Fallon Pilot Shop Blog
Pilot Checklist: Aviation Headset Buyers Guide
In a world with so many choices and technological
advancement, it can be difficult to sort through the numerous options to determine
exactly what you want. The same is true for deciding which aviation headset you
should roam the skies with. We’ve broken down the aviation headset buying
process in a familiar pilot checklist format. Here we will review the most
important factors to consider when buying a new headset: sound, comfort, price,
plug type and a brief overview of additional features.
Noise Reduction Rating
There are two distinct Noise Reduction Ratings: ANR and PNR. ANR or Active Noise Reduction, uses electronics to sense noise coming from your surroundings – like the drone of the engine or the sound of air moving around the aircraft. ANR cancels out that ambient noise by sending a wave of sound that is equal in amplitude, but opposite in phase into your headset. PNR or Passive Noise Reduction, relies solely on physical soundproofing (with foam and other materials) to passively reduce ambient noise. Each airplane’s noise signature is different, so be sure to research which Noise Reduction Rating works best for your aircraft.
Additional ANR and PNR Differences Worth Mentioning:
- ANR headsets typically weigh less because they require less soundproofing material.
- PNR headsets tend to be less expensive because they require less technology.
- ANR headsets block more ambient noise and damaging noise frequencies making it easier to hear communications and providing more protection from hearing loss.
- ANR headsets require a power source – either panel power or batteries. If an ANR headset losses the power source it will continue to function as a PNR headset using only passive noise reduction.
Although noise reduction is important, another significant factor in choosing the correct headset is how it fits and feels. In some cases, you may be wearing the headset for long periods of time, so comfort ranks relatively high on the checklist. One feature that may be important to you is the ability to adjust the clamping force of the headset. This regulates how much pressure the headset is putting around your ears and how well it blocks out sound. Generally, this is more important for PNR headsets, as they rely heavily on having a secure seal to block out sound waves.
The distribution of weight is also an important factor in
how comfortable the headset will be. As a good rule of thumb, a lighter headset
will be more comfortable for longer periods of time. Also, having most of the
weight in the ear cups will give you better comfort results.
For most people, money is one of the biggest decision-making factors. We didn’t rank price as the most important factor on our checklist because you should view your headset as a safety investment. Try to remember that clear communication is paramount in flight and it is likely that you will use your headset for many years or possibly your entire flying career. Prices of aviation headsets can vary greatly, anywhere between $90.00 at the lowest, to over $1,000.00.
ANR headsets will generally run you more than PNR headsets,
as there is a difference in technology level. But, you can find a good
entry-level ANR headset for around $300.00.
Most major aviation headset manufacturers offer their
headsets with a variety of connector plugs. You can determine what type of
connector plug you need by the aircraft you are connecting to. If you are flying in multiple aircraft with different plug connections you may want to settle on a headset with one plug type and purchase a headset adapter for use in the other aircraft.
Types of Aviation Headset Connectors:
- Dual Male Plugs / GA Plugs - Fixed Wing
- LEMO Connector Plug/ Redel / 6-pin Connector - Panel Powered
- Airbus / 5-pin XLR Connector – Airline or Corporate
- Single Male Plug / U-174 with High Impedance– Helicopter
- Single Male Plug / U-174 with Low Impedance– Military
Many aviation headsets come with more than just your standard noise cancellation and a flex boom mic. Some additional features you want to consider are:
With Bluetooth, you can connect to your
smartphone to take calls or listen to music. This can be great if you need to make
a call or you want your passengers to be able to listen to their favorite
tunes. Most Bluetooth headsets have communication priority which is a safety
functions for the Bluetooth feature. This means that if you are playing music
or talking on the phone, the volume of those things will automatically reduce
or go to zero so that you can hear any communications from towers or other
TSO (Technical Standard Orders) is document that
outlines the minimum performance standards for headsets. TSO is not a requirement
for Part 91 (GA) flying but it may be required in the cockpit for many
airlines. If you fly for an airline check with your chief pilot to find out if
a TSO headset is required. If not, you may still want to consider a TSO headset
if your career path has you headed for the airlines.
The FlightLink app was developed by Lightspeed
for the iPad and iPhone to enhance the functionality of Lightspeed headsets. It
captures incoming and outgoing communications and allows you to jot down notes
within the app. This is especially helpful for debriefing after your flight.
Warranties are also something you may want to
consider looking into as an aspect of making your decision. Most warranties
range anywhere from one to seven years, depending on the manufacturer. Some
manufacturers also offer lifetime guarantees.
Some headsets will come with a carrying case as well. This can be a bonus, but it is not necessary as some flight bags already have a headset compartment. Or you may want to pick out a headset case separately that specifically fits your needs.
When it comes to headsets, there are many different options to choose from. Here at Fallon Pilot Shop, we offer in-store demo headsets giving you the opportunity to try the headset on your next flight. This allows you to test out the capabilities and comfort in real time. It’s a great option before committing to the purchase. If your local pilot shop does not offer a demo headset program, we suggest talking to fellow pilots and flight instructors to hear their first-hand experience with their headset of choice. Also, be sure to check out online reviews.
We offer a large variety of headsets from leading manufacturers such as Bose, Lightspeed, David Clark, Telex, Faro, Flightcom, and more! If you’ve completed our checklist and you are still not sure give us a call at (321) 345- 9464 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Allow us to help you choose the headset that fits you best!