It’s no secret that one of the most intimate items you will purchase or have purchased in your aviation life is your headset. It’s sometimes frustrating finding the best aviation headset for your head shape, needs, and price point. To be honest, there are quite a lot of options on the market for you to choose from. In this article I will help break down what things you should look for in a headset so you can see what works best for you.
To clear the air, (pun intended) I had the hardest time back when I was choosing what headset to purchase as a budding young student pilot. If you’re starting out you are likely in the same predicament I was about whether to go ahead and make the investment in a high quality headset or start out with a headset that costs $200 or less. It can be difficult to make a decisions and ultimately I personally decided to invest in a quality headset from the beginning because I knew I was going to be in aviation for life.
I would have to suggest that if you are in question of which way to go, reflect on your goals for flight.
Do you plan to really stick with becoming a pilot? Or are you still unsure of whether its going to be a lasting passion or hobby of yours? If you choose the ladder consider putting up the big bucks to invest in a nice active noise canceling headset (more on this in a minute). If you decide that you still are hesitating on your love for the sky, consider going a little less extreme and look for a cheap aviation headset that will do the trick. We will cover the spectrum below.
Now that we have you thinking about your dedication to the art form, hobby, or lifestyle that is aviation. Now is the time to look into the different types of aviation headsets and the differences in price points, comfort, and ear protection.
The biggest difference in aviation headsets is active noise reduction (also referred to as ANR) or passive noise reduction (PNR).
Passive Aviation Headsets
To be quite honest, I don’t have a ton of experience in the passive headset space. I have never owned a pair and I have only flown a few times with passive headsets. From my experience there is quite a bit of difference compared to an ANR headset. It is definitely a louder environment but it comes with a lower price point of course.
However, all pilots know that when it comes to passive headsets you likely will turn to the iconic mint green headsets called David Clarks. This brand has sold so many headsets over the year, and before ANR was even a thing I would venture to guess they were a hot bed for leading the charge in headset sales. Their headsets could be the perfect solutions for the indifferent aviator who isn’t quite sure if this is a hobby fad or a lifestyle.
Their David Clark H10-13.4 headset is a classic and they’re the perfect price for a beginning pilot. Also, they’re green so thats funny and cool all at the same time.
Active Noise Reduction Headsets
Active noise reduction aviation headsets are what a lot of pilots enjoy now in our advanced technology age of aviation. Basically, without being an audiophile, active noise reduction artificially dampens the outside noise and balances it out with your inner ear drum so you get an incredibly quite experience when in the cockpit. It’s actually quite cool and interesting. From a stamina standpoint, ANR headsets can increase the longevity in the sky because of the lack of strain on your ears. It’s quite nice and any pilot knows that being tired after a flight is a real thing. These help with that issue a bit I would have to say.
Personally when I made the decision to invest in a nice headset I went with the Lightspeed Zulu’s. They actually are a steal for the ANR world. I consider it the best aviation headset and I have tried many different kinds in my day.
That was in 2009 and now I use them still to this day and I can honestly say that my Lightspeed Zulu headset review would have to be a 5 out of 5 stars. They look like the condition they were when I bought them new seven years ago. This is why I am so excited that I invested in a nice headset at the beginning, because had I not I would likely be on my third or fourth pair by now.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room, which is Bose. Bose makes a pretty killer headset for pilots as well. Coming in at one of the more expensive options on the market year after year you would hope there they really know their stuff, and they do. Their A20 Aviation Headset is widely contested as the consistent favorite among the aviation community. Getting your hands on one of these means you definitely want to be serious about your investment in becoming a pilot.
I have never been an owner of one of the Bose’s coveted headsets, but I have had many flights where I have worn them. I will say that although they are extremely comfortable and do a great job of active noise reduction, it’s nothing I don’t get with the Lightspeed Zulu’s I own. I have had friends complain about the ear cups degrading in quality over time and having to replace the Bose ear bups. However, I truly believe that either of these routes for you will be spectacular.
I must add that most headsets are bluetooth aviation headsets meaning that you can connect your music, make phone calls wirelessly during flight. Just be careful jamming out to AC/DC while flying… results may vary 😉
Now that we have Passive vs. ANR headsets out of the way a small area that you may have not explored yet is the in-ear vs. the over the ear world of headsets.
Again, I have no experience with wearing and using in-ear headsets during flight but some people prefer them.
In-Ear Aviation Headsets Have Some Benefits
Think about it, the number one annoyance I have when it comes to finding the best aviation headset to wear day in and day out actually has nothing to do with the headset itself. It has to do with wearing sunglasses that rub between the headset and my head. With in-ear headsets I am assuming this problem is completely washed away. If you wear an in-ear pair please comment below and let me know if this is indeed a fact.
I know people that use an in-ear brand called Clarity Aloft and they have nothing but good things to say about them.
If you’re just starting out, I would save in-ear for later on in your pilot journey.
So What’s the Best Aviation Headset for You?
To recap there are a multitude of things you should take into consideration when it comes to choosing what the best aviation headset is for you.
- Set a realistic budget for yourself and stick to it. I mean it.
- Reflect on how dedicated you are to aviation and flying and judge accordingly.
- Take into consideration how sensitive your hearing is and how you want to take care of it.
- Find someone you know that has the same pair and ask if you could perhaps try them on for a flight perhaps.
I have no regrets about my headset choice and it was because I followed those steps. Know that a headset is an extension of your lifestyle, comfort and practicality should be at the forefront.
Happy shopping and flying!