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Discussion Starter #1
Note: This is a duplicate of a post I made on the GL1800.org board, for those of you who read both boards.

After a month of indecision of whether to spend almost $400 for 2 new pairs of headsets, I finally broke out the wallet and did it. I had been very dissapointed that I spent $90 each for the Chatterbox headsets to get what I considered substandard sound, and didn't want to get burned worse the second time. I had heard too many complaints about the J&M's and the 90 day warranty on the EdSets completely turned me off, although they may be very high quality headsets. (The Air Rider's have a 2 year warranty.) Here is what I have concluded so far.

The first thing I did after installing the headsets was to get out the mini-disc player and put in a disc with good clean pounding bass. (Madonna). That put a grin on my face. At level 8, I was getting great low and high frequency response from these headsets. They sounded equally good at low and high volume, which is unusual, because the bass in most speakers will roll off at low volume. They won't compete with my Sennheizer headphones in the house, but they were far better than anything I had hoped for.

Then came the mike test. Criss and I went out to the garage and turned on the intercom. I was amazed to find that with the intercom at 7 or 8, we were getting the same volume that we got with the Chatterbox set at 11. A side benefit which I did not expect was that the annoying intercom hiss was missing. Thinking that it was just because the volume was lower, I turned it up to 11 and the intercom hiss was there, but barely audible. This peaked my curiosity, so I decided to give it the alternator whine/buzz test, again thinking that the headsets would have no affect on this. I started the engine and listened. What I heard was near silence. If we were absolutely quiet and I revved the engine, I could here the whine very slightly. I turned on the turn signals and no ticking either. Testing for buzzing from the cruise control will have to wait until the weather improves. It will be interesting to see if the whine is still gone with the Gerbings loading down the alternator.

I turned the mini-disc on again to give it a volume test. The Chatterbox headsets would give an annoying snapping sound at levels beyond 12. A setting of 15 is extremely loud with the Air Riders, (and I love loud music, if you need a reference). At 20, I still had no distortion, but could not go any higher. The volume was ear splitting.

This test had me really shaking my head. As an audio tech, I know that speakers and microphones don't make noise. They just reproduce it. I had been convinced that the intercom system was just crap. Until now that is. I sat down and did a few measurements on both headsets. What I found is that there is a serious impedance mismatch on the Chatterbox headsets with the speakers and and to a lesser extent with the microphone. The Chatterbox speakers tested at an average of 33 ohms, while the Air Riders were over 80 ohms. That would also explain the popping sound with music. The mikes did not have nearly the difference in impedance. Obviously, the Chatterbox headsets were not designed for the GL1800 audio system. This would explain why many riders have had such good results replacing the speakers on the Chatterbox with inexpensive computer headset speakers.

The only test I could not do was the road noise/wind noise test. This was something that the Chatterbox mikes excel at when compared to the J&M,

One last observation. The Chatterbox headsets had one nice feature that is missing from the Air Rider. The entire cord can be unplugged from the Chatterbox, but not from the Air Rider. You can disconnect the main coiled cord, but you will always have a 10 inch long cord hanging from the helmet, which is a minor annoyance that I will gladly try to get used to considering the dramatic difference in the headsets.

I have my Chatterbox sets up for sale cheap if anyone is interested. They are a good alternative for someone who can't drop the big bucks on the other headsets out there, and just wants the intercom. Just don't plan on playing music without swapping out the speakers.

I hope this helps you guys. I know many people have struggle with this issue just as I have.
Larry
 

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Thanks for sharing your good information I am sure it will help some. I own chatterbox headsets and they have worked fine and trouble free for the past 3 years but will have to agree music isn't very good. My main use is for CB communication and for that they have worked great. I prefer to listen to music over the external speakers unless traveling above 70 mph then headsets usually become necessary.
 

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If I wasn't so happy with my (cheap) Chatterbox headsets, AirRiders would be at the top of my list. A friend of mine has a set of AirRiders and they definitely do sound cleaner than the Chatterbox headsets.

However... the difference is so negligable, that is just doesn't warrant spending an extra $125 per headset to achieve a few more ohms or decibels of clarity that you lose to ambient noise anyway.

Truth be known... 90% of the people who have installed headsets/intercoms and are striving for that ever elusive (concert) quality sound, have them installed wrong anyway. You need to have them babies right on your ears with the main thrust of the speaker a direct shot to your ear canal. Most people that complain about a "tinny" sounding headset either have the speakers mounted too far from their ears, or have them mounted above/below/rearward/forward of their ear canals, thus the reason for the complaints about poor quality of sound.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Rodehard,
I certainly won't fault anyone for buying the Chatterbox headsets. They are a needed inexpensive alternative. However, I installed the Air Riders with the same spacing from my ear that I used with the Chatterboxes, and the difference is dramatic. Even if the quality was the same, the lack of popping noises with music when the volume was turned up, (same problem with both headsets, so they are not defective) and the elimination of the annoying mike amp hiss made the purchase worthwhile to me. (I'll grant you that I may be pickier than some because I service audio products for a living.)

As far as "concert hall" sound goes, of course they are not that good, what headphone is? But they are at least as good if not better than any Walkman setup out there, and certainly better than the external speakers. That's more than good enough for a motorcycle in my book.

I think there are a lot of people that are faced with the same problem that I had, wanting something better, but not wanting to risk getting burned. That's why I took the time to post the review. I doubt that you will be dissapointed with these headsets.

Larry
 
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