Communication is absolutely critical while you're up in the air - and good quality aviation headsets make all the difference when you're communicating with the tower and other aircraft.
Whether you're a brand new pilot searching for your first headset before you start flight training or your a seasoned airline pilot, you're sure to find a headset that will meet your needs on this list.
What to Look for In an Aviation Headset
Here are some of the most important factors you should consider when trying to pick out an aviation headset.
Passive Noise Reduction vs Active Noise Reduction
A great aviation headset has to block out more than just one type of background noise and system interference at the same time.
Some headsets are great at the one and not so good at the other, and many times this is something you'll only discover once you've tested it out for yourself.
Passive noise reduction is simply the noise the headphones block with their design. Most aviation headsets are over ear headsets and will block out a good amount of sound.
Active noise reduction (ANR) is when a headset emits a second sound that cancels out the other sound. In simple terms, the emitted sound wave is the inverse of the outside noise sound wave and thus they cancel each other out.
After a long 4 hour cross country flight with a bad headset you'll be ready to upgrade to something more comfortable. You want a headset that isn't too tight but tight enough to provide a good seal and provide that passive noise reduction.
To help you find a good fit you may be able to borrow different brands of headsets from your flight school to test out before you buy your own.
In-Ear vs Over Ear
Another thing to consider is in-ear vs. over ear. Good in-ear headsets are comparatively new to the market but have become quite good at blocking sound (typically via active noise reduction).
Even with advancements, however, over ear headsets are still generally better at reducing noise in the cockpit. You may also find over ear headsets more comfortable when wearing for long periods of time.
The quality of the microphone is just as important as the quality of what you can hear through your headset.
Communication while up in the air (or still on the ground for that matter) are always a two-way street. What's the point if you can hear the other side just fine, but they can't hear a thing on your end?
Again, testing out a few different headsets ate your flight school can be a great way to find ones you like.
The Top 8 Aviation Headsets By Category
Every pilot will have their own preference when it comes to a good headset. Considering the most important qualities listed above, I've tried to break down this list into top performers by category.
Some look for in-ear headsets, others want Bluetooth capability and a wireless model; you yourself might be after something else.
The Best All Around Headset - Bose A20 Aviation Headset
The Bose A20 is one of the most popular aviation headsets on the market. It's used by thousands of pilots around the world.
It's designed to be used in environments with a high volume of external noise and uses active noise cancellation to minimize it. Bose claims this headset reduces external noise by 30% compared to conventional headsets (granted, they don't define what they mean by conventional headsets).
There is a Bluetooth option of this headset that allows you to listen to music or take phone calls. And you can choose to mute or mix your audio sources.
All of the settings on this headset are conveniently controlled using a small control module attached to the headset cable.
The mic can be connected to the right or left earphone allowing you to customize it to your liking. And while the headset isn't nearly as light as the Bose Proflight Series 2 below, it's still a lightweight headset at only 12 oz.
The biggest downside to the A20 headset is the price tag. This headset comes in at about $1,000 making it one of the priciest options on the market.
If you're looking to wear one of the best pilot headsets on the market this is the one for you.
The Best in-Ear Headset - Bose Proflight Series 2 Aviation Headset
If you're tired of bulky, heavy aviation headsets, then consider the Bose Proflight Series 2. It's one of the lightest headsets available on the market right now - and the best possible value for money at this price level.
Weight is a defining factor with this model weighing in at a total of only 4.5 oz. That's considerably lighter than the standard aviation headsets some readers might be used.
This headset uses active noise cancellation to cut back on outside noise so you can hear tower clearly. There are three different active noise cancellation settings you can choose from so you can adjust the headset in flight.
The headset also includes Bluetooth connectivity. All of the settings on the headset can be controlled via a control module on the cable.
One downside to this headset is the earbuds. If you aren't a huge fan of earbuds you may not want to wear these. After a few hours they can start to get a bit uncomfortable.
In terms of clarity, both in-and-out, the Bose Proflight Series 2 is highly rated.
Best Headset for New Pilots - David Clark H-10-13.4 Aviation Headset
You can probably find David Clark headsets in just about every flight school across the country. It's a dependable headset that doesn't break the bank. I even have a couple pairs on hand to use whenever I take friends up to fly.
David Clark headsets use passive noise reduction so it won't get nearly as quite as some of the other options that include active noise cancellation but they still work quite well.
One of its best qualities is the fact that the David Clark aviation headset is highly adjustable: The boom mic can be worn on both sides, and adjusted to exactly where you need it.
The headset does use a noise cancelling mic that helps reduce the noise transmitted when you speak and the function certainly seems to work well in my experience.
This is really one of the best headsets out there for new pilots. David Clark headsets make a great first, second or backup headset for anyone.
Best Headset Under $300 - Kore Aviation KA-1 Premium
When it comes to headsets that fall under the $300 price point, a lot of professional pilots may think you can't get a high quality headset for the money. But in reality, you can find some decent options such as the Kore Aviation KA-1 headset.
While it lacks many of the features of the Bose A20, it will still operate well enough for most student pilots.
Gel cushioning keeps it from pressing too hard against the ears. Many cheap headsets are known for being rather uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time but that isn't the case with the Kore headset. Of course, comfort isn't the only thing that makes the Kore model worth considering.
Easy-to-reach controls and its highly adjustable nature helps. It also performs well when it comes to noise canceling and overall sound quality. Better than other models of the same price point, which is how this particular model ended up on this list.
The biggest downside to a low budget headset such as this one is long term durability. Don't expect to use this headset for years and years. It will however, get you through your student training.
All things considered, the Kore Aviation KA-1 headset is a good option for student pilots on a tight budget.
Best Wireless Headset - Lightspeed Sierra Aviation Headset
If you don't want to shell out $1,000 for the Bose A20 but you'd like a step up from the David Clark headset, this is the headset for you.
The Lightspeed Sierra headset comes highly rated both for it's comfort and noise cancelling abilities.
Just like the Bose A20, this headset uses active noise cancellation (ANR) which does an excellent job eliminating outside noise so you can hear tower and other pilots/passengers clearly.
This headset also uses conventional AA batteries so you don't have to worry about keeping it charged, just make sure you keep extra batteries in your flight bag.
The headset also includes Bluetooth functionality but there are some users who have had issues using it on phone calls.
Overall this is an excellent headset with top features unavailable in many other headsets. Take a look and see if this is the right headset for you.
Lowest Budget Headset - Kore PNR Aviation Headset
If you're budget is really tight, the Kore Aviation P1 PNR is probably the best option for you. It's priced even lower than the Kore Aviation KA-1.
Some of the benefits of the PNR Aviation Headset include what the manufacturer calls Premium Noise Reduction, and it is equipped with foam cups and traditional wire boom microphone control.
It has a 3.5mm port so you could run a cable to your phone to listen to music if you'd like.
It can be one of the heavier headsets, but it's also priced at the point where weight usually isn't as vital as quality: Who cares if it fits a little heavier than the lightest model mentioned in this article when it still fits the bill as one of the most budget-friendly.
How much does this model stand to cost you? Take a look.
The David Clark DC ONE-X ENC Aviation Headset
Here's another one by David Clark, who's known for making high quality headsets. The DC ONE-X headset could be considered David Clarks competition with the A20 headset.
Essential features that define the David Clark model are the 5-year warranty and the active noise canceling ability.
This headset also includes Bluetooth functionality so you can listen to music or take phone calls with it which is a handy feature. The ability to listen to music on those long flights definitely helps out.
While I haven't used this headset personally, it does have a decent number of complaints around comfort on longer flights.
Overall the DC ONE-X is a sound headset that will serve you well.
The Faro G2 ANR Premium Pilot Headset
The Faro G2 headset is a decent option but I think there are better options found above. I include it here because it's the low priced headset that actually includes active noise reduction, something you normally have to pay more to get.
There's a 3-year warranty, and it ranks high on reliability: It could be said that it's built like a tank - but that is the only impressive enough feature to still give it a mention in this article.
The headset also includes noise cancelling in the mic which should make your voice come through a bit clearer when speaking. And it has volume controls for each ear which can come in handy.
The total weight ranks at more than 2 pounds so it's heavier than many headsets out there. The biggest complaint I found with this headset was the sound quality. While the ANR functions well, the headset just doesn't bring audio in loud enough for some pilots.
What headset recommendations do you have? Let us know if you have one that didn't make the list and we'll take a look.