Aviation headsets, another essential piece of equipment for any pilot. Unfortunately, aviation headsets for pilots are quite expensive and since you will most likely use them on a daily basis it is important to review your options. You don’t want to waste your money, do you? Hence, this article! I will be your guide and explain the basics and what you should keep in mind. I will also tell you all about my favorite aviation headset. Aviation headsets for pilots can last a lifetime, if you buy the right one ;)!
Flying Singe Engine Aircraft
Are you flying a small aircraft? In that case you will probably not spend more than 4 hours per day in a tiny space called a cockpit. Most likely you will not fly on a daily basis either. That is why, in my opinion, it doesn’t make sense to invest in an expensive headset in this case. The price difference between a basic and expensive aviation headset is astonishing and you need to ask yourself; Do I need a noise cancelling headset? One that fits your head as if you aren’t wearing any? Does it need to have fancy options like being able to listen to music? During my flight training in Arizona, I used a cheap and very basic headset. You don’t see many pilots flying Cessna’s with a Bose headset, unless they are instructors.
Flying Jet Aircraft
Spending more than 8 hours in a cockpit? Better cover your ears properly! Continuous exposure to a lot of background noise will contribute to tiredness, stress and in the long run you will lose the ability to hear certain frequencies. When you fly commercially it is definitely wise to invest in a proper aviation headset. Noise cancellation, certain features like Bluetooth connectivity and definitely comfort are desired by most airline pilots. “Expensive” aviation headsets usually have a better fit. Hence, your ears won’t hurt after a 4 legs duty.
The ASA HS-1 is the aviation headset I used during my flight training. This relatively cheap headset will do just fine while flying small aircraft. Probably the reason why many flight schools promote this one. Comfortable, good quality and for a reasonable price. So in case you don’t want to spend loads of money and are in flight training or fly single engine aircraft for fun, look no further!
This super soft and double foam headset is a perfect aviation headset for pilots that want a little bit of everything. The David Clark H10-13.4 is a very comfortable headset with gel and undercut ear seals to protect your ears from noise. The low-profile volume control knob with detent settings is great when flying in different aircraft with varying noise levels. A little bit more expensive than the ASA HS-1 Aviation Headset but also a lot better to be honest. Even some airline pilots use this headset. There is also an advanced noise-cancelling microphone available for this headset. This aviation headset is most commonly seen in the general aviation scene.
Interested in the best aviation headset? Definitely go for the Bose A20. Almost every airline pilot has this one due to clear audio with active equalization, less clamping force and greater active noise reduction than the conventional aviation headsets. The customizable audio prioritization control lets you mute an audio signal when receiving an incoming transmission, or mix the two together. Bluetooth or no Bluetooth, you can customize this headset just the way you want. The only downside of this headset is the price. However, this one is a real once in a lifetime expense, if you maintain it properly.
Bose currently has a holiday season promotion! If you purchase a ProFlight Series 2 aviation headset you receive a free Sound Link Micro bluetooth-speaker. Click here for more information about this holiday season promotion!
Which aviation headset do you currently use? What features do you look for in an aviation headset? I am eager to learn about your experiences!
I hope the above helped you in forming an idea and gave you a clue about what to keep in mind while purchasing aviation headsets. My favorite is the Bose A20! If you liked this article you might be interested in my reviews about Pilot Sunglasses and Pilot Bags as well.
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32 thoughts on “Aviation Headsets for Pilots – 2021/2022 Review”
I had the Sennheiser HMEC250. The earcups are not good. Fast deteriorating plastic. Replaced them by Chinese copy. Much better. After 3 years and only occasional use the plastic of the cable degraded as if it is biodegradable plastic! That Sennheiser is still for sale but replacement cables are no longer available. So, don’t buy it. To replace the cable (if you find one by miracle) can only be done by a technician. It’s complicated. Another drawback are the very thin buttons on the left earcup. Difficult to manipulate unless you have extremely fine sensitive fingers.
Re-reading this as I’m flying with non-pilot friends and they couldn’t rent headsets due to Covid-19.
I’m a Bose A20 user since my PPL training. Other “kinda expensive” ANR headsets might also work but I’ve never tried. On the Cessna 172, the engine vibration is so loud and with poor cabin sealing, I had to double up hearing protection even with A20. Not a problem in Diamond or Cirrus.
I’d say, get the best headset you can afford, doesn’t matter how you fly. Surely a less capable headphone will introduce fatigue, but the big deal is permanent hearing loss from noise exposure. Paying $$$ afterwards will not get the hearing back.
Hi Michelle, as a Heli Pilot i have a Sennheiser HMEC 250 headset which i find more comfortable to wear than the Bose. It is also half the price. Noise reduction aswell as i use my cell through it aswell. What is your review of it ?
What do you think using the Bose A20 for training? Considering you can use it further when flying airliners. Because I heard some people said that the noise cancelling is too much that you can’t here the engine.
You really missed the mark by not representing the David Clark X-11 or David Clark One-X
The DC-H10 is a solid entry choice, but the X-11 and One-X blow the Bose out of the water when it comes to comfort and if one’s batteries die.
I think I haven’t put batteries into my X-11 since 2009 because the passive noise cancelling is so sufficient.
I traded my DC X-11 for a Bose with a CFI candidate of mine to compare and the Bose have a terrible pinching hot spot on the top of my head and didn’t cup my ears very comfortably. Traded back, and his Bose batteries died; insisted we end the flight and return to base because he couldn’t hear anything. C-172RG…
I giggled and showed him my empty battery slot.
Have flown in C402 and Lear60 since with no batteries, and totally sufficient.
If you think a quality aviation headset is expensive, you should go price shopping for a hearing aid. Because that’s what you will be wearing if you fail to use good, quality hearing protection. I liken it to the analogy between wearing a quality motorcycle helmet vs. whatever helmet is on the shelf. Take care of your body folks… you only get one.
Couldn’t agree more Chuck!
Have you tried the Kore KA1 headset? I have found it to be a cheap (yet strong) headset too. Great passive noise reduction. I tried it once, then went for another brand but realized Kore is better than other affordable alternatives.
Hi Ian! Never heard about that brand before. Is it similar to the ASA headsets?
I have never used the ASA headsets before. I can however see some notable differences though the Kore KA1 looks similar to the ASA HS-1A. I will follow up with the differences at the earliest opportunity.
Regarding the difference between the KA-1 and the ASA HS-1a headset: overall, Kore uses higher quality materials for the headset and it comes out in the little details that make a large difference. KA1’s top headband protects more of the head. The Kore KA1 also comes with gel ear seals rather than HS1’s foam ear pad which hurt the ear a lot more.
In addition, KA1 has an aux port at the bottom of the headset for connecting to MP3 and mobile/tablets for music/audio. It also comes with a free carry case which HS1 does not. From my experience, the KA1 is cheap for the quality that it has. Hope this helps!
Hi, anybody have try the phonak freecom 7100 PNR with the custom earshell ? I use it since 10 years almost on jet 604/605 Global 5000/6000 and G450/550 as well un p28a c152 sr22 and work really nice. The negative it’s the price compared to the uflymike but almost the same as A20.
… I fly about 150hrs per year in different aircrafts (C152, P208, P28A, PA18, L4, M20). When I started my PPL Training some years ago I was getting a Flightcom passive headset. Not a good idea as it turned out. The C152 are loud aircrafts and being in the air 2+ hrs were a deafening experience. My (partially pre-existing) Tinnitus was blowing looney tunes…. So, I can’t really agree with your statement. Especially pilots who fly not as much might get out of their comfort zone much faster with a bad headset.
I then got a FlightCom ANR, Later (because my family is flying with me quite often and the FlightCom fits my daughter (now 5y/o) quite well) I bought a Zulu.2, the PFX and much later a Bose A20 (had to service on of the Lightspeed Headsets and needed one urgently).
Today, most of the time I actually use the A20 for myself. While the PFXs ANR is quieter than the Bose’s the CPU Box is a pain to handle (in the PA18 almost impossible)… let alone the energyconsumption. I hardly get more than 12hrs out of the PFXs Batteries at all. The Zulu.2 is OK from that point and the ANR is actually quite nice… but…
Of all headsets the Bose A20 is the only one I have tested that actually works in all aircrafts I fly without either over-ANR-ing the engine.
I would buy another Bose again. The only downside of the bose is it’s high amount of plastic in the headband. I never had any issue so far (with >300h on the BOSE) but I suspect that the real weak spot of the BOSE might be the headbands. As for the Lightspeed, they at least seem to be better made from that point of view.
Thank you for your comment, I appreciate the feedback! I know pilots that have been using their Bose A20’s for years while flying commercially and they never had any issues with the headband. It is also my opinion that you should protect your ears at all times and I’ve seen pilots wearing earplugs underneath their headsets to avoid hearing damage like Tinnitus.. When you have a hearing problem it is definitely wise to invest in a solid headset, even if you fly just a few hours per month.
I am also familiar with some companies that offer sightseeing flights and their pilots are not wearing any headsets at all while flying a C172, they use the intercom instead. That is definitely something I would not recommend.
In the end the pilot needs to find a headset he or she is comfortable with, I wrote the review to shed some light on some options. I would always go for a Bose A20 now that i’ve tried it. However, some pilots are not willing to spend such an amount of money on their first headset which is completely understandable.
My daughter just called me asking about my old QC15 and Uflymike … I was goggle guide and still haven’t found it and saw this post.
Here is my thoughts (25 years flying commercially)
I hate ear plugs – keeping them clean, finding clean ones… so having a headset able to reduce noise on walk around is key (winner Bose QC – without looking like a dork walking around with mic boom and cord dragging around) – yessss I still do walk arounds – some stations I won’t let a new guy do walk arounds.
During DH and always forget my ear buds – winner Bose QC. You can sit in aircraft and tune out the ‘what’s your route?’ without looking like a dork walking around with mic boom and cord dragging around
Terminal you can sit with Bose QC without looking like a dork walking around with mic boom and cord dragging around
So the QC wins hands down for me… the problem is Uflymic. the older version was not TSO-Certified. Battery failed and you were NORDO
I have Uflymic newest version on order (they are huge back order and I am earger to try the new ones. The old ones the (non tso) worked great (someone told me – ahem) but they were non tso. I flew a trip a while back with some that had the new uflymic version but he was having a lot of problems with squelch – not sure how much of was self induced (probably a lot after getting to fly with him) – so I am looking forward to the new ones.
once I get them and am OK with them. I will be buying them for my daughter as she starts her flight training and I don’t want her deaf like me (WHAT!)
Current have the DC – PRO – XA in A320 and I like them except when intercom is on there is a huge hissing and it gets annoying for both me and FO. I see no way of adjusting this – and just haven’t gotten around to complain to DC about it. I regret buying them…
Hi! I received my UFlyMike a couple of weeks ago, haven’t been able to put it to a test yet but I will in the near future. I have the possibility to try the combination in a B737-400, B737-800 & CL604.
I will create a video and article, reviewing the UFlyMike Harmony in combination with a Bose QC25 (the Bose QC35 is not compatible with the Harmony UFlyMike) once I did some testing.
The downside is that it’s indeed not TSO certified yet and for European pilots it is a hassle to get it certified since you need to send it back to the States when they are able to get it certified. The mic will be in transit for weeks with customs and all. That is why I recommend every pilot outside the US to wait until UFlyMike offers the Harmony TSO certified out of the box. I didn’t wait because I want to review it.
Especially for pilots that are proceeding (deadheading) a lot the UFlyMike Harmony might be brilliant, let’s see.
Did you receive yours already? What are your first thoughts?
I wish Bose would just make a TSO lightweight aviation headset. I definitely need the Bluetooth for dead heading especially since Apple has removed the headphone jack from the iPhone.
I hope they do! Would be great to have the quality of the Bose A20 while being able to use it like the UFlyMike…
Oh my god I just looked all of them up and wow, the Bose A20 is very expensive. I didn’t know, that headsets would be this expensive!
Hi Leon, most pilot headsets are expensive. The quality should be high and the certification process is costly… In general everything thats related to aviation is more expensive 😉 Keep in mind though that when you buy the A20 it is most likely the only headset you will ever purchase. Since pilots use their headsets on a daily basis the investment is actually a solid one 🙂 By the way I replied to your email as well. Have a nice day!
Useful review!! I got a ASA HS-1A as my first aviation headset!!
Thanks Calvin! Are you happy with the ASA HS-1A?
As a pilot your are not allowed to install your own headset when it is not in the documentation. When you install it by yourself it is not certified on the aircraft. That must be done by a design organisation. They must proof that the headset can be used jn the plane without any problems in every flight phase.
Hi Roxa, thank you for your comment.
A headset is not a fixed piece of equipment and can most definitely be exchanged by a pilot. The design of the plugs and connections is especially designed so it is easy for anyone to use their own headsets in any aircraft.
The only requirement for a headset is that it needs to be TSO Certified. All of the above mentioned headsets are TSO certified. There is also no need to proof that a headset works in “every” flight phase.
Hence, your statement is false. Imagine having to cancel a flight because there is no maintenance personnel available to replace a faulty headset.
However, there might be some airlines that place a certain brand of headsets in their cockpits and they can demand that all of their pilots use those headsets instead of using their own.
I discoverd that my Sennheiser HD25 headphone that I use for DJ-ing is also very popular among pilots ? It’s also a great noise canceling headphone for loud kids during the flight. ??
I am unfamiliar with that headphone. I quickly looked it up but it doesn’t seem to have a microphone. Can you attach one?
I think you can ? I’ve seen a lot of them
You are right! I will check it out as soon as I get my hands on one 🙂 Thanks for the feedback Raymond!
I just started my flight training. I originally bought a new ASA HS-1. But I didnt like it at all. I found it really pinched my ears, and was uncomfortable. Even when using it on the loosest setting. I ended up buying a used David Clark H10, and this one was SOOOO much better, in every way. Very comfortable, much higher quality.
About the only good thing with the ASA was the price, it is dirt cheap, but with if I could go back in time, I would have spent the bit extra for the David Clark right off the bat.
Hi Mike, thank you for the feedback. I couldn’t agree more! Good luck with your flight training!
I’m just finishing my PPL training and also use the ASA HS-1 they work just find. Although I have to admit that when I fly with my brother in Cirrus SR22T with Bose A20 on it’s whole other dimension. Great article 😉 Have a safe flight
Thanks for sharing your experiences Sokołowski Jan! Good luck with your PPL Check 🙂