Product review | Cardo Freecom 4X bluetooth intercom tested

Cardo Freecom 4X review

Waterproof, JBL audio, voice activation. It’s got the gadgets, but is it any good? Here’s our review of the Cardo Freecom 4X intercom.

When it comes to intercoms, there tend to be two camps - those who prefer to ride with the engine as their companion, and those who enjoy a bit of music/radio/chitchat. For those of you in that second camp, the Cardo Freecom 4X unit could well be one of the best on the market at its price point. 

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let's ‘set the scene’ for you.

Primarily a Bluetooth intercom to connect you with up to 4 riders, the Freecom 4X device isn’t limited to just chatting as you ride.

In the box is a pair of superb quality JBL speakers, Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity (that’ll auto-connect and remember your device when switched on), and crisp mic quality, allowing both voice-activated device functions (Hey Siri etc) and auto noise-cancellation for the benefit of the person on the other end of the phone, who won't hear the worst of the wind rushing into your lid. It’s a do-it-all bit of kit.

Cardo Freecom 4x

Cardo Freecom 4X Price & availability 

Priced up at around £190 - 235 (depending on where you shop online), the Freecom 4X single unit sits around the top-middle of budget and premium, but provides features accordingly. A Duo set with two devices (perfect for you and your pillion, or riding buddy) will set you back around £370, though I’ve seen it at £435 in some online retailers. 

You’ll find the devices for sale in your local dealership, or online at your favourite biking accessories store - there are plenty of places to pick one up from, so shop around for the best deal. Head to the Cardo site for more info on availability and a dealer locator.

In the box you get the device, 2 kits to attach to your lid (one sticky pad, one clamp kit), two options for speakers (open face/full face versions), and a USB-C charging cable. Oh, and a Cardo sticker. I love a free sticker.

Comparatively, the SENA 5S does about the same stuff (albeit with arguably lower audio quality) for £115.

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What is it and installation

You can use the Freecom 4X for a variety of main functions. Listening to music/radio, getting voice navigation guidance, or naturally, the intercom function to chat with your riding pals.

My main use when riding with the Cardo mounted to my lid was for music & navigation - and it has served me proud in the month or so I’ve been riding with it. 

Installation was quick and simple, though the installation guide is very IKEA in its approach, with little wording. The chosen beneficiary for this install was my Shoei NXR2 (size L), and with the supplied adhesive pad, the unit sticks fairly well onto the lid.

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Combining the curvature of a lid and a sticky pad on a hard surface can be a tad awkward sometimes. For those with a shell diameter less than 5mm, you can slide a clamp between the outer and inner bits.

Once stuck on, the baseplate acts as the hub for mic and speaker wires, both a good length to fit all helmets sizes. The 40mm JBL speakers fit snugly into the premade holes in your lid, and you have a choice of two mics to stick up front (open v full face). Tuck the pair of wires away behind the innards and connect them up into the mounting plate, and you’re done. Easy!

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Product features

In terms of product features, it’s got everything you need.

  • Live intercom - 1200m range with max 4 units. Bluetooth 5.2 connection for universal connectivity (phones, GPS, TFT systems), and auto-retries a reconnect to other units if signal drops during riding. 
  • 40mm JBL speakers - the showpiece, for me. Top-quality audio, music & speech is super crisp and clear, even with earplugs in. Volume scroll wheel works nicely too, and the audio is said to be speed-dependent, though sometimes not quite quietened enough when slowing down for my delicate ears, apparently. 
  • Speech operated - ‘Hey Cardo’ (or your Siri/Google alternative) will let you operate the device or your own device. Very handy when it works - though I feel Siri might be at fault here.
  • Waterproof. You'd think every intercom would be waterproof, but that's not always the case… important for us all-weather UK riders. I’ve had previous intercoms written off thanks to a bit of rain, and oddly-placed charging docks that allow water to creep in. Not an issue here (yet, anyway!)
  • 2 hours talk-time from 20 min charge via USB-C. Around 8 or 9-hour music playback from a full charge, though it claims 13 hours. I've found it to be good for about 2 hours of constant use per 25% increment of battery, that it’ll remind you of when shutting off. 
  • Plus there's a dedicated app that you can run whilst riding to control the unit, if you have a smartphone mount for your bike anyway. Via that same app, you can access the over-the-air updates.

What do we like?

It's sleek and doesn’t seem to create a huge amount of wind noise (at least on my Shoei NXR2). Has a couple of mounting options for a variety of lids. It’s a lightweight 37g, important to consider when your neck will be bearing that weight. 

Mic auto cuts out wind noise and inserts your voice when you open your gob. It has that handy 4-way live intercom. Pairs with your phone & bike with Bluetooth 5.2.

Little features and details. Weatherproof. Battery level shouted-out to you when shutting off (in increments of 25) and seems to last a good 8 hours and recharges quickly. Audio quality is top with JBL speakers, even with earplugs in. Voice activation works well (if you’re shouting ‘Hey Siri’ it hears you, and doesn’t mistakenly answer if you call a car driver a muppet). Easily detaches at the push of a button for charging.

Installation is nice and easy, and updates over-the-air when paired with your smartphone app.

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What do we dislike?

It has FM radio built-in, which seems to activate itself by itself sometimes. Even when I've accidentally left the device on with my lid on the side, and I'll hear that FM radio 'fur' from my helmet. When it does this while riding, I had to shut off the system and restart it to get back to music - despite saying you hold a button, it just beeps and continues. Now I dread the ‘RADIO ON’ announcement.

You have to memorise a few hand gestures and where the buttons are - standard intercom stuff. Figure out the button presses for pairing combinations and using the unit, and the variation of button pressing and holding them down for variations of time, and you’ll be clicking through the three buttons (plus scroll wheel with push function) with ease.

Or just use your voice, if you fancy a fight with your smartphone voice assistant - ‘I said navigation off!’.

Whilst this Freecom 4X doesn’t have the mesh communication of the pricier models in the Cardo range, you have to consider the price point against that. You’ll have to be content with daisy-chain pairing with 2 connections per unit. The auto-reconnect is nice, though.

Speed-dependent audio seems to work sometimes, other times not - and rather than a succession of different beeps for functions, the unit has a voice, so it should use it more! 

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Verdict & conclusion

I’ve been seriously impressed by the Cardo Freecom 4X over my time riding with it. Whilst my use has been largely for music and navigation, it’s quickly become my favourite unit to accompany on every ride. 

It’s sleek, easy to get on with, and the little details (even things like telling you the battery status when you shut it off - though I’d like it to say the percentage when turning on, too) are well thought through, and signs of a great overall product. 

My favourite feature? The JBL speakers, I’d seriously consider the unit for the quality of audio out-of-the-box alone. A close second is the voice operation which understands you clearly, even in the worst of weather. 

Thanks to Cardo for sending us out the unit for review, check out their site for more info.