Plane & Pilot
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Heads Up On Headsets


New models & new technology, priced from $79 to $995


HeadsetsAviation headsets—now that’s a topic that’s close to my heart, or ears. My first “headset” was a Gosport tube in a military trainer, an all-rubber affair with a speaking tube connected to rubber ear pads via a long tube. Pity the poor student who tried to follow the grunts, snorts and expletives emanating from the rear cockpit. A few years later, after bouncing my head off the canopy of my SNJ Texan too many times, I took my Bell motorcycle helmet, hollowed out the padding and, using a discarded TV camera headset, inserted a set of Telex ear pads, bolted on the boom mic, then wired it to the navcom. Forty years later, it still works, more or less.
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Aviation headsets—now that’s a topic that’s close to my heart, or ears. My first “headset” was a Gosport tube in a military trainer, an all-rubber affair with a speaking tube connected to rubber ear pads via a long tube. Pity the poor student who tried to follow the grunts, snorts and expletives emanating from the rear cockpit. A few years later, after bouncing my head off the canopy of my SNJ Texan too many times, I took my Bell motorcycle helmet, hollowed out the padding and, using a discarded TV camera headset, inserted a set of Telex ear pads, bolted on the boom mic, then wired it to the navcom. Forty years later, it still works, more or less.

Every headset has its own unique feel, fit and, of course, audio characteristics. Just as airplanes have different levels of cabin noise, pilots exhibit varying sensitivities to sound frequencies. Indeed, as we age, our sensitivity to higher frequencies worsens. Leaving your ears unprotected only hastens potential damage from an airplane’s inherently noisy environment.

In this headset roundup, you’ll find that headsets are getting quieter and lighter; they’re capable of high fidelity approaching the reproduction range of expensive audio systems. Even if you hate to part with your favorite (outdated, passive) headset, a new active noise reduction (ANR) module is available, which allows you to convert “old faithful” to today’s technologies. And with an iPod, long cross-countries aren’t as boring, thanks to headsets with inputs for MP3 players and cell phones. Pilots have discovered that a good headset is a critical part of a comfortable and efficient flight. (Please note that the information in this article was obtained from interviews with company personnel and company websites. None of the products were actually tested.)

HeadsetsASA AirClassics HS-1: Aviation communication experts designed, engineered and manufactured the HS-1 to offer advanced technology, maximum comfort, high-quality components and a sleek look—all for a reasonable price. ASA is so confident in the headset’s quality that it’s guaranteed against defects in material or workmanship for the life of the original owner. Pilots report that the HS-1 is comfortable and a good value for both students and advanced pilots.
Suggested Retail Price: $149
Contact: ASA, (800) 272-2359, www.asa2fly.com.

HeadsetsAvcomm White Knight: With its classy white domes and gold wings, this unit has a retro look. It has full-spectrum stereo response, ports for MP3 players, a full-flexing boom microphone with a filtering chip and gel ear seals. There are independent volume controls, and a push-to-talk switch controls the microphone’s output.
Suggested Retail Price: $268

Avcomm White Knight Jr.: The Junior model is designed to be worn by children. The white-colored headset features built-in MP3 ports (like the adult version) and a simple and affordable design.
Suggested Retail Price: $139
Contact: Avcomm, (800) 845-7541, www.avcomm.com.

HeadsetsBeyerdynamic HS 300 Individual: This German manufacturer’s products have won many awards. The HS 300 aviation headset has a passive noise reduction (PNR) of 30 dB. There’s also an audio box for plugging in your cell phone or MP3 player. The headset weighs just 11.5 ounces. The microphone is noise-compensating, with adjustable sensitivity. There’s also a mono/stereo switch, and music volume reduces with incoming calls.
Suggested Retail Price: $299








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