Whether you are a pilot or a passenger, or someone who works in a noisy environment, you might want a good pilot headset in order to reduce noise levels.
Aviation headsets are generally worn by pilots to cancel or reduce noise levels from the engine, blade noise and airflow. They also allow for in cabin and radio signals to get through loud and clear.
Headsets allow for active and passive noise reduction allowing for ambient noise to be lowered from 30 down to 15 decibels.
Your headset will be your tool to communicate with others inside and outside of the aircraft. Not only will it help you communicate, it will also play an even bigger role: protecting your hearing.
Our sensitive hearing functions between 20Hz and 20000 Hz but amplifies the sounds between 2000 Hz and 5000 Hz, as we tend to tune in on the levels of the human voice which are situated between these ranges.
Sound frequency is expressed in Hertz (Hz) while the actual intensity and volume is measured in decibels (dB). A normal conversation is around 50 to 80dB.
Exposure to sound levels of 90dB and above for prolonged periods can cause hearing loss and damage to the inner ear. Aeroplane engines run at around 120dB to 130dB, which is why a good headset is essential for a pilot.
Let’s look at some of the important features before reviewing the best available headsets.
Pilot Headset Buyers Guide
PNR, ANR and DNR
PNR is passive noise reduction while ANR is active noise reduction and DNR is dynamic noise reduction. PNR reduces noise via foam in the ear-cup which cuts off sound from outside the headset.
These headsets have to fit tightly on your head to be effective. They are normally cheaper than ANR. ANR headsets make use of electronics to suppress unwanted sounds via noise cancellation technology.
DNR headsets are the more expensive of the 3 types and use digital electronic techniques to remove noise or in some cases remove it completely.
Outgoing signal is almost as important as incoming signal, so your headset needs to have a decent microphone with suppression of unwanted noise. You do not want the noise in the cockpit transmitted to the cabin via the intercom or to the ATCs or other aircraft as it is important that everything can be heard clearly.
A microphone muff is not enough to reduce all the unwanted noise, the muff needs to be actively noise suppressing so that audio quality over the microphone is the best possible.
Another very important factor is how comfortable the headset is to wear for extended periods of time. The headband and ear-cushions need to fit well and feel comfortable on your head.
Before you buy a headset, wear it for around 10 to 15 minutes to make sure it stays comfortable. The weight of the headset can also effect the comfort factor, although heavier does not automatically equate to more uncomfortable.
Cable and plugs
It is important to ensure that your headset plugs are compatible with the aircraft you are going to fly. Different craft make use of different headset plugs so you will need a headset with plugs that will work in the craft you are flying.
While this may be considered optional, many pilots are looking at headsets with Bluetooth capability which allows for connection of smart-phones, GPS and so forth to the same headset without having to carry along a bunch of extra cables.
If you purchase an expensive headset, you want to make sure that you are covered for an extended period of time should something go wrong with it. Look for a good brand with an extended warranty to protect your purchase.
Many headsets offer nice to have features as extras, which as a pilot, you can assess your own requirements and preferences when choosing headsets with the optional extras.
Some of these features include cockpit recording and individual ear piece controls. You can also look at items such as extra microphone muffs, replacement seals, headset bags, microphone windscreens and various other optional items.
The rule of thumb is to buy the best headset you can afford that is comfortable for you to use. If you can afford DNR, go for it and ANR is preferable if you are going to be flying extensively.
For once-off flights or minimal hours, a PNR headset is an acceptable set for use. For student pilots, a PNR headset might be a good option and then purchase ANR or DNR once qualified. Set your budget and then look at the best headset that fits within your limits.
Aviation Headset Reviews in 2018
Bose A20 Aviation Headset
This is a comfortable headset weighing in at only 340g and made to be durable and strong. The ear-cups are large and the headband is padded to prevent excess pressure and the volume to each ear can be controlled separately.
The boom-mounted microphone goes on the left ear-cup and the cables come from the left as well. This is set with an 2 plug jack which can be unscrewed and replaced with a different cable if necessary. The in-line panel has buttons to turn on the ANR and is battery powered.
There is already passive noise cancellation due to the padding before you even flick the switch. This headset also features Bluetooth comparability. Audio quality is excellent and the set allows for mp3 input as well. The warranty period is 5 years and the set comes complete with a carry case and aux cable.
Rugged Air RA900 Black Stereo Pilot Headset
This headset features a metal frame with double foam headband and is designed to be comfortable for long periods of wear, weighing in at 445g. The headset offers a 24dB passive noise reduction and has deep pocket ear cups for cushioning and reduced noise. There are control dials on each ear-cup to control volume as well as a push-to-talk button.
This headset allows you to switch between mono and stereo and has a 3.5mm jack which can be used with most cellphones as well as the standard dual plug audio cable. Audio via the jack is always stereo. The microphone is attached via a full flex boom on the left ear piece and can be used for radio communication as well as other audio devices. This headset has a 7 year factory warranty.
Lightspeed ZULU 2 Aviation Headset
The Lightspeed Zulu 2 uses ANR and has a comfortable frame which is sturdy and streamlined and light enough not to cause too much pressure on long flights. This headset is cushioned on the headband and over-ear ear pieces for comfort and some passive noise reduction. MicroportVent technology works along with the magnesium ear-cups to effectively reduce wind sounds and low level buzzing. When used the the FlightLink app, this headset can also be used to do cockpit recordings during flight.
With the added benefit of Bluetooth as well as an auxiliary port to allow connections to cellphones and similar equipment, this headset automatically lowers sound on secondary devices when there is an incoming intercom or radio message. The in-line panel has volume, power, ComPriority and Bluetooth buttons. This headset comes with a case for carrying the headset as well as offering extra space for essential documents. This headset comes with a 5 year warranty with the offer of added service after expiry of the warranty.
David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset
This PNR headset offers excellent noise reduction with minimal outlay. The carry case and Bluetooth adapter can be purchased separately if required. This double foam headset offers an excellent seal even if you are wearing aviation glasses, without adding extra pressure and weighs in at 468g.
The gel ear-cups have a volume knob for volume control which can easily be adjusted due to their tactile adaptations. The headband features cranial support to distribute the weight across the entire band, reducing pressure spots. The microphone is situated on a flexible boom and is customized to reduce noise. There is a 5 year warranty on this this headset for your piece of mind.
Kore Aviation KA-1 Aviation Headset
This PNR headset is lightweight, comfortable and reasonably priced. The headband is well padded and the gel ear seals create excellent passive noise reduction. Each ear-cup has volume knobs for individual volume control. The microphone is on a flexible boom which attaches to the left ear-cup.
This is a noise cancelling microphone which offers stereo and mono sound which is set via a switch. There is an auxiliary port to allow connection to mp3 players and cellphones. Cables need to be purchased separately but the headset does come with a carry case and a 5 year manufacturers warranty.
ASA HS-1 Aviation Headset
Offering 23dB noise reduction, this headset offers high level passive noise reduction. The deep ear-cup, padded headband and metal frame offers sturdy, durable, comfortable headset design with over-ear ear pieces which fit well to effective noise isolation. The cup holders are arched allowing them to adapt according to your ears so they always fit well. The audio is clear and the microphone also offers decent noise reduction for effective communication.
The microphone is on a flexible boom for maneuverability. The HS-1 has a two plug cable for general aviation use. This headset is reasonably priced and a good option for student pilots. This headset can get a little tight on long flights, so is perhaps more suitable for training or shorter flights. This headset weighs in at 884g and offers a lifetime manufacturers warranty.
FARO G2 ANR Aviation Headset
This is a robust headset made from carbon fibre with dual plug and mp3 capabilities. With noise reduction of up to 52dB on ANR with PNR at 23dB reduction which makes this outstanding. The ear cups are lined with faux leather and the headband is well padded to offer less pressure on your head and ears on long flights. The microphone offers decent audio and is connected on the left ear-cup The cable also connects on the left cup and features an in-line control for volume as well as the ANR controls.
The cable is the dual plug type suitable for more craft. Extremely lightweight at only 255g, it is lighter than most of the headsets currently available. There is a 3 year warranty on this headset. This headset does offer Bluetooth connectivity as well as Mp3 audio input. The headset comes with the audio cables and a headset bag.
Faro PNR Aviation Headset
Weighing in at 370g, this headset is heavier than it’s ANR equivalent and offers noise reduction of up to 26dB making this a decent PNR set for various uses. The headset features large soft cushions which provide added comfort.
The G2 PNR headset has dual volume controls as well as the ability to connect cellphones and MP3 players. You can also purchase these headsets in a variety of colours. The 3 year warranty allows for full replacement within the warranty period.
Super lightweight at only 28 grams, this in-ear headset is one of the lightest available while still offering 50dB noise reduction. This is very effective for a headset without ANR capability. This headset comes with a 3 year warranty and replacement ear tips.
Lightspeed Tango Wireless
This wireless ANR headset is fairly heavy at 510g but allows for the freedom of use without cables and all the controls being at your fingertips on the headset itself. This set uses 2 x 3.7V lithium-ion batteries for around 12 hours consecutive use.
The microphone is the standard Electret mic and the set also allows for audio and MP3 input. Bluetooth capability is standard and the headset comes with a 5 year warranty. Plush ear cushions and leather headband adds to the comfort offered by this versatile wireless headset.
There are many headsets available on the market offering varied frames, noise cancellation, comfort and designs. Once you have established a budget, you should then go ahead and try on some of the headsets for a period of time to get the feel of it and if it is suitable for your needs.
It is always better to go for the best that you can, preferably with a reasonable warranty as you will be using it for a long time and don’t want to have to replace a headset very often, especially if it is very comfortable.