And On that Note!

Story by David Booth// Photos by David Booth
July 4 2023

One rider’s quest for the perfect motorcycle musical experience.

Before I start this product comparison, let me first acknowledge that a few of you — maybe many of you — will be tempted to write in complaining about reviewing products that might be dangerous. As in: Earbuds might prevent their wearer from picking up some audible alert to impending doom, that, had they not been listening to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida at maximum decibels, might have been avoided.

A few points on those warnings: To start, let me be the first to admit there is some veracity to these concerns. That said, helmet-mounted speakers draw no such ire, nor has any criticism prevented Cardo and Sena from making a boatload of money selling motorcycle communications systems. As well, with more than 15 years of riding with earbuds — wired previously; now wireless — I have not had a single incident made more dangerous ‘cause I was listening to the Strolling Bones. Most importantly, I am not advocating that one should ride while listening to music, but merely providing sound advice — yes, a bad pun in a warning message — should you decide to do so. Which brings me to the most important part of this caveat if you’re still tempted to write a letter of protest: Bugger off and mind your own beeswax; the life and limb I risk is, almost assuredly, only my own.

Okay, with product liability warnings accomplished, the reason I choose to use earbuds rather than speakers is three-fold. First, I have found helmet-mounted speakers universally uncomfortable. I know that some — maybe even many — of you have comfortably worn helmets with speakers for eons, but I cannot. Second, I find the musical quality of earbuds is far superior and I don’t have to turn up the volume as loud so I’m not blasting out my eardrums. And last, but certainly not least, I want no part of the communications systems that allow riders to talk with a partner and/or other motorcyclists. One of the joys of motorcycling, at least to me, is that it is a solitary affair, not to be interrupted by cell or spouse. Earbuds more or less force that solitude upon you.
Now that we have the whys and wherefores out of the way, it’s time for the meat of the story: Which ones?

I’ve been testing four different sets of earbuds over the last four years or so: Sony’s top-of-the-line WF-1000XM4, Sony’s almost-bottom-of-the-line WF-C500, Jabra’s most excellent Jabra Elite 7 Pro and — though they are not pictured here, ’cause I lost them — some Mifo O7 Dynamics. And before I start comparing them, let me just say that none of the above is a bad choice. As with everything I do, I poured over specifications ad nauseam that I might purchase the superior units. But truth be told, they all worked quite well. It was just the manner — and amount…


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