Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Today, aviation headsets sport more features than ever before. Use this guide to navigate your way through the headset jungle.
|Ask any two pilots what the best headset is and you’ll get two distinct answers, each with solid claims to back it up. There are scores of headsets on the market, and the different features of each model make choosing the correct headset a quagmire of myth, hearsay and fact.|
|Beyerdynamic HS 300 |
Telex Stratus 50
|Advances in different technologies have yielded aviation headsets that rival music-production units, yet are small and lightweight. Microphone and speaker innovations provide unparalleled sound quality and intelligibility, increasing situational awareness. |
The headset’s basic job is to reduce (i.e., attenuate) harmful noise, and that ability is measured in both frequency range and number of decibels (dB). A headset rated at minus-24 dB at 100 Hz means it cuts noise in only that frequency by 24 decibels. Cockpit noise that’s most damaging to human hearing is in the low-frequency band of around 40 to 250 Hz, while human speech is up around 400 to 4,000 Hz.
ANR headsets attenuate mostly in the low-frequency range, but aren’t always effective in the speech range. Consumers might see noise reduction advertised as 26 dB, but that’s only in those low frequencies. Reduction elsewhere might only be 5 dB. Though ANR is an amazing technology, it doesn’t always beat out passive reduction.
Passive headsets block frequencies across a broader range and may offer higher noise reduction than ANR headsets, especially in speech frequencies. PNR does come at price because PNR headsets clamp tighter than their ANR counterparts and are usually heavier and seal tighter around the ears, which can become uncomfortable over long periods of time.
Companies like JH Audio, Clarity Aloft and Quiet Technologies are making the drawbacks of passive headsets obsolete with new lines of featherweight headsets. They use custom-molded ear inserts to provide up to 45 dB of noise reduction using passive technology. In all cases, pilots should consult the attenuation curves available from each headset manufacturer.