THE WORLD of aviation moves quickly, but one part that seems to move faster than most is headsets. With so many manufacturers around, it seems hard to know just what the latest and greatest products are.
There's the world of ANR, where headsets are expensive but come with the latest innovations in controlling sound. Then, there are passive headsets where the prices are greatly reduced due to the use of less intuitive technology.
That's not to say that a passive headset cant combine a smaller price tag with all the extra features of an ANR headset. That's how Beyerdynamic sees it and the company has tried to combine the best of both with its brand new headset.
The new HS400 Signum headset is an update to the company's popular HS300 passive noise reduction model. When we tested the HS300 a couple of years back, we were quite impressed overall, but we did have a grumble about the bulky audio box used to interface a phone or music player. This aspect of the headset has been improved, with the HS400 now featuring a smaller and neater audio box.
The audio box also accommodates the two AA batteries that are required to power the auxiliary audio input interface, dual Left/Right volume control sliders, an LED to indicate when the audio interface is powered on, and a second LED to show the status of the auto mute function.
The power-on LED also doubles as a battery capacity indicator by changing from steady to flashing when about 20 hours of battery life remain.
Battery power is only required for operation of the auxiliary audio interface, and not for the basic headset function. Sadly, neither the audio box nor the headset lead comes with a clip to secure them out of the way in the cockpit.
The HS400 features large circular ear cups that completely enclose the ears. The ear pads are made from viscoelastic material covered with very soft leatherette.
We've found this design to provide a good seal around the ears, even while wearing spectacles. The headband is made from lightweight spring steel and is covered with a removable headband pad.
The clamping force is quite low in comparison with many headsets.
Coupled with a weight of just 325g, the overall result is a very good level of comfort, even when wearing the headset for extended periods.
It's not a surprise that a light headset with gentle headband clamping should be comfortable, but what is surprising about the HS400 is that notwithstanding the comfort, the passive noise attenuation is excellent - as good as any passive headset we've used.
The HS400 features an electret mic with adjustable gam, mounted on a flexible boom that's easy to position and can be rotated to allow the mic to be placed on the left or right side of the mouth.
The clarity of speech through the headset is good, but the HS400 really comes into its own when music is played through the auxiliary input. We used an iPod for music input and found the sound quality to be outstanding.
Automatic muting of the auxiliary input is controlled using a switch conveniently located on the front of the audio box.
When enabled, the muting feature automatically drops the volume of the external device by 90 % when there is an incoming nav. comm. or intercom signal.
After a couple of seconds of silence on the intercom or radios, the auxiliary audio gradually returns 100% of the set volume.
The HS400 looks smart, modern and compact, and is very nicely constructed. It comes with a high-quality nylon case, cables for connecting a phone or music player, and a five-year warranty.
The HS400 is also available on Beyerdynamic's Manufaktor facility, where the purchaser can customise the headset to the style they want at no extra cost - there is a range of colours, materials and even personalised engraving.