Review: Parrot SK4000 - Wireless Communications and Music for Motorcycles
File under Bluetooth Gadgets Product Review
Author: Mike Werner
Location: Normandy, France
If you're into wireless intercoms, and think this is a review for one, don't read any further. But if you are looking for a single person motorcycle communication & entertainment unit that works without wires, read on.
The Parrot SK4000 was launched last year, but it was only recently that units were made available, so here's an extensive review of this promising device. The SK4000 is billed to supply stereo music, FM radio and mobile telephone to your helmet via Bluetooth 2 A2DP. Bluetooth A2DP will give you wireless stereo, and the SK4000, on top of that, is stuffed with some fancy electronics that are geared towards motorcycle riders. Additionally, there's a standard audio lead that enables you to plug in an old fashion audio player that's not equipped with Bluetooth (like a 78 or 33 rpm record player....).
|WARNING: Although I managed to place the unit on a Schuberth C2, several of you have not been able to do so. It is true that the C2 has a very hard lining, and the Parrot clamp does not go into the unit 100%, more like 80%. But it is sufficient to secure it, and if you place the SK4000 as much to the front as you can, then there is no problem with the microphone. |
If you are not sure about your helmet, check when you pull back the lining, if it's deep enough to fit a clamp of 3.5 cms.
Not only can you listen to music from one of the music sources, interrupted by the mobile phone, but also your address book from your mobile is loaded into the unit (with a maximum of 8000 names and phones), and all you need to do is pronounce the person's name, and the unit will call that person. Obviously we're not going to do that while riding... right??? Or when that person calls, his/her name is spoken. To confirm or hang-up, you can of course touch the mufti function buttons on the helmet unit, but easier, you can use the remote control located on your handlebar, or even easier, just speak to the Parrot unit.
|Remember, it is dangerous for you and others, to ride and talk on the telephone at the same time. Pull over to talk on your mobile phone!!|
FM Radio stations benefitting from RDSRadio Data System, or RDS, is a communications protocol standard from the European Broadcasting Union for sending small amounts of digital information using conventional FM radio broadcasts. The RDS system standardises several types of information transmitted, including time, track/artist info and station identification. RDS has been standard in Europe and Latin America since the early 1990s, but less so in North America. technology will allow the SK4000 unit to pronounce the name of the station when scanning. So as you can see, there are quite some gadgets on board of this equipment.
The Parrot SK4000 comes in a nice gift box, and even has a handle.
|NOTE: The unit I got was a pre-production unit, so some of the problems I had, should not turn up on real life units.|
Inside the box are several items. This is what you get when you unpack the box:
|NOTE: Below in the text, when I'm referring to a figure/photo and the word is underscored with green dots, by placing your mouse over those words, the photo itself will popup. This way you don't need to go and find that photo. This function does not seem to work in the Opera Browser!|
1. Control Unit
2. Clamp, Microphone & Loudspeakers
3. Handlebar remote control
4. Mains charger
5. Audio jack.
6. Allen key
7. Velcro pads
The Control Unit
The main control unit (the unit that is installed on your helmet) is round (kind of big) and has several buttons:
1. Function button #1
2. Function button #2
3. + Button (volume up)
4. - Button (volume down)
5. Power & analog audio USB outlet
The red arrow shows you the LED that will change color depending on the state.
Handlebar Control Unit
The unit that gets placed on your handlebar has several buttons:
1. Next Track/Station Selector
2. Previous Track/Station Selector
3. Volume controls
At the other side of the handlebar control unit is one more button:
This button is used to select the source of your audio (phone, Bluetooth audio or analog audio). Of course even if you select a music audio source, if the phone rings, it will override the music.
Placing the Control Unit on the Helmet
The helmet clamp (Figure #1 item 2) is equipped with contact points. You slide it into the clamp (Figure #1 item 1) until you feel a click. That means the unit is operational. The whole unit is then mounted onto your helmet.
The loudspeakers are very thin, so it shouldn't bother anyone (but then there are people who have really sensitive skin). The clamp is tightened by using the supplied Allen key.
Once you've installed the unit and charged up the battery, you can start introducing the SK4000 to its play partners (pairing).
From all the units I have tested so far, this was by far the easiest to install. The SK4000 is ideal for jet helmets, but to be stubborn, I decided to install it in a BMW Enduro full face helmet. On my watch, it took 2 minutes (remember that I have two left hands). The only "negative" note is that the left loudspeaker lead is very "just", i.e. a centimeter or two more would have made it easier to fit more difficult models. The right one is long enough, no worries there.
I've then tried installing the unit on a Schuberth C2, BMW Evo 4 and Aris City Limit jet helmet, all with the same result; fast and no problems.
I had problems installing it on a Roof Boxer helmet thanks to the chin flap clip button (see red circle in above photo) that was in the way, but at the end, it worked. The only helmet that I could not use was on a Momo leather helmet, since the padding is fixed and would not move.
Pairing the Phone
To pair your Bluetooth equipped mobile phone with the Parrot SK4000, you'll need to turn it on with a long press on button Figure #2 button 2. Then turn on your mobile phone and set it to "search" mode. Eventually you should see the words "Parrot SK4000" appear. Select that. The password for the device is "0000". Once you've entered it, the units are paired.
In the future when you want to use both devices, you do not need to repeat these simple instruction. Just turn both devices on, and they should be ready to use.
|NOTE: If you use multiple Bluetooth headsets for your phone, normally it shouldn't be a problem, but if there's a conflict, just select which device you want to use via your phone. |
Your phone address book is automatically uploaded to your SK4000. It can take a few minutes, but when done your SK4000 tells you that it's done. Once the address book is stored, it means that the SK4000 can tell you who is calling, and you can pronounce the person's name to initiate a call.
Pairing to a GPS
You can pair the SK4000 to a GPS equipped with Bluetooth. The instructions are very much like pairing a phone. You let your GPS discover what Bluetooth devices are nearby, select the Parrot, enter the password (0000) and you're in business.
Here you see the SK4000 paired with my Garmin 500.
|NOTE: If you pair your Parrot with a Bluetooth GPS that does not have A2DP Bluetooth, you loose the Parrot's phone function, and you'll need to use the GPS phone function (if equipped). The only disadvantage is that your music is not interrupted when a phone call comes in.|
Using the Bluetooth Phone
Turn both units on. Normally, there's nothing else you need to do, since they've been paired, so they should recognize each other.
Receiving a Call
When someone rings you on your mobile phone (even when you're listening to music or the radio), the SK4000 will tell you that there's an incoming phone call, and announces the name of the person calling (if the number and name is in the address book).
You can accept the call in different ways (or ignore it). You press the "Answer" button on the helmet control unit (Figure #2 button 1), or press the "Answer" button on the handlebar control unit (Figure #3 button 1), or if voice recognition is turned on, say "Accept". That's all you need to do.
If you don't want to speak to that person, either press the helmet control unit's Figure #2 button 2 button, the handlebar control unit's Figure #3 button 2 button, or say "Reject".
Making a Call
If your voice recognition is turned on, you can make a call to someone in your phone address book by saying "Call" followed by the name, followed if there are multiple numbers, by number type (like home, mobile, work). So if for example you want to call me, you say "Call Mike at home".
The SK4000 will read back the name in the address book it has found, and ask you to confirm. You can confirm using the buttons on the control unit or handlebar control unit, or just say "Yes".
If you don't have voice recognition turned on, you can still call. If you're in phone mode (Figure #4), press the +/- keys (Figure #3 button 3) and "scroll" to the "phonebook" (you'll hear the lady say "phonebook"). Press the selector key (Figure #3 button 1) to select the phonebook and use the +/- keys to scroll through the alphabet (you'll hear "A", "B", "C" etc). When you've reached the letter you want, press the selector again. Then use the +/- key again to select the contact in the list of contacts beginning with that name. (if the contact has several numbers, you'll also need to select number). Once you've got the correct name and number, press the selector again, and the number gets dialed.
Sounds cumbersome? It's not. It's quite intuitive and fast.
If the number was engaged, long press the redial (Figure #2 button 1) on the helmet control unit, or long press Figure #3 button 1.
Using the FM Radio
To switch on the radio you press the audio source selector on the remote control unit (Figure #4). Click it until you hear "Radio". You can scan through the stations by pressing the "Next" key on the remote (Figure #3 button 1) or "Previous" (Figure #3 button 2). Either the Parrot tells you the name of the station (if the station is transmitting RDS), or the frequency.
Once you've found your favorite station, you can adjust the volume via your remote. Now all you need to do is sit back and listen to the music (unless you're riding, then you'd better pay attention).
The sound quality is exceptional! Parrot are known for the sound and music quality, so no surprises there. It's like your helmet is turned into a concert hall; stereo and surround sounds... wow!!!
The Test Ride
Out I went for a ride on the Ducati. Using the handlebar remote control unit was easy. As stated before, the controls are intuitive and easy to use.
The FM radio is fine. Where I live there aren't that many stations I can capture, and obviously the radio antenna is limited, but those stations I did capture came across very well. Remember, this is not a car radio, so your reception will be limited. But listening to the super stereo was great. What a way to ride....
Skipping stations was easy. It's fun to hear an English voice pronounce some French names, but it worked.
I didn't have any music device that played A2DP, so I hooked up my iPod to the analog input of the SK4000, and selected that. Wow. Great sound!! Far better than any of the Bluetooth headsets I've used.
I called my wife, and she thought I was stopped somewhere and calling her for there. But I was blasting away at 150 90 kph on the country roads while talking to her. Sound quality both ways were fantastic.
I asked her to call me, which she did. Funny hearing her name being pronounced.... no problems there.. it worked.
Voice activated instructions need some time to get used to, and obviously your accent is going to play an important role, but if it doesn't work for you, you always have different ways of operating your unit.
The volume is more than fine, in fact you can become deaf if you put the volume on max. From all the units I've tested, it's by far the loudest (even more than the Turbo Sound mode of the CellularLine Interphone). You can be wearing ear plugs and still hear every word.
As stated before, the handlebar remote control unit is very handy. You do have to get used to where the rear device selector button is, but the main buttons on the front of the unit are great. So much easier to control your unit than using buttons on the helmet.
Wanting It All
If you want to have music, phone and GPS, you either hook up your player (e.g. iPod) to the audio jack, or pair up your GPS with your Parrot, and let the GPS take care of the phone and the music. Recent models from TomTom and Garmin do exactly that.
The Parrot SK4000 is a very nice gadget.It's great if you're on your own and want some "company" while you ride, listening to whatever music you want. If you need to be reachable by phone, it's a great tool for that.
It's the fantastic sound quality that sets this unit apart from other Bluetooth devices. A concert hall in your helmet....
My only issue is that in today's high tech society, Parrot should have realized that GPSs play an important role and cater for them much better than they do now.
The Parrot SK4000 is not cheap, but for it you do get some really high tech communication and entertainment gear.