Peltor’s latest offering, the ANR 9500, boasts digital and analog ANR technology. It’s equipped with a Gentex mic boom and can be outfitted with gel-filled cushions.
Headsets are funny things. Even though there are scores of them on the market and their job is essentially the same, each headset has its own “personality” and unique feel. Among professional headsets, I’ve found that the “right” one is different for each individual wearer and is a matter of personal preference. It was with that fact in mind that I opened the package containing the brand-new Peltor ANR 9500 digital headset.
First impressions are, as we all know, very important. One thing that impressed me as I opened the box from Peltor was the headset bag. It’s a considerable, well-padded affair that looks larger than it needs to be (good for extras), with a well-thought-out inner-fabric closure that cinches shut with a cord clamp (like camping gear bags) and keeps the headset from falling out if the top flap is accidentally left loose. The flap itself closes with a sturdy outdoor-grade clasp and features a good-sized handle. Little details like this make a difference when comparing professional-grade headsets.
I wanted to give the new Peltor a good test drive so I scheduled time in a couple of cockpit environments to give the ANR features a chance to do their thing. Also, I made sure to bring a passenger or two along to see how the 9500 would perform with in-cockpit conversation, along with the usual stuff from ATC.
On the first round of flying, my newbie passenger commented about the ANR 9500’s white ear cups. “Those are gonna get dirty real fast,” he said as I took them out of the black bag. Indeed, I wasn’t crazy about the white color, but I thought that perhaps Peltor is looking to establish a color identity like David Clark has with its blue-green ear cups.
One word about the ear cup cushions: I suggest you use the gel ones. I tried the Peltor with the standard foam cushions, and later, with the gel-filled cushions. The difference in comfort is huge, especially after about an hour in the air. They’re well worth it, in my opinion.
The Gentex mic boom was easy to adjust and the headset felt good on my head. It’s important not to compare an ANR headset with a passive headset because passive headsets use clamping pressure as one of several barriers to block unwanted noise. ANR sets use a more sophisticated method of blocking sound. As a result, ANR headsets will usually have lower head-clamping pressure than their passive counterparts. The Peltor exerted what I’d call “average” clamping pressure on my head. The headset’s two-point fasteners do distribute the pressure evenly, and the headband also works to spread the surface pressure effectively.
Before starting the engine, I got acquainted with what Peltor calls the “control pod.” The pod is essentially a control box for the headset’s various features. It houses two easy-to-see-and-feel rotating knobs that control volume in each ear cup.
The pod houses the jacks for cell phone and music player connections. It features a little LCD screen with backlighting to set up the headset options. The pod also houses two AA batteries to power the ANR features. The menu on the pod allows the user to select an aircraft profile (single, twin or heli) that tells the digital ANR what type of propeller and engine noise to expect. The menu also sets the type of battery you’re using and the stereo/mono mode. Menu navigation is easy enough with a standard up/down, left/right arrow interface. The power button is also located on the pod.
The pod is a pretty large unit, but it needs to be accessible because it houses the volume knobs. It’s a bit heavy, and I found myself fiddling around with placement, trying to get it where it wouldn’t tug on the cord. Although the unit I was evaluating didn’t have a clip, Peltor informed me that the production version will come with a clip to alleviate any tugging on the cable from the pod.
Peltor scores another home run with the quality of its cable. In my travels, I often see headsets that are well-engineered but suffer from a less-than-sturdy cord. Pilots, like musicians, are notorious for yanking the connector jacks out of the intercom by pulling somewhere along the cord. They’re also guilty of getting the cord caught in the door or wrapping it around the headset between uses. All of these bad habits put a great deal of stress on the connecting points and on the cord itself.
Peltor provides a hefty cord that feels like it’s not vulnerable to the average pilot’s abusive ways. In particular, the point where the cord connects to the headset is well-made and sturdy. The thickness of the cord attests to the gauge of the wire being used, or at least to the thickness of the insulation. My feeling was that this cord would last through thousands of hours of yanking and pinching.
As my passenger and I reached cruising altitude, we talked about the usual flight-related topics, and I got a better feel for the sound of the Peltor ANR 9500. ATC communications sounded very clear. As a musician, I noticed an odd prominence of high to middle frequencies, which is probably a result of the headset enhancing sounds in the speech frequency spectrum. Intercom conversations were very clean, and I noticed that the mic was doing a good job of canceling unwanted ambient noise in the taildragger.
The mic noise canceling was less noticeable in the quieter environment of a Cessna 172SP. In both cockpits, the ANR was great. I removed the headset to listen to the ambient noise for a few seconds so I could compare the effect once I donned the ANR headset. The difference is marked. ANR is definitely the choice for many cockpit environments. It’s still hard for me to get used to the sound of certain frequencies getting “sucked” away when you turn on the ANR, but there’s no question that it does make for a comfortable cockpit environment.
The Peltor ANR 9500 boasts analog and digital ANR. Analog ANR refers to the traditional active noise attenuation method where a set frequency is pumped into the ear cup that’s 180 degrees opposite to the engine/prop noise. In effect, that generated sound “cancels out” the unwanted noise. With digital ANR, the headset takes a more adaptive role and cancels out different frequencies as the noise environment changes. These adjustments happen in microseconds and aren’t audible to the wearer. Digital or “adaptive” ANR is the way noise attenuation is headed.
Overall, the new Peltor ANR 9500 is an excellent active noise reduction headset. Its adaptive technology is its strongest selling point, and the Peltor team seems to have addressed all the usual areas of concern in a headset. If you’re in the market for an ANR headset, make sure you try the 9500 to see if it fits your personal style. Visit www.peltor.com.