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Sena 50S First Impressions

Thanks to the team at Whites Powersports and our partnership with the Kiwi Rider Podcast we’ve got our hands on the new top-of-the-range Sena 50S. Here’s our initial impressions of the new unit.

Now I’ve been using a Sena 30K for the past year, and while it’s been a great unit for our first comms experience it has had it’s drawbacks- the main one being the lack of ability to utilise voice commands for my iPhone.

The 50S, which is priced at $549.00 here in New Zealand, comes out of the box with quite a comprehensive list of accessories. There’s the wifi equipped charger cable (now USB-C instead of the fiddly micro USB of the 30K) which can automatically install firmware updates, a more traditional data capable USB-C charger, through to multiple microphone options.

Since I’m upgrading from Sena’s 30K unit (more precisely the H-D branded offering, the Boom! Audio 30K) to the 50 series the S took my fancy thanks to its similar design. In fact, it’s essentially the same design bar a couple of minor details and silver instead if black plastic exterior.

As an aside, we grabbed the S to directly compare it to the 30K while co-host of the Kiwi Rider Podcast Ray took the R to compare directly with its main competitor, the Cardo Packtalk Bold.

Size-wise the 50S is nearly identical to the 30K. In fact, it’s so similar the 50S will even clip on to the 30K’s docking unit. Whether it will work is something I didn’t want to try, however, as last thing I want is to break a $549 bit of kit that I could very well be asked to give back. With that said half of the upgrades to the 50S are found in that docking unit, which connects the HD speakers and standard flexible boom microphone, so it doesn’t make much sense to use the 50 on the 30’s mount.

Fitting the unit is straightforward and exactly the same as the 30K. Simply mount the clamp style dock / mount to the outer shell of your helmet and after removing your helmet lining use the supplied 3M sticky pads into the ear cavities to affix the speakers internally. The hardest part if the process I found connecting the Sena with my HJC i70 was getting the cheek pad back into place after fitting the Sena.

Functionally the 50S is already a hit with me. While the 30K offers voice commands it doesn’t connect with your phone’s personal assistant, meaning I couldn‘t go for my usual “hey, Siri call wife” or ask for navigation help. That changes with the 50 series which offers functionality for both iPhone and android users.

With the new speakers being a claimed 7% louder than the 30K there’s rarely a time I can’t hear what I want through the Sena. Ambient mode, which is activated by pressing the button at the base of the unit, is a bit gimmicky and Im not yet sold on it.

The big thing with the new Sena’s is Mesh 2.0, a self healing network which allows you to keep in touch with other 50 series users over a 2km distance and offers 9 channels to choose from (in case another group is on the default channel). One issue I’ve found is it appears that the 50S and my 30K aren’t computable to join via Mesh, with the H-D branded 30K only offering 2 channel options that I can work. Whether this is due to my 30K being the Harley-Davidson branded unit is unclear, but it could be something worth thinking about if most of your mates are still on the older system.

While I’m a bit outside the 2km range to connect via Mesh 2.0 to Ray’s 50R by about 500km or so, the 50S does easily connect to the 30K using the built in Bluetooth intercom function which also offers 2km of range.

So initial thoughts are quite positive for the Sena 50S. Time will tell how durable it is, but for my current needs it should absolutely do the trick.

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