Headset review (Part 3 of 3)

This is a short continuation of Part 1 and Part 2 regarding aviation headsets. There are a couple of brands and models available. I’ll mention a few of the popular ones so that you have a starting point for your research. Remember to check out the used market for even better value.

If in doubt, you can go with the entry-level headsets first and then upgrade later while keeping the entry-level one for when you bring passengers along. Alternatively, if flying is going to be your career, consider purchasing the more expensive ones since you’ll be using the headset for the rest of your life. And if you change your mind about the premium headset (or career), you can still sell it for a percentage of the original value.

Note that prices are in CAD and exclude tax.

ASA HS-1
Cost: 120-140

This is the basic headset that’ll provide you with the base necessities. It’s a PNR headset that will protect your hearing and provide you a means to converse with others in the plane. It has the basic features such as: stereo/mono, dual volume controls, 23dB attenuation, flex boom microphone. With its lifetime warranty it’s ideal for students with its low costs or as a spare for when you bring passengers along. The downsides would be the lack of Bluetooth features. Generally, one would upgrade to another pair later in their flying career for improved comfort.

I personally used a pair similar to ASA’s for 250hrs until I needed glasses. The foam seal isn’t that great for comfort and attenuation while wearing glasses. The comfort improves significantly with gel pads, but still a bit lacking for longer flights.

David Clarks H10
Cost: 420-450

The David Clarks are the more popular PNR headsets with similar basics as the ASAs. Lots of pilots would quickly recommend a pair of David Clarks due to their comfort, reliability, and robustness. Their headband pillow spread out the weight more evenly across your head. They’re more comfortable than the ASA even while wearing sunglasses. Most stick with David Clarks even later on in their flying.

QT Halos
Cost: 510, 800 (excludes shipping)

and

Clarity Aloft
Cost: 700, 990, 1080

The QT Halos and Clarity Aloft are the earbud in-ear PNR types of headset. They’re the lightest and smallest headset. You’ll still be able to keep your stylish hair after your flight or wear a toque or hat comfortably during the flight. They take up very little space in your flight bag. Noise attenuation will depend on the eartips that you use, but will be around 24-30dB. It has the usual basics of stereo/mono, dual volume controls, flex mic boom, etc. The downsides are that you can’t share them with your friends and on-going costs in replacing the foam eartips (roughly $0.30-$1.00 every 20 flight hours). Also, some might not like having things inside their ear canals. Another temporary problem (first-hand experience for the first few flights) you might have is that you’ll forget you’re wearing a headset and proceed to hop out of the plane with the headset while they’re still plugged in.

The main difference (other than price) between the QT Halos and Clarity Aloft is the location of the speakers. The QT Halos have the speakers on the band and the tubes carry the sound, while the Clarity’s have speakers in the ear.

Regarding inventory of these two headsets, the QT Halos are almost non-existent in stores in Canada. You’ll have to order them online on their site (usually sold out in hours) or look for a pair on ebay. Clarity Alofts are usually available in brick and mortar stores in Canada.

The Classic Clarity has the standard features, while the Link Clarity have Bluetooth connectivity.

The QT Halos include a 3.5mm port for music, phone, or your EFB, while the BlueHalos includes Bluetooth.

Lightspeed Zulu3
Cost: 1100

and

Bose A20
Cost: 1250, 1400

These are the ANR headsets that most pilots would eventually upgrade to. They are really quiet and more comfortable than the ASAs or the PNR David Clarks. The audio quality is great and the headset has a premium feel due to the choice of materials and design. They usually have extra features such as Bluetooth connection (and/or 3.5mm jack) to your phone for music during cross-country flights.

The downside is the cost of the headset and on-going battery costs. Keeping your spare battery stock supplied is essential for a hassle-free flight. The headset itself will still function similar to a PNR headset, but it won’t have the ANR. This generally will result in worse attenuation compared to a PNR. The initial cost for the headset is quite high, but it’s usually seen as an investment since you’ll use it for the rest of your flights. Warranty vary slightly, but it covers most issues with the headset and return shipping, you’ll just need to pay for the shipping to them.

There’s no major differences between Lightspeed and Bose other than price, brand, and looks.

Other accessories to consider would be:

Microphone foam cover – It’ll help prevent the mic from picking up background noises such as wind noises when you have the air vents open during the summer or engine sounds. They may or may not come with your headset so double check before leaving the store. It’s suggested to use a mic cover so it’ll be easier to hear traffic calls from other aircraft.

Ear seal (gel or better foam) – Gel pads are a bit more cooling during the summer and are more comfortable. Try the foam ones that come with the headset for the first few hours to see how you enjoy it. Or wait and simply give gel pads a shot when you replace the foam seals as the foam do harden over time.

Earplugs (for the QT Halos or Clarity Alofts) – If you use the foam tips with these headsets, they’ll accumulate earwax over time. You’ll need to buy replacements occasionally.

Batteries (for the ANC headsets) – Keep a couple of spares in your flight bag for your headset.

Headset bag – It’s to store your headset with smaller compartments for your licence, medical, and spare batteries. This may or may not be included so check before buying an extra bag. Also, your flight bag may already have a compartment for your headset so this may not be necessary.

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