So it's March and the planning for the 2006 Central Coast trip is
on. It appears that there will be at least 10 of us this year and
there will be no support vehicles. As with last year, most of the
bikes are sport bikes and Eugene and I are the only enduros in the
group. Nonetheless, I'm the pack leader and the one organizing
the entire trip. The trip is scheduled for May 5-7 and we'll be
camping out at two different camp sites on two different nights.
Last year everybody had radios of one form or another but they weren't
too effective. It could be due to the bad microphones and ear
piece or it could be due to the bike's ignition system. Any way
you slice the cheese, I didn't want to repeat last year's poor
This year I planned on going all out and install a good or excellent
audio system. I've been researching the net and ended up with two
finalists, Baehr and J&M. It's a toss up.
Price wise they both come in at about the $800-$950 range. Pricey.
The J&M Integratr IV is $449.99 but with all the cables, helmet
speaker system, and other necessary accessories the system still comes
out to $900+.
The Baehr Verso XL comes with a set of
helmet speakers at $699.95 but
with all the necessary cables the system still ended costing about
There are other cheaper solutions like the HJC ChatterBox but I didn't
want to mount the radio/intercom system directly on the helmet.
There was also the MotoComm
AB-1M. I didn't like the idea the AB-1M was not
water proofed. Who knows when you might get caught in the
rain. Also, the ChatterBox, J&M, and AB-1M doesn't have auto
volume adjustment when you increase your travel speed. The other
concern for me was whether my 12GS had enough juice (alternator power)
to drive everything from my Wunderlich aux lights, Nav system, Radio,
future heated vest, etc.
Good news. I called the service department at Pomona BMW (Brown
Motor Works) and they said the 12GS comes with an alternator that
outputs 50A at 700W. WOW! Like the service person said, "It
can power a refrigerator." That's a funny notion but that's also
awesome to hear. He mentioned something to the effect, "I don't
think you have enough room on the 12GS to mount everything and
take up all the electrical power." Suffice to say, I'm very
pleased with this news and I'm planning on tying everything to the
bike's power. Everything I have and things I'm planning on having
will probably come to about 10 amps max for power consumption.
That means the 12GS has plenty of power left to do whatever it needs to
do, and some.
Tangents aside, I have been stuck in a rut between purchasing the Baehr
or the J&M. The cool thing about the J&M is that it's
portable and the intercom system follows you as you get off your
bike. It doesn't need bike power to operate. However,
considering the paragraph above, that's not an issue any more. My
navigation hook up is via Bluetooth so there are no cables to attach to
the TomTom. This is cool
since it means the intercom system can be completely independent of the
bike. No wired hookups. On the other hand, the Baehr is a
completely hands free system. Once you have the unit tuned to the
correct audio level, you can forget about pushing any button to
communication in whichever manner you want. Hands free is nice
because you don't have to fidget with anything to be able to
$1300 dollars on plastic and a week later, I took possession of the Baehr Ultima
XL intercom system from A&S
BMW. I favored the Baehr since I know I don't have power
issues and it's a completely hands free system. The other thing I
noticed is that BMW has installed equivalent Baehr intercom systems on
their other model motorcycles (R1200RT and K1200LT). BMW's choice
has to account for something, right? I also chose the Ultima XL
over the Verso XL because there are more universal connectors on the
Ultima XL. The other excuse, the 12GS will be my final bike until
it falls apart so I might as well go the high-end.
It doesn't look much different than the Verso XL but in reality
it's a much more refined unit. After all it cost an additional
For more detail and trials and tribulations on installing the Baehr
Ultima XL, go to the links below.
Update 1 [April 10,
Clarity is all I can think of. The Baehr is so clear. I was
testing out my cell phone connection the other day and the people on
the other end can't even tell I'm riding. The noise cancelation
software and the foam around the mic does the job. Even Russell
can't believe the clarity of the audio when he spoke to me on the
phone. Even thought the $1300 hurt the pocket book, it's worth
every penny when it comes to being able to hear what other people are
talking about. For those that can put up with the cost for an
intercom system of this quality, I highly recommend Baehr. I give
it a 5 out of 5.
Update 2 [April 17,
After much procrastination I finally created a mount for my Palm TX to
serve as my MP3 player on long trips. I installed a new 2GB SD
card on the Palm and downloaded two CDs onto the SD card (Juno
Reactor's Bible of Dreams and Long Way Round sound track) as a
test. I ripped the CDs at 256kHz sample rate and accepted that
I'm loosing sound dynamics (quality) in the process. I was
anticipating the wind noises and all that while riding so I didn't
think the sound quality needed to be that great. Also, I thought
the Baehr headphones are good but didn't think that they would be able
to output anything worth praising about. Boy was I wrong!
Even at 256kHz sample rate the Baehr speakers were spectacular.
The audio came through with quite the fidelity. The audio was
crisp and clear. The low end DB sounds weren't as low as a bass
could be, but hey, that's what I get for being spoiled with my
computer's sub woofer. Bottom line, the head set speakers are
really good. Again, I haven't changed my mind about the Baehr and
still give it a 5 out of 5.
Update 3 [September 17, 2006]
After the recall work that was done on my bike (34 005 06(028), 34 004
06(027), 61 001 05(058)) I had a situation where the auxiliary power
was cycling power on my bike. This caused the Ultima XL to power
off and on every 10-20 seconds. At one point or another, I
elected to moved the Ultima off of the auxiliary power and go directly
to the battery, with a power toggle switch. It would have been
nice to have the CAN bus power everything on and off but it didn't
appear possible for me after the recall work. Anyway, once I got
the Baehr off of the auxiliary power, the unit is much happier.
However, I'm noticing that I'm not getting any audio at all. I
can hear the white noise on the headset speakers, that is normally
associated with the Ultima being on, but that's it. The MP3
player plays but the headset doesn't pick up any music. Likewise,
my navigation system talks and my cell phone is plugged in but there is
no audio from either. My initial reaction was the Ultima is
damaged from so many power cycles. The curious thing is, the 1A
fuse is not even burned out. Also, the fact that I get that white
noise is an idication the Ultima is getting power and is working.
Being such an expensive unit, I can't help but be a little irate at BMW
even thouh the recall work is an absolute necessity. Suffice to
say I wasn't happy about the Ultima's apperant demise. Why was I
mad? The Ultima was working fine before the recall
service. Now, it's having issues. Knowing it's a loosing
battle with BMW, I decided to just suck up the cost and get the Ultima
working again. I finally decided to contacted the Baehr help desk
to see if the Ultima can be fixed. Tom introduced himself and the
ball started rolling. All I can say about Baehr USA (www.baehrusa.com), they're awesome
people. They're ever so helpful and are very pleasant to deal
with. Tom asked me to send in the unit to have it verified and
make sure it's not something else that is wrong. At this point I
had done a little troubleshooting on my own but can't figure out what
the problems was. I was still under the impression that it is the
Ultima that's having the problem. Since I had a trip coming up
soon, end of September, I was impatient about the entire situation and
kind of lost it. This that and the other thing, I didn't send in
my Ultima but instead ordered another Ultima XL. At one point I
almost purchased the J&M intercom as a replacement unit but Tom
talked me out of it. Thanks Tom! No I'm not made of money
but I'm definitely impatient. After a week or so I received the
new Ultima XL. I went ahead and installed the new unit.
Guess what? It did the same thing. I was stunned.
That means my original Ultima was perfectly fine and there is something
else that is wrong. I had rulled out the headset being a problem,
after Tom suggested connecting the headset directly to an audio source
to verify its viability. The headset was good. Everything
was starting to point to the cables as being the problem.
Amazing, how can cables be the problem? I then remember the
cables have noise filters on them and it's possible that the resistors
or whatever is in them might have blown. The good deal is that I
don't regularly connect my 2-way radio to the bike, unless I'm going on
a long trip, so those cables are not effected because they were sitting
in my home office. So I pulled out both of my FRS cables for the
numerous FRS radios that I have, and started troubleshooting
again. What do you know, all 4 of the priority audio ports and
the auxiliary audio port work fine. I can head the noise and
chirp of the FRS radio on the headset. Proof that the cables are
the source of the problem. I have since returned the second
Ultima XL and purchased all of the replacement audio cables. Once
I received the 3.5mm stereo cables, I plugged it in and verified that I
can get audio from the MP3 player. I can hear the sweet sounds of
Depech Mode on the headset. It all works fine now. Thanks
to Tom and Carl from Baehr USA for helping me figure this out.
Update 4 [
February 3, 2010 ]
Talk about leaving the story hanging... this one has been hanging for a
couple of years. Thank god this is a private non-commercial
site. If this was a commercial site, I would have fired myself a
long time ago. Anyway, now it's time to finish up.
Flash back to the past... some 3 to 4 years...
Unfortunately for me, the Ultima XL is broken. Tom was
right. The cables had nothing to do with the problem. It's
a case where the XL was working intermittently and made me think the
intercom was OK. When I dissected the cable, there was no type of
filter or noise impeding gadget at all. Talk about bad
assumptions. The big square blocks are just protectors to prevent
damage to the cable where different cable types are mated
together. In the end, in the interest of time for the trip, I
went to the J&M website and
order the Integratr
IV. The unit is still pretty pricey but has dropped to
$250. With all the cables and speakers it wasn't too far short of
the Ultima XL. Fortunately for me, J&M is fast. I get
everything in just two days. It's nice that J&M is HQed in Arizona.
But I made a mistake in ordering some wrong components. The upper
connecting cable was wrong. I had to go back to the site and
order a different set of cables with over night shipping. Once
again, it speedily arrived in the mail and everything is a perfect
fit. It's sad that I spend such a short time with the Ultima
XL. However, that short time showed me the superiority of the
Baehr intercom system. There's a reason why it cost as much as it
does. If you don't want to compromise on your audio quality,
stick with Baehr.
Flash to the present... some 3 to 4 years later...
At present I've been using the J&M
for at least 3 years and the original unit is still working perfectly
fine. I have also purchased a replacement/backup unit (the price
has dropped on the base unit from $250 to $120) in case this one
finally decides to give up the ghost. However, it looks like it's
still going strong. I have the intercom mounted on my Givi T422
tankbag with a lot of Velcro. Because it sits at an easily
accessible location, it's a cinch to adjust the volume. I've used
the Integratr IV
with AAA, Li-on, and bike power. By far the best setup is the
Li-on battery. There is no power noise to contend with. The
only thing you have to worry about is having to recharge the battery
after several days of use. As a brief comparison between the
Baehr Ultima XL and the Integratr IV:
Baehr Ultima XL
- Superior sound quality.
- Excellent wind noise reduction.
- Can easily prioritize audio devices.
- Completely weather proof.
- Can't easily adjust the volume, you have to rely on the
peripheral's volume adjustment. Auto volume level only works to a level.
- Have to run wires all over the bike.
- Complicated FRS/GMRS PTT wiring setup.
- Can't create custom (home grown) wiring.
- Can adjust the volume manually.
- Can use multiple power sources.
- Completely portable (can be used even when not on a motorcycle).
- Don't have to run wires all over the bike.
- Has build in FM radio receiver (This might be null and void with
the digital radio bit).
- Very simple remote PTT wiring using a standard 3.5mm stereo jack
(can be home grown).
- Can use generic 3.5mm stereo audio wiring (e.g. auxiliary audio
- Only good audio quality (definitely not at the Baehr Ultima XL
level of fidelity).
- Only good wind noise reduction, but definitely way better than a
- Can't prioritize audio input (Cell phone is higher priority than
- Not weather proof. It needs a plastic bag or tankbag cover
to assist in this matter.
- Pillion to driver VOX has to be set low and the initiator of the
conversation has to start by screaming "Hey!" before the vox activates.
As of this writing, I checked the J&M
site again and it appears the Integratr IV
has further dropped in price. The base unit is now only
$70. That's amazing considering I spent at least $250 for my
As with everything in life, it's a trade off. If you want the
fidelity, you have to pay money for it. However, the Integratr IV
being priced the way it is nowadays, I don't think the Baehr Ultima XL
can compare. If you break the Integratr IV
into millions of pieces, you're more likely to go surfing the web and
purchase yourself another unit. In the Ultima XL's case, I think
I'd be crying once again. The other unfortunate news is that
Baehr USA is no longer with us. They might have been a victim of
the current economic depression in the USA. Whatever the reason,
it's sad to see a fine bunch of people gone.
In the end it is a matter of subjectivity and convenience. You
have to pick which ever intercom system that works for you. Some
like Autocom. Others like ChatterBox. As for me, I have
found my groove and will stick to the J&M Integratr IV.
price is even cost competitive against a ChatterBox nowadays.
You didn't ask for it but my personal bias says, "...don't bother with
a ChatterBox." Trust me, I've experienced it first hand and I'm
definitely not impressed.
Baehr Ultima XL installation Part 1
Baehr Ultima XL installation Part 2
(Installing the electronics)
Baehr Ultima XL installation Part 3 (Putting
the speakers in the helmet)
Written On: March 15, 2006
Last modified: February 3, 2010