Callpod Dragon V2, boss boat Bluetooth?

Callpod_Dragon_V2

This looks like good news indeed (and thanks to Mike Doyle for the head’s up). That little 1.25” diameter Callpod Dragon V2 Bluetooth headset can not only do the expected with your cell phone but also communicate directly with another Dragon V2 headset up to 100 meters away. So, at least theoretically, you and your mate could be working or playing most anywhere around your boat with full duplex hands-free communication as needed, interrupted only if either of you wants to take a call from the individual cell phones in your pockets. Actually, the phone might be stowed in a safer place, perhaps even hooked to an amplifier, as Callpod claims the Dragon “typically enhances the {9 meter} performance of standard Class-2 devices by a factor of 2 to 3 times.”

Plus, if I understand correctly, a Dragon can pair with two Bluetooth devices—say, a phone and a computer running a charting program with audible warnings—while still having intercom ability (though it may just be two sources including intercom). “Supreme sound quality and Callpod’s own dual-mic noise suppression” too. David Pogue tried two Dragons and was impressed. The question, though, is will this high performance Bluetooth work OK around boat bulkhead, hardware, and RF obstructions? I’ve asked to test a pair. And if they work well in medium size boat situations, I’ll bet the really big boat crowd will also be interested. In which case, Callpod has the Phoenix System, shown below, which can network five Dragons and a cell or PC. What do you think? Want a pair? Will we be seeing hip megayacht crews using these to get into tight slips and manage tour security at the Fort Lauderdale show?

Callpod Phoenix

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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

20 Responses

  1. adjuvantjfoster says:

    A careful look at their expertly crafted web site leads me to believe that apart from their chargepod, none of the bluetooth products are actually shipping yet, with mid August as the predicted availability. If anyone does report on these items, it might be well if they explained where they obtained the product, and if they are a beta tester.

  2. David says:

    If you read the small print in the online instruction book, you have to ‘push to talk’ for Dragon to Dragon direct communication,and for me this would limit its use.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    David, I just read the Dragon manual and the push-to-talk button just turns the audio channel on and off. When it’s on, both parties have hands-free duplex comms. But they recommend turning it off to save battery life.
    What I’m not clear on now is whether you can use another Bluetooth device, like a phone, when you’ve paired two Dragons in intercom mode. My original scenario may not be realistic.

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    adjuvant, the Callpod site says that Dragon V2 is shipping this week. I tend to believe that because if you Google “Callpod Dragon V2” you’ll find that several tech reviewers besides Pogue have already received them. Sounds like a well-coordinated product roll out, not a beta test. Also, if you drop the “V2” from the search, you’ll find that there are lots of original Dragon headsets out there.

  5. adjuvantjfoster says:

    Wind noise is the bane of hand held vhf and cell phones. I look forward to some real world results of trying these out on the decks in gale force winds during sail changes and trimming.
    I remember the earliest Jabra earphones made use of an in the ear mic and speaker combination. Maybe the Dragon folks could revisit this technology for an approach to reducing wind noise.

  6. Craig Lurey says:

    Hey guys. I’m pretty excited about the ability to adapt the Phoenix communication system to boats. Strong wind is definitely a concern and we have gotten a ton of interest in this area so I’m going to help coordinate some serious field tests. We are definitely open to your thoughts here.

  7. SVToybox says:

    I have the original version, which were not usuable for the following reasons:
    Pod to Pod, audio quality very poor (poorer than in Phone mode), all area noise transmitted with voice,
    Pod to Pod & Phone, volume level to low to over come outside noise,
    Ear piece to fragle, athough it is replaced in the V2.
    Anyone have real experience with the V2?

  8. praetorian47 says:

    I’ve got a pair of the Dragon v2’s. I’ve tried using them for boat communication and as a handsfree for my phone.
    The reception volume is pretty good. I can head callers usually without problem.
    The voice pickup is terrible. I’ve found it to be useless on the boat – unless you’re shouting. I’ve also had to stop trying to use it in the car with my phone. Everyone complains they cannot hear me.
    I upgraded the firmware to the latest release last week after reading a note someplace that this helped. It didn’t.
    I really liked the concept of these units, so much that I bought 2 just to try. Unfortunately they won’t be able to replace my existing units.
    I would actually prefer a unit with the earpiece like the Dragon, but have the pickup mic on a boom closer to my mouth.

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Bob Taylor wrote me last month and says he’s having “great results” using a pair of Dragon V2s on his 57′ Nordhavn:
    “The Callpods have worked well throughout the boat and into the engine room. We are now on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway and they come in very handy while locking through the many locks along the way.
    Wind noise didn’t seem to be a problem but I didn’t try the engine room with the engine powered up. I usually have on muffs to avoid ear damage so they wouldn’t be of any use to me in that situation.
    Volume certainly wasn’t ear splitting but was sufficient for our purposes.
    I did walk down the dock for about 50 yards and never lost contact with my wife who was inside the boat.
    The microphones must be unidirectional. While I was talking with a friend the other unit was only hearing me and not the other side of the conversation.
    I do worry about them falling off my ear into the water and I’m considering using a lanyard attached to the ear piece.”
    These are actually a better deal than the Eartecs I bought a few years ago.
    Bob also said that, “Now my wife can tell me what to do while onboard and nobody knows except me.”
    You can see his boat here:
    http://istaboa2007.blogspot.com/

  10. praetorian47 says:

    I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong because nobody is able to hear me when using these units.
    I like the unit concept and how it fits. If I’m doing something wrong, I’d love to know what it is!

  11. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Praetorian, are you careful to align the Dragon so the twin mics are aimed at your mouth? I learned that from the manual, and try to be careful about it.
    My results are inconsistent. I’ve had long Dragon calls with people who heard me fine, but also short ones with people who complained about the sound. My calls to answering machines have generally sounded muddy.

  12. praetorian47 says:

    Ben, I’ve tried everything, but I consistently get complaints.
    I’ve put it in a box with all my other failed bluetooth headsets.
    Right now I’m using the wired unit that came with my Blackberry – and it seems to work the best.
    On the boat we’re sticking with the Eartec. The problem with the Eartec is the size of the unit and the lousy clip. My wife often wears a bikini (a practice I encourage) and the unit doesn’t hold on well to it. We’ve had it fall off a number of times, luckily never in the water.

  13. ibsailn says:

    Hello Praetorian47….don’t suppose you would be interested in unloading your pair of dragons. I am very curious to give them a try and see how useful they would be on Visions of Johanna. e-mail me at ibsailn at gmail dot com if you might want to sell them.

  14. Milt Baker says:

    Any late info from users of Dragon V2 bluetooth headsets since the last posts in 2008? Are you using Dragon V2s and, if so, what’s your experience with them?
    Amazon has these units for under $70 each. Despite Praetorian47’s bad experiences, other users seem happy with them and the Dragon V2s seem like a made-to-order solution for communicating between crewmembers during docking, anchoring and other operations which need close coordination.
    At the moment we’re looking for a better solution than our big klunky headsets which make us look like seaborne space cadets. With our present headsets range very limited to less than our 50 feet LOA and if we get too far apart the units bring in radio stations–not exactly what we need!

  15. Carl says:

    Would be great to see post on conclusions as little has posted since as alternatives.

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Hi Carl, My problem was that Callpod has issued a series of firmware updates, which I thought I should try before writing more of a review, but I was never able to upload them to the headsets. I kept thinking that maybe the next update would work, but I just tried again without success. So what I still have here is a pair of early Dragon 2s with early software.
    They do work both as cell phone headset and intercom but I’ve never been tickled by the outgoing volume and clarity. And the button controls are kind of finicky (because they control a lot). I can get one to fit pretty snugly on my fairly average size ear, but I would still worry about walking around deck with one on. Judging from the Amazon reviews, I’m not sure the firmware updates have done a lot of good, but then again this tries to be much more than a standard BT headset.

  17. Carl says:

    Thanks for the update Ben. The mediocre results are surprising given that the Dragon headset appears to be used in the Callpod Phoenix system – a photo of which was posted above and retails for $3000.00. (not a typo)
    There are several new BT intercom solutions on the market designed for biking, motorcycling, skiing – all configured around a helmet. I am curios if anyone has adapted these for boating (sans helmet).
    http://www.myblueant.com/products/headsets/interphone/f4/index.php
    http://www.midlandradio.com/On-the-Road.LVL/BT2-D

  18. Adam says:

    I bought three of these things and had nothing but trouble. I dropped one from about three feet and it blew open and wasn’t repairable. Another decided it wouldn’t operate unless it was plugged in. We switched to Eartecs.

  19. Carl says:

    Adam – do the Eartec microphones cancel wind noise?
    http://www.eartec.com/Boating/eartecboatingdig.html

  20. Adam says:

    Carl, I don’t think so. We’ve never operated in enough wind to need noise canceling, but there is nothing in the Eartec docs about canceling circuitry.

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