The best aviation headsets for pilots and their passengers can be determined by the type of aircraft and the budget available. Here are some of the best pilot headsets on the market. Whether you’re looking for a top-of-the-line noise canceling headset or something more affordable, read on to find the perfect aviation headset for your needs.
Flying is a great experience, but it can be hard to enjoy when you’re not comfortable. The right pair of headphones will keep out distracting noises and provide crystal clear audio so that you can focus on what’s happening around you and enjoy your flight even more. Headsets have come a long way since the versions worn by Tiger Moth and other pilots of nearly a century ago.
The best headsets are made with careful consideration for the needs of pilots. They’ve been tested for comfort, noise reduction, mic clarity, and more to ensure pilots have a safe and effective experience. If you fly frequently, it’s important to invest in a headset that will last. A good quality headset is worth its weight in gold.
In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know about choosing a headset. We’ll briefly describe how they work, which features are most important, and why you might want to choose a more expensive one over a relatively inexpensive aviation headset.
Why do we need Aviation Headsets?
The importance of clear and unambiguous communication when flying cannot be overestimated. Incident and accident investigation results have revealed that confusion or misheard messages are a significant contributory cause of incidents.
It’s essential that you can hear the radio transmissions clearly, both from air traffic control and from other aircraft, and that your messages are heard without any distortion. They not only make flying a lot easier and more enjoyable but they’re also crucial safety equipment.
Types of Aviation Headsets
There are a few different types on the market, so it helps to be aware of the basic differences before making a purchase. The most common types are noise canceling, passive, and active.
Active Noise Reduction Headset
An active noise reduction headset (ANR headset) is designed to reduce the amount of ambient or background noise that gets into your ears. This is the best aviation headset type for pilots and their passengers who fly in aircraft that have a lot of cockpit noise or open cockpit aircraft.
Passive Noise Reduction Headset
A passive noise reduction (PNR) headset) doesn’t have any active noise canceling technology, but it does have ear cups that seal off your ears from background noise. This is a good option for pilots who fly in less noisy aircraft, like a modern, well-insulated aircraft that have a comfortable, perhaps luxurious interior.
Electronic Noise Reduction Headset
This is a technology that you’ll see in the David Clark X-Series, like the DC ONE-X and the DC ONE-XP and their popular H10 range.
Best Aviation Headsets – Features
When shopping for a new aviation headset, there are a few features you’ll want to consider before making a purchase. Here are some of the most important:
As described above, sound quality is essential for clear and concise communications.
A good aviation headset will reduce the amount of noise that gets into your ears, making it easier to concentrate. It’s also less tiring, which can be significant when flying long tracks. Think about the type of aircraft you’ll be flying when choosing between active and passive noise reduction.
There are a few different types of active noise reduction technologies available, but the most common is called “phase cancellation.” This technology works by creating a sound wave that is exactly the opposite of the ambient noise, effectively canceling it out. Other technologies use microphones to detect and block specific frequencies of noise.
No matter which type of active noise reduction technology is used, it’s important that it is effective in both low and high-frequency ranges.
Also, it’s best to choose models that have dual volume controls, one on each ear cup.
Noise Reduction Rating
A noise reduction rating (NRR) is an indication of the noise-cancelling ability of a hearing protector. It is expressed in decibels (dB) and represents the amount of noise that a protector reduces when worn in a standard testing environment. For example, if a protector has an NRR rating of 26 dB, it reduces the amount of outside noise by 26 dB.
The mic clarity of your aviation headset is also very important. Being able to hear clearly is only half the equation. You need to be heard just as clearly.
Most people are familiar with pilot headsets that have boom microphones that can be positioned close to the pilot’s mouth. Others have “in-ear” microphones that are embedded in the ear cups. Both types of microphones have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Boom microphones are more common, and they’re usually better at canceling out noise from the environment. However, they can be difficult to use in certain situations. In-ear microphones are less likely to pick up external noise, but they can be uncomfortable for some people to wear.
Wearing an aviation headset for a long time can become tiring and lead to headaches. The clamping force must be sufficient to hold the headset in place but not so strong that it causes discomfort.
As well as the clamping force there is the weight to consider. Again, you have to take into account the strain a heavier headset might place on your head, neck, and shoulders during long flights.
If the weight is high on your list of priorities then you might want to consider an in ear aviation headset. This might be necessary on a temporary basis after, for example, minor injury or surgery anywhere on the head or scalp.
Finally, it’s important to make sure that the aviation headset you choose is compatible with your aircraft. There are a variety of different connectors and adapters available, so be sure to do your research before making a purchase.
The options include wired, wireless, and bluetooth connectivity. Again, the features you need are individual to you and have to be weighed up agains the expected price tag.
As we shall see in the list below aviation headsets can range greatly in price. It’s important to consider what type of flying you do before spending a lot of money on a headset. If you only fly recreationally, a less expensive option may be all you need. But if you do a lot of commercial flying, it’s worth investing in a top-of-the-line headset that will offer the best features and performance.
Ultimately, the best aviation headset for you is going to whatever meets the requirements when you’ve arranged all these considerations in the order of your particular priority.
David Clark Aviation Headsets
David Clark is a company that has been making aviation headsets for many years and are highly recommended. They are known for their quality and durability and their headsets are used by both commercial and private pilots all over the world.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line headset that will last for years, David Clark is a brand that is recognized globally and is used by the military as well as civilian pilots.
Due to their long history in aviation and the consistent quality, a David Clark aviation headset is considered top of the range by many. Best sellers include the David Clark H10 13.4 and the David Clark DC One.
David Clark H10-13S Stereo Headset
David Clark H10-13H Headset
Lightspeed Aviation Headsets
Another reputable brand for aviation headsets is Lightspeed. They offer a variety of different models, all of which are designed with the safety and comfort of pilots in mind. Lightspeed headsets are perfect for anyone who flies frequently, whether it’s for work or pleasure.
The Lightspeed Zulu 3 Aviation Headset is a current top-seller among General Aviation pilots.
Lightspeed Zulu 3 Aviation Headset
- Five Star Comforts
- Five by Five Comms
- Exceptional Quality
- Premium Features
- Designed by Fellow Pilots
Bose Aviation Headsets
Bose is a well-known name in the world of audio, and their aviation headsets are no exception. They’re comfortable, reduce noise effectively, and have crystal-clear sound quality. And if you’re looking for a headset that’s versatile enough to be used for both flying and other activities, such as listening to music then a Bose headset might be the answer.
You’ll see plenty of Bose A20 aviation headsets being carried around airfields by student pilots and instructors.
Rugged Air RA200 General Aviation Pilot Headset
The Rugged Air RA200 General Aviation Student Pilot Headset provides 24dB NRR* hearing protection and comes with a ballistic-nylon carry bag. They are lightweight, only 13.4 oz, and have clear hear 50mm audio speakers. The stay-put adjustable flex boom ensures a custom fit and the universal 3.5mm music port allows you to listen to your favorite music.
This adjustable headset comes with a stainless steel headband, 5′ straight shielded cord, EM56 noise reflective cup microphone, and 50mm performance audio speakers. Plus, it’s backed by a $20 ballistic-nylon bag and 24dB NRR* hearing protection.
The headset bag is a great added bonus that protects your investment and makes it easy to transport your headphones.
The stay-put flex boom ensures that the microphone will stay in place, no matter how active you are. This is perfect for pilots who need to be able to move around freely without having to worry about their microphone falling out of place.
The EM56 noise reflective microphone helps to block out distracting noises so that you can focus on what’s happening around you and enjoy your flight even more.
The 50mm mono audio speakers provide superior sound quality so that you can enjoy your flight even more.
The Foam Fit comfort ear seals keep out noise and distractions, prevent ear fatigue, and fit comfortably on your ears.
The adjustable stainless steel headband ensures a perfect fit for any flyer.
The universal 3.5mm auxiliary music port means you can listen to your favorite music while flying and keep yourself entertained and focused during long flights.
Bose A20 Aviation Headset
The Bose A20 aviation headset is one of the best on the market, and it’s been tested for comfort, noise reduction, and more. If you’re looking for a quality headset that will last, the Bose A20 is a great choice. It features Active Noise Reduction technology to reduce ambient noise, and it’s been designed with comfort in mind. It’s also Bluetooth-enabled, so you can use it with your smartphone or other devices. The Bose A20 is a great choice for pilots of all experience levels.
- Reduces noise by 30% compared to other aviation headsets
- Fits more comfortably and with less clamping force than other aviation headsets
- Equalizes audio signals automatically for enhanced clarity and intelligibility
- Can connect wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled devices
- Can prioritize audio signals using “mute” or “mix” mode
- Certified to FAA TSO and E/TSO-C139 standards
- Mic can be connected to either the left or right earcup
- Battery life of up to 45 hours from just 2 AA batteries.
The Bose A20 generates 30% greater active noise canceling than a conventional aviation headset, a total noise reduction rating of 24dB. In addition, it has 30% less clamping force These two benefits alone are enough to make it stand out from the rest.
The ergonomically designed auxiliary audio input with intercom/AUX priority switching is ideal for traffic warning systems and dedicated GPS.
Plug & Play
- Plug it in, turn it on, go flying.
- No need to adjust settings or fuss with complicated controls.
- Enjoy clear sound quality and noise reduction without any distractions.
- Fly with ease and confidence, knowing that your headset is simple and easy to use.
Bluetooth audio and communications interface
- Allows you to control the audio mix of communications and music
- Simplifies use for pilots who are new to aviation headsets.
- Enjoy a distraction-free flight.
- Keep your focus on what’s happening around you, not just what’s going on in your headset.
David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset
The David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset is a noise-canceling headset that reduces noise by 30% compared to other aviation headsets. It also fits more comfortably and with less clamping force than other aviation headsets. The headset equalizes audio signals automatically for enhanced clarity and intelligibility and can connect wirelessly to Bluetooth-enabled devices.
It can prioritize audio signals using “mute” or “mix” mode. The microphone can be connected to either the left or right earcup, and the battery life is up to 45 hours from just 2 AA batteries.
The David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset is also a noise-canceling headset that exceeds RTCA/DO-214 Standards. It has an expanded, super-soft, double foam head pad, a larger, yet lighter, undercut, Comfort Gel, ear seals, and a universal flex boom for perfect microphone placement. It also has an exclusive M-7A, the most advanced noise-canceling microphone available.
The low-profile volume control knob has detent settings, and the molded cord assembly is made to exceptional pull and flex standards. The headset also has a 5-Year Warranty and is made in the USA. It is FAA TSO Approved C-57b, C58a, and has a certified Noise Reduction Rating of 23 dB.
The David Clark headsets are easily recognizable by the distinctive green color and logo on each ear cup. When I first bought mine I started to notice them in all kinds of TV shows and documentaries.
The David Clark H10-13.4 is the perfect choice for pilots of all experience levels.
- Tested by pilots – private, commercial, and military
- A quality headset that will last for years
- Reduces noise effectively and has crystal-clear sound quality
- The perfect choice for pilots of all experience levels
- Bluetooth enabled for easy connection to smartphones and other devices
Super Soft, Double Foam Head Pad
- Comfortably reduces pressure points.
- Prevents head fatigue.
- Emotional benefits:
- Feel at ease while flying long distances.
- Stay alert and safe in the cockpit.
New Comfort gel, undercut ear seals
Enjoy your flight even more with reduced pressure points and no head fatigue.
Universal Flex Boom for perfect microphone placement
- The microphone will never fall out of place, even during the most active activities.
- You’ll be able to move around freely and not have to worry about the microphone getting in the way.
- Feel confident that your voice will be heard loud and clear no matter what you’re doing.
Exclusive M-7A, the most advanced noise-canceling microphone available
- Crystal clear sound quality.
- Reduces distracting background noise.
- Perfect for use in busy environments.
- Feel more confident and in control when transmitting
Low-profile volume control knob with detent settings
- The low-profile volume control knob is easy to use.
- It’s made from durable materials that will last for years.
- If something goes wrong with your headset, they’ll fix it or replace it.
- You can count on our quality and durability.
- You’ll never have to worry about your headset breaking down on you.
- You can focus on flying without having to worry about your equipment.
Kore Aviation KA-1 PNR Aviation Headset with Carrying Case
Looking for a top-of-the-line aviation headset that will provide you with maximum comfort and clear sound? Look no further than the Kore Aviation KA-1 passive noise reduction General Aviation headset This luxurious headset is made with high-quality materials and features ultra-soft gel ear seals for ultimate comfort.
It also boasts excellent noise reduction capabilities, making it perfect for both pilots and passengers. Plus, every purchase comes with a free custom carry bag while stocks last.
- High-density acoustic foam ear cups for best in class noise attenuation
- Clear 50mm performance audio speakers
- Ultra-soft silicone gel ear seals that allow your ears to breathe
- Dual volume controls for quick adjustment on each ear
- Electret noise-canceling flex-boom microphone for quiet communication
- Gold plated plugs for the best connection and corrosion resistance
- Tough molded Y-block Mono/Stereo switch
- 3.5mm audio port for iOS/ Android/ MP3 compatibility (will need separate male-to-male 3
Aviation Headset FAQ
- What are ANR aviation headsets?
- What are PNR aviation headsets?
- How long do aviation headsets last?
- Do student pilots need a headset?
- How do I choose an aviation headset?
- Do flight schools provide headsets?
- Why do aviation headsets cost so much?
- Should a student pilot get a Bose A20?
- What headsets do airline pilots use?
- What headset do military pilots use?
1. What are ANR aviation headsets?
An ANR aviation headset is a type of aviation headset that uses active noise reduction technology to reduce the amount of environmental noise that reaches the user’s ear. This technology employs small microphones inside the ear cups to detect sound waves, which are then processed by a microchip and inverted so that they cancel out incoming noise before it can reach the ear.
ANR aviation headsets are typically more expensive than their passive counterparts, but many pilots find them to be worth the investment for their improved audio clarity and comfort.
2. What are PNR passive noise reduction aviation headsets?
Passive noise reduction aviation headsets are headsets designed to reduce the amount of environmental noise that enters the ear cup. This is accomplished by using specialized materials and construction techniques to create a seal around the ear. The seal blocks out most of the sound, which allows pilots to better hear communications and alerts from cockpits.
3. How long do aviation headsets last?
Aviation headsets are very durable and last a long time. If the battery or headphone jack is damaged, it’s easy to replace.
4. Do student pilots need a headset?
Yes, all student pilots need a headset. Many flight schools provide headsets for students, but you can’t be certain that there will always be one available so it’s always good to have your own just in case.
5. Do flight schools provide headsets?
Yes, most flight schools provide headsets for students to use during their training. However, it’s always a good idea to have your own headset for several reasons. School headsets are used by many students so there’s a fair amount of wear and tear. If you’ve followed this guide you’ll probably buy a headset that suits you and your needs whereas the flight school headset could be any type. Also, there is the issue of hygiene. Do you want to use a headset that has been used by several people?
6. Why do aviation headsets cost so much?
A top of the range aviation headset can cost over $1000, so why do these high-priced items weigh so much on our wallets? The answer is simple: quality and durability. Like all electronic devices that receive a lot of use, it’s the durability of the quality and components that separate the expensive from the less expensive models.
7. Should a Student Pilot get a Bose A20?
It’s one of the best quality aviation headsets on the market and it’s built to last. It’s also very comfortable and has great noise reduction capabilities, but it’s also one of the more expensive. Buying such a headset is a personal choice. If you can afford it, go for it! If not, save your money and buy something that is almost as good.
8. What headsets do airline pilots use?
Many airline pilots use David Clark headsets. These headsets are designed to provide maximum comfort and audio quality, and they’re built to last. They’re also relatively affordable, making them a popular choice for many pilots.
9. What headset do military pilots use?
Military pilots tend to use headsets that have the best noise canceling abilities. they need to avoid being distracted by the sound of their own engine and other noises in the cockpit.
10. Should I use a wireless headset?
It’s a matter of personal choice and that will probably be based upon the type of aircraft flown and therefore the layout of a cockpit. Some pilots prefer to have the reassurance of a wired connection. It may seem less advance but sometimes it’s the best option. A wireless headset means there’s one more thing to go wrong i.e. a break in the WiFi connectivity.
Aviation Headset History
Radio communications in aircraft have a long and interesting history. The first radios were used for experimental purposes in the early 1900s, and by World War II, radios were being used for air-to-ground and air-to-air communication. Today, radios are an essential part of aviation, used for everything from communication to navigation.
As important as radios are, however, they can be difficult to use effectively if you can’t hear them properly.
Aviation headsets were first introduced in the early 1920s when pilots started using them to communicate with one another. At the time, these headsets were made of cloth and leather, and they were not very comfortable to wear.
In the 1930s, the first flying helmets were created. These helmets were made of metal and they had ear cups that protected the pilot’s ears from the noise.
With the onset of World War II aviation technology was boosted thanks to the needs of military pilots for whom communication was often a matter of life or death.
With the arrival of the Jet Age in the 1950s, aviation headsets became even more popular with increased demand in military, civil, and general aviation.
Today, the aviation headsets used in aircraft of all types are much more advanced than those of 100 years ago thanks to digital technology. As the materials and the noise-canceling technology evolve we can expect them to become lighter and more efficient as time passes.
Radion Communications in the Cockpit
Radio communications have been used in the cockpit of light aircraft for many years. In the early days, pilots would use voice radios to communicate with one another. This was often difficult, as the radios could only transmit a certain distance and the pilots had to be careful not to talk over one another.
In recent years, radio communications have been replaced by digital systems. These systems allow pilots to communicate with each other using text messages. This is much more efficient, as it allows pilots to communicate without interrupting one another. In addition, digital systems can transmit messages over a much greater distance than voice radios.
Digital systems have also been used to communicate with air traffic controllers. This has allowed pilots to receive information about their flight path, and has helped to improve safety in the cockpit. In addition, digital systems can be used to receive weather updates and other important information.
Overall, digital radio communications have played a major role in the safety of light aircraft. They have allowed pilots to communicate more effectively with one another, and have also helped to improve safety in the cockpit.
Aviation Headset Flight Test
A few years ago I conducted a flight test with the ZeroPoint Aviation Z-1 headset.
Here’s the manufacturer’s description of this product:
“The Z-1 Headset provides affordability with the best available features, ideal comfort and noise reduction with ultra-soft gel ear seals, crystal clear sound with built-in dual-driver technology, and exceptional durability backed by our lifetime warranty”.Zeropoint Aviation
This headset is definitely affordable when you compare the price against the market leaders but there is only one way to test the features and quality and that’s to go flying and using them.
So I met up with PPL holder Mike outside a small hangar at Solent Airport, which is a General Aviation airfield in southern England with a long history dating back to 1917. Right away, Mike pre-flighted our aircraft for the test, G-COVZ, a 45-year-old Cessna 150, and christened ‘Covid Zulu’ for the day! If you’ve flown in a C-150 you’ll know they’re not the roomiest of cockpits when there are two grown men aboard, but it was adequate for our needs.
With pre-flight checks, complete Mike and I unpacked our headsets, strapped in, and then plugged in. The Z-1s has a sturdy build quality and after a few minor adjustments, they were comfortably in place. There is an AUX port and they ship with a spare AUX cable – ideal for passengers and pilots alike who want to plug in that all-important music.
Right from the start, we were struck by quality. Mike mentioned that the microphone in particular was very clear. “They seem to have got the frequency just right,” he remarked. Another great feature is the dual volume controls. We had a few minutes to adjust our headsets as we taxied from the hangars on the north side of the airfield to the holding point for runway 05.
Ready To Depart
While we were parked at the hold Mike swapped out his Z-1 headset and tested his David Clark’s, then returned to the Z-1. Apart from perhaps a little extra noise canceling from the David Clark headset account of a tighter grip, there was no difference.
We took off and turned south to fly in the airspace south of the airport, over the Solent, just to the north of the Isle of Wight.
Transmission and reception were very clear. We had no trouble understanding each other or the messages to and from the Tower and from other aircraft in the vicinity. Our experience in this flight test bears out the testimonials that used to be on the ZeroPoint Aviation website.
All in all, Mike and I were pleasantly surprised by the build and the quality of the mic. You can pay three times as much for a headset but you won’t get three times the quality. So much of the pricing, as with many items in the aviation world (any anywhere else), is decided by the brand. Yes, you could go for a name that’s been around for a long time and which your fellow flyers recommend but why pay so much when you’re not going to notice any significant difference?
Sadly, since that flight test in 2019 Zeropoint Aviation’s website has gone offline and their Facebook page hasn’t had an update since December 2020, so I guess they’re no longer operating.
An aviation headset that is well cared for maintained can last several years or more, and while noise reduction technology is evolving it’s only doing so in small increments.
Air Travel Headphones
Air travel can be noisy for several reasons and the longer the noise, the worse its effect on your mood and general wellbeing. Aside from the constant background noise of the aircraft, its engines, and cabin air circulation, there is the noise that your fellow passengers make.
As an air passenger, you want to enjoy the flight and arrive at your destination fresh and relaxed. If you don’t do any recreational flying of any kind, either as a passenger or a pilot, then you might be wondering if an aviation headset would be suitable for traveling in airliners in which there is are fairly predictable levels of noise within a commercial airliner.
There’s no doubt that aviation headsets are vastly superior to those cheap ones handed out by the cabin crew. On a long-haul flight, a good quality noise-canceling headset not only makes all the media and entertainment more enjoyable but also helps you to have better quality sleep.
However, it might look a bit odd if you’re wearing a headset with a boom mic while travelling as an airline passenger. Choose a high-quality headset that has noise-canceling technology but no mic. It should be wired, with any wireless or bluetooth functionality as optional extras.