Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, November 30, -0001

Headsets: Choosing The Right Tool

Technology and individuality drive this year’s headset selection

New Directions
True wireless headsets are the Next Big Thing, although the technology has remained a bit elusive. A few companies have tried, though their offerings weren't quite mature enough to warrant widespread attention. The EQ-1 wireless headset from EQ-1 Wireless Communications is turning heads, especially with the addition of their new "EQ-Link" adapter that can make any standard aviation headset wireless. Wireless will finally free us from cords and tangles.

Bluetooth is still a hot trend, and an innovator in this area is Pilot Communications. Their BluLink wireless adapter has been getting rave reviews since it was introduced, and is the only device of its kind. BluLink enables you to use your Bluetooth cell phone or any music source wirelessly in the cockpit. You can use your existing headset with BluLink. Pilot USA combined the BluLink with their PA-2170 headset, creating the only passive headset on the market with Bluetooth communications built into it. The company has also been getting attention from the open-cockpit, aerobatic and sport market with their PA9-EHN "extra- high-noise" microphone, which makes a dramatic difference in intelligibility in noisy cockpits.

Meanwhile, newcomer Squawk Shoppe has created a niche of their own with custom-graphic and wild-design headsets for the more adventurous pilot. Their "Nimbo" (PNR) and "Arcus" (ANR) lines of aviation headsets feature bold-color camouflage patterns, animal prints, flags, textures and even pin-up girl designs. From a graphical standpoint, they're completely different from anything on the market. The company also offers a nifty USB adapter to allow using your headset with PC programs like flight simulators, Skype or others.

One of the coolest iPad apps to come along is "FlightLink," Lightspeed's new cockpit voice recorder application. Free from iTunes, FlightLink lets you record all your cockpit audio in real time onto your iPhone or iPad. For now, it only works with the latest-version Lightspeed, Zulu .2, but we're hoping it expands to other headsets. The app records audio in Apple's proprietary .caf format—which can make for large files—that can be edited in many audio programs. It's a fun and easy way to record cockpit audio without a maze of wires and adapters.

Personal Touch
Give a thousand people sapphires and one will complain that it's not an emerald. That's the nature of our humanity. What fits one person will feel torturous to the next. It's partly physiology and partly perception. For headset buyers, it means that personal comfort should be right up there with attenuation ratings. Manufacturers have realized this and almost all of them offer generous "try out" periods to allow pilots to really get to know their headsets.

Having tried bushels of headsets myself, I can attest to the fact that they're as different as we're unique. Carefully evaluate your own cockpit environment, the length of your trips, and your personal physiology, since not all ears are created equal. Don't go by the sales pitch, and never make a purchase decision on price alone. Even though headsets all seem awfully similar, like hammers, there's one out there that's just the right one for the job, and for you.


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