Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW? - BMW Luxury Touring Community
 
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post #1 of 7 Old Feb 16th, 2010, 12:23 pm Thread Starter
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Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

I'm looking to buy two GMRS radio bike-to-bike comm systems with intercom for my '09 R1200RTs that my SO and I ride. I've narrowed my search down to the Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or the new Autocom L-IW Independence Wireless w/ Bluetooth system with Kenwood TK-3302-U16P GMRS radios. I'm having a difficult time choosing between the two options. The pros for the Chatterbox system are price and compact design, while the pros for the Autocom system are highest quality of design and construction. The cons for Chatterbox are the 2-watt radio power and the number of negative reviews I've read about the VOX system and other sound qualities. The big con for the combination Autocom-Kenwood system is the total cost at $1,400 or more for a dual setup versus $680 for two Chatterbox systems.

I'm leaning towards the Chatterbox system for the cost and compactness factors. I have experience with the Chatterbox XBi2 bluetooth intercom systems, and they work fine at very short distance (500 meter max. with absolutely clear line of sight between units). The sound is clear between bikes and the duplex intercom system is very nice. And, my Garmin Zumo 550 connects flawlessly and gives me very clear GPS voice instructions and cell phone communications at highway speeds. But, put a car between the two bikes at an intersection, and the bluetooth intercom is useless even thought the units are less than 30 feet apart. So, I'd expect a similar level of sound quality from the GMRS system with increased range and better performance through sight obstructions at close distances. Also, my take on some of the negative reviews I've read of the Chatterbox systems VOX and sound quality is that they are written by bare bikers wearing open-face helmets or full-face helmets with less than secure seals between the face shield and the helmet who expect acoustic miracles. My RT with its CalSci windshield is very quiet at all speeds, so I think many of the complaints would not apply to my setup.

From reading, it seems the effective range of the GMRS radios, whether 2-watt or 4-watt is about the same 1.5 to 2 miles, 3-5 miles under really optimal conditions. The Autocom system requires a physical lashup of the GMRS radio of choice with the base unit, and the methods of attaching the two items to the body is less handy than the Chatterbox setup. (I'd probably end up securing the Autocom-Kenwood system under the seat and powering it from the bike---another plus for the Autocom, but requiring a extended cord connection from the headset to the comm system.)

So, given the above, I'd like to hear from folks who have experience with either or both systems or who otherwise have 2-cents-worth to give on bike-to-bike comm systems in general or other options.

TIA.

Rush Shortley
Iowa City, IA
2009 R1200RT - Titan Silver (His)
2009 R1200RT - Sapphire Black - Lowered Suspension (Hers)
2005 K1200LT (Sold)
1969 R69S/2 (My first bike. Long gone but not forgotten.)
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post #2 of 7 Old Feb 17th, 2010, 7:06 am
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Re: Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

I am using an Autocom Pro V Avi and the Kenwood GMRS/FRS Pro-Talk via VOX. I believe the radio model is similar to what you quoted. Can't remember if it is 2 or 4 watt output. I have no experience with the Chatterbox but like you I have heard less than glowing reports about their performance. I could not be more happy with the way mine works. I have never tested it for total usable range but I know it is in excess of three miles. The quality of the sound is just fantastic no static, hiss or background noise. The limiting factor on these radios is the supplied, rubber duck antennas and not the transmitter output wattage. The stock antenna acts more like a dummy load than a true gain multiplying antenna. Many make it worse by laying their .500 milliwatt radio down in a tank bag and wondering why the performance is limited to a few hunderd yards. I suspect the Kenwood/Autocom option will be your best bet if your going for longer range and higher qualiy. More expensive for sure, but like most things you get what you pay for.

The issue with the Autocom to radio cable and Autocom to helmet cable are a drawback with this configuration. I hate cables running everywhere and wanted my set up to be as hassle free as possible. I installed a 3dB gain Maxrad non ground plane antenna to my top box I also keep the Kenwood in the top box.I fashioned a panel mount jack for the radio cable and the antenna coax so both can be unplugged for easy top box removal. In addition I fabricated a panel mount DIN plug to accept the Autocom head set lead. The only cable I have to mess with now is the head set lead but it no longer runs from under the seat as the DIN plug is located near the dash. All of this required a tremendous amount of thinking and work. The panel mount jack for the radio cable is something I would not want to try to reproduce. But at the end of the day, to me anyway the effort was worth it. I have excellent long range bike to bike communications without cables dangleing in my way.

I guess it all depends on what you are looking to accomplish, if $ are the big consideration then Chatterbox, although maybe a compromise in the quality area will get you what you need. If you looking for the better way then I think the Autocom/Kenwood option is your path forward.

R1200RT
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post #3 of 7 Old Feb 17th, 2010, 8:22 am Thread Starter
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Lightbulb Re: Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Axiom2000
I am using an Autocom Pro V Avi and the Kenwood GMRS/FRS Pro-Talk via VOX. . . .

I installed a 3dB gain Maxrad non ground plane antenna to my top box I also keep the Kenwood in the top box.I fashioned a panel mount jack for the radio cable and the antenna coax so both can be unplugged for easy top box removal. In addition I fabricated a panel mount DIN plug to accept the Autocom head set lead. . . .[T]he DIN plug is located near the dash. . . .
Thanks for your feedback; you have stimulated my thinking.

Where did you mount the Autocom unit?

As with you, a great part of my consideration is the messy lash-up required by the Autocom/radio combination if worn on the body as shown in the Autocom literature. And, I really like your solution. I have an unused radio/CD compartment in the right fairing on the RT and could install everything there with the antenna attached to the outside of the fairing in pretty much the position the BMW radio unit antenna would be attached, although this would be a permanent modification to the bike (although drilling holes in a $900 top box is also not a small consideration). With the equipment in this location, the installation of a DIN connector for the headset plug in a convenient location nearer the installed electronics should be less difficult than your installation.

Again, thanks. I'm pushed towards your solution, which seems to have the advantages of quality and convenience once installed.

Rush Shortley
Iowa City, IA
2009 R1200RT - Titan Silver (His)
2009 R1200RT - Sapphire Black - Lowered Suspension (Hers)
2005 K1200LT (Sold)
1969 R69S/2 (My first bike. Long gone but not forgotten.)
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post #4 of 7 Old Feb 17th, 2010, 8:43 am
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Re: Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

Quote:
Where did you mount the Autocom unit?
The Autocom is located under the rear seat. Yep drilling holes is the Top Box took some courage but it worked out well, the holes are on the bottom and weather proofed with grommets.

R1200RT
MSF RiderCoach
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post #5 of 7 Old Feb 17th, 2010, 9:38 am
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Re: Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

http://www.collettcommunicators.com

Not sure if the link works, butt if it does, this might be another system to consider in your project. No affiliation here.
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post #6 of 7 Old Feb 17th, 2010, 10:47 am
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Re: Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

I am not yet there, but in a few weeks I will be in the same position. Wanting to talk to Karen while we are riding and listening to music, phone, GPS, you name it.

From what I have seen so far I believe we will be going with the Scala G4. With that we should be able to talk to each other short distance (up to one mile), have out phones connected to the intercom via bluetooth and with the Garmin 665 we can listen to XM, and have the GPS communicate with us via bluetooth. Not the cheapest solution, but there are NO wires whatsoever. That alone is worth a lot.
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post #7 of 7 Old Feb 17th, 2010, 9:09 pm
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Re: Chatterbox GMRS X1 BT or Autocom L-IW?

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