What makes a good ride? Is it the wind, noises, smells or that feeling of pure freedom that comes with it? No motorcycle enthusiast can really put his finger on an answer, but we all know tunes can make everything more epic.
The problem is finding the right audio equipment for riding is no easy feat. Motorcycle speakers are awesome, but the rumble of the motor, piercing wind noises and traffic can drown out any sound system (except for those with unbearable prices).
Riders with loud motorcycles likely prefer a good set of earbuds, which are affordable and great for sound quality, but also dampen traffic noise, making for dangerous situations. Helmet speakers should be the best option for those looking for the right balance between quality audio, safety, and a healthy bank account.
Manufacturers like Sena make great devices, but they seem to focus more on their communications technology and throw sound quality out the window. There are a few good upgrade options on the market, and iAsus is known for making the best — its XSound 3(XS3) helmet speakers are especially popular. IAsus calls the XS3 “the ultimate visceral helmet-audio experience.”
It’s a hard claim to for consumers to verify. These are not available in local stores and there are very few reviews online.
That’s why we reached out to iAsus for a review unit. I have been riding with the iAsus XS3 speakers on my Harley Davidson Dyna Switchback with loud pipes. Let’s find out if the speakers are really worth that $99.
Design and build quality
A good look doesn’t matter much here — these speakers hide inside a helmet, under covers. Despite this, the XS3 speakers look pretty slick. The shiny aluminum chassis screams quality right at your face. The metal surrounds a plastic circle with the iAsus logo in the middle. In the metallic section you can find some promotional writing, as well as the letter “L” and “R” to indicate which is the left and right speaker.
The other half of the speaker is covered in foam for comfort, which probably won’t matter. You will likely put this under the helmet covers, but extra padding always helps. If you are especially sweaty iAsus has also included polyurethane covers to put over the foam, too.
The XS3 also comes with a headset jack extension for those not using these speakers with a SENA communicator or other helmet-mounted device. Those connecting directly to their smartphones can run the included more than 3 foot long cable straight to any pocket.
There are good cables, too. Those running across the helmet are reinforced with kevlar. None of them feel fragile and they are thicker than your usual headphone cables. I haven’t used them for long enough to tell if they handle riding conditions well. So far I have felt very confident handling them and I don’t think they will be damaged anytime soon.
The speakers not only look well made, but they feel solid and have a certain weight to them. While not exactly heavy, they weigh more than your usual helmet speakers. Even if iAsus claims to have built it with an “ultra-slim design,” the truth is they are also larger and thicker than the competition.
Having a snug helmet is important. There shouldn’t be much room to put stuff inside it, or your face will start feeling the pressure — literally.
The cheaper bundled speakers I was using before are small and flexible enough to mold into my ears without a problem. The XS3 speakers aren’t.
I installed the iAsus XS3 speakers as soon as those things hit on my front door. When I pulled the helmet on, things felt a little tight. I must have been too excited because I didn’t care and walked straight into my garage. Within a few minutes the bike was warmed up and I left for a ride.
Everything felt fine until about the fourth or fifth song, when my ears started to ache and I began to feel a slight pressure on the sides of my head. I ignored it again until about the tenth track, when the discomfort became too great. I had to pull over to take the speakers off and rode home in silence.
The speakers sounded great, but the manufacturer probably couldn’t make them any smaller without sacrificing quality.
If this is a problem you see yourself running into, either get a bigger helmet or straight up carve some holes into the protective foam to make room for the speakers. I did the latter and now I can enjoy my music in its full glory. The iAsus XS3 are great speakers. They are also a little too big and You will have to work around them to avoid headaches.
How is the sound quality?
When I installed these helmet speakers, I plugged them into a smartphone first, to make sure I was getting the best sound quality possible. They were louder than any other set I have ever used. I was impressed by the volume output, as I could actually appreciate music from a distance.
Pull the helmet on and you will be swarmed in sound. In fact, the volume gets so high it drowns out outside noise. While riding, the rumble of my 1690cc Harley became a distant vibration. At 75 percent, the music is loud enough to be fully appreciated and traffic is still audible.
Compared to bundled units, these XS3 speakers sound amazing. You can better discern the highs and mids, not to mention that thumping bass. The latter is especially important, as lows are the least distinguishable while riding (Bass tends to disappear with the motor and outside noise). IAsus seems to have targeted this issue and it turned out great.
But are the iAsus XS3 helmet speakers $99-good?
You have spent hundreds (probably thousands) on your gear already. Adding another Benjamin to the equation may seem excessive, but good audio is important to some of us. For $99, the iAsus XS3’s sound quality is night and day compared to your basic helmet sound system. Audio really is much richer, offering a much wider sound spectrum. Not to mention these speakers get seriously loud without distorting the sound.
You can get better sound off some quality earbuds, but the XS3 speakers find a balance between sound quality and safe traffic noise perception earbuds can’t. If you don’t care for hearing ambient noise you can blast them and mute every other sound, too.
The iAsus XS3 is a great option if you value good audio quality and safety. The aluminum chassis not only makes the units lighter and stronger, but also helps with acoustics and vibrations.
To me the only real quirk is in the design, though it’s not necessarily a bad one. These speakers are thicker, which can lead to discomfort for your ears and the sides of your head. One either has get a wider helmet, or do what I did and carve a bit of foam off the sides. If you can live with one of these sacrifices, the iAsus XS3 helmet speakers are golden.