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Better Racing Communications with Racing Electronics

When installed correctly, a quality in-helmet mic provides clear audio, isn't obtrusive and doesn't affect the Snell rating of your expensive racing helmet.

When installed correctly, a quality in-helmet mic provides clear audio, isn’t obtrusive and doesn’t affect the Snell rating of your expensive racing helmet.

We’ll grant you that two-way radios aren’t as popular in dirt track racing as they are among our asphalt bretheren, but these systems do have their advantages. Being able to tell your crew you cut a tire and they’d better be ready because you are coming in is a lot easier over a radio than it is with hand signals. And having a spotter able to let you know if there is trouble in the next turn can mean the difference between a great finish and an early end to your night with your wrecked race car on the trailer.

And believe it or not, race-bred communication systems are better and more affordable than ever before. We spoke with Kevin Hughes of Racing Electronics at length about how racers can improve their communications and one of the many interesting things he mentioned is that Racing Electronics’ products are one of the only things that have gotten cheaper for racers over the years. “Twenty years ago a two-man radio system cost $2,000,” he says. “And now you can get that for $900. Plus, the hardware is better, it’s more dependable and the battery technology is improved. It’s just a better all-around product at less than half the price.”

Racing Electronics built a lab in its Concord, NC headquarters and also has one that travels to events at major race tracks because they believe in the technology. Compared to a standard ear mic stuffed in a foam ear plug, the custom molded pieces cut out more ambient noise to make it easier to hear radio communications and protect your hearing.

Racing Electronics built a lab in its Concord, NC, headquarters and also has one that travels to events at major race tracks because they believe in the molded technology. Compared to a standard ear mic stuffed in a foam ear plug, the custom molded pieces cut out more ambient noise to make it easier to hear radio communications and better protect your hearing.

Hughes also says that Racing Electronics is also concentrating on producting of as many products in-house as possible. For example, they’ve built their own ear mold labs so that they can maintain the highest quality levels possible. Custom ear molds have become a very popular option among racers at all levels because at just $160 dollars they are only about 50 bucks more expensive than the standard foam ear mics. Hughes says not only are the molded ear mics far more comfortable, they also do a better job of blocking out ambient noise. And because there is less racing noise getting to your ear, the radio doesn’t have to be turned up as loud for you to hear effectively. It all combines to protecting a driver’s hearing much better. “In my job I get to work around a lot of the NASCAR Cup drivers,” Hughes says. “And the previous generation that retired in the last few years, they are practically deaf. With the technology we have, that just isn’t necessary any more. Whether you are a driving in the Cup series or your local track, none of us are going to drive forever, and it would be nice to be able to hear after we retire.”

In the photos below you will see that we documented the process of installing an in-helmet mic system as Hughes installed Racing Electronics’ deluxe mic kit in the helmet of a local Super Street racer we are working with. We wanted to show this because poorly-installed helmet mics seem to be one of the greatest frustrations racers often have with systems that are difficult to understand, are full of static and generally just don’t work as well as they would like. These steps should help provide a well-working and comfortable in-helmet microphone setup if you install your own, but if you go with the Racing Electronics system they will install it for free. They’ve also trained the folks at both Simpson and Impact, so if you order one of their helmets you can have a mic kit installed from the factory. Either way, you are guaranteed to keep your helmet’s Snell rating.

If you do have trouble with your radio system, Hughes did provide a few tips that we can pass along. The first step is to try and determine the source of the problem. If the sound degrades significantly when the engine is running, it is probably an ignition issue. Make sure your radio and all components are away from ignition sources. For example, Hughes says many racers will try to make a clean installation of the radio call button that attaches to the steering wheel but will wind up routing it near the tach wires which will cause a problem. Also check to make sure you don’t have any radio system wires zip tied to the battery cable and the car’s electrical system is properly grounded.

If the radio still works well when the engine is fired up but fades once you are on the track, the problem is more likely environmental noise. Hughes says air moving through the helmet can degrade sound quality, so you may want to make sure the face shield is closed and may even need to re-route the air intake port if you are blowing air into the helmet. The mic should also be right in front of your mouth. Hughes says you should practically be able to kiss it. Finally, make sure to mount the radio box up off the floor of the race car and pad the radio box to minimize vibrations.

For more information, Hughes says Racing Electronics welcomes tech calls at the phone number we’ve got for them below, and they also have a tech truck that travels to big races nationwide.

Here's the contents of Racing Electronics' Deluxe Helmet Mic Kit. It is everything you need to do the installation. The main electronics are in the pod that mounts to the side of the helmet, and it is fully potted for maximum durability even if the helmet gets banged around in a wreck.

Here’s the contents of Racing Electronics’ Deluxe Helmet Mic Kit. It is everything you need to do the installation. The main electronics are in the pod that mounts to the side of the helmet, and it is fully potted for maximum durability even if the helmet gets banged around in a wreck.

Kevin Hughes handled the install on our Simpson full-face helmet. He uses a custom-cut piece of cloth covered foam to hold the helmet steady while he works, but he says you can substitute a large salad bowl with a towel if you need to work on your helmet yourself.

Kevin Hughes handled the install on our Simpson full-face helmet. He uses a custom-cut piece of cloth covered foam to hold the helmet steady while he works, but he says you can substitute a large salad bowl with a towel to hold the helmet steady and protect it if you need to work on it yourself.

The pod can be mounted to either side of the helmet--or even the front if you like. It is small and goes near the bottom of the helmet so it won't usually interfere with the head supports in your racing seat. Once you determine where you want to place it, pull away the check pad on the helmet. No matter the brand of helmet, the pad is almost always held on with a dab of glue so the pad can be pulled loose without damaging the helmet.

The pod can be mounted to either side of the helmet–or even the front if you like. It is small and goes near the bottom of the helmet so it won’t usually interfere with the head supports in your racing seat. Once you determine where you want to place it, pull away the check pad on the helmet. No matter the brand of helmet, the pad is almost always held on with a dab of glue so the pad can be pulled loose without damaging the helmet.

Cut a slit just large enough for the mic's boom and slide it through. The mic must be positioned so that it is directly in front of the driver's lips when the helmet is on. Hughes says it should be "close enough to kiss it" to provide best audio. Be careful, there is also a front and a back. Racing Electronics also prints a white microphone on the side that should face the driver to prevent confusion.

Cut a slit just large enough for the mic’s boom and slide it through. The mic must be positioned so that it is directly in front of the driver’s lips when the helmet is on. Hughes says it should be “close enough to kiss it” to provide best audio. Be careful, there is also a front and a back. Racing Electronics also prints a white microphone on the side that should face the driver to prevent confusion.

The mic boom is secured to the helmet with a small plastic C-clamp that's riveted in place. You will have to drill a hole in the helmet for the rivet with a 1/8" bit.

The mic boom is secured to the helmet with a small plastic C-clamp that’s riveted in place. You will have to drill a hole in the helmet for the rivet with a 1/8″ bit.

Here's a shot of the mic boom secured to the helmet.

Here’s a shot of the mic boom secured to the helmet.

For added security (and so the clamp won't snag the inside of the cheek pad) Hughes adds a bit of hot glue over the top.

For added security (and so the clamp won’t snag the inside of the cheek pad) Hughes adds a bit of hot glue over the top.

Next, he locates where he wants to place the pod and drills two holes to secure it with the same 1/8" drill bit. Again, these holes do not affect the helmet's ability to protect you in the event of an accident.

Next, he locates where he wants to place the pod and drills three holes with the same 1/8″ drill bit. (Two holes are to mount the pod and a third in the center serves as a pass-through for the mic wires.) Again, these holes do not affect the helmet’s ability to protect you in the event of an accident.

The two small wires from the mic plug right into the two small wires coming off the pod (you will have to drill a hole in the helmet for them to go through). Shrink wrap is also included in the kit, which you can see here, to keep dirt and moisture out of the connection. The pod has also been attached to the helmet with two small bolts and nylock nuts.

The two small wires from the mic plug right into the two small wires coming off the pod. Shrink wrap is also included in the kit, which you can see here, to keep dirt and moisture out of the connection. The pod has also been attached to the helmet with two small bolts and nylock nuts.

Now the wires can be tucked out of the way underneath the cheek pad.

Now the wires can be tucked out of the way underneath the cheek pad.

The kit includes a small wind screen for the mic that not only helps keep dirt out of it but also reduces wind noise. You can secure it with a small zip tie (make sure not to leave any sharp edges when you cut off the excess from the tie) or a dab of hot glue.

The kit includes a small wind screen for the mic that not only helps keep dirt out of it but also reduces noise from your breathing. You can secure it with a small zip tie (make sure not to leave any sharp edges when you cut off the excess from the tie) or a dab of hot glue.

Once Hughes has everything installed to his satisfaction he uses a hot glue gun to secure the check pad back to the shell of the helmet.

Once Hughes has everything installed to his satisfaction he uses a hot glue gun to secure the check pad back to the shell of the helmet.

You can hold the cheek pad tight to the shell for the three or four minutes it takes for the hot glue to cool, or a couple of clamps will also do the trick an allow you to move on to another task. Once the cheek pad is secure, you are good to go.

You can hold the cheek pad tight to the shell for the three or four minutes it takes for the hot glue to cool, or a couple of clamps will also do the trick an allow you to move on to another task. Once the cheek pad is secure, you are good to go.

 

Source

Racing Electronics

800/272-7111

www.RacingElectronics.com


Post A Comment

  • Kevin says:
    August 29, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    I’m curious to know whether some of the sanctioning bodies require teams to use head sets just to compete? Doesn’t seem to be the case. Sounds like a good idea!!!

    Reply
  • Scott says:
    March 7, 2015 at 9:08 am

    We race at a local NASCAR sanctioned track in Virginia. They won’t even allow you to practice without a spotter. We run Late Model Stocks but even the 4 cylinder classes must have a spotter.

    Reply

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