Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Headsets Buyer's Guide 2014: Smaller, Lighter And More Affordable

Pilots demand better comfort and affordability in headsets as the market expands further

Intelligent ANR came to aviation with Sennheiser's Digital S1 headset. It answers the dilemma of ANR headsets that only block a narrow band of frequencies. The S1 allows the pilot to push a button on the headset, sampling the surrounding environment. The adaptive S1 then counteracts the incoming frequencies with a tailor-made frequency response. Adaptive ANR is like having multiple headsets for different phases of flight.

"Hot-rodding" appears to be a growing trend, and users customize their headsets with after-market upgrades. Oregon Aero makes a popular "Hush kit" to improve attenuation on any headset, while Headsets, Inc., makes an innovate ANR kit to retrofit passive headsets with remarkable active noise reduction. Pilot Communications continues to market their excellent, high-performance PA9-EHN microphone for high-noise environments, as other manufacturers begin to focus on microphone performance. And that's just a small sampling of what's available in aftermarket enhancements.

The last trend we're seeing is the proliferation of ultra-low-cost headsets. While the market expands at the high end of the headset spectrum, more and more buyers are opting for low price coupled with great performance. Newcomers like BRG Precision Products, with their $89 passive headset, are appealing to a growing market. They, like others, offer a money-back guarantee to allow pilots to try their wares. With impressive attenuation numbers, companies like BRG, DRE Communications, RuggedAir, Pilot USA and Softcomm are all selling good-quality passive headsets for around $100. It's hard not to love these, and I've found almost all of them rival their expensive cousins. Any pilot in the market for a headset should give these a look.

The last thing to remember is that your friend's favorite headset probably won't be yours. Headsets are so different that personal preference is a major part of your headset-buying decision. Your headset will become like your favorite pair of jeans or a favorite t-shirt. My own headset has logged so many hours with me that I consider it an intimate part of my aviation life. Think about that the next time you're headset shopping. In the case of headsets, hearing, wearing and seeing is believing.

Labels: HeadsetsBest Buys

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