Hopefully my last post inspired you to go out and take the first step to flying and you went and took a discovery flight. If not, go back and read day 4 over and over until you, or the person holding you back, are convinced that you need to go fly. For those of you that are now hooked on flying, you’re welcome. Now you get to start spending all of your money, and hopefully other people’s money on flying and flying stuff.
For the fifth day of Avgeek Christmas, we are going to look at one of the first things that I am of the opinion you should buy if you intend to fly regularly: your own headset. It is true that most flight schools have headsets you can borrow, and most other people who have a plane probably have them too, but a headset is just one of those things that you can get relatively inexpensively that will make the whole thing feel more real.
That being said, there is a wide range of cost when it comes to headsets, so I wouldn’t recommend going out and buying a top of the line headset right now, that can come later. If you are already an experienced flyer, by all means get the upgrade as there are some pretty awesome new technologies out there that make headsets more comfortable and better to use.
At the very bottom of the price range there are a handful of headsets for $100-150 like this offering from Sigtronics. While a headset like that will work just fine, I think it is worth just a little more money to get a significantly better headset.
For a little less than $200 you can get a headset from the most well-known aviation headset company in the world. The David Clark H10-76 headset is the exact same headset that I use every time I fly in the Air Force. While it is obviously not the top of the line, it serves me and the rest of my crew well. Even with the four fans of freedom spinning outside we are all able to communicate without any issues. They also take a pretty good beating from us and still continue to work. I did just recently break my first pair after about 300 hours of flying all over the world, but David Clarks come with a warranty so that shouldn’t be an issue.
The next range of headsets comes in at around $250-350 dollars. They offer things light headset bags, lighter weights, and better noise reduction. While all of these things are nice, you really have to step up to the next level to start getting more features.
At this point you start getting into headsets that have a few more features that you may find desirable. For example, the Sennheiser S1 Passive headset offers passive noise attenuation (think noise reduction) as well as a jack to plug-in an mp3 player or cell phone. Don’t worry the headset automatically mutes the auxiliary port if there is a radio call. At around $370 it is pretty reasonable if you plan on long flights where a little music might be nice. It also comes with more ways to adjust the headset to customize the fit to you.
For just a little bit more, in the $400-500 range you start to add a feature that can really make difference for talking on the radio as well as saving your hearing. Active Noise Reduction (ANR) is a feature that involves tiny speakers working to counteract outside noise like the sound of your engine. It really is amazing how much of a difference it makes. The Telex Stratus 30 for example offers ANR as well as the auxiliary port for that mp3 player or cell phone for only $479. I should mention that ANR does require power through either batteries, or in some cases from the panel of the aircraft.
One of the newest features that is becoming increasingly popular is the ability to connect bluetooth devices to your headset. The advantage of course is that now you don’t have more wires draped across the cockpit while you are trying to fly which could potentially cause a problem if you don’t control them well. These headsets start out in the $600 range like the Lightspeed Sierra aviation headset.
At the lower end you will only be able to connect your cell phone to the headset, but other headsets like the David Clark DC Pro-X Hybrid allow you to connect audio devices as well so you and possibly your passengers can listen to music. It comes in at just over $600.
The last feature that is just starting to hit the market with mixed reviews are wireless headset systems. One example is the EQ-1 wireless system. They claim to have been the first to perform an entirely wireless flight back in 2008. While the technology is pretty cool, my experience has not been awesome with it. I found it very difficult to hear our loadmaster who was using it in the back of the plane as well as it cutting in and out during the flight.
I am not sure which manufacturer it came from, or if it was just user error, but I was not impressed. Now bear in mind I am talking about using it on a C-130 aircraft with crew members being as much as 40 feet away so that may have played into it as well. It would likely work better in a small cockpit with everyone within 10 feet of each other.
While that pretty much sums it up in terms of features on an aviation headset, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other company that is the pinnacle of aviation headsets, and really headsets in general. Bose has become the best of the best when it comes to aviation headsets. I have never actually worn them but from what I hear they are the most comfortable and functional aviation headset that you can buy. They have all of the above features available, but they also come in at the highest price on the market. Most of their headsets come in at around $1000 dollars, but from what I hear they are well worth it.
As you can see there is a pretty broad range of offerings when it comes to headsets, with a fair number of different features depending on what you are looking for. The reality is that every pilot has their personal preference for a number of different reasons that you may or may not agree with. There are tons of reviews out there for all of the different headsets available, but if you get stuck just go with what sounds good to you, and you will likely be just fine.
If you have a favorite headset, or company, by all means, share in the comments below and help all of us find that perfect headset.
12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:
Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane