Last week I finally got round to sorting out the Starcom Advance noise cancelling system that I bought late last year, so had an opportunity to try it out yesterday.
Results were mixed – the trainee reported a lot of what I said came over broken, so I clearly haven’t got the vox setting working properly, but setting it up is complicated by the fact that you can’t hear yourself speak with this system.
On the plus side, he reported it cut off when I wasn’t speaking so didn’t sent a constant “hiss” of wind noise.
So, the jury’s out on performance. I guess I’m going to have to ride round with a trainee radio in a pocket and the earpiece on my own ear. There’s a vox adjustment setting on the radio AND on the Starcom so I suspect that they are interfering with each other – read the manual time, I think.
Back to the fitting. In contrast to the existing set-up, connecting up the whole kit and laying it out on the table showed up the big disadvantage of this system over my simple ‘headset -> radio’ system. Wires. Wires everywhere.
Starting at the headset end of things, rather than the simple boom mic with built in ear piece, the Starcom boom system has stereo speakers each on the end of a thin wire. And the armoured cable doesn’t join the boom directly, but has a short stretch of unsupported wires (three – the two speakers plus mic) in the middle. This is a clear weak point on something that will take a lot of strain – the weight of the cable plus the DIN plug on the end are hanging from these three wires.
After a bit of dismantling of the helmet, I managed to get the top end of the armoured cable reasonably securely anchored in the lid, which should avoid the weight falling on those thin wires. So, helmet sorted with one cable emerging with a DIN plug on the end ready to plug into the headset lead on the Starcom.
Hmmmm… there are two headset leads emerging from the unit. We’ll go with the one labelled ‘Headset A’. Easy enough. But where do I tuck the foot-long surplus-to-requirement lead for Headset B? We’ll leave that dangling for the moment.
The radio obviously needs a connector, so I dig out the lead, plug the radio in one end and attach the other to the Starcom. Another wodge of curly cable to find a home for. Eventually I cable-tie it out the way with the spare headset lead.
Now, where to put the radio and the Starcom on the bike? Most people will of course mount these permanently on the bike – the various bulkhead connector fittings that Starcom have available make this obvious and relatively straightforward, and the power system is cleverly wired so that the unit powers up only when Headset A is actually connected.
So, in theory, the whole system, radio, wires and everything could be tucked out of sight and forgotten about, with just the headset lead to be plugged in to activate the system.
Unfortunately, the price of a permanently anchored system is that that you lose the ability to talk to a trainee away from the bike, which is useful in carpark sessions – one of the useful assets of having a completely self-contained system
Also, like a lot of instructors, I sometimes jump on a different bike so I need the Starcom to be rapidly detachable, so after peeling off various bits of bodywork looking for a convenient hidy hole I gave up and decided the most convenient place for the unit was clearly the bumbag where I normally have the radio.
In some ways that suits me as I have a dislike of being permanently wired to the bike. It may seem trivial but when you are on and off it every ten minutes it damages the connectors no matter how good they are and it’s a royal PITA to have to keep remembering to disconnect yourself – I once helped a chap pick his BMW up in garage forecourt after he pulled the whole thing over having forgot to unplug his intercom before dashing to the kiosk to pay.
Unfortunately of course, there’s still one wire that needs plugging in to get the system to work – the power lead. The original Starcom unit has an option for a PP3 battery, but the Advance only runs off the bike’s mains system. Hmmm. One solution that springs to mind is a small sealed 12v battery from Maplins…
But it’s all getting a bit complicated.