Clarity With Pilot Headsets

Lightweight pilot headsets reviewed

UPDATED :  

WHEN I started flying lessons I used the school's ubiquitous Dave Clark headsets. They must be good because every school uses them. Some months ago, with 12 hours of dual lessons in my logbook, I borrowed a set from the school to attend a fly-in with a buddy in his noisy STOL aircraft.

Loud as a truck, the entire flight I heard nothing but engine and wind noise, virtually no radio comms or even our pilot-to-pilot talk. The old DCs weren't up to the task in this environment.

I decided to invest in my own set! My flying instructors swear by BOSE's A20s, but the price in Oz is more than $1,400 for the Bluetooth model. Seems to me every pilot wants a set They look great lightweight hi-tech metals, in-cup mics/speakers, springs, cables, software, technology - they look a million bucks.

That description also applies to Lightspeed's top models, and a couple of others I looked at I have accurate long range vision but wear glasses for reading, so frequently I swap sun and reading glasses to read maps or iPad software. On a longer flight, I do a bucketload of glasses swapping.

Traditional headsets make this a nuisance. I slide the glasses forward, slip new glasses in, readjust the ear cup and over-the-head bracket repeat On a cross country flight when we regularly check navigation software, this swapping happens 10-20 times. Then I discovered in-ear headsets.

I watched YouTube, read reviews, trawled blogs. People using them often mentioned the glasses swapping issue and how this type of headset solved it. Bam!

Research showed three main options: Quiet Technologies, Clarity Aloft and Faro. Each a different design and spec, with a big price difference.

This article isn't a comparison, because I've not used two of the brands.

A SUMMARY OF HEADSETS

Both QT and Faro cost less than US$400 and have many fans. The reviews are almost ail positive. CAs also receive high praise, but cost double at around US$800 for the 'LINK' Bluetooth version. That's a huge difference.

QT Hatos look a bit plasttcky, but users highly rate them on performance in all aircraft types. The catch? There were none available. QT website's home page said 'No stock. We're months away from fulfilling current orders, so no waiting list either.' They are either very popular or have a bad supply chain.

Faro AIRs are good looking units and the company has a long history. Unfortunately, when I was searching, I could find only three or four reviews of the in-ear model (there are more on their website today), and I didn't want to risk good money on a product with so few independent reviews. Strike two. So I bought a Clarity Aloft.

ACTION

I chose the Bluetooth option because much of the electnckery in aircraft these days speaks to us - iPad aviation software, smartphones, GPS and nav gear. Everything's heading that way. I've yet to test the Bluetooth while actually flying, but it worked perfectly while I was in my car.

I asked a mate to call me while I drove, and we spoke via the headset as clear as day. Bluetooth works as intended. And when in the air, the clarity aloft (no pun) is outstanding.

There's no noise to actively suppress because - as the company explains - no noise gets in your ears. The ear plugs seal so effectively the only thing you hear, apart from the aircraft engine rumble which we also feel, are radio comms. Pilot-to-pilot and ATC chatter is clear as!

I use only half volume otherwise it's too loud. I can do the glasses shuffle without a problem, too. because the glasses sit on my ears on top of the gently curved, comfortable lightweight wire unit - problem solved.

I forget I'm wearing the unit because it feels like it weighs nothing. I tend to fidget a bit with the microphone position, but I also did that with the DCs. I must be a fidgeter. And I have read reviews from women who love in-ear headsets because the absence of an over-the-head clamp means no flattened hair or interference with ear jewellery. I have neither of those problems.


PROS

  • BRILLIANT, CRYSTAL CLEAR SOUND: I've not experience the sound quality of top-of-the-line alternative brands but can't imagine they can be any better.
  • IT WEIGHS NOTHING: there's no pressure on the head or ears, and no sweaty heat build-up. I forget it's on.
  • BLUETOOTH OPTION WORKS: (although yet to test in an aircraft), and if not being used, i.e. when flying circuits, the component can be removed to reduce cable clutter.
  • SOLUTION FOR GLASSES-SHUFFLERS: They also fit under helmets (open cockpit jockeys take note), and won't interfere with hair or jewellery. If you want to move away from entry level quality Dave Clarks, and can justify the cost the Clarity Aloft product should be on your shopping list.

CONS

  • THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: I can't help feeling CA ma about AUS$700 profit from me on a AUS$1,000 headset - there ain't much to them. But no one forced me to buy them.
  • THE SCREW-ON EAR TIPS SLIP TOO EASILY OFF THE CABLE. On two occasions one remained in my ear when I pulled the cable too abruptly. They came out easily enough using my fingernails - but it shouldn't happen. A tip also came off when mucking around with seatbelts - the cable was under the belt, when I pulled, the tip came off and fell on the floor. Hence I always carry a spare tip in my pocket when flying.