Full duplex wireless headsets, truly marriage savers

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, completed the Great Loop in 2017.

24 Responses

  1. Henrik Borg says:

    Bought a pair of SENA SPH10, just for the reason mentioned in the headline!
    Have trouble with buzzing and humming interference, like you could hear from cell phone close to loudspeakers in early days. Have not been able to get rid of it or find a solution. Sena support suggested reset and software update, but did not improve unfortunately.
    A bit of a disappointment, SENA was supposed to be well proven product.
    Anyone with similar experience with these?

  2. I had both of these as well over the last few years, and even though both companies have come out with updated versions of things, hands down the Eartec is better. Sena’s product requires a PhD to figure out how to pair with things, and often times it would never connect even given the magic sequences. Eartec just works – if it doesn’t, then remove all the batteries, power on the master, and then the slaves, done.

    I also love how the Eartec is one ear, so I can still hear the engines with the other, and it is super easy to mute by just flipping up the boom.

    Both have had coverage issues, and I think the Sena are better here, but I am willing to have a bit scratchy audio for something that just works really easily and simply. It also makes it easy for my crew to set them up too!

  3. David Hitch says:

    I agree completely with your story. It is all too true. Ten to fifteen years ago I bought a blue tooth pair, but they wouldn’t stay on. Wish there was a greater product range. Please keep the reviews going.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I had a good experience with the Sena SPH10 headsets back in 2014, and it’s worth noting that all the Sena models are sold specifically to boaters by Cruising Solutions, the same little company that once equipped many boats with the semi-famous $60/pair “Mariner walkie-talkie headsets.” This entry also features yours truly as headset model:

    https://www.panbo.com/cruising-solutions-headsets-testing-the-bluetooth-update/

    And if you’re looking for truly pro level headsets with VHF integration and amazing noise cancellation, check out David Clark Company. This entry details how they are set up and used on a Royal Canadian Marine SAR vessel:

    https://www.panbo.com/rcmsars-mission-critical-equipment/

  5. DougP says:

    We’ve never used the Eartec units but have had great experiences with the Senas.
    We bought them in 2015 and have used them for thousands of miles up and down the Ditch, in every docking and almost everything else (up the mast, etc) since we bought them.
    The pairing, at least in our 2015 models, is NOT automatic and can, occasionally, take two tries but other than that we’ve had no issues at all.
    Sound quality has always been Cell phone like, as you said, so perfectly usable.
    We certainly don’t mind the “both ears” bit since the Senas are not full-blown, Eartec type ear cups so I’ve always been able to hear both the dockhands and my wife just fine at all times, and, with my “old guy” hearing, hearing Victoria is always more important than the dockhand….
    When we spent nine years living aboard BC (Before Children, mid-70s to mid-80s) cruising the East Coast, the islands and the Med, yelling and screaming in some nasty situations, especially doing the Med mooring dance, when we saw in 2015, when we bought our “retirement” sailboat, we gleefully ordered them INSTANTLY! They truly ARE marriage savers!

  6. David H David H says:

    Ben, great article and I agree wireless communication is incredibly useful on many boats. However I will say it surprises me sometimes when there is something as good or better for perhaps 1/3 the price and people ignore it; i.e.: its as though there is a paradigm on this topic and if the discussion doesn’t include “Eartec” or “SENA”, it goes unnoticed. I spotted something another boater mentioned on a forum and tried them out and they work fantastic; VNetphone V6C bluetooth headsets. They are about $110 for a pair from Amazon, leave one ear uncovered, and don’t make you look like your prepping to guide a Boeing 737 to a jetbridge. We’ve used them more than a year, they always work with clarity and good range, and we have to recharge them only perhaps once a month. Check them out!

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      David,

      Those certainly look like they could fill the bill and nice to see a lower priced option. I really like not having a wire run from the headset to a belt pack which I don’t see as an option with these but perhaps I’ve missed it.

      For many products used in marine applications, there are general purpose products available for less. But, a manufacturer or distributor who has packaged the products and promoted them for marine use can be very helpful.

      Thanks for pointing these out. And for those looking for them, here’s a link to what I found: https://amzn.to/2NIqYuk

  7. David H David H says:

    Ben, yes you are correct there is a wire from the small earpiece to the transceiver so I know some people avoid that. But I will say the transceiver is small enough it will fit in a small shoulder or chest pocket, an armband, or even in the small zipper pocket on the front of many self-inflating PFDs. So for me, the pros outweigh the wire issue. Thx.

  8. Peter Mannerstråle says:

    What about using the smartphone connected to each other over bluetooth or wifi and using your normal headset (Airpods for example). Anybody don this?

    • David H David H says:

      Peter, yes in fact we did this for several months using iPhones before we switched to the VNet product. Essentially when prepping to dock you would just call your partner on the phone; you could use wireless bluetooth earpieces, or wired earphones. Generally this worked pretty well. You must be in an area that has cellular coverage for your smartphones. Ultimately we switched to the VNet because we knew we’d be cruising to remote areas where we couldn’t guarantee we’d have cellular reception. Also, this is a minor thing, but i noticed with the iPhones when we were close to each other there was a slight audio delay in communication. In contrast, there is no discernible delay in the VNet headsets.

      • Peter Mannerstråle says:

        I ment not by using cellular network. But connecting with wifi or bluetooth between the smartphones.

        • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

          Peter,
          In my experience, you’re getting to a point of complexity that endangers your ability to meet the need. There’s not any built-in facility in mainstream phones to allow point-to-point communications via either Bluetooth or WiFi. You may be able to find an app that does this but now you’ve strung together a lot of steps and processes to make this happen. For me, the beauty of the purpose-built headsets is turning them on and having them work reliably every time.

        • Patrick says:

          Using WiFi between cellphones requires an app and results in a significant lagging, it takes seconds to get a message through. If you are within voice distance, so the other person could hear you talk as well, it’s confusing to hear everything twice but seconds apart.
          With bluetooth, that I have used a lot on my MC helmet, the lagging is in the range of milliseconds. The connection is not via the smartphone but direct between the headsets.

    • popeye popeye says:

      There is an app called “Android Intercom” that looks promising …

      • David H David H says:

        If you’re talking about a VoIP client, you will need internet; either from the cellular network or WiFi, and i see you do mention WiFi as a carrier. Perhaps you’re one of those lucky people that has good WiFi in your home base marina and you do not travel much to other marinas…? I just mention this because there’s a consensus that most marinas have less than optimal WiFi. Also when you approach a marina, many have their WiFi password protected so you won’t get the password until after you’ve docked (when you needed it most).
        You are correct that some of those phone apps claim the ability to link with Bluetooth alone; this might be good if it works; i’d recommend to confirm if the range is adequate, and also if there are voice delays.

        • popeye popeye says:

          There is no need for the Wi–Fi to have a connection to the Internet.

          For example, when we sailed from San Diego to Cabo, we had a Wi-Fi AP on board and used it to send GPS & AIS data to laptops and smartphones.

  9. James Fine says:

    Completely correct. Good communication tools like this are essential for safety and peace of mind.

    We were going to purchase a product like this… but didn’t have to. We purchased a Panasonic wireless phone system to use with our Iridium Pilot satellite system. It was impossible to buy a system that only had one handset… so we ended up with two handsets. Pleasant surprise… we discovered that we can plug in inexpensive headsets and have a high quality full duplex communication between both handsets. The phones use rechargeable or alkaline AAA batteries.

    All in one headsets would admittedly be slightly preferable… but we already have MORE than enough hungry electronic devices that demand regular feeding.

  10. Claus says:

    Ben,

    The Eartec phones now include an adjustable headband model.

  11. Rob says:

    Ben, we still have the originals from Cruising Solutions. Inexpensive, work great but no longer available. If they were and I were looking I would buy them again. Not perfect but all we really need.

  12. Mike B. says:

    We first had the Eartec 24g sets. The sound quality was fine but the plugs had a habit of partially coming out causing blood curdling feedback. Battery life was not great and the indicator did not change to signify when charging was complete.

    We then went with the Sena Expand. They had significant static for which firmware updates did nothing and customer service nearly nonexistent. Used only for docking by two average head sized crew, over the course of four years the headbands broke in at least three places each. I’ve reached my limit of taping them back together.

    So, I think we will give the Eartec Ultralite a try and see how well they do.

  13. Kelly Simon says:

    We use the sena headsets and find them really good especially docking in windy conditions with loud cat engines/limited visibility from the flybridge and when anchoring, as our boat does not have an anchor chain counter & I can also see the distances of other boats/water clarity from the anchor area.

  14. Dave Vanderwal says:

    We use the Sena units and love them! A few things to note though: 1. The “behind the neck” feature is perfect for the line handler bending over to cleat a line, without losing the set in the drink. 2. I love that it automatically connects to my cell phone, and use that feature to call Customs to clear on NEXUS. 3. Be careful putting the Sena units on and off. There is a weak point in the bracket just over the earpiece. We snapped two of them (which were cheerfully replaced under warranty), before we caught on to putting them from behind the neck, NOT stretching them and lifting them carefully up to the ears. Lastly, I am now sporting new “behind the ear” hearing aids, so we’ll see how that works out. I’m a little concerned about the combination of my glasses, my hearing aids, and the headsets all at once. We’ll figure that out on first use this season.

  1. June 9, 2019

    […] first outing, I still believe that to be true. A while back I read an article at panbo.com about “Marriage Savers” or full-duplex wireless headsets for communication between two or more people working on a boat […]

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