Best Aviation Headset Review
An aviation headset is one of the most important accessories a pilot needs. You might be able to lend a basic headset from your aviation school, but with time you would want the comfort, style, convenience, and comfort that comes with owning your own headset, which is the major reason why student pilots make it their first purchase.
There are hundreds of headset options available on the market, and selecting the right model might be confusing. You may be wondering which to choose between ANR and PNR and how much you would have to spend. It is even more difficult because all the different brands promote their newest models with all the enticing features. We are here to make it much easier for you to choose the best aviation headset.
WHAT ARE AVIATION HEADSETS?
An aviation headset is one of the most important purchases a pilot has to make, apart from getting the aircraft, of course. The headset will act as a hearing and communication device with others inside and outside the aircraft. It not only helps you communicate but also protects your hearing.
The human ear is sensitive to sensitive to sound frequencies between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, and the sound is amplified to reach 2000 Hz to 5000 Hz, as that’s the range where the human voice is located. Sound frequencies are measured in Hz (hertz), while the intensity of sound or volume is measured in dB (decibels). The sound intensity of a quiet room is about 40dB, while a normal conversation is in the range of 50 to 80dB. Human hearing is sensitive to these sound pressure levels (SPL), but they are entirely at risk to sounds with higher intensity, such as the sound of an airplane’s engines which is in the range of 120 to 130dB.
When a human is exposed to sound levels of 90dB and higher, there is an increased risk of causing damage to the inner ear which may result in temporary or permanent deafness.
Pilots are around high volumes all the time, and some are usually in low frequencies and for long periods at a go. If they aren’t protecting their ears properly, it could lead to hearing loss. But you don’t have to worry as you can protect your ears. To do this, you have to own a good-quality aviation headset that will be able to perform properly and help reduce the potentially harmful noises.
That is why it is vital that a pilot has a decent aviation headset, not just for communication purposes but also to protect your hearing. Hearing loss is irreversible, so preventing it is better than looking for a cure. It is for this reason; we decided to provide you with this comprehensive guide on the best aviation headset.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF HEADSETS?
It is important to know the types of headsets and what they can do. The main difference between them is their noise reduction abilities of the headset and the headset’s general design.
In-Ear Headset Vs. On-Ear Headset
The same way normal headphones come in two types is the same way aviation headsets come in two categories. There is the on-ear headset, and they are the most commonly used option; they offer the largest choice of models and brands available on the market. Popular on-ear headset brands include Bose, David Clark, Lightspeed, and Sennheiser.
The second option is the in-ear option. They compromise of little speaker plugs that you insert into your ear, similar to the headphones to use with your smartphones. This option of headsets are a little less common, but they have great advantages as they are more comfortable and weigh less. However, the way they would sit in your ear and feel depends largely on your ears. On-ear headsets fit everyone, but in-ear headsets feel different from person to person. An example of in-ear headset brands are the Clarity Aloft and Faro AIR headsets.
PNR Vs. ANR and DNR
The second aspect of headsets is categorized on their ability to cancel or reduce noise and the type of noise reduction technology they use. We will be discussing Passive Noise Reduction (PNR), Active Noise Reduction (ANR), and Dynamic Noise Reduction (DNR) headsets.
Passive Noise Reduction
These types of headsets are usually the cheapest option. They come with noise suppressing foam covering the earcup cavity, which helps to reduce noise passively by sealing off any sound that comes from outside the headset. To achieve proper noise cancellation or reduction, the PNR headset should sit firmly around the side of your head. These types of headsets have a price range of $60 to $600.
Active Noise Reduction
These types of headsets work by actively reducing or canceling any noise through the use of electronics embedded inside the headset. The electronics suppress or remove any unwanted sound from the aircraft. They are mostly battery-powered and make use of a filter to remove the wanted signal from the unwanted signals, which are usually below 300Hz. The removed noise is then inverted and mixed with the original signal, which causes the noise and the inverted noise to cancel each other. ANR headsets make use of a small microphone embedded inside the headset to interpret the incoming noise and create the anti-noise signal.
These headsets can achieve a noise reduction level of10 to 20dB, which means that the noise will be only 1/100th of the original sound level. Since you wouldn’t want to block wanted signals such as a sputtering engine or alerts, the ANR headset will only block signals lower than 300Hz. These types of headsets are more expensive than their PNR counterparts.
Dynamic Noise Reduction
The DNR headset is another type of active noise canceling headsets. They have a more expensive price point compared to ANR headsets. However, they are lighter and offer an extra level of noise cancellation using digital electronic techniques that remove noise parts from the incoming headphone signal. They do this by digitizing their signals in a series of numerical values, which go on to be processed in order to find repetitive noise signals and remove any noise components.
These headsets can suppress noise by 15 to 25Db and can detect and cancel noise signals of up to 3,500Hz. They have a price range of $250 to $1500.
AVIATION HEADSET MICROPHONES
When purchasing an aviation headset, their microphone ability is also as important as their noise cancellation capabilities. That’s why it is vital to note the sounds gotten from their microphone.
Suppose the microphone of the headset you get doesn’t have any suppression ability against noise pick-up. In that case, the unwanted noise could enter the audio system of your plane’s intercom or be transmitted over the radio to ATC or other aircraft, making calls less clear and comprehensible. You may have noticed that most microphones come with a windscreen or a mic muff to provide suppression of cabin noise, but just that isn’t enough to filter out all the unwanted sounds that may enter your mic.
Just like ear muffs, microphones also need a good quality suppression foam muff. For extra noise suppression, a jacket over the foam muff could increase the effectiveness of the microphone. Always ensure you pay close attention to the microphone of an aviation headset when purchasing one. The majority of modern aviation headsets feature an electric microphone.
FACTORS TO NOTE WHEN PURCHASING AN AVIATION HEADSET
When shopping for an aviation headset, you need to note important factors to get the best out of your headset. These factors include;
Comfort is the first major factor to note; you won’t want to spend a lot of money on a headset that will be completely uncomfortable. Keep in mind that you will be wearing the headsets for extended periods; making sure it fits properly and feels comfortable is a priority. You could also note getting gel ear pads as they are comfortable and prevent sweaty ears. The headband and ear cushions will play a big role in the comfortability of the headset, so make sure you try different brands and models to find the one that suits you best. Some headsets tend to squeeze your head after they have been on for a long time, so make sure you wear the headset for at least 10 minutes to really gauge how they feel after been worn for a long time.
Modern headsets usually come equipped with Bluetooth functions. It allows you to connect various devices such as your smartphone and GPS to the headset, enabling you to reduce the need for extra cables in the cockpit. If the headset you purchase has Bluetooth functionality, it would be advantageous to you and enough reason to spend that extra cash.
Some pilots having a headset without any audio input are a big deal, while others do not mind. Price doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with this function. Some high-quality headsets do not have an audio input feature while some low-budget options do, and this is because some of the high-quality headsets, such as some David Clark headsets, have been available for years. They most likely came into existence when being able to connect your phone or music player wasn’t a concern.
Noise Reduction Rating
Not every brand specifies this, while others do. The higher the NRR number, the quieter the headset will be. You need to set a budget for yourself when choosing an aviation headset. ANR headsets tend to cost more than PNR headsets, but if your budget would let you, then it’s the way to go.
The frequency of usage will also have to be included, whether you intend on using it daily or a few times in a month. If you intend on using it daily, then going for an ANR option would be the way to go as they significantly reduce the noise around you.
When we say sound quality, we are not only talking about how well you can communicate through the intercom or with air traffic control or other aircraft. But we also mean the sound quality in terms of music; if you enjoy music, you would want a headset that will provide you with top-notch sound quality.
Aviation headsets are quite pricey, so you will need one that will last a long time. It should be able to last years even if you’re using it daily. Cheaper options won’t be built properly, and they are mostly designed as backups or starting options, but at some point, you may start to take flying much seriously, and the next step would be to get an upgraded option. At that point, you will end up spending more to get the best option available. A good warranty also helps.
Cable and Plugs
Different types of headsets plugs are required for different aircraft. Helicopters make use of other connectors than a general aviation fixed-wing GA airplane. Airbus uses the XLR connector, which is often used in recording professional audio. Ensure that you check which connectors go with your aircraft so you can buy the right option.
Another vital factor to note is the weight of the headset. A heavy headset can put strain on your neck and shoulders, while a model with lighter weight and distribution can be more comfortable to wear for extended periods.PNR headsets are cheaper, but they are quite heavy. Ensure you wear a few headsets when shopping for one in order to choose the most comfortable option. However, keep in mind that heavy doesn’t necessarily mean less comfortable; a heavier aviation headset with proper weight distribution may be more comfortable than a lighter model.
Except your a student pilot or in need of a backup headset, you shouldn’t be frugal with the price. ANR headsets are more expensive than PNR headsets, the ANR option uses noise cancellation technology so that it would be more expensive, but it is one of the best options.
Simply set a budget for yourself and maintain it. If you can afford an expensive model, then that might be the best thing to do but ensure you buy the best headset you can afford. Other things that may affect the price of an aviation headset include the quality of the comms, its noise reduction capabilities, the comfort level, especially if the pads are gel or foam, the build quality, and important features such as the Bluetooth function. The carrying case that the headset comes with could make a difference and also if it’s TSO certified.
AVIATION HEADSET BUYING TIPS
Below are some extra tips that will make choosing an aviation headset a breeze.;
[LIST -B](Don’t try to buy a cheaper option as you may end up with a knockoff, no matter how tempting the offer might be, it may help you save some money, but you will pay the price in your ears; safety.)
[LIST -B](Ensure you check out the headset you purchase during flight to make sure you made the right decision. Most times, it’s after you have flown with the headset the first few times that you will know how it functions and feels. Don’t be scared to use the return service on a headset after purchasing it and finding out that it doesn’t fit as you wanted.)
[LIST -B](If the headset you purchase doesn’t come with a comfortable headband or ear seals, you can always buy some off the market in order to achieve your desired comfort level.)
- You could also note buying second-hand headsets from brand names. You may be able to find a headset worth a thousand dollars for less the price, and pilots tend to take good care of their properties.
- If you opt for an ANR or PNR headset, ensure you take into mind the bulky battery pack and think about how it would feel like having it hanging on your neck or wherever you would place it.
- There are various types of microphones ranging from Dynamic to Amplified Dynamic and Electret. Ensure you check the one that pairs well with your radio.
- Keep in mind that you will be wearing the headset for extended periods. If you opt for the cheaper option, your ears and comfort may suffer in the long run.
There are numerous aviation headset options available on the market with many features to note, so choosing the best aviation headset can seem like a stressful process. That is why we have tried to make it easier for you to make a choice.
We have provided a outline of the best aviation headset along with their important features such as Bluetooth capabilities, battery life, ear seal material, audio input, noise reduction rating, TSO status, and volume controls. Let’s check out the outline.
The Best Aviation Headsets Are Reviewed Below
Below is a outline of the best aviation headsets available on the market. As we dive into the outline , we will provide an in-depth look into each of the models outlined and why they are the best. We also included some FAQs that customers have.
Bose A20 Aviation Headset
Bose is a well-known brand; they first introduced their commercially Active Noise Cancellation aviation headset in 1989; since then, most pilots looking for an aviation headset and have the cash opt for the Bose models.
We believe the Bose A20 to be the best aviation headset when it comes to noise cancellation. It is wonderful in this regard. Some people even say it cancels too much noise, but that won’t be a complaint you’ll hear from us. There are other noise cancellation headsets that come close to the Bose A20, but what makes the Bose standout is its best performance. You may have noticed that while using some headsets, the noise may increase if you turn your head, but that isn’t the case with the A20.
It comes with 2x AA batteries that last about 45 hours which is more than sufficient. The ear seals on the headset are made from protein leather, but keep in mind that it isn’t real leather. It is incredibly comfortable, so you can wear the headset for extended periods and experience very little to no discomfort even if you’re wearing your favorite pair of sunglasses. It is also one of the lightest on-ear headsets as it weighs 12 ounces and has little clamping pressure on your head; this way, the weight is evenly distributed.
If you enjoy music, then you wouldn’t be disappointed as the Bose A20 manages to top every other aviation headset in this regard. It features some plastic parts that help to increase its comfortability. This headset has no flimsy part.
The Bose A20 includes other features such as Bluetooth capabilities, but it also has the non-Bluetooth option for a cheaper price, dual volume controls, and an audio input. It also comes with a carrying case and a 5-year warranty. TSO approved, which makes it sit suitable for airline pilots and other operators that make it a requirement for their pilots to wear TSO headsets. However, this headset may be the most expensive option out there, but this headset is it if you want the best option.
- 45-hour battery life
- TSO approved
- Audio input
- Bluetooth capabilities
- Dual volume controls
- Best in noise cancellation
- Brand: Bose
- Model: Bose A20 (32843)
- Weight: 12 Ounces
- Dimensions: 8.43 * 6.34 * 3.15 inches
- Color: Black
- It is lightweight
- It offers clear audio with active equalization
- It has 30 percent less clamping force
- It comes with Bluetooth
- It offers customizable audio prioritization
- It is quite expensive
Lightspeed Zulu 3 Aviation Headset
The Lightspeed Zulu 3 has similar features to the Sierra, but you may be wondering what the difference is between the two.
The Zulu 3 is a well-built headset with a 7-year warranty. The comfort level has been improved; there is little to no clamping and tightness with this headset. It weighs lighter than the Sierra; the Sierra weighs 16 oz while the Zulu weighs 14 oz. The weight of the headset will tell on you after you have worn it for an extended period.
It also comes with improved sound clarity and ANR, which would make any pilot want to invest in the headset even with its high price point. It is well made, comfortable, and has improved clarity.
- 40-hour battery life
- Audio input
- Dual volume controls
- 7-year warranty
- Brand: Lightspeed
- Model: Lightspeed Zulu 3 (FBA_4064)
- Weight: 3 Pounds
- Dimensions: 13 * 11 * 5 inches
- Color: Grey
- It comes with newly contoured ear seals for comfort
- Its new cables are stronger thanks to their Kevlar core
- It is lightweight and durable
- It is comfortable
- It features Bluetooth capabilities
- It has a high price point
David Clark DC ONE-X ENC Headset
The David Clarke company is a well-known name in the aviation industry; the design created by this company has been used by the U.S Air Force and NASA. When it comes to the brand’s ANR option, the DC ONE-X is the best option.
It features everything you would need in an aviation headset. This company is one of the few that still produces NRR models. The ONE-X comes with an NRR of 30dB. It has a superb battery life and is best-in-class. The battery will provide you with 50 hours of usage from its 2x AA batteries.
This brand is known for its passive pilot headsets; the ONE-X is superior to other ANR models when it concerns its passive noise reduction. It offers one of the best passive noise reductions in any ANR headset.
It is extremely comfortable, has an excellent material, and can withstand abuse without any issues. The one downside to this model is that it doesn’t feature an audio input. It might be a deal-breaker for others while others won’t care. You can always play your music through Bluetooth.
- 50-hour battery life
- 30 dB NRR
- Dual volume controls
- TSO approved
- 5-year warranty
- Brand: David Clark
- Model: DC ONE-X ENC Headset
- Weight: 2.1 Pounds
- Dimensions: 9.5 * 8.9 * 5 inches
- Color: Black and Grey
- It comes with Bluetooth
- It is lightweight and durable
- It is TSO approved
- It features an NRR rating of 30 dB
- It comes with better passive noise cancellation
- It has no audio input feature
Faro G2 ANR (Active Noise Reduction) Premium Pilot Aviation Headset
This headset from Faro is the most affordable option on this outline . It is a great headset for student pilots, and a lot of private pilots use it too. This headset works as it is described and can be relied upon.
Its ANR feature works great, and it effectively reduces noise while flying. It also has decent comms and a battery life of 30 hours. It is also lightweight and is incredibly comfortable. Everything on the headset can be easily adjusted, it comes with leatherette ear pads, and its clamping force is minimal. It comes with an NRR rating of 26 dB, audio input, and dual volume controls.
- 26 dB NRR
- 30-hour battery life
- Audio input
- Dual volume controls
- Brand: Faro
- Model: Faro G2 ANR Headset
- Weight: 1.25 Pounds
- Dimensions: 8 * 4 * 9.5 inches
- Color: Black
- It is lightweight and comfortable
- It is durable
- It is affordable
- It has no Bluetooth
Buying Guide Questions
What headsets do airline pilots use?
Airline pilots use different arrays of headsets, but it might be required by the airline for the headset to be TSO approved.
Are Bose aviation headsets worth it?
Bose is a well-known brand when it comes to audio output and headsets. The products they produce are known for their high quality and performance, so yes, they are worth it.
How do I choose an aviation headset?
You have to note factors when choosing an aviation headset, and they include the weight, noise reduction rating, style, and other things. Once you have taken these factors into mind, you can choose the one that suits you best.
Do pilots use their own headsets?
For a pilot to use a personal headset depends on the airline’s policies, but the pilots have to use headsets certified for usage in the cockpit.
Is Bose making a new aviation headset?
The Bose A20 is the newest production of aviation headsets from Bose.
How long will Bose A20 last? Is Bose A20 best?
The Bose A20 will last about 45 hours, and in our opinion, it is the best aviation headset.
What is the difference in aviation headsets?
There are two types of aviation headsets: the in-ear headset and the on-ear headset, which is the major difference in aviation headsets. They also come in ANR, PNR, and DNR.
What is an ANR aviation headset?
An ANR headset works by actively reducing or canceling noise by using electronics embedded inside the headset.
Aviation headsets are necessary for any pilot or aspiring pilot; they protect your ears while doing your job. When it comes to shopping for them, the basic rule is, you get what you paid for. Good quality headsets can serve you for a decade, making it an investment that will pay off in the long run. If you’re still confused about which brand or model to buy, you can ask your pilot friends or borrow from people at your airfields for a test flight; that way, you would know if you would feel comfortable what that particular model or not. Keep in mind that cheap headsets might be attractive, but they will perform poorly when it comes to the protection of your hearing. Stick to this advice “when in doubt, buy the best headset you can afford.”
With the buying guide and review outline provided above, it should be easier for you to choose the right aviation headset for your needs. You can use the review outline as a guide to find the headset you want or simply select one of the headsets outlined above. However, ensure you choose one that is comfortable while suiting your work needs.