Communication is a vital part of flying and aviation as a whole, and headsets are at the center of it all. Find all the best aviation headsets in this guide.
Being able to communicate effectively while flying requires two things: the ability to be heard by others and the ability to hear what others are saying. Thankfully, both of these things can be accomplished with one item: a good aviation headset. But if you just start looking for one without any information, you’ll have to sift through hundreds of options. Which ones are best?
The best aviation headsets for pilots are:
- Bose A20 — Best Overall
- Lightspeed Zulu 3 — Runner-Up Overall
- Bose Proflight Series 2 — Best In-Ear
- Faro Air — Runner-Up In-Ear
- Lightspeed Sierra — Best Wireless
- Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium — Best Budget
- Rugged Air RA200 — Runner-Up Budget
- David Clark H10-13.4 — Best for Student Pilots
If you're a pilot, then you know that having a good headset is important. In fact, it's essential. A good aviation headset can make the difference between a safe flight and one that ends in disaster. That's why it's so important to choose the right one for you. In this article, we'll discuss some of the best aviation headsets on the market and why they're such a good choice for pilots.
SkyTough has become one of the premier aviation sites on the web because we focus on providing content that’s accurate, engaging, and the actual stuff that you want to be answered. As pilots and aviation lovers ourselves, we know the exact kinds of things that you’re looking for and we know what you really need out of a good headset.
Do You Have to Have a Headset While Flying?
Before we get into the actual top aviation headsets on the market, let's first talk about why it's a good idea to have one in the first place. Because let's not beat around the bush here, it absolutely is a great idea to have a high-quality aviation headset before you do any sort of flying. But why?
The main reason is that it allows you to hear things clearly. This might not seem like a big deal, but when you're up in the air, it's actually very important. You need to be able to hear things like radio transmissions and other pilots clearly. If you can't hear these things, then it could lead to disaster. This is important for conversing in the cockpit and also being able to hear what Air Traffic Control (ATC) has to say.
Just as important as being able to hear other people and ATC, you also have to be able to be heard yourself, and a good headset will allow you to do that. If you're trying to communicate with someone and they can't hear you, then it's going to cause problems. This is why a lot of headsets have innovative noise-canceling microphones that help make communication easier so people on the other end can actually hear what you're saying without all of the background noise.
Another reason why it's a good idea to have an aviation headset is that it helps to protect your hearing. When you're flying, there's a lot of noise. The engines are loud and can cause damage to your hearing if you're not careful. By wearing a headset, you can help to reduce the amount of noise that you're exposed to and protect your hearing in the long run.
So, as you can see, there are plenty of good reasons to invest in a high-quality aviation headset. But how do you know which one to choose? Well, that's where our next section comes in, let's talk about the main things that you need to consider when you're shopping for a new aviation headset.
Aviation Headset Buyer’s Guide
If you're looking for a new aviation headset (why else would you be here?), then there are a few main things that you want to keep in mind. These include noise reduction, comfort, connectivity, microphone quality, and price. Let's discuss each of these in a little more detail so you know what to look for when you start looking for headsets online.
After we go through this buyer's guide, we'll finally get into the best headsets themselves, so bear with me. It'll be worth it!
One of the main things you want to look for in an aviation headset is noise reduction. This is important for a few reasons. First, as we talked about before, it helps to protect your hearing. By reducing the amount of noise that you're exposed to, you can help to prevent long-term damage to your hearing.
Not only does it help to protect your hearing, but it also helps you to concentrate. When you're trying to fly a plane, you need to be able to focus and pay attention to what you're doing. If there's a lot of noise around you, it can be tough to do that. But by wearing a headset that reduces noise, you can help to block out some of that noise and concentrate better on what you're doing.
There are a few different ways that headsets reduce noise. The most common is by using active noise reduction (ANR). This works by using microphones to pick up on the noise around you and then cancel it out with opposing sound waves. This can be effective, but it doesn't work for all noise.
Another way that some headsets reduce noise is through passive noise reduction (PNR) by using foam or gel ear seals. These work by physically blocking out some of the noise before it even gets to your ears. This can be effective, but it's not as good as ANR at reducing all noise.
Some headsets use a combination of both ANR and PNR to provide the best noise reduction possible. These are usually the most expensive options, but they're also the most effective.
Another important consideration is comfort. You're going to be wearing your headset for long periods of time, so you want to make sure that it's comfortable. Look for headsets that have soft ear cushions and adjustable headbands. This will help to ensure that your headset is comfortable even after wearing it for a long time.
After all, while you're flying, you could be up in the air for hours at a time. If your headset is uncomfortable, that's going to make the whole experience a lot worse. One of the main aspects of the headset design that will affect comfort is whether they're over-ear or in-ear.
Over-ear headsets go over your entire ear and have cushions that sit on top of them and around them. This is typically what you see most pilots wear, but modern in-ear headsets have started gaining a bit more popularity as their technology has improved.
In-ear headsets go inside your ear and have cushions that sit inside them. These can be more comfortable for some people, but they're usually not as good at noise reduction as over-ear headsets and can become more uncomfortable over longer periods of time.
Connectivity (Bluetooth, cables, etc)
Another thing you want to keep in mind is connectivity. You want to make sure that your headset can connect to whatever device you're using. Most headsets use cables to connect directly to the radio or whatever communication device that your airplane has.
Some newer headsets, however, have started using Bluetooth to connect wirelessly, which allows them to connect to more things such as smartphones and GPS systems. This can be more convenient as you don't have to worry about cables getting in the way, but it can also be more expensive.
If you're looking for a headset that has Bluetooth connectivity, make sure to check what devices it's compatible with. You want to make sure that it will be able to connect to everything that you want to use it with.
The quality of the microphone is also important. You want to make sure that the people you're talking to can hear you clearly, and that you can hear them just as well. Some headsets have noise-canceling microphones which help to reduce background noise so that the person on the other end can hear you better. This can be helpful, but it's not a necessity.
It's also important to make sure that the microphone is positioned in a way that's comfortable for you. Some people prefer to have the microphone on the side of their head, while others prefer to have it in front of their mouth. There's no right or wrong answer here, it's just a matter of preference.
Of course, price is always going to be a consideration. You want to make sure that you're getting a good value for your money. Aviation headsets can range in price from around $200 for the cheapest options that are still at least viable to over $1,000 for the top-of-the-line models with all the bells and whistles, so there's a wide range to choose from.
It's important to remember that you don't necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get a good headset. There are plenty of options that are more than good enough for most pilots that won't break the bank.
What are the Best Aviation Headsets?
The most important thing is to find a headset that's comfortable, has good noise reduction, and has clear audio quality. As long as you have those three things, you'll be able to find a headset that's perfect for you without spending a fortune. Let's take a look at the best options on the market.
Bose A20 — Best Overall Aviation Headset
If you're just here to find out what the best aviation headset you should buy is, then look no further than the Bose A20. This is widely considered to be the best headset on the market and for good reason. It's comfortable, has great noise reduction, and has clear audio quality. It's not the cheapest option out there, but it's definitely worth the price tag if you're looking for the best of the best.
But why is it so good?
We mentioned that it's comfortable, and that's due largely to the fact that it uses a specialized clamping design that reduces the clamping force by more than 30% compared to standard headsets. Plus, it only weighs 12 ounces, so it's lighter on your head. This means that it's more comfortable to wear for long periods of time, which is important when you're flying.
It also has great noise reduction capabilities. It uses an advanced active noise canceling system that's specifically designed for aviation use, which is also said to be 30% better than conventional options. This system constantly monitors outside noise and then automatically adjusts the level of noise cancellation to ensure that you always clearly hear the audio inside the headset.
In addition to all of this, the A20 also comes with Bluetooth connectivity which allows you to connect it to your phone or other devices wirelessly. This means that you can listen to music, make phone calls, and more without disconnecting from the aircraft itself.
This headset meets EASA ETSO-C139 and FAA TSO-C139 standards and it also comes with a 5-year warranty.
Lightspeed Zulu 3 — Runner-Up for Best Overall Aviation Headset
While I would absolutely say the cost of the A20 is worth it, you can save a bit of money and opt for the runner-up for the best overall aviation headset on the market, the Lightspeed Zulu 3. The Zulu 3 is basically the A20's little brother. It has many of the same features as the A20, but it's just not quite as refined as the #1 option, but it's very close!
That being said, it's still an excellent choice for a headset. It's designed for maximum comfort thanks to being made specifically to follow the curvature of the human head. This also goes for the ear covers that are made to hug your jawline and provide better seals around glasses, so you can even wear your aviator sunglasses and have no problems with this headset.
The Zulu 3 uses what the company refers to as 5-by-5 communications, which means that your ability to communicate (i.e. the headset and the microphone) is enhanced by 5 different things. This includes active-noise canceling, magnesium earcups, advanced microphone technology, Bluetooth connectivity, and an integrated control box to make it easy to use. In short, it's an incredible headset when it comes to communications and crisp, clear audio.
Lastly, the Zulu 3 was designed specifically for pilots, by other pilots. Just like how SkyTough is a site written for pilots, by pilots, so we can appreciate the detail and effectiveness that this helps provide!
Bose Proflight Series 2 — Best In-Ear Aviation Headset
Now that we've talked about the best overall (and also subsequently, over-ear) headsets on the market, let's get into more specific categories. Up first is the best in-ear aviation headset, the Bose Proflight Series 2.
The big selling point of this headset is that it's incredibly small and light. It only weighs 4.5 ounces (128 grams) and is designed to fit snugly in your ear without being uncomfortable. This makes it ideal for those who don't want a bulky over-ear headset, but still want all the creature comforts that come with it, such as tap-to-talk and an easy-to-use microphone.
As far as Bose headsets go, this is the lightest, smallest, and (arguably with the A20) overall most comfortable option that the company produces. The lightweight design makes it super easy to wear, even on long flights. It even uses a thinner cable than standard aviation headsets so that it doesn't get in your way or restrict you from moving in any direction.
The Proflight Series 2 was designed specifically for pilots that operate fairly loud turbine-powered aircraft, so you know that it does a great job at blocking out excess noise while simultaneously making communication through the microphone a breeze. This is further amplified by the fact that the digital active noise cancellation ensures you can concentrate on what's being said to you.
Faro Air — Runner-Up for Best In-Ear Aviation Headset
When you look at the price tag for the Bose Proflight Series 2 above, you might be thinking "There's no way I'm spending over $1000 on a headset!" And that's perfectly understandable, especially when you could just get the Bose A20 and be done with it. This is why I've also included the FARO Air as the runner-up for the best in-ear aviation headset.
The FARO Air is, first and foremost, an incredibly affordable option when compared to some of the other options in this category, and it's still one of the best options on the market. It's a great choice for those who want the benefits of an in-ear headset without breaking the bank, at least as far as aviation headsets go.
This is one of the lightest aviation headsets not only on this list, but it's also one of the lightest options on the market overall at only 1 ounce. This is because the head strap is incredibly small, little more than just a wire itself. This makes it incredibly comfortable and easy to use, but that's not the only great feature. Like most other options here, the Faro Air also has active noise cancellation to make sure you can hear what's going on over the radio!
The FARO Air is also a very versatile headset. Not only can it be used as an aviation headset, but it can also be used for things like motorcycling, gaming, and even working out thanks to the fact that it's sweat-resistant. This is a great option for those who want a headset that they can use for multiple purposes, and not just while they are flying.
Lightspeed Sierra — Best Wireless Aviation Headset
The next category we're going to look at is the best wireless headsets on the market. I'll admit that this category is a bit of a misnomer because these headsets aren't actually wireless themselves when it comes to connecting to the aircraft, but they have the ability to connect to other devices wirelessly via Bluetooth. That said, of course, the Bose A20 from above is our top choice, but these are a couple more good options.
First up as the best wireless aviation headset is the Lightspeed Sierra. This is the second of three Lightspeed models on this list, and the Sierra comes in with a price tag of $650. This makes it a fair amount cheaper than the Zulu 3 from above, while still being a great overall headset, especially when it comes to Bluetooth-capable ones.
The Sierra headset, like most of the other ones here, uses active noise cancellation to ensure clear communication within your headset. It comes with an oversized head strap pad to ensure extra comfort and the over-ear design makes sure that they stay put and you can easily hear what's going on. Plus, separate volume controls in each ear lets you amplify however you need.
The Lightspeed Sierra can connect to devices wirelessly using the built-in Bluetooth, and it has a few features that make it better than most. There is a battery status indicator that makes it easy for you to see how much juice is left, and the Auto Shut-Off feature ensures that the headset won't stay on for extended periods of time when not in use.
Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium — Best Budget Aviation Headset
While the majority of the headsets above might be a bit better than this one, if the price is one of your major concerns (let's be honest, price is always a major concern!), then this is the headset for you. The best budget aviation headset on the market is without a doubt the Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium. Coming in at just $185, you could go through about six of these before you've spent more than the cost of one Bose A20.
Like many of the other headsets in this guide, the KA-1 Premium is an over-ear headset that's comfortable and generates clear audio within your ears. It uses plush silicone gel seals around the ears to help block out extraneous noise, and the thick head pad helps to improve the comfort while wearing it, especially on longer flights.
To help with clear communication, the Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium can reduce outside noise by 24 decibels (much less than the other headsets above, but every little bit helps!). The microphone also uses electronic noise-canceling technology to ensure that whoever you're communicating with can effectively hear what you're saying.
Lastly, each headphone has separate volume controls so you can turn it up or down in each ear depending on what you need to hear. So this headset is affordable, comfortable, and gets the job done. Plus, it comes with a custom headset bag so you can easily carry it around with you!
Rugged Air RA200 — Runner-Up for Best Budget Aviation Headset
While I strongly suggest opting for the Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium above if you're on a budget, there's one other option to really consider if you're seriously strapped for cash. That is, of course, the Rugged Air RA200, which comes in at a price of just $91.99. That's right, this headset is actually less than half the cost of even the KA-1 Premium, and it can still get the job done in most cases.
The RA200 is another over-ear headset that completely covers your ears in order to reduce outside noise. Like the KA-1 Premium above, this headset is also rated to reduce outside noise by 24 decibels, so you should still be able to hear what people are saying to you. That said, the microphone on the RA200 is the worst one on this list, and doesn't do a great job of clearing up what you're saying for other people, though it does what it can to accentuate only your voice.
It comes with a standard 3.5mm audio jack so that you can plug in your devices and play music while you fly, and you'll also get a custom carrying case to tote the headset around. As far as budget aviation headsets go, you won't find a better option for under $100, and I wouldn't go any cheaper than the Rugged Air RA200!
David Clark H10-13.4 — Best Aviation Headset for Student Pilots
To round off our list, we're going to take a look at the best aviation headset on the market for student pilots: the David Clark H10-13.4. You might be wondering why this is a separate category at all and what delineates between a normal aviation headset and an aviation headset for students. After all, the Bose A20 would certainly make a great headset for student pilots, and the David Clark H10-13.4 is an awesome overall headset in its own right.
But for students, the number one priority above all else is communication. Sure, it needs to be comfortable and be at least somewhat affordable, but being able to effectively talk to the instructor is incredibly important for students. That's where the M-7A microphone on this headset comes in, as it's largely touted as the hands-down best microphone in the world when it comes to producing clear audio from your end.
This means that as a student pilot who's just learning the lingo or learning how to fly, you won't have to worry about your instructor not hearing or understanding what you're saying, which is invaluable for a student. In addition to all that, the David Clark H10-13.4 is also incredibly comfortable, has a 5-year warranty, and comes with all the other creature comforts you would expect from a headset in this price range.
As you can see, there are a lot of great aviation headsets on the market. But which one is right for you? It really depends on your needs and preferences. If you want the best overall headset, go with the Bose A20. If you're looking for a great in-ear option, go with the Bose Proflight Series 2. And if you're on a budget, the Kore Aviation KA-I Premium is a great choice.
No matter which headset you choose, make sure that it's comfortable and has good noise reduction so that you don't mind wearing it on long trips and you can effectively communicate with it. Those are the two most important factors in choosing an aviation headset. With so many great options on the market, you're sure to find the perfect headset for you in this guide.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood