Concert Quality Sound Without Speakers? Impossible...well, actually...

Concert Quality Sound Without Speakers? Impossible...well, actually...

By: Scott Cochran. Editor USRiderNews

I see a lot of press releases in my job. By that, I mean sometimes as many as 10-15 in one day.  

Everything from new motorcycle models, to gear, big events and personnel changes in the industry.   

Over the past 15 years I've learned to cut through the fluff and get to the meat of the email in seconds.  

That's one reason I despise emails written like this article....where the lead is buried in the 4th paragraph.

The TAG from Headwave kicks ass!  Seriously. If we gave awards, this would be our New Motorcycle Accessory Product of the Year...hands down.  

Ok.. let me backup a minute and explain.  

A few weeks into September I received an email from Toby Huang, who is the press guy (among other things) at Headwave, with an intriguing new product. The short email said "We've developed a new product to allow anyone with a motorcycle helmet to listen to audio in a private concert environment"  and included a photo of something that definitely did not look like a traditional motorcycle speaker setup.Headwave front and back view

I followed the link to the company's website and read up on this new technology.

The claim was that this small piece of thermoplastic polyurethane  enclosed electronic whiz-bang gadgetry would be able to transmit sounds (music)  via vibrations through my helmet (or any helmet) without having to install any wires or speakers, or change the helmet in any way.  

This got me really excited!  Not in a "Pamela Anderson just showed up wearing a wet t-shirt" sort of way, but in a "Wow, Star Trek technology has finally solved a pet peeve of mine!"

Within minutes I fired off a response to Toby and said, " If this product does what it claims, then you guys will own the market" or "space" as they like to say on the Shark Tank television show. 

Toby assured me I would be impressed and offered to send a unit straightaway.

A few weeks later a simple non-nondescript box arrived via a guy wearing a brown shirt, shoes and shorts. He could be a man of mystery, except he wears a name tag and drives a big brown truck.. so I'm pretty sure he's no James Bond.

But, back to the box sitting on my desk, I had a dilemma. I had 4 deadlines and a ton of email to wade through.  Aww..screw it.  This is work too.  So I cut open the box and ...cue the heavenly music....revealed the TAG in all it's glory!

Right off you notice the packaging is comparable to what Apple fans have come to expect.  The "unboxing experience" (as marketers call it) is designed to prolong the moment in a sweet but torturous way, before you actually get your hands on the product. High marks so far in attention to detail.  

Once open, the unit vibrated subtly and "turned on" as soon as I pulled it loose from it's secure moorings in the package.  Hmm...that's different.  Not one to fiddle with the pre-packaged instructions, I pulled out my iPhone and opened Bluetooth for a real world test. 

Other Bluetooth units I've tested from Scala and Sena have been, shall we say, a challenge to connect, although to be fair, I gave up on those a couple of years ago, so I haven't tested one since eternity in the world of technology.  

The Tag was ready to connect as soon as I opened my phone and with one touch it was perfectly paired with The King of The Jungle's iPhone....What?  You don't have an adorable but dorky name for your phone?  

Paired up and ready I couldn't wait to see how the TAG performed.  Only one problem. Since I only live 3 miles from my office, I don't always ride the bike into work.  So, my favorite helmet was home.  Crud.  There was still all that work needing to be finished and phone calls needing to be returned... so I did what every responsible motorcycle riding adult would do in my situation...I rushed home, threw on my riding gear and set out to give the TAG a proper test.

Tell me you didn't really believe I was going to pass up the chance to blow off shuffling paper for a few hours?

Now I'm home with the TAG and my favorite hybrid helmet (flip up) and the only part remaining is to attach the unit, fire up the bike and hit the highway.  

And, here's where Headwave nailed it again.  The unit is shipped with double sided tape you mount to the concave side of the product (with the words facing out) and then press it to the back of your helmet at the base.  The curvature of the unit matches perfectly the curvature of your helmet.  

Did I mention there's only ONE BUTTON that controls the unit?  More high marks in the simplicity department.   As a visual reference, the unit glows green when it's on.  

The functionality of the TAG is so simple and user friendly even the most technologically challenged thick fingered biker can learn it in minutes.  I'd say it was so simple even a cave man could do it, but I understand that's not politically correct so I won't go there.

Pulling out of my driveway I turn off my bike's sound system and turn on the TAG with my Pandora internet radio and right away I'm blown away by the quality of the sound.  The range of bass, mid-range and trebles vibrating through my helmet are far better than any speaker system I've tried...and I've pretty much tried them all. Headwave describes the sensation as a Concert Capsule.

As I rode along the city streets, I was trying to understand WHY this system sounded better.  It took me 2 or 3 songs before I realized it was the vibrations of the bass that was missing from all the other units I'd owned.

Leaving the city, I struck out on a lonely two lane country road to test the unit at highway speed.  On cue the music gods of Pandora tossed in Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water rock and roll classic just as I cranked open the throttle.  

Ahhh....a sunny day, the open road and classic rock and roll acid shredding the synapses in the deep recesses of my reptilian brain.  Audiophiles describe it as an ear-gasm, except the TAG transmit the vibrations through the entire helmet and brain-gasm would be closer to the actual experience I was having.

The best part is I wouldn't need a nap and a bowl of Wheaties after this one.  Ok.. maybe that's sharing a little too much information.

Of course, the TAG isn't perfect...but what lover is?  When used with a hybrid helmet, as I did, the sound is noticeably diminished above 75 or 80 out on the superslab.  

The engineers at Headwave say the unit transmits 100 decibels of sound and they're hesitant to increase it, since anything over that level can cause hearing loss.  Probably a wise decision, but as one ancient dude who was born in the 60's and grew up listening to Jethro Tull, AC/DC, KISS and a host of hair bands, I've already destroyed more than a few brain cells and dinged my ear drums quite a bit.

While we're on the subject of limitations, the TAG transmits music better than any other unit currently on the market, but that's all it can do at this time.  You can't take or receive phone calls as you can with a comparably priced Sena or Scala unit.  But, that's a tiny drawback to an otherwise amazing system.

The TAG from Headwave currently retails for $299 and is available from the manufacturer at 


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