Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sennheiser S1 Noisegard

Sennheiser adds a more affordable ANR headset to their S1 line

When German manufacturer Sennheiser created their Digital Adaptive S1 headset a few years ago, they had a hit on their hands. Lauded for its comfort, the Digital S1 was the first in Sennheiser's headset line to introduce the "adaptive" concept, whereby pilots could press a button on the headset and "sample" the surrounding environment, adapting the headset's attenuation to the frequencies present at that moment in that airplane. It was an innovative and useful feature that made the headset unique. The headset was a hit in the aviation community, but with a four-digit price tag, it remained in the flight bags of the well-heeled. Sennheiser just introduced their new S1 "Noisegard" to appeal to a wider audience.

The concept behind the S1 Noisegard was to offer nearly the same noise-attenuation performance as the well-respected S1 Digital, but at a lower price. With most other headset manufacturers pricing their top-end headsets in the $1,000 range and up, many pilots are throwing up their hands and buying more affordable headsets, even if it means giving up some features. The S1 Noisegard aims to keep the customer in Sennheiser quality without the stiff price.

The main difference between the new S1 Noisegard and the flagship S1 Digital is the absence of the sampling button. There are some different comfort and cosmetic features, but the Noisegard model keeps the basic design aesthetic of the Digital S1. In fact, other than missing the ability to sample a noise environment at different phases of flight, the S1 Noisegard sports similar overall performance to the S1 Digital in every other area.

Right out of the gate, it's surprising that the lower-priced Noisegard has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 18 kHz. The Digital S1 only goes up to 16 KHz. While we can hear up into the 20 kHz range, most of us who are beyond our 20s and have been flying for several years might not be able to distinguish a huge difference. If, however, you're an audiophile (or have a dog) and love the crispy highs in that upper range, the S1 Noisegard might be better suited to your ears.

In a twist of irony, the frequency response of the microphone is better on the S1 Digital. While the Noisegard reaches up to 8 kHz, the more expensive S1 Digital goes from 100 Hz to 10 kHz. Whether a bump at the higher frequency is worth the additional money remains to be seen, although I doubt most people will discern a major difference. A neat feature of the S1 Noisegard is adjustable microphone sensitivity. Just a twist of a mini- screwdriver on an opening in the boom, and the adjustment is completed.
The main difference between the new S1 Noisegard
and the Flagship S1 Digital is the abscence of
a sampling button.
As noted in past reviews, we're enjoying something of a "golden era" in aviation headsets, where nearly all ANR (active noise reduction) headsets sound good. The differences in actual sound between Lightspeed, Bose, David Clark, Sennheiser and a few of the other high-end manufacturers is very subjective. It's not a stretch to say there are no bad-sounding headsets in this tier. What's different about each one is comfort.


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