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Choosing a pilot headset

A guide to get you started - Factors should you consider before investing in a new headset?

ANR Technology

One of the first factors to look at is whether or not you want an active noise reduction (ANR) headset or a more traditional passive noise reduction model. Active noise reduction is a relatively new technology that is especially effective at reducing low frequency noise, such as the engine and propeller noise in a light aircraft. Plantronics Aviation Headsets are for use in cockpits of commercial aircrafts which are relatively quiet and are not active noise reduction.

Noise Attenuation and Sound Quality

Since the primary reason for wearing a headset is to protect your hearing, you need to know how well any headset reduces the amount of noise reaching your ears. Both passive and active noise reduction headsets come with a noise reduction rating or NRR. The Environmental Protection Agency requires headset manufacturers to test their products and determine by how much they reduce noise. This figure is then reported as an NRR, given in decibels (dB). An NRR of 26 dB tells you that a headset reduces the amount of noise reaching your ears by 26 dB.

After protecting your hearing, the greatest value of a headset is in allowing you to communicate more clearly and easily both inside the cockpit, through the use of an intercom, and outside the cockpit when talking to air traffic control, flight service, or other aircraft. To make sure that a headset is helping, not hurting, the quality of your communications, you need to know a little about its microphone and speakers.

There are three primary types of microphones electret, carbon, and dynamic. Plantronics Aviation headsets usa the carbon equivalent type microphone. Carbon microphones are the simplest and least expensive. In carbon mics, the movement of a diaphragm is transmitted to carbon granules inside a small container connected to the diaphragm. As sound waves strike the diaphragm, the carbon granules move. The resulting fluctuations in the current running through the system are then amplified and transmitted.


You want to consider weight, padding, adjustability, and materials.

How tightly a headset clamps against your head helps determine how well it keeps out noise. This is especially true for passive noise reduction models. But a headset that pushes too tightly will leave you with a headache. Because everyone is different, the only way to know if a headset will clamp too tightly or not tightly enough is to try it out.

The weight of a headset can dramatically affect your comfort level, especially over time. Heavier headsets can strain your neck and shoulders. Most manufacturers list the weight of their headsets in the product specifications so you can compare.

The type and amount of padding in a headset also can make a difference. Padding under the headband and around the ears is most important, but some headsets can be comfortable for long periods with minimal padding.

All headsets adjust to some degree. Most have adjustable headbands to help you position the ear seals comfortably. But most headsets were originally designed and sized with men in mind. Petite women will want to be sure to choose a headset with a band that adjusts small enough to give them a proper fit. The microphone boom on most headsets also is adjustable. Some pilots prefer a fully adjustable boom so that they can position the microphone with great precision. Others are just as comfortable with a hinged boom that typically bends at one or two places along its length. In addition, some booms swing all the way around, allowing you to wear the mic on the left or right side, depending on whether you are sitting in the left or right seat.

Finally, the materials that go into your headset can affect your comfort. Metal headsets tend to be a little heavier than plastic ones but may be more adjustable. Gel padding tends to be a little heavier than foam, but many pilots believe it provides somewhat better cushioning. Vinyl-covered surfaces, especially around the earseals, can be uncomfortably sweaty in hot weather, but knit or cotton covers may not give you as good a seal. Keep all of these things in mind as you shop.

Other Features

In addition to the basics, most headsets come with one or more additional features. Before buying you should think about how significant these features are to you.

Some headsets come with a carrying case like the MS200, MS250 and MS260 to protect your investment. While this may save you a little money on the purchase, you can readily buy headset cases separately and your flight bag may have a headset compartment as well, so this is more of a bonus than a necessity.

Many headsets offer volume controls. Some models have a single knob on one earcup that controls volume for the unit as a whole. Others offer separate volume adjustments for each ear.