O-tus: Surround Sound For Your Helmet
By Carley Miller for Industry Outsider
February 12, 2013
I had always been a sprinter in every sport I tried until the last couple of years. My body has enjoyed the longer endurance distances, however my mind isn’t such a fan. Like many I turn to my trusty iPod for workout tunes to quell the craziness of life for a few hours. Admittedly, I am one of those riders on the road with headphones in. I am aware it is illegal, and completely understand why. Not that this makes my case much better, but sometimes to get out I just have to have my music. I only keep my right ear bud in, so my left traffic side can be aware of the sounds around me: cars, flat tires, speedy cyclists getting ready to pass. Obviously not the ideal situation.
Until recently my rides have been one ear bud in, yank it out when I see law enforcement. But, no more law breaking rides for me, thanks to O-tus Safe Sounds mini helmet speakers.
O-tus helmet speakers are just what they sound like, surround sound for your bike helmet. They look like little ear buds but affix to your helmet so you can ride with music carefree, instead of like an outlaw.
O-tus Safe Sounds Mini Speakers
In order to get ready to ride I had to do a little prep work on my helmet. First, I looked in a mirror with my helmet on to get the placement of the speakers just right. The speaker should be just in front on your ear. Since the speakers are directional, this is a very important step. The neat thing about ‘directional’ speakers is that they push sound in one direction as opposed to something like a car system that makes the car and everything around it shake. I recommend turning on your mp3/iPod and holding the speakers where you think they should go before you mark placement. You want to be sure you’re getting the best sound so you may need to move them up or down or side to side depending on your helmet.
Just to test out the directional speaker feature, I let the music keep playing and held the speakers onto my helmet when taking it off. It was incredible! On my head, the tunes were clear as the radio or headphones. Off my head, I could hardly hear a thing if the speakers were pointed anywhere but toward my face. This dissipated one of my worries that I would be ‘that person’ with the music blaring on peaceful canyon ride.
After marking the speaker placement it was time to prep the helmet for the snap lock pads. The snap lock pads coincide with snap lock pads on the speakers. When you press the speaker pad to the helmet pad it acts like velcro, only stronger. Thus your speakers will stay safely attached.
The first step to getting the helmet ready was wiping the desired area with rubbing alcohol in order to get any dirt, oil, or grime off the surface of the foam so the pads will adhere. I tried this method, but sadly my helmet must have too much gunk: the pads did not stick. O-tus has a whole page of recommended ways to get the speakers to stick/function properly. I tried a second way to get the surface clean. I took a thin layer of the foam off with an exacto knife. I then placed the pads and attached the speakers. It seemed to hold!
When attaching the speakers I choose to have the cord end of the speakers facing forward instead of back as the directions suggest. I do not have a Bluetooth or light weight MP3, just my iPod, so I was a little cautious and did not attach it to the back of my helmet. Thus, I needed the cord for the speakers to connect to my iPod in front of my neck so I could clip my iPod carrier to the inside of my jersey where I have always clipped it.
O-tus Safe Sounds Mini Speakers, as modeled by Carley
Finally, time for a test ride! I had a few beautiful days to get out and commute that coincided nicely with my need to test the speakers for this review. Immediately upon putting my helmet on I noticed that the length of cord for the speakers was definitely not meant to go the direction I wanted it to go. In order to get the iPod in a position to be able to connect to the speakers I had to clip it to the bra strap on the top of my shoulder. Not a big deal, but perhaps might be worth investing in a Bluetooth device or requesting speakers with a longer cable.
Out on the open road in February in shorts and a light windbreaker, and of course with music: riding doesn’t get much better than that. During my ride I noticed a few things about the speakers. The sound quality was unbelievable. I felt like I had my headphones in, the sound was that good. NOTE: do not actually use them as headphones, they are 15-watt speakers and could damage your hearing. As I got going a little faster I made a point to take a route that would put me around cars so I could get a feel for how good the sound really was. Amazingly, there were very few times I couldn’t hear the words, but the beats were consistently audible.
As fate should have it, my phone rang during my commute. Normally I can’t hear it or feel the vibration, however with the O-tus speakers on my helmet I was able to hear the phone, stop and pick up the call. I actually forgot that the speakers were on and put the phone to my ear. The caller said the music was loud only for a brief moment when it passed by the speaker. Once my phone was pressed against my ear, the tunes were more or less out of hearing range. That’s pretty darn cool!
During my ride I got caught in a slight crosswind. The speakers were doing great sound wise until I went to zip up my jacket, got the cord stuck and ripped a speaker off. Hence why O-tus created the speaker wire to go behind your neck so you can’t snag the wire. Surprisingly, the sound quality despite the wind and only having one speaker projecting was still quite good. The wind was mostly just a nuisance blowing into my ear rather than actually changing what I could/couldn’t hear from the speaker.
By the time I got to my destination I had enjoyed my 20 mile commute safely with music thanks to O-tus. When I took my helmet off I proceeded to accidentally pull of the second ear bud with the helmet snap lock piece. I think given my helmet rim is thinner than many and quite old I might try little zip ties or string to ensure the speakers and snap locks stay in place for the long term. With that said I would definitely reinforce a Bluetooth device on the rear of the helmet should I ever get one, just in case.
I have definitely recommended these speakers to some of the avid cycling commuters I run into, and I would highly recommend anyone give them a try. For only $42 it’s really a no brainier. You get to ride legally with the tunes that keep you going.
Thank you O-tus Safe Sounds for providing the speakers for this review!