According to the FAA, unprotected exposure to loud noise (higher than 90dB) for eight or more hours per day over a period of several years, may cause permanent hearing loss. Research suggests that pilots are one of the groups of people most affected by hearing loss and this is especially evident in those who began flying before the advent of headsets.
Without proper hearing protection, the aviation working environment may lead to noise-induced hearing impairment. So it’s crucial to protect yourself from potentially harmful noise using proper hearing protection equipment (FAA recommendations).
The key to this is having a headset that is purpose-built to handle and reduce such noise. That’s why having a decent aviation headset is so important, not only for effective communication and safety but for protection.
In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of the best pilot headsets available to guarantee that you get both clear communications and a safe reduction in the level of harmful noise.
But first, take a look at our buyer’s guide to help you consider the essential things to look for in any headset.
Buyer’s Guide: What to Consider Before Buying?
In-ear or on-ear
On-ear are the most commonly used, and there are far more options.
There aren’t very many models of in-ear headsets so we didn’t include any in our selection.
In-ear headsets can be very lightweight and comfortable, but the fit varies from person to person.
So it’s a very personal choice.
The one that fits your pilot friend may not be the best for you.
Noise-canceling technology PNR or ANR
A headset’s ability to reduce the noise of the cockpit is critical.
- There are aviation headsets that provide Passive Noise Reduction (PNR), which is the physical blocking of cockpit noise, so there is not much technology involved. The earpads are designed to fully cover the ears and create a tight seal. The better the seal created the more effective a PNR headset will be.
- There are also aviation headsets that provide Active Noise Reduction (ANR), which is the additional electronic canceling of noise. ANR headsets will provide you with an additional level of hearing protection. ANR headsets can reduce ambient cabin noise by up to 30 decibels compared to PNR headsets, which typically reduce cabin noise by 15 to 20 decibels.
Although ANR headsets are more expensive, you will get the additional benefit of feeling less fatigued after using a set.
When looking for the best aviation headset, many pilots prefer ANR systems but if you are just starting out, you can perhaps begin by trying a set of PNR headsets
It’s important to remember that if your headset is too uncomfortable to wear, it doesn’t matter how good its noise cancellation performance is.
In general, the lighter a headset is, the more comfortable it will feel on long flights.
Look for the features that are most important to you: fully adjustable microphone or just from left to right, an adjustable headband with good quality padding under the strap underneath and around the ears etc.
And remember that comfort for a pilot is not a ten-minute thing, it has to last many hours.
Heavier headsets can strain your neck and shoulders.
Headsets that have the batteries in the earcup tend to be heavier.
Some earcups made of gel pads may be more comfortable, but they are heavier than foam.
But don’t get obsessive about weight differences, you are looking for a combination of factors that suit you.
Cables and plugs
Be sure your aviation headset has the correct plugs.
Depending on which type of aircraft you fly, you may need to buy other connectors or plugs because these are not always included with the headset.
So do some research before buying to see if you need to purchase any special connectors or adaptors.
Money is always a consideration when buying any piece of specialized equipment and when it comes to headsets, there are many price ranges.
But because this is a very important piece of kit in your flying career, it will pay to remember that you generally get what you pay for.
So carefully evaluate the top-performing models reviewed below to decide which one best suits your needs and budget.
In some cases, the headset comes with a case and some accessories to keep it as good as new.
Some models, like the David Clark DC One, can be stored flat and take very little space when in their case.
Headsets are not only designed to reduce sound, but they also need to deliver good quality audio.
This is a very important purchasing consideration because there is a chance that you could be compromising the safety of the flight if your comms system is not the best that it can be.
Most plane accidents are a result of bad or miscommunication.
These extra features are always a plus, so look out for them when doing your evaluation.
Volume adjustment for both ears or just one?
Bluetooth? Many headsets have the option of being connected by Bluetooth to your smartphone for calls or music. It’s an option, for some, but it’s also a more expensive function that you can safely live without.
Mono-stereo switch? Mono is good for radio communication and stereo is great for music. Your call.
Look for durable and good quality headsets with a long warranty.
This should be your mantra for all the specialized pieces of gear or electronics that you buy.
Which aviation headset is best for you?
To help you to answer this question we’ve compiled a selection of the best headsets to suit every budget.
|Name||Bose A20 Aviation Headset||Lightspeed Zulu 3||David Clark DC One X Headset||Lightspeed Sierra ANR headset||David Clarks H10 13.4 Aviation Headset||KA1 PNR Headset||Rugged air RA200 Headset||Asa HS 1 Aviation Headset|
|Batteries||2 AA / 45 hours||2 AA / 40 hours||2 AA / 50 hours||2 AA / 40 hours||Not needed||Not needed||Not needed||Not needed|
|Weight||12 oz||14.6 oz||12.3 oz||16 oz||16.5 oz||33 oz||19.2 oz||12 oz|
|Warranty||5 years||7 years||5 years + 30 days money-back guarantee||5 years||5 years||5 years||7 years||lifetime|
|Noise reduction||Yes (ANR)||Yes (ANR)||Yes (ANR)||Yes (ANR)||23 dB (PNR)||Up to 24 dB (PNR)||24 dB (PNR)||23 dB (PNR)|
BEST HIGH-END HEADSET: BOSE A20
“Our Premium Pick”
Our Rate: 5/5
- 30% greater active noise reduction than conventional aviation headsets. Connectivity Technology: Wired/Wireless
- 30% less clamping force than conventional aviation headsets. The ergonomic control module includes an auxiliary audio input with intercom/AUX priority switching, ideal for dedicated GPS and traffic warning systems
- Clear audio with active equalization. Simple, intuitive headset operation—plug it in, turn it on, go flying
- Now with Bluetooth audio and communications interface for connectivity with your communications and navigation devices
- Customizable audio prioritization control lets you mute an audio signal when receiving a communication, or mix the two together
This is by far and away the best aviation headset on the market. It’s the lightest and the most comfortable to wear. Bose was the first company to introduce active noise reducing (ANR) headsets, and these offer a 30% greater noise reduction than conventional aviation headsets. If you are looking for the best noise-canceling headset, this is the one. That’s why it’s our Premium Pick.
- 5 years warranty
- Active equalization to improve and enjoy clear audio.
- Customizable audio prioritization: Choose “mute” to immediately mute an auxiliary audio signal when receiving a communication. Choose “mix” to mix in-bound communication with your Bluetooth or plugged in audio signal.
- Side swappable mic: connect the mic to either left or right earcup
- Simple, intuitive ergonomic control
- 45 hours battery life.
- Weight 12oz
- Best active noise reduction and sound quality
- Audio Input
- 45 hours of continuous use
- Protein leather ear seals
- Plugs and connectors sold separately
RUNNER UP: Lightspeed Zulu 3
Lightspeed is one of the most popular headsets manufacturers in the world, renowned for superior, comfort, quality and quiet. The lightspeed Zulu has been a favorite for years and it’s been technologically developed for Active Noise Reduction (ANR) while not diminishing any elements of comfort or practicality.
Our Rate: 4.8/5
- Zulu 3 is outfitted with new cables built around a Kevlar core, which are stronger, lighter, and more flexible than standard cables. The more durable cables complement the other premium materials used in the rest of the headset construction, including the magnesium cups, sliders, and the stainless steel headband.
- Retains the same award winning Lightspeed ANR and all of the most popular features of Zulu.2, such as Bluetooth for phone and music, Auto Shutoff, and ComPriority. It also has an exclusive user adjustable mic gain adjustment to get the audio and side tone just right for all voices.
- A taller head pad option ensures maximum comfort and performance on smaller head shapes.
- Backed by an industry-best 7-year-warranty from Lightspeed.
- New contoured ear seals are designed to hug the curve of the jaw, reducing side pressure to get a more natural fit for more comfort and stability. These ear seals create 30 to 50 percent more space for the ear than other ANR headsets, a key feature of long-term user comfort.
- 7 years warranty
- Auto shut off 5 minutes after removing
- 30-50% more space for the ear than other ANR headsets
- Stainless steel headband, built to endure the harshest flying environments and last for years to come.
- Ear seals are designed to hug the curve of the jaw, creating a more natural fit that increases comfort and stability
- Battery length of 40 hours
- Weight: 14.6oz
- Auto shut off will save battery
- Comfort: Larger cup cavities provide more space for your ears, allowing the entire ear to fit comfortably inside, preventing the pain caused by seals pressing against the edge of the ear.
- Easy connection
- Slightly heavier than Bose a20
BEST BATTERY LIFE: David Clark DC One X Headset
These headsets combine advanced comfort and technology, providing one of the best passive noise reduction from any ANR headset. The DC ONE-X has earned a solid reputation as the premier brand of aviation headsets for good reason: delivering high-performance without getting over-sophisticated while maintaining David Clark’s durability and quality.
Our Rate: 4.7/5
- David Clark Headset Bag, (2) AA batteries included
- Weight (without cord assembly) 12.3 oz
- TSO-C139a Approved
- Five-year warranty and 30-Day, money back guarantee, backed by industry leading customer service.
- 5 years warranty
- Hybrid Electronic Noise Cancellation (ENC) providing excellent noise cancellation
- Bluetooth wireless audio for easy connectivity with Smartphones and tablets
- Audio Mute: reduces auxiliary audio volume and prevents missed communications
- Weight: 12.3 oz
- Flat storage, taking less space
- Lightweight, similar to Bose a20
- The 50 hours of useful, battery life is longer than the rest
- Good quality of construction
- Intuitive multi-function control pad
- 30 days money back guarantee
- No audio input
- Leatherette ear seals
BEST MID RANGE HEADSET: Lightspeed Sierra ANR headset
It is the perfect choice for any pilot stepping up to a Premium ANR headset, an ideal choice if you’re looking for a mid priced headset. Sierra offers high-end performance and features: including outstanding noise cancelation, Bluetooth, an audio input, dual volume controls, and a carrying case.
Our Rate: 4.6/5
- Auto Shut-Off
- Battery status indicator
- (2) AA Batteries - 40 hours of operation
- Stereo/Mono switchable
- Left and right ear volume controls
- Great noise cancellation
- Lightspeed’s in-cockpit recording app
- 40 hours battery
- Audio input
- Weight: 16 oz
- Auto Shut-Off feature((Sierra will auto shut off approximately two minutes after the headset is removed from head, saving even more battery)
- The best start for newbies in the world of ANR headsets
- Battery status indicator
- Dual volume controls
- Control settings not customizable
- Slightly expensive
BEST VALUE: David Clarks H10 13.4 Aviation Headset
It is one of the least expensive options that you can find when looking for a high quality headset. It’s got it all: comfort, performance, and reliability and it’s one of David Clark’s most popular and long lasting headsets. It’s the perfect choice for both experienced pilots and for those who are still students.
Our Rate: 4.5/5
- Super Soft, Double Foam Head Pad
- New Comfort gel, undercut ear seals
- Universal Flex Boom for perfect microphone placement
- Exclusive M-7A, the most advanced noise-cancelling microphone available
- Low-profile volume control knob with detent settings
- 5 year warranty
- New comfort gel earpads
- Universal Flex boom mic, allows you to place it in the perfect position
- Weight: 16.5oz
- Super soft foam
- Super durable
- The most advanced noise-canceling microphone
- High-quality volume, ANR not necessary
- Good value for money
- Not comparable to high-end headsets noise reduction
- Only a single volume control
BEST FOR PILOT STUDENTS: KA1 PNR Headset
If you don’t want to spend a fortune, KA1 PNR headset is the headset for you. Kore aviation is a family business with over 30 years of experience in aviation and communications equipment manufacturing. KA is the best passive noise reduction headset for those fliers on a budget.
Our Rate: 4.5/5
- Mono & Stereo Support with Built-in Y-block Switch on Cable
- Premium Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 24db for Hearing Protection
- Extra Comfortable Gel Ear Seals with Flexible Boom Mic
- Dual Volume Control on Each Ear Cup with 3.5mm Plug for MP3/iPhone/iPad/Android
- FREE Carrying Case Included!
- Super light
- Premium gel ear seals for better comfort
- Up to 50% passive noise reduction
- 24 db noise reduction hearing protection
- Mono and stereo mode
- Dual volume control on each ear cup; so you can individually adjust the level of each earcup
- To guarantee that you get clear communications from the airport radio tower also reduces every interfering noise.
- Extra Comfortable gel earcups
- Premium noise reduction adjustments are easy and hold steady
- Carrying case
- Dual Volume controls
- Volume controls hard to balance
- You must get the KORE AVIATION Premium Deluxe Cloth Ear Cover for Pilot Aviation Headset. Without these, the gel ear seals will rapidly become hot.
- No Bluetooth
MOST AFFORDABLE: Rugged air RA200 Headset
The Rugged Air RA200 is our most affordable headset in the list, making it a perfect choice for student pilots. This is a very user-friendly aviation headset, easy to operate and comfortable to wear. It offers a great value for money.
Our Rate: 4.0/5
- 3.5mm Input Jack for Music Devices
- Foam Comfort Ear Seals Provide All Day Comfort
- EM56 Noise Reflective Cup Microphone with New Flex Boom
- Includes Headset Bag Featuring Soft Interior Liner and Nylon Shell
- 50mm Performance Audio Speakers and 24dB Noise Reduction Hearing Protection
- Foam comfort ear seals
- Em 56 noise reflective cup microphone to surrounded by foam to block the winds
- 50mm Performance Audio Speakers and 24dB Noise Reduction Hearing Protection
- The best to start out with
- 7-year warranty
- Weight 13.4oz
- Most affordable option, below a $100
- Easy to fit and use
- Foam padded ear seals
- Noise reduction
- Sound quality is not the best
- Not suitable for long use
- No Bluetooth
BEST WARRANTY: Asa HS 1 Aviation Headset
Asa HS1 Aviation headset has been engineered and manufactured by experts in the headset industry. If you are wanting a headset for medium-range flights with exceptional comfort and PNR or you want a spare headset for the plane, look no further. They are not the $1000 Bose A20, but they are well built with the most advanced technology and high-quality components and they provide excellent communication for a reasonable price.
Our Rate: 4.3/5
- Earcups of high-density acoustic foam for best passive noise attenuation
- Has noise reduction rating (NRR) 23 dB
- High fidelity speakers for clear, natural sound
- Electret, noise-canceling flex-boom microphone reduces background noise and allows clearest voice transmission
- Gold-plated microphone and headphone plugs ensure best connection and resist corrosion
- Noise reduction rating 23db
- Foam ear seals
- Dual volume controls
- Weight: 12 oz
- Lifetime warranty
- Microphone adjustable at any height
- Good comfort for the price
- High-density ear cups
- Noise reduction isn’t the best
- Microphone doesn’t have a foam cover, which would improve noise cancellation
- Cord too short
All the headsets reviewed are the best and top aviation models available, so your selection task should now be a lot easier for you.
You just need to read through the reviews to know which headsets have the features that suit you the best.
If you are balancing out features and cost, warranty and ruggedness, then our recommendations will go a long way in helping you make your decision.
For those who spend a lot of time inside a cockpit and are looking for the most revolutionary aviation headsets, then you should read through our top high end picks. You need the best hearing protection and comfort available on the market and these high picks provide exactly that.
As we said in our Premium Pick, Bose A20 headsets are the best in the market today, and they promise the best active noise reduction.
If you are looking for something above standard and close to excellence but with more middle range pricing, then with a Lightspeed Sierra headset you’ll be closer to the comfort and quality of the Bose a20 but with a more inexpensive price tag.
If you are new in the industry or you want a well-made headset that sounds great and won’t cost you an arm and a leg, then you should check out our more affordable pick, the budget-priced headset ASA aviation HS1. This is your best choice if you are searching for a long-lasting quality headset under $200.
Last update on 2020-10-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API