Headsets

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The very mention of Headset preferences tends to create all sorts of angst in pilots! It’s a very personal choice and one which only You can make. There are several extremely good options out there, both passive and Active Noise Reduction, all from reputable manufacturers.

Preamble

Personally, I consider my headset sacrosanct. Nobody gets to use it, wear it or borrow it, under any circumstances. I’ve been burned in the past, loaning a headset for “a flight” and not seeing it again for over 3 months! When it was returned, it had clearly not been cared for. Never again. Additionally I really don’t want another persons bugs, germs or diseases transmitted to me via the mic sock. I just don’t loan headsets any more. I think of them as an extremely personal and intimate (not to mention expensive!) item of equipment.

Care

Try to avoid leaving them on the glare shield when not in use, or anywhere exposed to direct sunlight. The heat and sunlight hastens the deterioration process, particularly of the soft earcups. Storing your headset on the glare shield will often mean the headset is or may be in direct contact with the Perspex of your windshield too, most likely creating micro-scratches (on both the Perspex and your headset!) which, will eventually become an issue.

Ear-cups, comfort bands and Mic-socks are best considered consumable items. They will deteriorate over time, more so with regular use. I replace mine roughly every 12 months or so here, where I average around 700hrs per year, in a hot and humid environment. Generally speaking, your manufacturer likely provides “kits” to replace these consumable items at fairly reasonable cost. In my case, around USD$50 per annum.

Bose

I have to be honest: I have yet to fly with a Bose headset -even though I am a Huge audiophile and seldom go past their products for my home and personal music consumption. I’ve had a really close look at Bose Headsets in pilot shops, especially where I can do a side-by-side comparison with other manufacturers products. Every time, the Bose has come up a little lacking... the headsets just feel flimsier than their peers. Online reviews I’ve read suggest that there is not a huge margin in ANR performance between Bose and their peers, and certainly in the past, other manufacturers had Bluetooth connectivity embodied in their products, where Bose did not. I’ve just not found any compelling reason personally to take the plunge on a Bose aviation headset -yet. That’s a personal thing of course, but they are a very popular headset, as evidenced by the number of pilots that are generally speaking very happy with them! Anecdotally, I’ve heard that Bose after-sales-support is exceptionally good.

David Clark

The good ‘ol DC Head Clamps 🤪

They’re robust -damned near to the point of indestructibility!

H10-40

H10-60

Lightspeed

Ok I’m a bit of a LightSpeed fanboi... they were my 1st ANR Headset after a couple decades of the very trustworthy but somewhat oppressive old DC Headclamps. I chose the LightSpeed after a quite considerable period of research and comparison against other DC offerings of the time, as much as their ANR competitors. The build quality of the LightSpeed headsets was what sealed the deal for me. I’ve never had cause to regret sticking with them, even though the PFX hasn’t really cut the grade in all respects.

Zulu 2

I enjoyed around 5 years of the LightSpeed Zulu 2. A damned good headset. Only 2x AA batteries required at a time, lasting on average around 3-4 weeks at a time, on 100hrs airborne a month. Obviously heavy use of Bluetooth connection for music and/or telephone will have an impact on the battery life you can expect. ANR function was pretty damned awesome (only ever beaten by the PFX -when that works) and Passive response was better than some cheaper Headsets I have flown with in the past. Comfort bands, earmuffs and mic socks, as usual, are best considered consumables and are easily replaced at most good pilot shops or by internet order directly from LightSpeed. I usually replace mine every 12 months. The cable tends to be the weak-point. I think I replaced mine twice over the time I owned it. Overall, an excellent headset and one I can comfortably recommend.

Zulu 3

Coming soon!

PFX

I’ve flown with the PFX for around 3 years now. This one was a bit of a rush of blood to the head. Bright & shiny things... the Magpie Curse. I genuinely regret letting my old LightSpeed Zulu 2 go to purchase this. Whilst the headset lives-up to everything promised on the box, it’s a massive battery-hog. It requires 4x AA batteries at a time -and I’m lucky to get even 2 days out of a set of them, flying 4-6hrs a day, averaging around 10 sectors a day. With the ANR engaged, there’s a pretty loud, obnoxious and altogether far too regular “fart” (for want of a better word) through the headset circuitry too. I’m not absolutely certain what causes that, although it may have something to do with the headset fit or imperfect seal against the head. Very disappointing in a “premium” value headset like this. Best thing about the PFX as is, is the Kevlar protected cables. They’re easily the best I’ve ever seen on any headset.

Lately an even worse issue. I really struggle to get the ANR started -at all! This has been persisting like this for months now, to the extent that I use the headset as a Passive headset only and am Very pleasantly surprised if the ANR will actually engage. I’m between a bit of a rock & a hard place with this, as it’s my only headset and I can’t afford to lose it for the 2-3 months it would take to send it back to the USA for repair/refurbishment. No doubt, LightSpeed would turn it around well within that timeframe... but the joys of living in a 3rd-world country -and a particularly remote part of that- make it such.

Frankly, I’ve given-up on the PFX pretty much now. When I go on leave in a few weeks, I’ll be in the market for the new LightSpeed Zulu 3. I’ll write that one up when I have some experience of it.

Sennheiser