Gear: Onboard Headset Option

SAIL electronics editor, Ben Ellison, says Bluetooth-equipped My Team Talks headsets are an outstanding piece of gear for those who want to make sure all hands know what's going on when, say, anchoring in a stiff breeze.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Apparently, the folks at Cruising Solutions have not forgotten how I once wrote that their useful and still popular Mariner 500 intercom headsets make “a boater look unfashionably similar to a Soviet tank driver,” and hence asked me to test their latest product. They are called “My Team Talks” Bluetooth headsets, and they’re much more than modern-looking intercoms. The tag line “Bring state-of-the-art multiplex communication technology to your boat” is not an overstatement.

The technology that Cruising Solutions (cruisingsolutions.com) has selected for marine use (and will presumably support for a long time) was developed by headset specialists Sena, whose main market is motorcyclists. Its capabilities are phenomenal. You could conceivably have a phone and another audio source (maybe even a VHF) wirelessly connected to a headset and still be able to intercom with up to three other units. I tried a lot of the features and found the performance excellent. The My Team Talks headsets also seemed easier to set up and use than the huge feature list might suggest.

Little rubber tabs that fit between your earlobe and head help keep the device in place. I found them fairly comfortable and could wear a pair for hours before needing a break. My dear mate, on the other hand, did not get used to them easily, but she does have an unusually small noggin (especially given its enormous and fantastic contents). No headphones are compatible with my hearing aids, but I found music, podcasts, intercom and most phone calls were quite audible. All sources come through both speakers, and music apps played in stereo. Each source volume can be individually controlled with the Jog Dial, which can also be used to skip forward and back through music tracks.

A really nice feature is the audible prompting, wherein a pleasant voice confirms that the headset is turned on and connected with your phone. It can also inform users of things like low-battery status or lead you through complex settings when needed.

For example, it was easy to turn off the intercom voice activation that confused me when I first tried a single headset with phone and audio in my shop. Initially, I had problems with that feature in the form of a sharp sound like packing tape ripping off a roll when I put the headset in intercom mode. However, the attendant audible warning quickly clarified the issue by telling me that an intercom mate wasn’t available, something which helped me troubleshoot the situation as well.

In the end, it turned out that using the intercom manually is plenty easy: one tap on the dial starts full duplex communication with the other set(s) until you or another user taps the dial again. (Intercom VOX Off is the default mode, changed I guess by a prior tester in the case of my set.) We didn’t test the intercom in extreme conditions, but the noise cancelling did seem to work well around normal wind and engine sounds. I will note that the Sena manual is a bit daunting, but Cruising Solutions is working on both a video tutorial and a few quick start pages focused on the functions boaters typically use.

I’ve tried a lot of wireless headsets, including several with intercom abilities, and I agree with Cruising Solutions that this product hits a sweet spot of features, performance, ease of use and value. It may be partly that Bluetooth has gotten more reliable and capable over time, but I also think that Sena is very good at what they do.

My boat doesn’t demand headsets for calm docking or anchoring, but I can imagine many circumstances—like troubleshooting something in the engine room—when they might be very useful, and I’ll also miss using them as a solid standalone phone and audio headset.

That having been said, for ultra-simple and inexpensive intercom-only use, the Mariner 500 is also still a valid choice, and who knows, maybe the look has become hip.

For more on Ben's insights into electronics, go to www.panbo.com

Related

01-LEAD-IMG20210409160620-copy

Cruising: La Soufrière Volcano Eruption

This past spring my family and I were at anchor aboard our 50ft steel-hulled cutter, Atea, off Bequia, a small island five miles south of St. Vincent in the Southern Antilles. Bequia’s large, protected bay is lined by a collection of beach bars, restaurants and hotels, and is a ...read more

01-LEAD-GMR_ISLA_0415-1

Electric Multihulls

Witnessing the proliferation of Tesla automobiles you would have no doubt that the revolution in electromobility is well underway. Turn your gaze to the cruising world, though, and you might well wonder what went wrong. Where are all the electric boats? And as for electric ...read more

Lee-Cloths-Lee-Boards-and-single-bunks-on-ISBJORN_by-Andy-Schell_Trans-Atlantic-2019

The Perfect Offshore Boat: Part 2

November, 2009: Mia and I were sailing our 1966 Allied Seabreeze yawl, Arcturus, on our first-ever offshore passage together, a short hop from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. Our second night out, the brisk northwesterly wind shut down, but the sea state ...read more

210727_JR_SE_Tokyo20_186871368

Tune in for Olympic Sailing

Today marks the start of 470 and NARCA 17 racing on Enoshima Bay, and racing in the other seven fleets is already underway. A few of the American sailors are already off to an impressive start, with Maggie Shea and Stephanie Roble currently in second place in the 49er FX, Luke ...read more

Happy-Cat

Boat Review: Happy Cat Hurricane

I’m not sure what I expected from my daysail on the Happy Cat Hurricane. One thing I do know is that the day didn’t go as planned. The SAIL staff was invited by Alex Caslow from Redbeard Sailing to Gunpowder State Park on Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore. We were to test several ...read more

210722_PM_Tokyo20_4910_5979-2048x

Olympic Sailing Guide

The Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Games is finally here. From July 24 to August 4, sailors from across the world will be gathering on six courses on Enoshima Bay to race for gold. Ten classes will take part in the event: RS:X (men), RS:X (women), Laser Full Rig, Laser Radial, ...read more

01-LEAD-TobagoCaysHorseshoeColors

Chartering: Voltage is King

For some time now, both in the pages of this magazine and with individual charterers, I’ve talked about how important it is to pay close attention during a charter checkout. The idea is to listen “between the lines,” as it were, to be sure you aren’t missing any hidden red flags ...read more

AC75-No.-1

ETNZ May Abandon New Zealand

Remember when the Kiwis were the young, underfunded upstarts of the America’s Cup world, with right on their side as they took on the Big Bad Americans? Remember the withering criticism leveled at Larry Ellison when, in the wake of “The Comeback” on San Francisco Bay, arguably ...read more