How Far Have Pilot Headsets Come In 25 Years

helicopter pilot headset reviews

The Best Pilot Headsets Keep Getting Better

AFFORDABLE AVIATION HEADSETS OF 1994

Loud and clear, quite and comfortable too

When we decided to put together a roundup of mid-priced pilot headsets, we were a bit daunted by the possibilities. What we wanted to do was provide our readers with information about the units on the market which could be purchased for about $200 or less.

There are a lot of units on the market which would qualify for inclusion in our test, too many, in fact, for us to put together in one review. So we rounded up some of the most popular brands, and paired them with comparable sets offered by other manufacturers at substantially less money to see how they stacked up.

The results were predictable at times and surprising at others. On the whole, the more expensive models delivered more satisfying performance. This was not universally the case, however. Other less expensive models sometimes featured better components or performance.

To test the sets we performed a variety of trials the consumer might make himself. For starters, we flew in them for as many hours as we could manage to get away from our word processors. We tested them in loud noise spaces and in lower noise spaces, both at a variety of frequency levels.

And we tweaked and mauled the sets in every conceivable way. If the units had any problems in basic construction (short of long-term durability), we found them. And we tell you about it, too. And a note on figures. Many of the specifications in our roundup were supplied by the manufacturer, so we can’t vouch for their accuracy.

In any case, a high noise reduction rating does not necessarily guarantee the quietest headsets. The figures should be used as a guide only. The result of our tests, we feel, should still come in very handy for our readers looking for a good, mid-priced aviation headset.

The roundup should provide a helpful overview of the current market, which should help our readers choose a headset which will improve the quality of their flying experience without breaking the bank. And if you’re looking at another model not tested here, you should be able to use this roundup as a comparison of quality and features to help you make a choice there, too.

PILOT AVIONICS PA-11 90

Pilot avionics pilot headset PA-11 90 review

One of the biggest surprises in this year’s roundup was Pilot Avionic’s PA 11-90 “Professional Series” headset. Featuring good noise attenuation, a high-quality electret microphone, and a whole laundry list of features, this comfortable, solidly-built set seems an exceptional value.

We especially liked the comfort of the model. Weighing only 12.9 ounces, the Pilot Avionic’s PA 11 headset still has excellent fit. Even under hard use, the set stays in place without fail. We also liked the easy adjustability of the headband. Two plastic screws control this adjustment which can be changed in a matter of seconds.

The unit also fold s into a small package for easy storage in flight bags or under seats. Though small and light, the PA 11 pilot headset is very solidly built as well. It accomplished this trick by using thin yet strong stainless steel wire for the earcup attachments and for much of the headband structure.

Even the cord is of high-quality molded plastic with a built-in stereo/mono switch. We didn’t find much about headset we didn’t like, but there were a few points we’d like to see changed on future pilot headset models.

For one, the PA 11 has permanently-mounted ear seals. Though the air seals which come standard on the set provide good noise attenuation, many other headsets make this part interchangeable so that gel seals can be substituted for those pilots who prefer them.

One other negative was the ratcheting sound made by the boom mike adjustment. When amplified by the earcup, the sound becomes somewhat uncomfortable. Other than that, we found very little we didn’t like about the Pilot PA 11-90.

Indeed, it offers nearly everything more expensive units do, and it does it at a substantial savings. Moreover, we also tried out a couple of the company’s other headsets, the 11 -40 and the 11 -20 and found them to be equally well-designed.

In fact, the 11-20 pilot headset, although it doesn’t feature the folding design of the 11-90, has the same excellent sounding electret mike and is equipped with interchangeable ear seals. And at its around $135 mail order price, the unit is an exceptional buy.

  • Price: about $175 mail order

  • Weight: 12.9 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: about 24db

  • Warranty: Five years, unconditional

Review Ratings (1-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 5

  • Noise Attenuation – 4

  • Quality of construction – 4

  • Convenience – 4

Pilot Avionic’s PA 11-90 Features

  • Volume control: yes (with detents)

  • Mono/Stereo: yes

  • Adjustable headband: yes (very quick and easy adjustment)

  • Boom adjustability: yes (two-way adjustable)

  • Microphone type: electret (excellent sound)


DAVID CLARK H10-13.4

david clark h10-13.4 pilot headset

Like the P-51 and the leather flight jacket, the David Clark headset has long been an icon in American aviation. For years Clarks pilot headsets were the very best you could buy. Even if they were head-and-shoulders above the competition, they weren’t perfect.

Though bullet proof, early DC headsets were heavy, too tight, and rather pricey. In the past several years, however, David Clark has gone a long way toward re-claiming its legendary status by introducing headsets which were as innovative as they were classic.

The latest of these new-generation of headsets, the David Clark H10-13.4, is a tremendous achievement. Not only has DC created a light, comfortable, sturdy, lower-cost alternative to active noise-canceling sets costing twice as much, they’ve done it without sacrificing any of the legendary David Clark pilot headsets style.

Done up in the standard DC green and black, this headset looks classic but feels and sounds brand new. For starters the H10-13.4 is light, tipping the scales at a mere 13.4 ounces.

How the designers at DC pulled this off is beyond us, as the unit feels far more solid than one would think such a light set could ever be. Of course, because it’s so light, the H10-13.4 is a little less effective than other David Clark headsets in blocking out noise.

When used with the very comfortable gel seals, the unit has a rating of 23 decibels (21 with the air seals). Still, that 23-db figure was one of the best in our test. Engineering excellence is synonymous with the name David Clark, and the quality of the 13.4 can be appreciated just by examining the unit’s mike boom.

If you’re like me, you’ve worn too many pilot headsets with booms that took a lot of energy and attention to properly adjust. And then you had to keep adjusting them every few minutes as they slipped. Not with this set. The boom on the unit adjusts absolutely effortlessly.

Put it somewhere, and there it goes and there it stays, until you decide to move it somewhere else. It’s a good feeling. And the rest of the headset is equally well engineered. From the molded cord to the snug, soft, light headband, the H10-13.4 is built to delight.

Of course, you’ll have to pay a little more for the pleasure. Even though the 13.4 was the most expensive in our roundup, many pilots, we think, would be willing to spend a little more for the quality features the set offers.

  • Price: About $230 mail order

  • Weight: 13.4 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: 23 db (with gel seals) 21 db (with air seals)

  • Warranty: Five years

Review Ratings (7-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 5

  • Noise Attenuation – 4.5

  • Quality of construction – 5

  • Convenience – 4

David Clark H10-13.4 Features

  • Volume control: yes (with detents)

  • Mono/Stereo: yes

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: yes (the best in our test)

  • Microphone type: electret (very good sound quality)


PELTOR 7004

peltor 7004 pilot headset

Of all the sets we tested, the Peltor 7004 is one of the most unusual. Though remarkably light in weight, the set still sounds very good and still provides fine comfort. We weren’t surprised that this minimal-looking, Scandinavian-styled headset was by far the most portable set we tested. It looks as though it would be.

With a simple pop, the 7004 pilot headset can be folded into an oblong ball just slightly larger than the size of its earcups. It’s a remarkably convenient feature for those pilots who like to store their set in a flight bag or for those who rent aircraft and take their own headset along with them.

What did surprise us, however, was that the Peltor 7004 pilot headset, which features some pretty standard-looking foam seals, was easily the quietest headset we tested. How they pulled off this quiet revolution is hard to say, but they did.

Perhaps the headset’s noise-blocking effectiveness is due to its cozy, though comfortable, fit. Or maybe because of the very light headband on the 7004, Peltor designers were able to use more material in the earcups for better noise attenuation. In any case, the unit is a surprisingly quiet one.

We did find a couple of things about the unit which might take a while to get used to. For one, the volume control is on the forward side of the right earcup (or the back side of the left one depending on how you wear it), just under the arm of the mike boom. Placed in this position, the knob is slightly harder to reach than those on other sets we tested.

The tension on the knob of the set we received for evaluation was also far too tight, though it can be adjusted with the turn of a small screw. And though the size of the headband can be adjusted by two telescoping wires, this adjustment is also very tight and it takes a good bit of force to make the change.

Other than those minor sticking points, the Peltor 7004 pilot headset was an outstanding product, one which would certainly appeal to pilots looking for a good, mid-priced headset which delivers excellent performance while affording top-notch utility.

  • Price: about $195 mail order price

  • Weight: 13.3 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: 24 db

  • Warranty:Three years

Review Ratings (7-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 4.5

  • Noise Attenuation – 5

  • Quality of construction – 4.5

  • Convenience – 5

Peltor 7004 Features

  • Volume control: yes (though located in an unusual position)

  • Mono/Stereo: yes

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: yes (very good!)

  • Microphone type: electret (very good sound)


TELEX AIR 3000

telex air 3000 pilot headset review

The Telex Air 3000 was easily one of the most unusual headsets we tested for this year’s look at new units, and though its design is revolutionary, when you have it on your head, the set feels for all the world like an old friend.

And with a mail order price of around $150, the unit is certainly an excellent value. Like the Peltor, the Telex Air 3000 is designed to be very portable, and it is. When not in use, it can be folded in thirds, with one earcup folded over the other inside the headband.

In this configuration, the unit could easily be stowed in a flight bag, glove box, or any handy nook under or next to a seat. The 3000 pilot headsets features gel seals on the earcups, as well as a gel seal headband. In fact, the headband on the unit was the most easily adjustable we tested.

All it takes is a quick pull to lengthen the arms and achieve a different fit. Overall, the comfort of the set is very, very good. The lack of a couple of what are usually standard features surprised us though. For one, the Air 3000 lacks a volume control switch.

telex pilot headsets

For those pilots operating with an intercom system (and who doesn’t these days?), this is not a major matter. But for those users going strictly with a radio, a volume control on the earcup is a handy feature. The Telex pilot headset is also lacking a mono/stereo switch.

If these features were very important to the consumer, they could always opt for Telex’s impressive ProAir 2000E, which although it costs about $100 more than the 3000, has a long list of desirable features, and superior noise reduction rating (24 db to 21 db for the 3000), to boot. But when it comes to comfort and durability, we think the Air 3000 would be hard to beat.

With its excellent adjustability — the mike boom is every bit as good as that on the David Clark model—its outstanding workmanship, and fine noise attenuation, this headset represents an excellent option for pilots looking for a solid unit which will provide years of good service.

  • Price: about $ 150 mail order

  • Weight: 17 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: 21 db

  • Warranty: Three years

Review Ratings (7-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 5

  • Noise Attenuation – 4.5

  • Quality of construction – 5

  • Convenience – 5

Telex Air 3000 Features

  • Volume control: no

  • Mono/Stereo: no

  • Adjustable headband: yes (the best we tested)

  • Boom adjustability: yes (very good!)

  • Microphone type: electret (excellent sound)


FLIGHTCOM BLACKHAWK MODEL 5DX

flightcom blackhawk 5DX pilot headset

We have tested other Flightcom Blackhawk headsets before and we’re glad to say that the new model is the best yet. The thing which surprised us most about the unit was its quietness. While we’ve become accustomed to the good overall value Flightcom has offered, we weren’t ready for the fine overall quality of this unit.

While being somewhat less expensive than some other sets in our roundup, the Flightcom Blackhawk Model 5DX was one of the quietest we tried out. It also appears to be better built than previous Flightcom models we tested.

On a previous test unit run three years ago, we found problems with the durability of the microphone on the 4DX model. After six months of hard use, it simply came apart. The mike unit on this model is all new, and seems much more solidly constructed. The Blackhawk was one of the quickest sets we tested. It fits well and very snugly.

The boom mike on the set, however, was less than ideal. It has a considerable amount of play in it, so getting it to stay exactly where you put it is not easy. We found other features to be more to our liking. The volume knob was ideally located, quiet, and easy to turn, with several detents for a guide.

The headband is also easily adjustable, so getting the right fit is only a matter of a quick pull. And the unit features a mono/stereo switch for those who opt for high fidelity in the cockpit. In all, the 5DX continues the tradition of Flightcom’s line of value-packed pilot headsets.

  • Price: About $135 mail order price

  • Weight: less than 17 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: 24 db

  • Warranty: Three years

Review Ratings (1-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 3.5

  • Noise Attenuation – 4.5

  • Quality of construction – 4

  • Convenience – 4

Flightcom Blackhawk Model 5DX Features

  • Volume control: yes

  • Mono/Stereo: yes

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: average

  • Microphone type: electret (very good sound quality)


CONCEPT SOFT COMM C-60

concept soft comm c-60 pilot headset

The Soft Comm Model C-60 is this company’s step-up model. It features greater adjustability and more features than its other popular entry-level headsets. In fact, the C-60 sports one component we found was lacking on any other model in our test, a push-to-talk switch located on the earcup.

In aircraft without an integral push-to-talk switch, this would be a very handy item. The Concept Soft Comm C-60 model is also equipped with dual volume controls, which activate the set’s stereo/mono capabilities.

The C-60’s biggest weakness was in fit and noise attenuation. Despite having several adjustment points, we could never get the unit to fit very snugly. Consequently, the set was the least effective in our roundup at keeping outside noise levels to a minimum.

Still, the C-60’s overall list of desirable features and its attractive styling make it a strong contender in the mid-priced headset market. Moreover, its five-year warranty and its 60-day trial period will doubtless give consumers added confidence in the product.

  • Price: about $175 mail order

  • Weight: about 20 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: not-rated

  • Warranty: Five years

Review Ratings (1-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 3.5

  • Noise Attenuation – 3

  • Quality of construction – 3.5

  • Convenience – 4

Concept Soft Comm C-60 Features

  • Volume control: yes (dual controls and push-to-talk)

  • Mono/Stereo: yes

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: good

  • Microphone type: electret


AVCOM AC800 AND AC200

Avcom ac800 ac200 pilot headset review

Two new sets we wanted to look at this year were from Avcom, a new manufacturer out to make an impact in the market. Their two current models, the entry-level Avcom AC200 and the step-up model, Avcom AC800, should help them do just that.

What is unusual about the AC200 pilot headset is that despite its low price, $89.95 suggested retail, it still offers many of the features found on higher-priced units. For one, its adjustability is very good, thanks in large part to using a design very similar to that pioneered by David Clark many, many years ago.

From the boom, which can be placed just where you want it, to the headband, which can be lengthened or shortened in a second’s time, the set is surprisingly well-designed for the money.

The AC200 also features an electret mike, which delivers good sound quality. And its volume control setup is quite good as well, although the knob could use a little more tension. And while the AC200 is certainly a nice unit for the price, it is, not surprisingly, missing a few features, the most serious of which is long-term comfort.

Like early DCs, the Avcom feels pretty tight after a couple of hours behind the stick. And the unit’s noise attenuation was one of the lowest-ranking in the test. Still, all things considered, we were favorably impressed with the unit’s overall quality.

It represents, we feel, an excellent value in a introductory headset. For those looking for a more advanced set, the company has recently released a new model, the AC800, with gel seals, improved comfort, and more standard features, including a built-in push-to-talk button.

List price of the AC800 pilot headsets is less than $200, and it should be available through mail order for about $175. The AC800 model features earcups very similar (identical?) in design to those found on Soft Comm’s C-60 headset, but the fit of the Avcom unit was a good deal better than that of the C-60.

Like its less-expensive companion model, the AC800’s electronics sound very good, and the performance of the set’s mike boom and earphones was very good. For those pilots looking for an Avcom headset with more advanced features, the AC800 might be the one.

Model AC200

  • Price: $89.95 (suggested retail)

  • Weight: 14.6 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: 24 db

  • Warranty: One year

AVCOM AC200 Review Ratings (1-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 3.5

  • Noise Attenuation – 4

  • Quality of construction – 4

  • Convenience – 3.5

Features

  • Volume control: yes

  • Mono/Stereo: no

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: good

  • Microphone type: electret

Model AC800

  • Price: less than $200 (suggested retail)

  • Noise reduction rating: 24 db, claimed

  • Warranty: Three years

AVCOM AC800 Review Ratings (1-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 4

  • Noise Attenuation – 4

  • Quality of construction – 4

  • Convenience – 3.5

Features

  • Volume control: yes

  • Mono/Stereo: yes

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: very good

  • Microphone type: electret


SIGTRONICS S-65 GOLDWING

sigtronics s-65 goldwing pilot headset review

By far the flashiest pilot headsets we tested for our roundup was the Sigtronics S-65 Goldwing. Featuring 14K gold plated hardware contrasting dramatically with a jet black earcups and headpad, the unit looked like a million bucks. But how would it feel and how would it sound?

As it turns out, like two million bucks. The set was easily one of the quietest we evaluated, and we really liked the crisp sound of its electret mike. The very firm boom assembly adjusts smoothly and stays put automatically.

Adjustments can be made to the boom in no fewer than three places, at the cup, at the pivot, and at the mike. So it’s easy to come up with just the right placement. While the set felt quite snug at first, even after extended use, we experienced no discomfort from it.

That might be due to the unit’s very light weight (a mere 12 ounces) and its pivoting earcup attachments. And though the S-65 pilot headset is very light, it appears to be solidly constructed, with a steel over-the-head band supporting the earcups and thick ABS plastic earcups. Gel seals are provided with the set.

Anymore, I automatically put the gels on any set I use. They do so much to improve comfort and reduce noise that they really should be standard on all headsets. Overall, the S-65 was one of the most satisfying sets we tested. Offering a combination of light weight, excellent noise reduction, solid construction, and fine electronics, it’s a very strong performer.

  • Price: about $200 mail order

  • Weight: 12 ounces

  • Noise reduction rating: about 25 db

  • Warranty: Three years parts and labor

Sigtronics S-65 Goldwing Review Ratings (7-5, 5 being best)

  • Comfort – 4.5

  • Noise Attenuation – 5

  • Quality of construction – 5

  • Convenience – 4.5

Sigtronics S-65 Goldwing Features

  • Volume control: yes

  • Mono/Stereo: mono only

  • Adjustable headband: yes

  • Boom adjustability: yes (three-way adjustable)

  • Microphone type: electret (outstanding sound)


Want to learn about today’s modern headsets? Read our new article here: Choosing The Right Pilot Headset In 2018


Summary
How Far Have Pilot Headsets Come In 25 Years
Article Name
How Far Have Pilot Headsets Come In 25 Years
Description
Pilot headsets have come a long way, but what were they like 25 years ago? We show you where the industry was at and what they had to offer.
Author
Publisher Name
Sport Pilot

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