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Headsets?


John Bosch
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OK ... I think I need to bite the bullet and buy myself a headset. The one I used yesterday was horrid, making me sound like I was talking down a drain pipe to both myself (which makes you stumble over words) and to ATC.

So, from the real world pilots out there can I get some advice on what I should be looking for in a decent headset or even some recomendations.

A friend of mine, and fellow learner, just spent $1000 on a new set. That's, like, four lessons!! (I see every expense, flying and household, in 'lesson' terms at the moment :)). I'm not quite that crazy though and would prefer something more middle of the road. At least for now! Maybe later, I'll look into something smiffy if my flying really takes off (no pun intended).

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Is there much available on the used market? Or do people get rid of them when they are no longer any good?  Otherwise, I would be inclined to say that a brand new set of the cheapest Dave Clarks are probably going to be a damn sight better than an old beaten around club set...

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I just threw the best part of $1400 at a Bose X headset. Given the cost, It wasn't a decision made lightly. The headset is very good, and 20 or so hours later I don't regret the purchase. It does well to eliminate much of the cockpit noise in the Moonies I fly. Before that I used a David Clark H20-10 that I purchased secondhand on ebay for $160. The DC is still going strong, but I found on longer flights (3hrs plus) that I was really quite fatigued and that my ears would ring. But the main reason for getting the Bose headset was that I tried a loan unit and it made ATC so much easier to hear clearly. In a stressful learning environment it really helps to know that you're not going to be constantly asking a progressively more annoyed controller to "say again".

My decision to go for the Bose is based on the fact that I've chosen to fly for a living. If I was going to stop at my PPL and fly occasionally, I would have stuck with my DC - which is extremely well built and hasn't missed a beat over many years of use. I have tried the cheap altronics unit and imho it is suitable only for use on a ride-on mower. The DC H10-30 that most people seem to use as students is also very good, but many complain of discomfort after a few hours due to the "clamping force" on the sides of your head, or headaches due to continuous pressure on the top of your head. You can buy gel-earpads as an upgrade for the DC H10s which will help a bit. The H20-10's come with gel-pads and an adjustable soft elastic band " aka Comfort Cover Head Pad" that acts as a cushion on the top of your noggin..

It's such an individual thing that I would say, if you can, try to borrow a few different headsets, and find the one that feels best for you. Maybe the local pilot shop has loan units from different manufacturers (they seem to where I fly)

If you are willing to spend real $$ on an ENC headset, it seems there are 3 major players (DC, Bose and Lightspeed). I have read many reviews that say that the DC one (the H10-13X) is noticably inferior to the "Bose Aviation X" and the "Lightspeed Zulu". The Bose is just a headset with ANC and no passive attenuation, whilst the Lightspeed Zulu has ENC and a small amount of passive attenuation plus a bluetooth connection and a hardwired input for an mp3 player or mobile phone.. Both Bose and Lightspeed have a 5yr warranty. The Lightspeed Zulu seems to cost about $950 around the traps, and the Bose X about $1500.. I didn't have the option to try the Zulu so I ended up with the Bose.

I found it difficult when shopping for the Bose headset to find reviews that had hard comparisons in terms of attenuation, as most of the comparisons I found were sponsored by the companies that make the headsets.

I know of quite a few guys that have had success buying perfectly working headsets on ebay (me included), but I guess there's always a risk of getting a dud.

Hopefully that helps a little bit, I'm sure others here will have some useful suggestions.

Steve.

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It's such an individual thing that I would say, if you can, try to borrow a few different headsets, and find the one that feels best for you. Maybe the local pilot shop has loan units from different manufacturers (they seem to where I fly)

Hah! Pilot shop ... this is Canberra, the backwater of general aviation. As far as I know there is no such thing as a pilot shop here!

The lightspeed zulu is the exact unit the friend of mine bought and he swears by it. I tried it on but didn't fly with it. It is incredibly light and felt great!

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I have a set of DC H10-13 but they of course are a helo headset, they are more designed for noise cancellation with all the noise a helo makes, I personally have not had the head squash effect, but that said I have used bose helo headset in an EC120 and it was nothing short of amazing, so if you have the dosh mate I say go for the bose, but if you dont then there is nothing wrong with the DC's I just personally cant justify the $800 odd they go for here, like Steve said, thats almost 3 lessons for me lol

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I use a Pilot PA18-50 ANR Headset. $495 from http://www.downunderpilotshop.com.au/Avtive_Noise_Reduction_ANR_Headsets-title0-p-1-c-31.html.

It has decent passive protection plus ANR for that extra little bit of quiet. I lost my little ANR box at the airfield once so I was glad that it had decent passive attenuation! I did end up finding it again so I am going to find a way to clamp it to the cord semi-permanently so I don't leave it on the wing again. :-)

Steven.

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Hmm ... thanks all. There's some food for thought there. I looked at the Pilot PA18-50's. There seems to be a couple of bad reviews out there in internet land on them and I must say their cheapness compared to everything else ANR put me off. But, hearing something from the horse's mouth makes me reconsider. We're the bad reviews from the usual people that only ever right bad reviews?? The Altronics look interesting too ... I'll have to have a look when I'm not too tired to read any more.

One thing I did find interesting! I googled for pilot shops in Canberra and got two hits. The first is on a road that's near the airport but only inhabited by market gardens and garden nurseries. The second is in Parliment House?? Hmm ...

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Active noise reduction is good in some but many are a joke as they do not actually invert the Audio and thus cancel it out.

I have used the Altronics Headset from when I bought my first one in 1990 so any one that says they don't last  is a bit off the mark.

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Active noise reduction is good in some but many are a joke as they do not actually invert the Audio and thus cancel it out.

I have used the Altronics Headset from when I bought my first one in 1990 so any one that says they don't last  is a bit off the mark.

Maurice, agreed that ANR is not always what it's cracked up to be in some of the headsets out there.

Maybe your 1990 Altronics model is better contructed than the modern ones Maurice. 3 years ago, in a class of 15 ab-initio and GFPT students, 3 of us purchased the altronics (passive) units. 3 out of 3 were faulty within the first 6 months (due to poor connections in the plugs, a dry joint or loose connection in one of the earcups, and an other undiagnosed failure.)

Yes I bought one Altonics headset too,  several years prior. After a year or so and maybe only 15 flying hours, there was an intermitent fault somewhere in the cord, and the unit was out of warranty, I tried a mate's David Clark H10-30 and decided not to throw more money at the Altronics one to get it repaired. I cannibalised the headset speakers and they now reside in a set of 3M earmuffs so I can listen to my ipod while I drive the ride-on mower. There's a lot less to lose if the headphones fail at 2knots and 3 feet above the grass, than 120knots and 1500 feet in CTA..

Some of these Altronics headsets are used as loan units where I fly and they are no where near the comfort and attenuation of a passive david clark (or telex for that matter). Maybe it's my pointy head that's the issue here though  ;)

I'm not suggesting throwing a thousand plus dollars at a headset unless you can really justify that, I just think that generally, you get what you pay for with headsets.

And maybe Altronics have improved the design recently. I notice now that that there are several different models available on their website..

Just my experience..

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Hi All

I'm the friend that Wirraway referred to with regards to the Lightspeed Zulu headset. I'm at around the same stage in my training as he is (maybe one or two lessons ahead). I found with the loan headsets from the flying school, I was always asking my instructor "what did he say?" or asking ATC to "say again". I do have some slight hearing loss(due to 8 years of working as a sound engineer with very loud music back in my 20's), so I find it difficult to pick out a conversation when there is a lot of background noise. Don't try to talk to me in a noisy pub.. I'll just nod my head and look like I know what you are say ;) Anyway, that made my choice of headset more important. I also found that the pressure with passive sets gave me headaches and my ears hurt after a flight. I did a lot of googling/reading about headsets.. must have read 50+ reviews and in the end it always came back to the Bose X or the Lightspeed Zulu. Since there's no local shop here to try them, I went with the LightSpeed based purely on the fact that it was slightly newer and I thought the bluetooth option might be useful one day.

I have to say, yes it was expensive (worth almost 5 hrs of flying), but I don't regret the purchase one bit. They really are fantastic to use, and it's makes doing the radio calls so much easier when you can actually hear what ATC are saying.

Wirraway if you want to borrow them for your next flight just let me know.. but be warned, I will want them back(and you won't want to give them back!).

Vincent.

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Whilst I haven't used ENC GA headsets, I must say that I would consider noise cancelling systems a must. Your hearing is too precious to risk loosing.

My Gentex Helicopter helmet is fitted with CEP (Communications Ear Plug). Whilst it is not active noise cancelling per say it makes a considerable difference both to readability and long term damage to your hearing. As for headsets mentioned I have heard some great things about the Zulu Lighspeed and intened to buy that unit when I start my PPL flying later this year. Out of interest - does anyone know if this can be considered a health insurance benefit??

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I recently bought a David Clarke H10-13.4 headset for around $500, and I am reasonably happy with it, having previously had an Altronics. However, after sampling the Bose headsets with their noise cancellation and pure comfort at the airshow, I've gotta say that's where i'd be throwing my money. If I had any.  :P

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Wirraway if you want to borrow them for your next flight just let me know.. but be warned, I will want them back(and you won't want to give them back!).

I might just take you up on that Vincent! It would be a bonus to try them first. I feel I may just be setting myself up for one of those discussions with the missus though :-\

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I might just take you up on that Vincent! It would be a bonus to try them first. I feel I may just be setting myself up for one of those discussions with the missus though :-\

At least you can tell her that you will still be able to hear her!! :wink:

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Two of my instructors that I talked headsetw with have $1,500+ Bose headsets and both seemed to think of them as being 'ordinary' and 'way too expensive for what you get' so there is certainly a lot of conflicting info out there. The reason I picked the Pilot ANR was because a, it was cheap, b, it's passive filtering was comparible to most non-ANR headsets. This meant (to me) that if the battery/ANR died then I have an at least 'average to good' passive headset. I will have to try to remember to listen out for engine noise on Sunday because I can truthfully say that I have only ever noticed the noise once and that was when I misplaced the ANR unit (I soon forgot about it though). So, it can't be working too badly! Certainly better than the loaners.

Build quality seems good with the only negative being that if you have the ear-cup tensioner too lose you may need to fiddle with if for a couple of seconds to put it on straight. It is hard to describe the issue but for me it is minor. I have only had them for about 10 hours of flying time so they are still pretty new but they haven't fallen apart yet. :-)

Really, if I had the spare $$$ I would probably have gone with Zulus myself but at over triple the price and the missus breathing down my neck, nah. :-)  The only ones I have read fairly consistantly bad things about were the Denali (spelling?) brand. They didn't seem to be very robust though by consistant I mean maybe 4 or 5 messages/reviews. Not a lot. You have to be careful with reviews if they are a bit old and of course, try to cross reference the reviews opinion with other sources...

I wish we could try em before we buy em!

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Really, if I had the spare $$$ I would probably have gone with Zulus myself but at over triple the price and the missus breathing down my neck, nah.

I am kind of in the same boat. Although I have the money, it could be spent elsewhere. That makes the decision even harder! If I just couldn't plain afford them it would be easier.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think I've made my decision. I was torn between the cheaper Pilot ANR set and the Zulu.

A non-aviation friend of mine started to sway me by saying "the sound quality is neither here nor there. Both are going to sound much better than anything else you have used. The price difference over the 20 years you use them is something like $20 a year. So it comes down to features and reviews."

I haven't really found a bad Zulu review, I've had about 70/30 good v bad on the Pilot. On the feature front I think I'm sold by the following line from this website. It's indicative of several I've read elsewhere ...

"I was wearing the Lightspeed Zulu’s with the Bluetooth function doing a superb job of connecting my mobile phone. This turned out be a fantastic addition to my flying safety with the capacity to phone ahead to the AWIS at the airports ahead."

When I put the dilema to the wife she said "Do you want me to talk you in or out of the expensive set?". So I guess that means she wants me to make the decision  ::)

So ... it looks like I'm about to spend another grand or so on those little accessories to flying :o.

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Great that shes on side mate.  I cant speak highly enough of the bluetooth addon, I have used it in a bell 206 and its fantastic, sure beats stuffing the blackberry into one ear and trying to talk over the rotor noise (trust me I have been both the one recieving a call from the cockpit and making one that way and its no fun!)

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Great that shes on side mate. 

My wife's support has been pretty amazing! She's a little worried about my safety (ungrounded I say, but the media does like to focus on air accidents) but she's behind me 100%, which makes things just that bit better.

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I think you'll be happy with the Zulu and the bluetooth setup. We use a number of aircraft from the NSW State air desk in the SES that have Bluetooth fitted to comms - they make a real difference.

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The bluetooth does sound cool (no pun intended). My plan was to get the Pilot ANR because I wasn'tsure I was going to keep flying. Then, if I do keep flying and when I can convince the missus or one of the kids to start flying with me then I would upgrade and they could use the hand-me-down :-)

As far as using the phone or even listening to an MP3 player goes, from my reading we are not supposed to use em. Can be very handy in an emergency though of course!

I have been doing some longer navs lately and my ears start hurting sometimes so maybe the more expensive ones are the way to go. I do have a rather big head (physically! :-)), I will need to play with them to see if I can loosten them up more.

Wait until you tell her you want to buy an aircraft :-)

Steven.

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Yeah, the music doesn't particularly interest me. Some say it's handy for keeping you focused while on along nav but I would hope that doing what you're supposed to be doing (like watching instruments, watching the terrain, your possition on your map etc.) would could you focused enough. The phone, as you say, is only for emergencies and those safety calls if there's concerns about the weather ahead.

I'm now having second thoughts on the Zulu though simply because in the time it has taken me to decide most places have sold their old stock and the new stock has increased almost by the price of the Pilot headset simply because of the fall in the dollar!

Grumble, grumble, grumble  >:(

So I too may get the Pilot set for now and upgrade to something better once I have my PPL and am starting to need a second set for passengers.

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  • 12 years later...
On 4/4/2009 at 6:58 PM, John Bosch said:

Done ... just bought the Pilot PA18-50's from the downunder pilot shop. The Zulu will have to wait for the dollar to recover or me to really fly regularly at some later stage in life.

 

 

I see this is an old thread, and hoping you are still around.

Please, please provide your detailed (as much as you can) review back in here ... I'm also looking for a headset here in NZ and the prices are eye watering (NZ $634 for the Pilot vs over NZ $1545 for the Zulu). I fly fixed wing microlight class 2, but I'm thinking not often enough to justify the Zulu's. At $140/hr flying wet, that's over 10 hrs for me!

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14 minutes ago, jpreou said:

 

I see this is an old thread, and hoping you are still around.

Please, please provide your detailed (as much as you can) review back in here ... I'm also looking for a headset here in NZ and the prices are eye watering (NZ $634 for the Pilot vs over NZ $1545 for the Zulu). I fly fixed wing microlight class 2, but I'm thinking not often enough to justify the Zulu's. At $140/hr flying wet, that's over 10 hrs for me!


Wow! This is a blast from the past.

 

I haven't flown since about this time in 2012 unfortunately (10 years already) as the costs got too high. From memory though, I sold the PA18-50's and went back to a non-ANR set (trusty old David Clark H10-13.4). I don't exactly remember why though, but do recall I was having issue with them that frustrated both my instructor and me.

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  • 6 months later...

Here’s a more recent comment: very happy with my Pilot 18-50. I also have a Sennheiser HMEC250. The plastic wire of this Sennheiser is real crap. Decomposes as if it was a biodegradable plastic!. Still for sale while Sennheiser has no replacement cords anymore available. I have to throw it away. Very dissapointing for a mid price ANR. Don’t buy it.

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I have both  a Rugged and a Gulf Coast Avionics aviation headset.  I prefer the GCA as being more comfortable, though the Rugged is fine too. Both retail for about $100.  I use them with an FSX Dual unit by Flight Sounds ($229) from New Zealand, which allows me to "fly" with a "passenger" with said person also listening to ATC.  I use PilotEdge, and I also have  P2A (Pilot2ATC) for use outside of the PilotEdge area.  I love the setup.

 

Ken

Edited by Ken Q
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