A top aviation headset is your perfect companion when you fly. As such, you must choose the best aviation headsets that your money can buy.
You will find the task of selecting an aviation headset easy if you take time in reading about the different types of headphones and their purpose.
What Makes a Good Aviation Headset?
A headset is an essential tool of a pilot. Since there are so many headsets available on the market, you may find it confusing to choose one.
Searching for the appropriate headset can be a daunting task.
Fortunately, there are articles such as this one that can help you make the right choice.
With an excellent headset, you can communicate with other people. Also, the earphones protect your hearing. The ears are sensitive to sound pressure levels. Thus, higher intensity sound like the sound of airplane engines at 120-130dB can damage them.
Frequent exposure to sounds of at least 90dB can damage the inner ear that can cause permanent hearing loss.
Thus, pilots can suffer from hearing loss because of their exposure to low frequency, high-volume sounds for a long time if they do not protect their ears. Thus, it is essential to have the right aircraft’s headset that handles and reduces this kind of noise.
Hearing loss is irreversible; therefore, it is crucial to protect the ears.
5 Of the Best Aviation Headset for the Money – A Table Rating Comparison (2018)
Best Types of Aviation Headsets
1. On-the-ear vs In-ear headsets (Most Common Type Of Aviation Headsets)
The on-the-ear headset is most common. You can choose from various brands and models. On the other hand, the in-ear model is lightweight and more comfortable to wear.
It looks like those earphones that come with smartphones.
Most people prefer the on-the-ear headsets because the in-ear headsets feel different if they’re on them.
Related Headphone Buying Guide: Best Earbuds for Airplane Travel
2. Passive Noise Reduction, Active Noise Reduction, or Dynamic Noise Reduction
If the headset is a PNR or passive noise reduction model, it means that a physical thing like noise suppressing foam blocks the noise outside. This type of aviation headset is the cheapest. For it to reduce noise effectively, the PNR headset must fit firmly around the sides of the head.
Active noise reduction, on the other hand, reduces and cancels noise actively with electronics found inside the headset.
It suppresses or removes ambient noise that is below 300Hz. It has a microphone located in the headset that captures the incoming sound and generates the different noise signal to counter it.
An active noise cancellation headset can have a noise reduction capability between 10-20dB. The pilot can hear the noise at 1/100th of its original volume.
You can still hear the sputtering engine or alerts. Compared with the passive noise reduction headset, the active noise reduction earphone is more expensive.
Dynamic noise reduction headset is the most expensive of the three. It is lighter and uses additional noise cancelling level through digital electronic techniques. It digitizes sound signals and processes them to search for repetitive noise signals. Then, it removes the noise components.
The Importance of Reliable Microphones for Aviation
Because noise cancellation is essential on the best aviation headset, the microphone also plays an important part. Most receivers have a windscreen or mic muff to suppress some of the cabin noise.
Without the suppressing capability of the amplifier, sound can get into the aircraft’s audio system.
Communication with other airplane or air traffic control will be less understandable and clear.
An excellent microphone has a noise suppressing foam muff. Also, it has a covering over the foam to maximize its effectiveness.
If you are buying the best aviation headsets, you must also check its microphone.
Will the Best Aviation Headset Enhance Your Flying Experience?
The choice of aviation headset is subjective. It depends on the headset characteristics and the pilot’s hearing characteristics and ergonomics. Thus, you must experience wearing a particularly the best aviation headset before you can decide to own it.
The quality of quietness that a headset can provide depends on its acoustic properties. Such properties include passive and active noise cancellation. Quietness quality also depends on how the headphone fits your head, as well as your hearing acuity.
Lastly, it depends on the kind of noise inside the aircraft cockpit. Cockpit noise can vary depending on the aircraft design, engine size, general aviation noise spectrum, and other issues.
Thus, the technical parameters of quietness are only part of how you choose your headset. The other part consists of your personal preferences related to user interface issues, side pressure, and weight.
It means that even if your headset is the quietest of all aviation sets, you may not feel comfortable using it. Your satisfaction is a significant factor in choosing your headset.
Aviation headsets provide a particular attenuation in active and passive modes.
However, there is a tradeoff so that the headset can offer a balance between frequency attenuations. Some manufacturer claims about attenuation are misleading. People may base their sound judgments based on mitigation alone.
Having the Best Aviation Headset Set’s No Limitations in Achieving Noise Cancellation
A headset can achieve active cancellation if the cancelling signal’s profile falls within the current noise spectrum. If the noise cancellation is at low levels, it can offer a cancelling signal easily.
However, it may not function properly if the headset needs to cancel high-level noise. It is possible for the cancelling signal to provide new sound because the headset is not able to provide the inverted signal.
Thus, active noise cancellation headsets do not work similarly.
Active noise cancellation involves a noise-sensing microphone, an anti-noise speaker, and some processing electronics.
For an ANC headset to provide exceptional performance, it must be able to consider such elements in detail.
For active noise cancellation to occur, the microphone must have the required sensitivity and fidelity to produce the sound it captures. Then, it must be able to correlate the generated audio with the sound that your ear hears.
Sensitivity and accuracy are easy to solve because manufacturers have a choice of excellent microphones. However, correlating the produced sound can be challenging to achieve.
Noise cancellation must occur in the ear canal. Although it is not possible to put the microphone in the ear canal, an excellent design ensures that the microphone picks up sound that the ear hears.
Why is Noise Reduction and Comfort Important for an Aviation Headset?
A particular type of headset is essential to pilots because it reduces noise coming from the aircraft cockpit.
1. Cancels Noise Effectively and Makes Clearer Communication
An aircraft creates more noise than everything else does. Therefore, a pilot needs noise reduction headset to reduce ambient sound. As discussed in the earlier sections, you need to protect your hearing from the noise that can damage your ears.
Also, you need to communicate clearly with air traffic control and your passengers. Thus, your headset must be able to reduce the unwanted noise.
Active noise reduction headsets are midrange when it comes to affordability. They have the technology to cancel ambient noise so that you lessen hearing the cockpit noise. Moreover, these headsets have noise-cancelling microphones. By using these microphones, speech becomes more transparent to the recipient due to the reduction of cockpit noise.
2. More Focus on Flying
The best aviation headset allows you to focus on your flying. If your headset does not fit you, you can become irritated; thus, you lose focus on your most important task to bring your passengers safely to their destination.
What to Look for in an Aviation Headset Before Buying
In buying the best aviation headset, I suggest that you also consider the following things:
Your comfort must be a primary concern because you will be wearing the aviation headset every time you fly. The earphone must provide your desired comfort and fit.
The headband and ear cups must not squeeze your head and ears. If you are in a local store, you can wear your chosen headset for a minimum of 10 minutes so that you can somehow decide if you can wear it for long hours.
The weight of the headset is essential, especially for long-haul flights. If you are carrying more weight for hours, you will experience fatigue in the middle of your flying shift.
However, if the headset is too light, it can slip off your head with jarring or sudden movements.
Head clamping can affect your comfort when you use the headset. The headset must not push to tightly because it can cause headaches.
However, if the head clamping is too loose, it will not provide the needed noise reduction. This case is especially real for passive noise reduction headsets.
The gel ear padding offers better cushioning than foam padding. However, it is denser than foam. Vinyl-covered ear seals make your ears seat during the summer.
However, cotton or knit covers on the ear seals may not be effective in providing an excellent seal around the ears.
The boom flexibility of the microphone allows you to put the mic where you want it. However, it may droop after a while. On the other hand, a wire boom is rigid all throughout.
Modern aviation headsets can connect to devices through Bluetooth. If your headphone has Bluetooth capability, you do not need many cables in the aircraft’s cockpit. It may cost little extra money, but it provides a considerable advantage.
3. Noise Reduction
You need some noise reduction feature in your headset. However, your decision as to what type of noise reduction you need can depend on various factors.
As mentioned earlier, the headset with passive noise reduction is the cheapest and DNR headset is the most expensive. You must decide how much you will spend on your headset so that you can buy the headphone that fits your budget.
5. Frequency of Use
If you regularly fly within the week, you can opt for the active noise reduction headset because you deal with significant noise every day.
6. Cable and Plugs
The choice of headset also depends on the kind of aircraft that you fly. For instance, if you fly helicopters, you may need to buy another type of connector because the conventional connectors are for fixed-wing general aviation aircraft.
Airbus also has a different connector. If you are searching for the right aviation headset, you must ensure that what you will buy has the correct connector that you can use on your aircraft.
9 Best Kinds of Aviation Headset Connectors
1. Fixed Wing, Dual Male Plugs
This kind of connector is for most aircraft. The PJ-055 offers audio to the headset’s earcups while the PJ-065 is the connector for the microphone. You can use these connectors in most commercial and civilian aircraft.
2. The Helicopter, Single Male Plug
If you are flying helicopters, you must opt for a single plug aviation headset. This connector is fatter and slightly shorter than the universal fixed-wing plugs. It is for both audio and microphone.
3. Panel Powered Connector Plug
Some airplanes like the newer Beechcraft or Cirrus need the 6-pin circular type connector. It is the connector for all Redel-equipped active noise reduction headsets. Also, it is for power, microphone, and audio. You do not need batteries if you have the 6-pin circular jack.
4. Corporate and Airline Connectors
Most of these aircraft use the traditional dual male plugs. However, some ATR or Airbus airplanes use a single 5-pin XLR connector that provides audio, microphone, and power to the headset.
Related Buying Guide: Best Circumaural Headphones Under $100
5. Military Aircrafts
Many military aircraft use a single plug connector that is similar in size to a civilian helicopter. Military headsets have low impedance, unlike the other aviation headphones that have a high impedance.
If you need to switch aircraft, you can convert your aviation headset using adapters such as the following:
- Fixed wing to the helicopter
- Airbus to fixed wing
- Helicopter to fixed wing
- Fixed wing to Airbus
- High to low impedance aircraft
- Low to high impedance plane
- Fixed wing to panel powered
- Panel powered to fixed wing
If you opt for passive noise reduction headphones, you must know that they are cheaper but more cumbersome. The earcups have noise reducing foam that adds weight to the headset. When you shop for your headset, you must ensure that you wear it to check if you will be comfortable wearing it for a long time.
7. Clear and Crisp Audio
You must be able to hear and send clear and crisp radio transmission. Some manufacturers do not deliver on this. The speaker determines the audio clarity. However, if there is not enough shielding in the wiring, it can cause static or interference. An excellent quality microphone sends an audible message.
The electret microphones are most common in aviation headsets because they are also the most effective in cancelling noise. An amplifier with a windscreen will make your transmissions free from wind noise.
The receiver will even understand your communications easily.
The most expensive headsets have more functionality than their inexpensive counterparts.
Dynamic noise reduction is the costliest while passive noise reduction is the cheapest.
The most useful piece of advice that I can share is for you to set a budget and stick to it.
Most headset manufacturers offer a warranty between 1 to 5 years. Warranty is important because if something happens to your headset, you can return it to the manufacturer for repair or replacement.
However, you need to read the fine print so that you know the warranty coverage.
5 of the Best Aviation Headset for the Money this 2018
1. Bose A20 Aviation Headset (The Best Aviation Headset to Buy Today!)
The Bose A20 aviation headset is the perfect choice for pilots who want to block background noise for easy to understand communication. Pilots choose it because they want to make their flights more enjoyable and less tiresome.
I like the Bose A20 because it reduces clamping pressure on my ears. This headset is remarkably lightweight and is customizable to meet each user’s needs. It helps me to improve my flying experience by helping me stay focused.
Design and Features
The Bose A20 is fit for use for different aircraft, even helicopters because you can buy it with varying options of cable. You can also buy the Bluetooth model if you do not want to have wires.
Unlike the other aviation headsets, the A20 has 30% more noise reduction capability. Because of it, I gain maximum concentration with less stress.
Regarding the clamping force, it can reduce it by 30% compared to other headsets. Moreover, it weighs only 12 ounces. I find the headset convenient and comfortable to use.
The audio is bright because of active equalization. If you use this headset, you can use it for up to 45 hours with two AA batteries because of its smart shutoff feature. Its Bluetooth communications and audio allow you to connect your headset with your navigation and communications devices.
What I like with this A20 headset is that I can customize it to allow prioritization. I can set it to mute the audio signal if I am receiving communication. Furthermore, I can set my preference in mixing both audio and dialogue.
The Bose A20 aviation headset comes with a deluxe carry case and exclusive 5-year warranty.
The Bose A20 is perfect for pilots because it offers reduced clamping force. Thus, pilots feel comfortable to wear it for long-haul flights. Compared to the prior models, the A20’s ear cups are more massive. But, you will find them comfortable to wear.
Noise cancellation is excellent, and the Bluetooth alternative allows me to make a phone call or listen to music. Because it uses Bose technology, the audio comes out of the speakers clear. I can communicate with other aircraft or the tower or listen to my favorite music while flying.
I do not need to adjust or optimize the headset depending on the noise environment because the headset is on auto-adjust and auto-optimize mode.
Audio prioritization is customizable. It means that I can choose to mix audio and communication depending on my preference or put the sound on mute during a discussion.
Its microphone transmits sound excellently. I can connect to an ear cup in different positions to achieve maximum performance.
Even if you wear glasses or a hat, the ear cups offer an acoustic seal so that you can enjoy the headset’s noise cancellation benefits. You do not need to adjust the headset to obtain optimal performance because it changes on its own.
The Bose A20 headset is high-end. Thus, it is expensive, but if you buy it, you will discover that it is worth its price. The headset is for people who want exceptional audio quality.
The A20 aviation headset uses two AA alkaline batteries that last for 45 hours. Of course, the battery life depends on the frequency and length of use. Moreover, the batteries drain faster if you use the Bluetooth option.
In case the batteries die the headset functions as a regular passive noise headset. You can still use it, but you cannot take advantage of the Bluetooth feature or active noise cancellation technology.
I can connect the Bose A20 to my smartphone to make or receive phone calls. The Bluetooth feature allows me to stream my favorite music from any MP3 player. All Bose A20 models can connect with an MP3 player or mobile phone through the 3.5mm jack and cable.
If you want to use the microphone, you can attach it on either side of the headset.
Types of Plugs Used
You can buy the 6-pin A20 headset if the aircraft you are always flying has the 6-pin panel-powered adapter. However, you can choose the traditional GA 2-pin connector if your plane does not have the 6-pin adapter.
But, if you fly different aircraft with different connectors, you can buy the Bose A20 aviation headset with the 6-pin adapter. Then, you can buy the 2-pin adapter. By doing so, you can use your headset in whatever aircraft you are flying.
Bose Corporation received the Technical Standard Order authorization. It means that the A20 aviation headset meets the minimum performance standard for appliances, parts, and materials used on civil aircraft. It surpasses most of the TSO requirements.
Automatic On/Off Capability
If you avail of the aircraft powered version, you do not need to turn the headset on if it detects aircraft power. The headset auto shuts off if there is no aircraft power. However, for battery-powered versions, you need to press the power button to use the Bose A20 aviation headset.
Verdict (Best Aviation Headset for The Money)
I recommend the Bose A20 even though it is more expensive than the other brands. If you fly regularly, you will find it comfortable to use. The A20 aviation headset provides excellent sound quality and excellent Bluetooth connection.
2. Rugged Air RA200
I am pleasantly surprised to find out about Rugged Air RA200 because it is low cost, yet very useful as a pilot’s headset. The RA200 is perfect as an entry-level headset and if you would rather own one than rent.
You can use it as an ordinary headphone because it has a 3.5mm jack. Even if you are flying and want to make a call or listen to your favorite music, the headset is your perfect choice.
Design and Features
Each ear pad and even the headband has comfortable padding. You can swivel each EM 56 noise reflective earphones to ensure that you get an excellent fit around your ears. Once you put them on, you hear perfect silence because no outside noise can get inside the headset.
The Rugged Air RA200 seals your ears completely. Its Noise Reduction Rating of 24dB reduces your stress because you cannot hear the wind and engine mayhem. Its wired microphone locks into position with a metal gridiron. The cable on the left earcup attaches to the conventional dual plug for airplanes.
The sonic quality of this headset is comparable with headsets that are more expensive. The Rugged RA200 is not as classy as the other earphones, but it performs better than the other headsets in its price range. Moreover, it offers a 7-year warranty that supports the company’s commitment to its customers.
The Air RA200 is perfect for student pilots who do not want to spend a lot of many on fancy headsets. Some pilots prefer to use it for long-haul flights because they do not feel fatigued from using it.
As a preferred headset of student pilots, the Rugged RA 200 aviation headset offers reliable and clear communications between instructors, passengers, crew, and air traffic control.
The RA200 is a basic aviation headset with no frill features to distract student pilots. Once settled in the pilot’s seat comfortably, you can use the 3.5mm input jack to listen to your favorite music from your MP3 player or iPod. You will find the volume controls easy to use. You can set up the volume control to put your music volume lower and your radio volume higher so that you can hear an important message.
This headset will block 24dB of noise with its passive noise cancellation. It does not run on batteries because you need to connect it to the internal communication system of the aircraft.
The audio output is mono with the higher sound quality for verbal communications. This feature makes it possible for a pilot to focus on his flying and not on his favorite music. Because the headset cannot detect if the radio is emitting a signal, you need to ensure to set the volume for radio higher than your music.
The AUX plug cannot support audio out; therefore, if you want to record flight chatter, you need to check if the internal flight communication system of the aircraft has an AUX out port. The headset will work for an airplane that has dual plugs.
The Rugged Air RA200 aviation headset has excellent features for an incredibly affordable price. Moreover, it is comfortable to use even on long-haul flights. The design is rugged perfect for the no-nonsense air pilot.
What I like it about this headset is that not only does it perform better than the other earphones in its price range, the company also offers a 7-year warranty. As such, the Rugged Air RA200 is well worth its price.
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3. David Clark H10-13.4 (A Good Aviation Headset)
For first time pilot, a headset is an essential first purchase. Thus, it is vital that aviation earphones be comfortable and affordable.
The David Clark H10-13.4 headset is not only a favorite; it is also the best-selling mono headset available on the market. It was my first headset because many people recommended it to me.
Some flight schools rent this kind of headset to their pilot students because it is very reliable and can stand significant use and abuse.
The headset comes with a 5-year warranty.
Comfortable and Minimizes Fatigue
The headset has heavy contour pads, and the earbuds have gel seals. The H10-13.4 model has a single volume control and is mono.
Furthermore, it has a low profile knobs. There is a stereo version available, and it has control knobs at each side.
The head pad is comfortable. The large seals cover the ears quite well. However, glossy rubber may get the ears sweaty, especially during the summer. The headset reduces fatigue because the pillow top can spread the weight of the headset across the head. Ergo, you do not even notice that you are wearing it.
What I like about this David Clark headset model is that I can swing the noise-cancelling microphone from side to side effortlessly. It means that the cord does not have to go across my body or get in the way if I plug it on the opposite side.
For instance, if I sit in the right seat, I can swing the microphone around so that the cord can stay on my right; thus, minimizing clutter.
Excellent Passive Noise Reduction
As one of the lightest headsets from David Clark, the H10-13.4 model has better noise reduction than the other headsets. However, compared to David Clark’s other premium headsets, it is a little heavier. Even so, you will not feel that you are wearing one.
The David Clark H10-13.4 aviation headset offers a superb seal against noise so that you can focus on your flying. You can wear your sunglasses while using it and you will not experience any problems.
This aviation earphone has a 23dB noise reduction rating. The amplified electret microphone is the most advanced technology in noise cancelling microphones. It produces a bright, quality sound when talking and rejects ambient noise. Furthermore, it is TSO-certified.
Timeless Design Aesthetic
The headset consists of two earcups connected by a steel band, which is slightly too narrow to offer clamping pressure for excellent passive noise attenuation. A thick foam pad covers the steel band to provide improved comfort. You can adjust the volume on one side.
Because the clamping pressure ensures excellent noise attenuation, it also compromises on your long-term comfort. You may find the headset extremely uncomfortable for use in long-haul flights. The experience may not be painful, but you will feel relieved after taking it off after your trip.
Some pilots may like the comfort gel seals. However, these ear seals may provide discomfort especially if the cockpit becomes too hot. Also, you may not want that the headset absorbs all your sweat. However, the ear seal is more robust than the leather-covered earcups.
You cannot go wrong with a David Clark H1-13.4 aviation headset because it is affordable with excellent customer support, durability, and engineering. It is a no-frills model that allows you to communicate with the air traffic control, your passengers, and your crew.
You do not need any batteries to use this headset. If you purchase the H10-13.4, you need to order a separate carrying case. This David Clark headset model does not have a Bluetooth connection. Nevertheless, it is still of high quality at an affordable price.
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4. David Clark DC PRO-X Hybrid
The David Clark DC Pro-X Hybrid aviation headset uses advanced technologies and has a sleek, elegant look. It has the same ruggedness, quality, and reliability that make the David Clark a popular brand name.
Design and Features
The David Clack DC Pro-X headset is adjustable, lightweight, and well designed. It is flexible, depending on the face and head size of the user. The head pads are of soft leather, so the head does not get hot during long-haul flights.
The lightweight headset provides excellent noise cancelling capability. It also offers a superb Bluetooth signal. The earcups do not cover the ears to let the air pass through. It is durable and its price reasonable.
The battery pack is large and chunky, so you may have a difficult time to carry or handle it. The headset is collapsible for easy storage and comes with a 5-year warranty.
The brand has a reputation for manufacturing the longest lasting and highest quality aviation headset. The DC Pro-X model is ultra-lightweight with superb electronic noise reduction. Using the hybrid ENC technology, it has two microphones to reduce noise effectively.
The microphone found outside of the dome captures the noise before it gets inside your ear. Then, the internal receiver located near the speaker sends a reverse signal to counter the ambient noise.
The headset runs on two AA batteries for up to 50 hours. If the batteries die, you can still use it because of its dual voice coil drivers.
The David Clark DC Pro-X headset passes the minimum requirements of Technical Standard Order for aircraft use.
The Digital Signal Processing found in the DC Pro-X hybrid model ensure superior music listening and communication. The headset has Bluetooth capability for seamless integration for cellphone, tablet, MP3, and other personal devices.
You can also choose between stereo and mono by flicking the switch. The headset has an “audio mute” to reduce the audio volume so that you do not miss any communication.
Verdict (Most Popular Aviation Headset this 2018)
The David Clark DC Pro-X aviation headset has the leading edge and innovative technology with a sleek and aural design. It offers a perfect mix of performance and comfort. The magnesium alloy feather-light headband has a suspension system that provides value for money.
If you decide to buy this headset, you have an assurance that you are getting your money’s worth.
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5. KORE AVIATION KA-1 Premium
The Kore Aviation KA-1 headset is lightweight and inexpensive. It is a passive noise reduction headset that provides comfort and quality sound.
This Kore KA-1 premium headset is perfect for student pilots who cannot afford expensive headsets yet. It has a padded headband with plush gel ear seals. Whenever you wear it, you cannot hear even a pin drop.
The Kore aviation headset has 50mm drivers for audio output. It has a 24dB noise reduction rating. Thus, you can hear clear audio without the ambient noise. You can control the volume through the volume knobs found on each earcup.
The microphone uses the electret noise-cancelling technology. Furthermore, it has a switch for mono/stereo and 3.5mm auxiliary port to connect your MP3 player, smartphone, or other devices.
The ear seals are ultra-soft gels that offer maximum comfort because they let air pass through. Your ears do not feel hot or uncomfortable after hours of continuous use.
Made with high-quality materials, the Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium also offers a 5-year warranty.
If you are on a tight budget but want a quality headset, you can opt to buy the Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium headset because it can provide the basic functionalities you need for your flying pleasure.
Choosing the best aviation headset can be a difficult task. Fortunately, you can make it easier if you equip yourself with the right information. An excellent headset makes your long-haul flights more enjoyable and pretty less stressful.
- Editor Rating
- Rated 5 stars
- 5 of the Best Aviation Headset for the Money of 2018 - A Worth it Flight
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With the best aviation headset for the money, Aircraft engine noise can help you protect your ears in the long run and improve communication.