Cardo Systems Revolutionizes Motorcycle Communication Technology With HARMAN Embedded Audio
To improve audio quality and boost sales, Cardo Systems partnered with HARMAN Embedded Audio to equip their latest motorcycle communication systems with Sound by JBL


Cardo Systems, an innovator in the wireless communication space, wanted to further distinguish its brand and grow sales by partnering with an audio expert to upgrade their motorcycle communication products with improved sound.


After intensive acoustical testing and real-world listening trials, HARMAN Embedded Audio overhauled Cardo’s Freecom and PackTalk products with Sound by JBL, enhancing speech intelligibility, noise reduction and music audio quality. As a result, Cardo saw double-digit sales growth and enthusiastic feedback from customers.


Cardo Systems is a company founded on innovation. Like the motorcycle enthusiasts they serve, Cardo likes to move fast and lead the pack. That’s why, when it came time to bring the next innovation to the wireless communication market, they turned to HARMAN Embedded Audio to equip their flagship motorcycle communication systems with Sound by JBL. This is the story of two companies with a passion for innovation joining forces to create something truly amazing.

Cardo Systems has been in the wireless communication market since 2003, when the company introduced its revolutionary Scala Bluetooth earpiece with unique wind-suppressing technology. As the company continued to innovate in the following years, they refocused their efforts toward creating the ultimate communication system for motorcyclists, culminating in the PackTalk and Freecom product lines. Freecom communicators provide Bluetooth connectivity for up to four riders, while the PackTalk range connects as many as 15 riders up to a mile away with Cardo’s proprietary Dynamic Mesh Communication (DMC) technology. All Cardo products provide high-quality intercom, music playback, built-in FM radio and up to 13 hours of battery life.

Finding the right fit with Harman Embedded Audio

After reviewing feedback from customers and the company’s own group of test riders, the Cardo team identified an opportunity to further distinguish their brand by partnering with an audio specialist to provide the best sound quality on the market. Seeking to improve audio quality for rider-to-rider intercom as well as music playback in a variety of acoustical environments, Cardo reached out to a number of leading audio companies, ultimately choosing to partner with HARMAN Embedded Audio.

“We went to all the usual suspects in the audio industry, and lo and behold, the number one audio brand in the world was very happy to partner with us,” said Dan Emodi, Chief Marketing Officer, Cardo Systems. “I personally visited HARMAN’s Northridge headquarters and met with Yaron Shani, Bruce Ryan and a team of engineers, and my colleague and I also met with Olivier Bourdeau. Tuning a helmet with all the wind noise, motorcycle noise and the helmet environment itself is challenging, but their level of cooperation and willingness showed that they just ‘got it.’ It was a merge of passions—our passion for innovation and HARMAN’s passion for sound—and it just clicked.”

“When Cardo was ready to develop the next evolution of their product line, audio quality was near the top of the list in terms of priorities,” explained Yaron Shani, Senior Program Manager, HARMAN Embedded Audio. “The Cardo team knew that in order to get the results they wanted, they needed to partner with an expert who specializes in delivering premium audio performance for harsh environments, and that's why they turned to HARMAN.”


Getting to work with Harman

The HARMAN Embedded Audio team’s first order of business was to conduct an internal review of Cardo’s audio capabilities. After exhaustive acoustical measurement and listening tests, the team decided that although Cardo’s hardware was adequate, the products could benefit from additional audio tuning. Using the same state-of-the-art equipment and methods used to tune JBL and AKG headphones and earbuds, the team meticulously calibrated the speakers and microphones to match the HARMAN Target Curve—an industry-standard frequency profile based on extensive listener preference tests.

“HARMAN has invested millions of dollars into acoustical research, both listening and measurement,” shared Bruce Ryan, Director of Engineering, HARMAN Embedded Audio. “Over the last five years, Dr. Sean Olive's group has developed what we call the ‘HARMAN Target Curve,’ which provides a numeric representation of thousands of users' listening preferences. We're able to precisely adjust the bass, midrange and high frequency levels to that target curve and be extremely confident that it will match user preferences.”

During testing, it became clear that no single tuning could produce the desired sound in every possible situation. Due to the infinite acoustical variables of the environment, wide variety of helmet styles and unpredictable nature of ambient noise—combined with the wide range of musical genres and human voices—a more dynamic solution was necessary. The HARMAN Embedded Audio team’s solution was to create several sound profiles for users to choose from in order to compensate for different situations and get the best sound.

“Someone with a loose-fitting helmet will need a bass boost to compensate for that loss in bass, while someone with a very tight-fitting helmet with a good seal may need less bass,” said Ryan. “When you're making phone calls or listening to podcasts, we have a tuning that enhances the midrange and allows the speech to cut through the engine and road noise. There’s also a high-frequency boost preset and a few others. The goal is to compensate for any deficit in the environment to get back to a perception that you're listening to that target curve.”

In addition to providing a variety of EQ profiles, the HARMAN Embedded Audio team programmed the software to dynamically adjust the sound to compensate for the ever-changing environment. In the background, real-time processing like compression, limiting, dynamic EQ and wind suppression keeps voices and music sounding loud and clear no matter how chaotic the environment is.


Cardo Sees Results

Cardo’s partnership with HARMAN Embedded Audio paid dividends in the form of increased brand perception after announcing the collaboration, as well as sharply increased sales and many positive customer reviews after launch.

“Cardo benefitted from a huge brand awareness and perception boost right after they announced a partnership with us,” stated Olivier Bourdeau, Senior Sales Manager, EMEA, HARMAN Embedded Audio. “After launching the first products, they got amazingly good reviews and feedback on the user experience and sound quality improvements, which then translated into very good sales. Cardo has been enjoying double-digit sales growth worldwide over the past three years, and they acknowledge that the collaboration with HARMAN and the JBL co-branding has made a huge impact on their overall business. Since partnering with us, Cardo has actually seen some of their competitors trying to bring other audio brands to offer premium audio kits to their customers and basically replicate the model that Cardo pioneered with us.”

“Marketing works best when you don't need to say much,” explained Emodi. “We can wave our hands and say, ‘Hey, we have the best sound,’ but when you have that stamp of approval from JBL, you don't need to explain a lot. Being the first to realize the potential of partnering with a premium sound provider like HARMAN and JBL was a very important reaffirmation of our commitment to bring innovation to the industry.”

After launch, the HARMAN Embedded Audio team provided support to help get the word out about Cardo’s new and improved products featuring Sound by JBL. The team traveled to trade shows, press events and listening tests to educate people about the products and promote their new and improved audio capabilities. According to Emodi, the ease of collaborating with HARMAN was key to the partnership’s success.“When we went to HARMAN, we found people that said ‘Yes,’ with a can-do mentality,” Emodi explained. “People tend to look at companies as institutions, but they’re really made up of people. If there’s good chemistry and you enjoy working together, you can achieve things fairly fast. If you have the can-do mentality and the enthusiasm to say, ‘Let's do something new that hasn't been done before—let’s go and meet this challenge and work it out together,’ not only do you have a great product but you also have a great time and get great business results.”