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10 Best Aviation Headsets to Kill the Noise

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10 Best Aviation Headsets to Kill the Noise

Imagine someone asks you, “What is the purpose of an aviation headset?” Naturally, your mind goes to comms. Headsets are vital for communication, right? Absolutely, and they play another role which may be less obvious to new pilots – noise reduction.

At first it may seem quiet inside the cockpit of your aircraft – after all, it’s not like you’re at a heavy metal concert. Still, put on a noise reduction headset and you will instantly notice the difference.

Although the cockpit’s background noise isn’t overly loud, it is loud enough that long-term exposure can cause permanent damage and hearing loss.

Because of this, headsets are designed to not only allow pilots to communicate, but also to protect their hearing. Of course, some companies get it better than others, and today we will share our research with you.

Together let’s explore the choices that are available for each budget. We will compare their features and discover the best aviation headset to kill the noise.

Would you rather simply take our word for it and cut to the chase? For those who want to skip to the results, the top pilot headsets for each budget are:

 

Best High-End Headsets (over $650)

1.      Bose A20 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth

2.      Lightspeed Zulu 3 ANR Headset

3.      David Clark Pro-X2 ENC Headset with Bluetooth

 

Best Mid-Range Headsets (under $650)

1.      Lightspeed Sierra Headset

2.      David Clark H10-13X ANR Headset

3.      Telex Airman 8 XLR (Airbus) ANR Headset

 

Best Value Headsets (under $350)

1.      David Clark H10-13.4 Mono Headset

2.      David Clark H10-30 Headset

3.      ASA AirClassics HS-1A Headset 

4.      David Clark H10-13S Stereo Headset

 

Bonus: Best In-Ear Headset

1.      Bose ProFlight Series 2 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth Dual GA Plugs 

Guide to choosing a headset

It’s hard to shop for and compare headsets if you don’t know what to look for. There are some key features to be aware of and to consider.

You will want to know the pros and cons of the two styles and signal types of headsets. The method of noise reduction and the type of plug the set comes with are also important factors.

Before we jump into the details of our top picks, let’s first review what to look for in high-quality aviation headsets.

Styles of Headsets

Aviation headsets come in two styles: in-ear and on-ear. As the names sound, an in-ear model is designed with earbud speakers that fit into your ears. On-ear headsets fit over your ears like ear muffs.

On-Ear

On-ear headsets are more common. They have the advantage of fitting almost everyone and having a wide range of products to choose from.

In-Ear

While a less popular choice, in-ear headsets are comfortably light-weight and low-profile. This is an advantage for long flights. A well-fitting in-ear headset is very comfortable, but the fit varies from person to person. Know that you may have to shop around a bit before finding a set that works well for you.

Signal Types

If you are simply using your headset for communication purposes, a mono set will work just fine. It provides the same auditory input in each ear. Most radios are designed to work with mono signal headsets.

If you plan to listen to music or connect to your phone, you may want to upgrade to stereo. A stereo headset feeds a slightly different signal to each ear. This allows music to sound richer. Most stereo headsets can switch between stereo and mono as desired.

Noise Reduction Type

All aviation headsets are designed to reduce noise and protect a pilot’s hearing. There are four types of noise reduction. Each works differently and results in varying levels of noise reduction (measured in decibels).

From least effective to most effective, the four types of noise reduction are:

Passive noise reduction (PNR)

Headsets using passive noise reduction reduce ambient noise by physically insulating your ears using foam or a similar material.

Active noise reduction (ANR)

Active noise reduction is accomplished by the emission of a second sound which is designed to cancel out the ambient noise.

Dynamic noise reduction (DNR)

A dynamic noise reduction headset is a similar, but more advanced version of an ANR headset. The DNR uses digital techniques to reduce noise and it performs slightly better than an ANR set.

Electronic noise reduction (ENR)

A hybrid option that isn’t as common as the others is electronic noise reduction. This type of headset works with standard ANR techniques plus an added automatic gain control (AGC) to optimize performance in high-noise environments.

Plug Type

Wouldn’t it be nice if all aircraft were built with the same types of plugs? Unfortunately, right now that is not the case. Before you purchase your headset, know which type of plug your aircraft has.

The standard types of plugs you may have are:

  • Dual plug (PJs)
  • Helicopter plug (U174)
  • 6-pin plug (LEMO)
  • Airbus plug (XLR)

If you are flying GA aircraft, you can expect to be using dual plugs. All but one of our recommended headsets already come with dual plugs. If the headset you want to purchase comes with a different type of plug, you can buy an adapter to convert it.

Weight

For long flights, lighter-weight headsets are generally more comfortable, although design is also important. A well-padded heavier headset can still have fewer pressure points and be more comfortable than a lower-grade lightweight model. The lightest models on our list weigh less than half a pound and the heaviest comes in at about 2 and a half pounds.

Pro Tip: Passive noise reduction (PNR) headsets are usually heavier because they rely on foam in the earcups to reduce noise. In-ear styles tend to be lightest because they are made with small earbuds instead of large ear cups. 

10 Best Aviation Headsets

1.      Bose A20 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise Bose A20

The audio quality of Bose products is legendary, so it is only natural that Bose is a top performer in the aviation headset arena. The Bose A20 is a high-end luxury model built with the needs of career pilots in mind.

Some on-ear headsets clamp down so tightly that you are soon fighting a headache, but not the Bose A20. The A20 has 30% less clamping force than conventional headsets while still achieving a 30% greater reduction in noise.

The stereo audio clarity is excellent and the headset seamlessly pairs with your other Bluetooth electronics. A simple push of a button will mute your audio devices when you are receiving a transmission. Listen to music, take calls and talk to the tower all from one lightweight, comfortable device.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: ENC
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug, U174 or Aircraft
  • Weight: 12 oz.
  • Price: $1,095.95

2.      David Clark H10-13.4 Mono Headset

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise David Clark H10-13.4

Coming from a brand well-known for its proven record of excellence, the David Clark H10-13.4 headset is reliable and dependable. It has been around for years and is one of the most popular tried-and-true headsets.

Make yourself heard with the advanced M-7A noise-canceling microphone that eliminates background noise from your transmission. A 23-dB reduction in ambient noise levels protects your long-term hearing.

The proprietary gel undercut ear seals and double foam head pad provide all the comfort you are craving for long flights.

Expect this headset to be durable and stand up to use, but if anything does break, relax knowing that you are covered by David Clark’s 5-year warranty program.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: PNR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight:5 oz.
  • Price: $315.00

3.      Lightspeed Zulu 3 ANR Headset         

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise Lightspeed Zulu

What is one of your biggest pet peeves of low-quality headsets? Have you had a headset that pressed in on your jaw, squeezed your cheeks, squashed your ears and left you feeling sore after a flight?

The designers of the Lightspeed Zulu 3 feel your pain and they made sure to contour the ear seals so that they hug the curve of your jaw. This new seal style creates 30-50% more room for your ear than other similar headsets. Now you can wear your headset comfortably for an extended flight.

The cables of the Zulu 3 are built around a Kevlar core for lighter weight, increased flexibility and improved strength compared to the industry standard.

Extra bonus features include Bluetooth, FlightLink compatibility (for Apple users) and an auto turnoff function to save battery power.

An auxiliary input option lets you listen to your favorite tunes and the ComPriority feature makes sure you don’t miss any important communications. It automatically lowers the auxiliary device volume during radio or intercom transmissions.

A very generous 7-year warranty program gives you peace of mind in knowing that you won’t need to buy a replacement headset if this one should fail.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: ANR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight:6 oz.
  • Price: $850.00

4.      Lightspeed Sierra Headset

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise Lightspeed Sierra

The Sierra headset by Lightspeed shares many features with her big sister, the Zulu 3. Like the Zulu, the Sierra comes with FlightLink compatibility, integrated Bluetooth, auto shut-off and an auxiliary input option.

Without the Kevlar construction, the Sierra weighs just about an ounce and a half more than the Zulu 3, and the Sierra comes with a 5-year rather than 7-year warranty.

One extra bonus feature of the Sierra? The microphone is reversible so you can place it on whichever side works better for your cockpit set-up.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: ANR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight: 16 oz.
  • Price: $650.00

 

5.      David Clark Pro-X2 ENC Headset with Bluetooth

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise David Clark Pro X2

Pilots looking for an ultra-lightweight and low profile on-ear headset will appreciate the David Clark Pro-X2 ENC. GA pilots are usually resigned to the need for a larger profile headset to achieve the needed noise reduction.

But the crossover Pro-X2 headset manages a 30-dB noise reduction even with its streamlined style. This is thanks in a large part to an excellent hybrid noise cancelling system.

The Pro-X is all about your comfort. In addition to its very light weight (7.5 oz.), this headset also keeps you cool with a heat-absorbing headband and leatherette earcup material.

A swivel-hinge stirrup minimizes pressure points on your cheeks and jaw.

Add in the Bluetooth features, Enhanced Auto Shutoff, Automatic Gain Control (AGC) for high-noise environments and a 5-year warranty, and you will agree that the DC PRO-X2 packs quite a punch.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: Hybrid ENC and ANR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight:5 oz.
  • Price: $745.00 

6.      David Clark H10-13X ANR Headset

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise David Clark H10-13X

The H10-13X ANR headset by David Clark is a balanced blend of hearing protection, comfort and crisp audio clarity. Even with the headset turned off, the headset provides 23 dB of noise reduction. Switch the set on and the single 9V battery adds an extra 17-22 dB of noise reduction.

As you would expect from this David Clark, the H10-13X is built with the undercut gel ear seals for comfort.

The M-7A electret mic cancels out background noise to support clear communication and an auto shut-off feature extends battery life.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: ANR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight: 18 oz.
  • Price: $645.00 

7.      David Clark H10-30 Headset

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise David Clark H10-30

Are you searching for a quality on-ear headset that both you and your budget can appreciate? The durably built H10-30 headset from David Clark shares the same quality manufacturing standards as David Clark’s higher-retail models. Even though the price is lower, you won’t have to worry about inferior parts. Plus, you are covered by the 5-year quality guarantee.

The H10-30 is built simply and smartly. It has the M-7 noise-canceling electret mic and provides 24 dB of passive noise reduction.  The body of the headset features David Clark’s comfortable undercut gel ear seals.

You may not be connecting to Bluetooth and listening to your music through this mono headset, but if you are looking for a headset that offers quality performance at a great value, this is our vote.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: PNR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight: 20 oz.
  • Price: $269.00 

8.      ASA AirClassics HS-1A Headset

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise ASA HS-1

Student pilots who are just starting out often reconcile themselves to dealing with a low-quality inferior headset because one that performs is simply out of their price range.

Enter the ASA AirClassics HS-1A. You get stereo sound, a 23-dB noise reduction and electret flex-boom noise canceling mic. A lifetime manufacturer’s warranty for the original owner is the icing on the cake.

At 31.2 oz, this is the heaviest headset on our list, but for the price, value and durability, the HS-1A gets our vote.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: PNR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight:2 oz. 

9.      Telex Airman 8 ANR Headset

10 Best Aviation Headsets Kill Noise Telex Airman ANR 8

If you like the on-ear style of headset and a lower-profile look, the Telex Airman 8 may be a good fit. Its streamlined ear cups are made of a comfortable leatherette material and swivel in all directions for maximum comfort. As an added bonus, your headset comes with replaceable ear cushion and cup covers plus a 3-year warranty.

A unique feature of the Airman 8 is that it is the only ANR headset with battery-free operation. The noise-cancelling feature is powered by the microphone system.

Tip: This headset comes with either an airbus plug or dual plug. Make sure you purchase the version that's right for your aircraft.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: ANR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual Plug Airbus plug
  • Weight: 20 oz.
  • Price: $429.00 

10.  David Clark H10-13S Stereo Headset

What can $9 get you? Usually that barely buys you a decent lunch, but when it comes to the best headsets, a mere $9 is all that stands between you and an upgrade from mono to stereo.

The David Clark H10-13S Stereo Headset is nearly identical to the H10-13.4 model except for a couple of key differences. The 13S has dual volume controls and stereo capability as opposed to the H10-13.4’s mono audio. All that for only ½ ounce more weight and $9. This makes the H10-13S a best value recommendation on our list.

Specs:

  • Style: On-ear
  • Noise reduction type: PNR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight: 17 oz.
  • Price: $324.00 

Bonus: Best In-Ear Aviation Headset

10 Best Headsets Kill Noise B ProFlight

As we said, on-ear headsets are the preferred style of headset, but if you are looking for a good in-ear option, we have you covered. The Bose ProFlight Series 2 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth Dual GA Plugs is our top in-ear choice.

At only 4.5 ounces, you will barely notice you are wearing this headset. Like Bose’s on-ear model, the in-ear version has full Bluetooth connectivity and an electret noise cancelling microphone.

Specs:

  • Style: In-ear
  • Noise reduction type: DNR
  • Microphone: Electret
  • Connection: Dual plug
  • Weight:5 oz.
  • Price: $1,045.95 

The Final Run-Down

As a pilot, our headsets protect our ears and allow us to communicate with ATC and other pilots. We can even use them to listen to music.

We’ve talked about what to look for in an aviation headset and have shared the top 10 that made the cut for us.

When shopping, consider:

  • Style
  • Signal type
  • Noise reduction type
  • Plug type
  • Weight
Remember, the headset that is best for someone else may not be your favorite. Review your options, then shop based on your own preferences, budget and needs.

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  • PilotMall.com Editor