The first rule of any partnership… communication. We have been side by side ever since we met in 1990. Well, 95% of the time. And the last 16 years or so, it’s been around loud machinery like wood splitters, chainsaws, firewood processors, table saws etc. Could we get any closer? Of course we could! And did I do something about that? Of course I did! 🙂
Over the years we have tried different communication devices to keep in contact while working outdoors around loud machinery. First up were walkie talkies.
They work well but having something hands free would be better. When working around machinery one of the most important pieces of equipment is hearing protection (ear muffs). To use these walkie talkie comms required taking off the regular sound deadening ear muffs, not something I am a fan of doing. Gina doesn’t seem to mind the loud noises. It’s not that’s she’s more deaf than I, hardly the case. She can hear a mouse fart 1/2 mile away. I’m kidding…kind of. 🙂
So I went looking for something hands free and budget friendly. I found these bluetooth devices which you could clip onto a piece of clothing or use the band around the arm.
They worked ok too as we could keep the haedphones on but they were not hands free.
So, both devices do the job, sort of. Not hands free and/or not without removing safety gear to clearly communicate. What else is there on the market? I struggled for a while to look for a consumer item (aka budget friendly). Nothing showed up. Well, it come down to looking for a commercial type solution. What do workers in industrial environments use? Factory workers, large job site construction sites, forestry workers … arborists. Arborist! Why didn’t I think of that sooner? I mean if you are up in a tree holding a chainsaw and slinging ropes and pounding wedges, it leaves little room for grabbing a comms device. So I was off to look at what arborists use.
Well, I found several types. First impression? Expensive. Really. But you have to think about why (or maybe I am trying to convince myself why). A head set can easily run well over $1,000 each. Holy moly. Brands include 3M, Peltor and Sena. The latter I had not heard of until talking with a few arborist friends I know in the USA. I quickly look at the Sena web site just before the Christmas holiday and I see they have a Canadian distributor, Maple Leaf Ropes. An email to them prompted a quick reply… just before Christmas. Says a lot about their customer service. They called me… again, rare in my experience for B2B discussions. On top of that, they told me to wait until Boxing Day sales to save about $500. Sure thing! Done deal. I purchased two sets for us and patiently waited for them to arrive over the Christmas holiday through the post office.
We unboxed them to each find a set of headphones that were rated for 26dB reduction, a mic, and instructions. The sound deadening quality was instant. I put just the headphones on, no mic setup yet, and I could not hear Gina speak at all. For a brief second I thought these were awesome for that very reason… kidding again… really! 🙂
The mic was a little difficult to fit in but that was more me than the units themselves. Well fitted, they will not fall out. The instructions were clear enough, though I had some extra questions and I reached out to the SENA customer support. You have to create a ticket, provide purchasing info and you are assigned a specific helpful person. Our 3 emails back and forth squared me away.
I had discovered that you can connect your phone via bluetooth to the headsets. So you can answer and hang up to them. And… play music. Well this could be interesting as I have not yet listened to music using a phone…its 2022, might as well learn. The connection process was simple and quick. I have dreams of listening to AC/DC while splitting firewood. I mean, can life get any better? 🙂
I managed to figure out how to get the two SENA sets to mesh together so that we could speak to each other over the comms. Sitting in the office on opposite sides of the room we were able to clearly communicate… hands free. Forever and and day moving forward I will now be able to have Gina’s voice … right there… inside my head… ever present. Just as I planned it to be. 🙂 Whether she wants the same, well, that remains to be seen… or heard. 🙂
Now for a range test, how much range do the sets have in real world environments. Saturday morning, just after a good snow storm in early January here now. I put my headset on and went out to the workshop about 100 ft from the house. Gina headed to the basement to the furthest location. Metal roof on both buildings, multiple walls and a concrete basement. We could easily and very clearly carry on a conversation. She could hear all of my heavy breathing… you know, from scraping snow and ice off of the truck windshield. She could even hear me curse under my breath when said scraping dislodged not one but both windshield wipers off of their respective wiper arms. Maybe constant communication is not always a good thing. 🙂
Range test went well. Now let’s see how far we can go before we loose communication. I made tracks to the firewood yard. AC/DC playing in my headset, I made it to about here. The mic’s are sensitive. When it picks up a noise the music cuts out for a couple seconds. The music doesn’t pause, just goes on mute. When we were talking to each other or, the mic would brush up against the collar of my jacket. A little annoying as I missed some of the bell sounds from Hells Bells. :/ But a quick repositioning of the mic and I was back to rockin’, walkin’ and talkin’. Less talk, more rock. :p
It was at this point I couldn’t hear Gina’s voice any more. So I kept walking… you know… just because. Kidding again.. REALLY 🙂
That’s quite a distance. I don’t know how far that is. Sena web site specs say the TuffTalk-M have a range of 1.1 km, or 0.7 miles. That’s about 3,700 feet. The distance in that photo is not near that but I bet that once we are both outdoors that range would improve more. For all of the running around we do, this is about all the range we will need.
I know one thing for sure, they keep my ear’s warm while its -15ºC and the winds are 40 kph.
Future testing will be interesting to try. I am mostly interested to see (hear) how much the mic pick up from the chainsaw or the firewood processor. I see these headsets as a real advantage around the sawmill too.