close. Remember, helmet communicators work best in a line-of-sight environment. Once the riders start going behind hills, the range is dramatically reduced. Finally, all of the other Cardo Packtalk unit functions, like receiving phone calls or listening to music, are available.
All of this brings me to my two critiques of the Packtalk Headphones. First, they don’t pack away very compactly. Perhaps I’ve gotten spoiled by how the noise-canceling headphones I use for airline travel pack away in a fairly small case, but the Packtalk Headphones leave a little to be desired in this regard. In their defense, however, they appear to be very sturdily built (and not as flimsy-feeling as my travel headphones ). The other issue I have with the Packtalk Headphones is that my camera strap tangles with the boom microphone when I am shooting. I’m sure that I’ll figure out a way to minimize the problem, though.
So, what do you get for $130? You get a set of passively noise damping earmuffs, similar to ones you might find on a shooting range. Inside, however, they have high fidelity speakers that deliver HD sound. On the left ear, a mount for the Packtalk Bold connects to a noise-canceling boom microphone. There are no other batteries or attachments. Everything the headphones need is part of the Packtalk Bold unit. Snap the unit in place and power it up, then the headphones are ready to, offering all of the strengths of the Cardo Packtalk Mesh network that we discussed in our reviews of the Packtalk Bold (here and here).
Although clearly not a Cardo accessory for everyone, the Cardo Packtalk Headphones fill a very distinct niche, and if you fall into it, I highly recommend you click the link below.