Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sennheiser S-1

With the introduction of the new S-1 and its adaptive, four-microphone sampling technology, Sennheiser sets a new headset standard

Here's a secret: It's easy to make a headset that sounds good in a modern airplane like the Cirrus. That airplane is specially designed to be as quiet as possible, and represents the latest in noise engineering. It's the older airplanes that are tough to deal with. The look on marketing guys' faces when I ask if a particular headset can be used in a noisy environment, like an open cockpit, is very telling. Gus Skalkos, Director, Business Development Aviation-Government Systems for Sennheiser, didn't even flinch. "Oh, you're gonna love it out there," he enthused, as he handed me the headset.

The S-1 blew me away. It was the first ANR headset that worked well in my noisy open cockpit. While some readers may think that's an invalid environment to test a headset in, I offer two simple facts: According to FAA registration records, the majority of pilots still are flying around in legacy GA airplanes—not technically advanced aircraft (TAA). Second, if a headset can cut it in a noisy cockpit, it can handle anything. Testing in a worst-case scenario reveals a headset's flaws quickly.

This was easily the most comfortable headset I've worn, though the very big ear cups mandated a permanent modification to my leather helmet. Get used to those ear cups—they aren't dainty for good reason: comfort and noise suppression. Soundwise, the S-1 was pure Sennheiser—crisp, clear and full-bodied; the antithesis of tinny. The ANR worked famously, and playing with the push-button sound sampling and resulting tailored noise attenuation throughout the flight was nothing short of impressive. It was like I had created a custom headset for my environment only. It had plenty of gain to surmount the noise of my open cockpit. I can't imagine a cockpit where this headset wouldn't excel.

So is the S-1 different enough and good enough to justify its steep $1,095 price tag (a special $995 deal will be offered at Oshkosh)? Well, when performing in concert, before going on stage for 10,000 people, there are two things you trust implicitly: your fellow musicians and your gear. There's no room to second-guess either one. In the cockpit, the stakes are even higher; your life is on the line. For me, the Sennheiser S-1 is the first headset that's audibly different and performs superbly, and so merits its price. It belongs squarely with the big boys. You can bet it's going right next to my guitar. Visit


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