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Autocom Active-7-Smart Motorcycle Communications System Test
Notes: Need pictures before Jan 15 deadline.
Pictures –
-Active 7 unit
-Helmet install
-Motorcycle installation with power connectors
-Rider on Bike w/unit connected

By Steve Mullen

In the Beginning
For years touring bikes have had FM radio for the rider/passenger and CB radio's for communications between bikes as part of the OEM package, as an add-on from the factory or aftermarket units. If you had a sport bike or cruiser, little was available to provide the same bike-to-bike communication or the ability to listen to music while riding. And those systems that were available did not always provide reliable communication or decent quality of sound. Many of the bike-to-bike communication system relied on PTT (push-to-talk) switches because VOX (voice actuated operation) was easily triggered by wind or engine noises. But PTT can add a lot of additional wiring to the bike and could be inconvenient. VOX was usually preferred, but generally unreliable especially as speed increased. The quality of sound was also very poor. Early touring bikes used fairing mounted speakers which rapidly become useless as speed increases. Ear phones could be difficult to put in your ears, had very poor audio quality and were uncomfortable to wear.

Yet few riders would disagree that the ability to listening to music and/or talk with other riders is very desirable. There just wasn't much available in the commercial market for motorcycles and motor sport specific communication equipment for use in helmets was very expensive.

The Need Arises
My wife has never gotten completely comfortable with our use of hand signals when we rode together. While she is an excellent rider in her own right, she wanted much better communications on our rides. With our primary vehicles being a pair of Harley's, it was well established that VOX units are easily fooled by the exhaust tone from the V-twin engine. After years of trying various (CB/FRS/GMRS) radios, inexpensive headsets, several different VOX solutions provided by radio manufacturers and the inability to afford very expensive proposals from the motor sport communications companies, it was time to do some additional research. We decided the claim by Autocom of "Any bike, Any speed" was something that should be tested. From research and reviews by commercial magazines, I had already established that Autocom had an excellent reputation. When I found out that these units were available for 50% off for a limited time, it was time to acquire a set and put them to the ultimate test. We would try to get reliable bike-to-bike communications between a pair of Harley's with their very robust exhaust notes.

A quick visit to the Autocom WEB site located my local Dealer. This Dealer had both the Pro and Active 7 units in stock. Given the option of saving $100 on the pair by getting the Active 7 over the Pro unit, I purchased the lower cost model and headed home. The Autocom Active 7 units have the following capabilities:
Bike-to-Bike capabilities using
2-way radio connections (compatible with CB/FRS/GMRS/VHF/UHF radios)
Rider-to-Passenger Intercom
Cell phone connection
Stereo audio input for Radio, CD, MP3, radar detector, GPS
The Autocom kit included the Active 7 unit, helmet mount speakers, boom microphone, helmet extension cable, cell phone cable and generic audio cable. Because of the number of different connectors for two-way radios, this cable needs to be ordered for your specific type of radio. You need to order another set of helmet speakers and microphone if you want passenger intercom capabilities.


The Active 7 unit does not have internal battery power creating the need to wire these units to the bikes. With 3 bikes and two Active 7 units, it would be nice to be able to use these units between bikes. On the way home I stopped by a local Radio Shack to pick up some "M" Coaxial power connectors to make some quick power disconnects. This is a standard size power connector of the type seen on most electronic equipment today. These $3 connectors would allow the quick movement of the units between bikes. As an additional benefit, I'd be able to use the Autocom units in automobiles at SCCA Solo II and drag racing events though a 12V power outlet adapter (a cigarette lighter plug in the cars).

It took little time to install the two included speakers and boom microphone in my Shoei helmet. Placement instructions from Autocom were easy to follow and allowed me to place the speakers/mike correctly the first time. I tested everything by putting a set of alligator clips to the power wires from the Autocom unit and connected them to a spare 12V battery I had. I left the Volume and VOX settings in the original settings. As soon as the helmet was connected to the Autocom with a very robust and easy to line up connector, I was able to hear myself speaking. At least I knew the unit was working. I connected in my cell phone and had my wife call me. With the phone set on auto answer, it picked up immediately and I had a crystal clear conversation with her. Our static testing was a success.

Let the testing begin
I wired the coax power connector into the tail light circuit of my ZZR-1200 to make sure voltage was only available when the ignition switch was on. I placed the Autocom unit and cell phone under under the seat, connected power and ran the cable to the helmet connector out the front of the seat, then took a ride. Again I had my wife call my cell phone at speeds up to 80MPH. In each case, the communications was crystal clear at both ends.

It was time for the acid test. Making sure that the units would work on a noisy Harley. After installing the speakers/microphone in a Simpson helmet and wiring the second unit up on my wife's FXD under the seat, we took a little ride. Because we were still testing with cell phones, a phone call was initiated from one cell phone to the other. The second phone picked up immediately and we were talking with no problem. No static, no wind noise and no loud potato-potato throb coming through in the sound. Absolutely amazing. Of course this was sitting still. I quickly realized that the VOX setting on the HD was a little low because the mike could be triggered by rapping the throttle. A quick change to the VOX setting and the problem was solved. A 45 minute ride at legal speeds yielded perfect communications between the two bikes. Not one single missed word. Static communication testing on our second Harley was just as successful as on the other two bikes.

The Good
At this point I must admit that I'm actually getting quite impressed with the capabilities of the Autocom unit. The results of testing with cell phone to cell phone communications between bikes was a complete success. I decided to test the music capabilities of the unit. I connected a music source to the Autocom and went for a ride. The quality of the sound was amazingly good considering I was listening over engine and road noise. While not quite the same as listening to my stereo in my living room, the music was crisp and clear, making for a enjoyable ride. I even received a call and was able to carry a normal conversation to the person at the other end. It was not evident to the calling party that you are on a motorcycle.

The Bad
All testing to this point was done under conservative, legal riding conditions. While many riders are responsible cyclists most of the time, a recognizable percentage of us do like to twist the throttle a little harder from time to time. I've got a second Harley that has a more aggressive exhaust note. This would be the true test on how well Autocom systems work under hard riding. I went for a very spirited ride on this bike after moving one of the units to this bike. While mostly legal cruising speeds did not effect the system, it was almost immediately obvious that the Autocom VOX unit was having trouble with the sound level of this bike under heavy acceleration. The VOX would key the mike anytime the accelerator was twisted more than 50-60%. Adjusting the VOX setting to the 180MPH level did not eliminate this issue.

The poor performance of the Autocom unit on the Harley under full throttle shook my faith in the ability of the Active 7 to handle “any bike, any speed”. More full throttle testing was required on my sport bike. Since I had placed the coax power connectors on each bike, moving the unit from the HD to the ZZR1200 took less than 5 minutes. Out on the road with the ZZR I tried some full throttle acceleration runs in the lower gears. The engine and exhaust noise associated with accelerating to triple digit speed did not cause the VOX to key the mike. There was no attempt at making top speed runs to test the limits of the units.

The Ugly
To be fair to Autocom, I e-mailed the USA and Corporate technical support sites describing what I had found and noted that there was going to be a published review of the Active-7 unit. In both cases I got a response asking me to verify the VOX settings I had used on the motorcycle. I sent my answers back to them on the same day explaining that I had properly adjusted the VOX, asking for additional guidance on resolving this issue. I am working with Autocom to work through the issues on this one motorcycle.

Testing Summary

From To Riding Style Notes Results
1 Sport Bike Home Phone Static No Problems OK
2 Sport Bike Home Phone Normal Riding Adjusted VOX OK
3 Sport Bike Harley Normal Riding Adjusted Volume OK
4 Harley Home Phone Very Spirited VOX keys mike under heavy throttle Only usable if PTT added
5 Sport Bike Home Phone Very Spirited Sometimes wind noise would key mike OK

What is left to test?
As of this writing, I have not tested the Autocom unit with a set of two way radios. I am waiting for a wiring adapter to connect the unit to some GMRS radios. There is little reason to expect any new issues with the Active 7.

The Bottom Line
Autocom makes a very good motorcycle communication device that works well under a wide variety of circumstances. From the least expensive Easy Rider, to the middle priced Active 7, or the top of the line Pro Rider, you can purchase the communication capabilities you need. The flexibility of these units goes way beyond bike-to-bike communications, rider-to-passenger intercom and music input. Because you have your choice of radios, you could use CB, FRS, GMRS, VHF or UHF radios. You can also use your cell phone or walkie-talkie style cell phone. Then you can add music in the form of a radio, CD or MP3. You can also wire in your radar detector and GPS. While I didn't get a chance to test all of these capabilities, they should work within the established limits.

Any Bike, Any Speed?
I can state with authority that the "Any Bike" may be  inaccurate. A v-twin engine with an aftermarket exhaust will easily outstrip the VOX capability of the Autocom unit while the bike is accelerating hard. There is a high probability that this statement applies to all v-twins; cruiser and sport bike. But there is little doubt in my mind that you could go well beyond any legal USA speed limit and be able to carry on a normal conversation with someone on another bike or talk with someone on their cell phone. An extensive review of Internet postings and bulletin board discussion about Autocom seems to put the practical maximum useful speed limit of the unit at 120MPH.

You should consider Autocom if you are looking for communications quality, reliability and flexibility for your motorcycle. You will be hard pressed to find a better capabilities at the cost of the Autocom units. However it is important that you understand there are limits to its capabilities and technical support from Autocom may be limited.

For more information see:
Autocom Main Web site
Autocom USA Distributor


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How to get Professional Tuning Results at home
Testing the Innovate Motorsport LM-1 portable air fuel meter

Profession Tuning on a Shade Tree Budget

Veypor VR2 Data Logger and Instrument Panel
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Engine Displacement
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The Nightrider Diaries
The ramblings of a genius a, a madman and something in between.

Where is Sifton Cams?

Autocom Active-7 tested

Harley-Davidson EFI
-EFI basics explained
-EFI modifications explained

183 HP, 2 carbs, 2680cc

Copyright 1997-2006  Stephen Mullen, Oldsmar, FL -+-