Way back in March of 2015 I reviewed the Sena 20S Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System and found it to be my favorite of all the systems I’d ever sampled. I liked it so much that I bought a an extra mounting kit for it so that I could use it on my two favorite helmets, and when I wore something other than those two lids, I usually switched one of the mounts. In those two-plus years since the review, I’ve used the 20S on almost every single one of my motorcycle rides. It is an essential part of my motorcycle kit. That’s how much I’ve grown to love the Sena 20S. So, you can imagine how stoked I was when I received a pair of the upgraded Sena 20S EVO communicators.

Sena 20S Motorcycle Bluetooth Communication System Review

Before you read this review, I recommend you read the previous review (link above). Since the 20S EVO carries the same feature set, I won’t be repeating the description of all that the 20S and 20S EVO offer. Rather, I’ll be focusing on what’s changed with the addition of those three letters.

Sena 20S EVO Review

Family resemblance: the Sena 20S EVO (top) looks rakish and gets better range, thanks to the sporty fin when compared to its sibling the 20S.

First, the unit itself looks mostly the same as the previous generation save for the shark fin that has sprouted off its top back edge. The fin has replaced the flip-up antenna that was used when communicating with other riders. Sena claims the EVO’s fin combines with the upgraded electronics to offer better range than the old setup. One other notable change to the form factor is slight-but-smart. The rubber plug for the micro-USB charging port now opens from the bottom, making rain that runs down the back of the unit less likely to enter the port. Very clever. The final physical change I noticed was the inclusion of a new twist-on locking mechanism for the microphone plug. The rest of the Sena 20S EVO kit remains the same from the speakers to the mounting brackets and their ports.

Although the 20S EVO would work with my old mount, I tested it on a completely new installation. The mounting bracket slips between the helmet shell and the EPS liner while speakers fit just like they did in my previous review. Pairing the EVO to my iPhone was as simple as holding a button down for six seconds. After that initial pairing exercise, the EVO and my iPhone linked up within a second or two of the Sena powering on. The older 20S took from 10–15 seconds to connect after powering up. No, this isn’t a huge deal, but it is noticeable when used every day.

Sena 20S EVO Review

The LED light relays information ranging from state of charge to current mode of operation.

Although Sena says the noise reduction microphone is unchanged, people I talked to said that the EVO’s noise attenuation worked slightly better than with my previous unit. (Perhaps the old mic was wearing out after two years of use and being switched between helmets several times – something the average user is not too likely to do.) The old system had begun to occasionally reduce the volume of my voice, making it difficult to hear. The EVO maintains a good level of noise reduction regardless of speed I’m traveling.

In testing the Bluetooth rider-to-rider communication, I’d say that, in the environment that we ride in, the range was increased by about 10–15%. Out on the open highway, the range is respectable but not the mile-plus distances Sena claims. On a winding mountain road, the range is further than line-of-sight, extending to a couple corners ahead before the connection drops. When on the ragged edge of service, static can begin to break up words. Still, in the type of group riding I do, I found the range to be good. Since I only had two 20S EVOs, I was unable to test the units with a large group on the same hardware. The communication issues we’ve heard about from readers stem from the way multiple Bluetooth headsets are linked to each other, and consequently, I suspect that there will be no change with the EVO. (Sena says that the upcoming 30K with its mesh networking will remedy the problem.)

Sena 20S EVO Review

Little details count: Having the power port open from the bottom makes it more difficult for water to enter the device.

For me, however, my daily use of the 20S EVO is primarily solo riding and communicating with my phone – mostly listening to directions. In this regard, there is one unwelcome change that I have noticed with the Sena 20S EVO. I’ve frequently written about how I use earphones that seal out the outside noise when I’m riding. Although the EVO’s speakers are great for around town and can overpower wind noise when they are mounted so that they are almost touching my ears, I find it stressful to have the speakers essentially shout over the wind noise of highway-speed travel. So, I use Etymotic mk5 Isolator Earphones which act as my earplugs and protect my hearing. They also allow me to listen to directions at very low volumes since the wind buffeting is sealed out of my ear canal.

Now we get to the unwelcome change: When I’m wearing my earphones, I can hear a low-level whine whenever the 20S EVO connects to my iPhone. (Associate Editor Ryan Adams has noticed the same issue with his Android phone on his 20S EVO when he is wearing headphones, too.) While I can’t hear the whine from the helmet speakers, the sound is noticeable enough with headphones that I know that Siri is about to give me directions about a second before she does. I don’t notice the sound when playing music – except between songs. Similarly, it doesn’t interfere with phone conversations, but I can hear it during pauses in a call. My old 20S didn’t have this issue. While it’s not a deal-killer for me, it is a bummer for a niggle like this to appear in such a quality product.

Sena 20S EVO Review

The speakers fit in every helmet cutout I tried. Included pads can move the speaker closer to your ear for better sound.

A similar bummer is the fact that the Ambient function of the EVO isn’t as sensitive as the one on my old 20S. The Ambient function turns on an external microphone on the unit and amplifies the sounds through the helmet speakers/earphones, making conversations at gas stops much easier. On the EVO, I have to turn the volume up much louder to be able to carry on a conversation with my earphones in place. Again, not a huge deal but still one that bears mentioning.

So, with the 20S EVO, Sena has produced a mostly solid upgrade to its former top-of-the-line communicator the 20S. If you’re a 20S owner, I don’t think that the changes to the system are worth the cost of upgrading. However, if you’ve been looking at the 20S but haven’t bought one yet, this would be a good upgrade to pull the trigger on – with one caveat. If you’re easily bothered by whines or buzzes – no matter how slight – you should buy the 20S EVO from a place with a liberal return policy in case you can’t tolerate the buzz I mentioned. The other issue to consider is a problem with all evolving technology. Sena has the 30K slated for release in the next few months, and the company has claimed its mesh communication technology has eliminated the group chat issues that riders have had when riding in large groups. Do you buy now or wait for the next generation that is just around the corner?

Sena 20S EVO Review

While people on the other end of your phone calls may notice you’re on a headset, the noise-canceling microphone will keep them from knowing how fast you’re riding.

The Sena 20S EVO is available now for a single unit price of $299 and a pre-paired dual pack for $549.

Sena 20S EVO Review

The headphone jack allows you to enjoy the superior audio quality of earphones.

  • Sentinel

    Hopefully they can get rid of the new bugs ou found with a firmware upgrade. My problem with “any” com-unit is that I ride with earplugs in all the time, and with them in, and at highway speeds, communications between riders is terribly muffled, and if the volume is up high enough to actually hear anyone it just distorts, and we cannot understand each-other. Of course this is the common complaint of com-units, but I’ve been surprised that they still haven’t gotten to the point where they are really usable under those circumstances. When I first heard a year or so ago that Sena was working on a line of helmets to once and for all address this longstanding issue, I was exited. Now they are set for a soon release. I hope you get a chance to review them soon. The one I’ve seen for Pre-Order is the “Sena Momentum Bluetooth-Integrated Helmet”.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      When I ride by myself, I use earplugs and turn the music all the way up. The earplugs cut out the wind noise and the music sounds fine. When riding with others I don’t use earplugs. We don’t go too fast and can hear each other just fine.

  • allworld

    I have had the 20S for the past 2 riding seasons, I often ride with a friend and we both use the units paired to each other. This has made for much better riding experience for so many reasons. I have my unit paired to a Garmin GPS and it also works well. What I would like is for both of use to hear the GPS commands. We have linked the music to both units, which is fine, but sort of distracts me from riding. One feature that I like is the speed dial, which I have programmed to 911, however the voice commands do not always work well. Overall the units have been a good investment and would recommend them to anyone.

  • Juliet Bravo

    I still use the SMH10. Its great with one other rider. I wear ear plugs and have the volume cranked up for conversation, phone or music. This set up works great for me. I switch mine between helmets frequently and it works in my off road helmet too. The multi rider thing is just an issue of which rider is the “hub”. I have paired with with an SMH10 and a 20s or 2-3 20s riders and who the hub is has been the issue. That, and a 20s user that was linked to his GPS would drop conversation each time his GPS warned him a corner was coming up.
    The 30K is out now at Revzilla and all Sena are discounted.

    • Evans Brasfield

      Yes, if you’re on the Sena mailing list, you got the announcement of the 30K today. Look for a full test of the 30K as soon as we get our greedy mitts on them!

  • Clay Nicolsen

    One other point, specifically for Harley riders. I’ve long been irritated that Harley does not offer a decent bluetooth option, so I’ve been seriously studying this.

    If you are considering the H-D (SENA) Wireless Headset Interface Module, or WHIM, be aware that the WHIM will NOT fully enable both high def audio (AptX codec) or stereo music (A2DP protocol), unless it is paired with a Harley-Davidson BOOM 20S EVO headset. If you pair your WHIM with any headset in the world other than the Harley-Davidson BOOM 20S EVO, you will not get stereo music or high def audio. This includes the SENA 20S EVO. Not BOOM, not stereo and no high def audio.

    If you pair your WHIM with any Harley-Davidson BOOM bluetooth headset, other than the BOOM 20S EVO, you will get stereo sound, but you will not get high def audio.

    Hope this is helpful.

  • Kevin

    I moved from the 20S to the 10C b/c I wanted the integrated camera. The 20S was a solid performer but, as mentioned in the review, suffered from long start up times to intercom drops in groups…I’ve found the 10C to be just as reliable as the 20S but, with the advantages of a built in camera. I’ve had my 10C for about years now…time to upgrade to the 10C EVO…

  • Curve

    I’m in the UK I bought the 20s and found it to be absolutely RUBBISH. I gave up trying to get assistance from SENA. If I had only paid half the money I did it still would have been too much!

    Voice activation at 86mph drove me insane with ‘say a command’ x3 then ‘cancel,
    Would not recognise any voice commands
    Volume is too low to hear talking radio stations
    You have to remember to turn volume up full whack to her music, and low to stop being deafened by ring tone,
    I paired with a Tom Tom Zumo, min vol on both units was so loud that it was dangerous.
    FM Radio would not stay on a station,
    The ambient noise button on the bottom kept getting pushed by my waterproof jacket and it refused to cancel with me switching off/on
    It is impossible to know what charge is left, low battery warning gives about 15secs warning.
    It was very difficult to control with waterproof gloves, so 10 out of 12 months!

    In short, I disconnected from the TomTom, and only used for music, I also disconnected the microphone. When the cable to the ear speakers failed a few months ago it was the last straw and I pulled the whole lot off. This was after 20,000miles over 28 or so months, not a worthy investment for the UK