Aviation Headsets for Pilots: How and What to Pick?
- 21 Nov, 2018
Table of content
- Types of Headsets for the Pilots
- Something about the EARPHONES
- Key Features of the Best Aviation Headsets
- The best aviation headset should have the correct connectors
- Top 5 Aviation Headsets for Pilots
- Bose A20 Aviation Headset
- KORE AVIATION KA – 1 PNR Pilot Aviation Headset
- David Clark DC One X ENC Headset
- Rugged Air RA200 General Aviation Pilot Headset
- Lightspeed Zulu 3 Aviation Headset
What is the one thing that comes to your mind when you visualize a pilot?
THE HEADSETS, right?
This is indeed the most important accessory needed by a pilot in his cockpit. But with so much variety available in the market, the task is uphill. Every brand is selling their aviation headsets claiming to be the best. Should you fall for the lure? How much should you shell out? Don’t worry; this article aims to assist you in choosing the best headphones for airplanes.
Let’s just understand the different types of headsets. Generally, the difference lies noise reduction technology and of course the look.
In-ear vs. on-ear
Similar to the normal headphones used in everyday life, the aviation headsets too are available in two different categories. One is on-ear headsets, these are common. You will find a multitude of models and brands in the market. A few brands include Bose, David Clark, Lightspeed and Sennheiser.
Second, in-ear headsets consist of speaker plugs. These can be inserted inside the ear just like you insert headphones of a Smartphone. These are not found commonly but are far more comfortable and weigh less. A few brands manufacturing in-ear include Clarity Aloft and Faro Air.
ANR & DNR vs. PNR
The second category includes aviation headsets with noise reduction technology or the ability to lessen or cancel the noise. These include active noise reduction (ANR), dynamic noise reduction (DNR) and Passive noise reduction (PNR).
Active noise reduction (ANR) and Dynamic noise reduction (DNR)
ANR headsets reduce and/or cancel the noise to suppress or remove the aircraft noise. These are powered by a battery and employ a filter to divide the unwanted signals (below 300 HZ) from the wanted signals. These kinds of headsets use a small microphone to read the incoming noise and produce some anti-noise signal.
Another kind of active noise cancelling headsets includes dynamic noise reduction (DNR) headsets. These are costlier than ANR and lighter with some extra noise cancelling ability with its digital electronic technique. The headsets are able to accomplish this through digitizing signals in a long series of numerical value. These are processed for some repetitive noise signals eventually removing the noise.
Passive Noise Reduction (PNR)
These are the most inexpensive pilot headsets of all. These have a noise suppressing foam which fills the earcup cavity and reduces the noise passively by sealing the sounds coming from outside. The price may range from $60 to $600.
What is the most important thing when buying a headphone? The Type? Noise Canceling Ability?
Yes, these two are important but we also need to consider the outgoing sounds.
The microphone should suppress the noise pick-up. This is to ascertain that the noise doesn’t enter the audio system (of the intercom in your airplane), or get relayed into the radio to any other aircraft and ATC. This might result in turning your calls murky with no clarity and understanding of the words.
Key Features of the Best Aviation Headsets
Before you buy aviation headsets, you must consider the following points:
1. Noise Reduction Headphones
First off, set a budget. ANR cost more than PNR, so buy it if you have the budget or else go for PNR. Second, consider the time you will be using it for. If you are going to fly regularly, then ANR is good for you. These reduce the noise remarkably. Lastly, it also depends on the type of aircraft you wish to fly in. there is not an issue of noise reduction in smaller planes, then the PNR system is good. But yes, if you buy an ANR, there is nothing better than that.
2. Audio Quality
The headsets you decide to buy should deliver good audio quality. It should help you comprehend the instructions from the airport radio power, or ask the co-pilot to ease the throttle. It is vital as many planes have been grounded due to miscommunication.
Undeniably, the most important factor is comfort irrespective of the duration of the flight. You can bear ill-fitted ones for some time, but in long distance flights, the ill-fitted headsets will cause a huge amount of discomfort. It can cause distraction risking the safety of the passengers which depends on the concentration levels of a pilot.
See, if the pilot headsets are not comfortable. Make sure it fits well as you will be wearing it for long hours. The headband and the ear cushions will make a huge impact on the comfort. So try a few different brands and models. Some headsets can make you feel squeezed. So, wear it for at least 10 minutes to feel how they will treat you.
One of the latest advancements in technology is Bluetooth. A lot of devices such as smartphones and GPS system can be connected to the headphones through Bluetooth. This removes the need for extra cables that are usually seen in the cockpit. The latest Bluetooth functionality can be a huge benefit and for this you shouldn’t mind shelling some extra money.
Modern pilot headsets carry Electret microphones, these produce clearer and louder transmissions. Look for it.
Expensive aviation headsets are high on functionality than the inexpensive ones. For instance, headsets with passive noise reduction are the cheapest; however, ones with dynamic noise reduction are costlier.
Cable and Plugs
You will need another type of headset plugs based on the aircraft type you would be flying in. for instance, helicopters employ different connectors than the fixed wing GA (general aviation) and the manufacturer Airbus employs a different connector, XLR, which is utilized in professional audio recording. A pilot must ensure all the cables and connectors he would need and then purchase the correct one.
Depending on the aircraft type, check the specific jacks and plugs:
- One plug – Helicopter
- Twin Plug – General Aviation
- Lemo Plug – Fancy planes that allow adding power to your ANR headset without using batteries
- XLR Plug – Corporate and airline
The best aviation headset should have the correct connectors
1) Dual Male Plugs – Fixed Wing
Designed mostly for the aircraft, The PJ=055 provides audio for the earcups of the headsets while the PJ-605 is for the microphones. These can be used in most of the civilian and commercial aircraft.
2) Single Male Plug – The Helicopter
These are the best connectors for flying helicopters in single plug aviation headset. The connector is much broader and shorter than the fixed wing plugs. It can be used both for the microphone and the audio.
3) Panel Powered Connector Plug
Airplanes like Cirrus or Newer Beechcraft require 6-pin circular type connector. It is for all the Redel-equipped active noise reduction headsets. It is for audio, microphone and power. There is no need for a 6-pin circular jack in it.
4) Military Aircrafts
A lot of military aircraft employ a single plug connector. The size is similar to the size of the civilian helicopter. As compared to the other aviation headphones, impedance in headphones (military) is low. Military headsets can be used in civilian aircraft and vice versa.
Top 5 Aviation Headsets for Pilots
There is no alternative for Bose A20. It claims to have one-third more active noise reduction than you the other aviation headsets. A pilot will experience much more comfort. The developers have paid special attention to the audio. Bose aviation headsets apply active audio equalization to keep the sound intact. The design is simple, wearing it is easy and so is flying.
- Active Equalization - It makes the audio content clear
- Audio controls are customizable
- Functional design has both – audio prioritization setting and Bluetooth functionality
- Audio powering is flexible. It comes into effect when you power avionics
✔ FAA certified
✔ Two batteries can work up to 45 hours
✔ Clear audio system. Enhances communication and music functionalities
✖ The bag is smaller. It makes it difficult to fix the headsets properly in it before zipping.
These aviation headsets are meant not just for the pilots, but also for the students, flight schools and instructors. You can say that these are the best aviation headsets for the student pilots. It is designed in a manner to provide optimum comfort, the ear seals are ascertained by the ultra soft gels. They have dual volume controls, a 3.5 mm plug. This allows the user to listen to the music and the related content from their iPhone and Android devices. The microphone has noise canceling ability and this is the reason for clear communication with Kore Aviation KA – 1 Premium. The plates are gold plated, corrosion-resistant and ensure good connection all through.
- Ultra soft ear seals
- Light headset just 2-12 pounds
- Acoustic foam ear cups
- Passive noise reduction by 50%
- 50mm audio port
✔ They are comfortable. Won’t squeeze your head
✔ The headband pad is too comfortable
✔ Will last longer
✖ Difficult to balance volume controls
David Clark aviation headsets are perfect for the pilots sensitive to some disturbing noises as these provide electronic noise canceling ability. The design may not be that good but the comfort provided is top-class and it has durability will give you satisfaction. The hybrid ENC technology used in its manufacturing uses Bluetooth technology for picking in-flight calls as well as playing some music. It has a unique feature – Fall-safe operation. This assures communication even when there is a battery loss and system failure.
- Audio mute function
- Ear seals are leatherette to avert heat build-up
- Heat pad absorbs heat
- Offers a David Clark bag
✔ Amazing noise canceling abilities
✔ Compact, Backlit control module
✔ Light and comfortable
✔ Collapsible design makes storing easy
✖ The fragile ear seals can come out easily
In this comparatively cheap aviation headset, the manufacturers have left no stone unturned in making it a quality product with lots of ergonomic features. It has a sound dampening ability of up to 24 decibels. The 3.5 mm music port is in line with the requirement in any high end headset. Audio speakers are clear and come with a noise-reflective microphone – EM56. The stainless steel headband is adjustable and picks up all the necessary sounds from the surrounding environment. The electrets noise canceling ability makes it the leader in the industry.
- Foam comfort ear seals
- Stainless steel headwear
- 50 mm audio speakers
- Copper wiring
- Ear canals are deep pocket
✔ The communication between the crew and passengers is the clearest
✔ Good sound canceling abilities
✔ Easy to use volume controls allow keeping radio volume higher than the music
✖ Fits well but not in people on the heavier side
✖ When initiating a talk, the sound quality isn’t good but gets clearer eventually
It is a top choice of pilots in both private and public airlines but the new ZULU 3 has a lot of additions. The ear seals are designed to fit in any facial configuration irrespective of the jaw’s curve. The recently launched new cables are light, flexible and more durable. The ear seals are 20% bigger which means a pilot can work easily with the glasses.
The headsets use ANR Lightspeed technology and have Bluetooth functionality. The mic is adjustable which means that it can pick the pilot’s voice easily from the surrounding noises. The headset is Flightlink compatible. This means the pilot can recover all the incoming and outgoing communication with an app compatible with iPads and iTunes.
- Extra space (30-50%) for the ear
- More comfort with tall head pads
- Stainless steel headband
- Auto shut off
- Magnesium earcups
✔ Bigger ear cups give ample space to all the users
✔ Perfect for longer flights due to the Bluetooth functionality
✔ Is available with auxiliary cable connection if the Bluetooth fails.
✔ Good sound dampening ability
✖ Sometimes there is an echo making the sound inaudible.
Some Frequently Asked Questions about Aviation Headsets
1. What does an aviation headset do in comparison to regular headsets?
Most of the variation headsets have noise reduction ability to cancel out most of the external noise. Regular headsets of some brands are good in this regard but not as good as the aviation headsets.
2. ANR headsets or DNR headsets, which one is better?
DNR headsets are better than ANR. The details are shared above in the article.
3. Can I use my headset with another headset of a different type?
Well, the best way to ascertain guarantee is to use headsets of the same type. Different headsets may work but it depends on the radio/intercom system. Different headsets can work in one club factor but the same cannot be said when used in a different one.
4. My headset is working on one side only. Why?
Modern headsets have stereo sound capability but the same cannot be said for the aircraft. Generally, there is a small slider switch lying on the plug splitter box that moves from mono to stereo. Moreover, if the switch is set at ‘stereo’ and the headset is used in ‘standard’ mono aircraft. Just one microphone works. Check it.
5. What are the microphones used in the equipment?
Modern aviation headsets use Electret mic as the microphone. The key features include lightweight, small and cheap. Some examples include: Mobile phones and PMR radios.
Features such as sound quality, the fit and noise cancellation ability are important when you buy pilots aviation headsets. This article has all the features ought to be considered by students and pilots when buying a headset. It starts from the ear cup material to the headband structure, comfort is important so is the functionality. Don’t compromise one for another. Remember what you have read and go ahead.