Headset Buying Guides
Choosing the right headset is one of the most important decisions you make when it comes to equipping yourself for flight. A comfortable, quality headset is an important purchase. At its most basic, a headset allows you to communicate with ATC and/or others in your cockpit with clarity, provides vital hearing protection and lets you enjoy your flight. To determine which of our many headsets is right for you, you should focus on a few basic questions:
How Will You Use It?
The first thing to consider when shopping for a headset is the application. Will you be using this headset in light aircraft such as Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees? Or will you be using this headset in a Boeing 737 or Airbus A320?
For light aircraft, you will probably want to look for a headset that provides a high level of noise reduction. Full-dome headsets or in-ear headsets will fit the bill. A full-dome headset is a headset where the ear cup surrounds the wearer’s entire ear. In-ear headsets will use either an ear plug like insert, or a custom molded insert. You can find a variety of General Aviation Headsets here.
For Commercial Aircraft or quiet-cockpit aircraft, you will probably want a lightweight or on-ear headset. These will usually not surround the wearer’s entire ear, or provide a high level of noise reduction. Marv Golden carries numerous Pro Headsets here.
Knowing the type of headset you are looking for, you can move on to an important consideration: comfort. Key factors in headset comfort are noise reduction (see below), weight, and how the headset fits your head. Weight is a very simple consideration - all else being equal the lighter the headset, the better. What are the considerations for fit? Issues to consider are headpads (pads on the over-head band), and ear seals (or ear-inserts for an in-ear headset). Ear seals can be filled with either foam or gel. Gel is normally considered more comfortable, though they may get sweatier in hot weather. Foam will absorb slightly more noise, and cost a bit less but begin to break-down after a year or so of use.
A headset’s ability to reduce the noise of the cockpit is critical. All aviation headsets will provide some level of Passive Noise Reduction (PNR), which is the physical blocking of cockpit noise. Some headsets will also provide Active Noise Reduction (ANR) which is additional electronic cancelling of noise. A headset with ANR will provide you with more hearing protection, but it will cost more than a similarly built PNR headset.
In use, an ANR Headset will leave you feeling less fatigued and will protect your hearing more than a Passive Headset. It also worth considering that the FAA warns that using an ANR headset can result in the wearer more easily missing abnormal engine noises, or changes in wind noise that could be an early warning of impending emergencies. If you are just learning to fly, a PNR headset will be easier on your budget and help you pick up more subtle aural clues in flight. The hissing of the cabin air vents as you approach stall speed in a Cessna, for example.
Some In-Ear Headsets completely block cabin noise and provide the best hearing protection, but some are designed for quiet cockpits and don’t seal the ear canal at all.
Stereo, Music and Cell Phone Capabilities
Some headsets offer extra features such as stereo sound capabilities (which give you improved sound quality if you are listening to music through the headset), the ability to use your cell phone through your headset or the ability to connect your music player to your headset.
The ability to provide yourself some entertainment on a long flight, or call somebody when your radio goes out should not be overlooked. Keep in mind that we sell a large variety of Headset Adapters in case you want to add music or cell phone capabilities to an existing headset.
If this is an extra headset, or if your flight bag is filled already, some headsets come with their own padded carry bag. Finally, while headsets are remarkably well built these days, consider the warranty offered on the headset, and the reputation of the manufacturer. How well do they stand behind your investment?
Connections, Adapters, Earseals and Bags
Headsets come with a variety of connectors to plug into different types of aircraft. Be sure to shop for the correct headset for your aircraft, whether it is for a General Aviation Fixed Wing Aircraft, a Civilian Helicopter, a Military Aircraft, a Commercial Aircraft, or even an Airbus (which uses a different type of connector).
Don’t despair, however, if you want to convert one type of headset for use in another type of aircraft. Marv Golden carries a huge selection of Headset Adapters that enable you to convert the connectors, microphone impedance, etc. to allow you to use your existing headset for other applications!