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Bose A20 Review – Is It Worth the Price?

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In this article, I’ll help you decide if the Bose A20 aviation headset is right for you.

Like a good pair of your favorite sneakers or a well-tailored suit, the right headset for you probably isn’t the right headset for everyone. 

One of the most popular options on the market is also the most expensive—the Bose A20. If you’re new to aviation, the sticker shock might require a while to get over.

Why the Bose A20 Headset Rocks

Bose’s first foray into the aviation headset market was the popular Bose X. This headset was revolutionary for its day.

Instead of relying on tight clamping pressure on the pilot’s head or a ridiculously bulky design, it used high-quality active noise cancellation technology to reduce noise levels.

Bose A20 Headset Comfort

Most pilots agree that the Bose A20 aviation headset shines brightest in its comfort. The headset is low-profile and lightweight (it comes in at only 12 ounces). The sheepskin cushions are comfortable to wear and the clamping pressure is just the right amount of force to stay on your head without being an annoyance.

As a result, nearly any pilot can wear them for eight or more hours per day without any complaints.

Bose A20 headset in the bag

Noise Cancelling

The A20 uses both passive noise cancellation and active noise cancellation. And Bose ANR is impressively good. You’ll still be able to hear the engine but you won’t suffer from any noise fatigue as with other headsets.

And the active noise-canceling technology means that the headsets remain effective even if the seal on your ear is less than perfect, such as when you’re wearing sunglasses or an IFR training hood.

Bluetooth

The A20 comes in two versions—one with Bluetooth and one without.

The Bluetooth feature is handy if you fly with a tablet, as you can hear notifications and warnings in your headset while flying. It’s also possible to use it as a hands-free phone headset while on the ground, which is handy if you’re picking up clearances or need to talk to Flight Service.

Control Module

This is a feature many lower-budget aviation headsets lack. The control module allows you to access a number of features. It includes an auxiliary audio input with priority switching so you can set up audio from different systems.

It allows for adjusted volume control on each side of the headset and switches from battery power to airplane power which will reduce how many batteries your headset goes through.

Bose A20 headset control module

Bose Customer Service

I’ve sent mine in for repair in the past after a small component broke. The turnaround time was incredibly fast and they refurbished the entire headset instead of just the broken part which was nice. Everyone I’ve spoken to who’s had to send their headset in has had the exact same experience.

Disadvantages of the A20

Like a well-qualified applicant sitting down for a job interview, listing things that the A20 is bad at starts to sound silly. 

Some pilots balk at the active noise cancellation in the A20, calling it “too effective.” While this sounds ridiculous at first blush, there is something to their argument. After all, noise is an essential tool in the pilot’s arsenal of troubleshooting.

Is the headset so effective that it blocks out warning horns, like gear-up warnings or stall horns? You can still hear these things, but they’re certainly somewhat muted while wearing a Bose headset.

What holds more water in the argument is that the pilot should be in tune with the engine’s noises. Slight changes in tone or pitch could indicate a problem. If the engine noise is too muted, will the pilot notice? 

This is certainly a valid concern, but it’s likely blown out of proportion. You can still hear the engine running when operating the Bose A20 aviation headset. If you noticed something you wanted to pay more attention to, you could switch off the active noise cancellation quickly and easily.

Overall, the benefits of being less fatigued, more comfortable, and more alert far outweigh any negatives.

Bose A20 headset in the airplane

What Comes with The Bose A20 Headset?

When you purchase a Bose A20 aviation headset there are several other items included. You’ll get the control module, mentioned above, a set of AA batteries, an aux-in cable adapter, an in-line clothing clip to keep the cord out of your way, and a carrying case.

Bose A20 vs Bose A30

When this review was originally written the A20 was the leading Bose aviation headset.

In 2023 however, Bose introduced the A30 headset. The A30 is a successor to the A20. It enhances user experience with advanced noise cancellation technology and additional comfort features.

The A30 also includes Bluetooth functionality and has customizable audio prioritization control. It sports an intuitive design for handling audio mixing and communications with ease.

Key Differences Between the A20 and A30 Headsets

FeatureBose A20Bose A30
Noise CancellationAdvanced ActiveSuperior Active
BluetoothYes (Audio & Communication)Yes (Enhanced Functions)
ComfortHigh (with glasses compatibility)Improved with new materials
MicrophoneHigh-performance electretNext-generation electret (enhanced)
Audio PrioritizationYes (customizable)Yes (more intuitive controls)

Active Noise Reduction on the A30

As discussed, the Bose A20 employs proprietary Acoustic Noise Cancelling technology, which electronically identifies and reduces unwanted noise.

The Bose A30 builds upon the A20’s technology, further optimizing audio performance with more advanced noise reduction algorithms and additional microphones to improve the active noise cancellation experience across a wider range of frequencies.

Connectivity Options

The Bose A30 expands on the connectivity of the A20 by providing advanced Bluetooth capabilities, multiple Bluetooth connections simultaneously, and a simplified user interface for easier switching and pairing.

These are all features we had wished were on the A20 aviation headset so it’s great to see them on the A30.

Comfort and Fit

Another improvement on the A30 headset is a new design that creates even less clamping force. All of Bose headsets are incredibly comfortable to wear for hours on end but the A30 is easily the most comfortable.

This new Bose headset is also configured to better distribute weight more evenly to alleviate pressure points during extended use.

Wrapping up the Bose A20

Pilots aren’t wanting for more choices in their headset decision. Like a pair of shoes, each pilot should pick a headset based on their fit, comfort, and budget. But don’t underestimate the importance of a high-quality pair in your flying.

If flying for six or more hours a day is in your future, you might be happier to invest in a high-quality headset now rather than later. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the Bose A20 aviation headset and will continue to recommend it to every professional pilot I know.

Bose A20 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth
$1,195.00

The A20 is one of the best aviation headsets on the market. It’s comfortable to wear for those long flights, has excellent active noise reduction, and incredibly clear audio.

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Thinking about giving the A20 as a gift? Check out our other top gifts for pilots for more ideas.

The Importance of a Pilot’s Headset

First off, take a moment to consider how vital a pilot’s headset is.

A pilot’s headset needs to perform a minimum of two essential tasks. First, it must eliminate cockpit noise, and secondly, it must make it easier to communicate. Both jobs are pretty important.

Our Pick
Bose A20 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth
$1,195.00

The A20 is one of the best aviation headsets on the market. It’s comfortable to wear for those long flights, has excellent active noise reduction, and incredibly clear audio.

Buy Now
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
02/18/2024 10:38 pm GMT

Noise Reduction

The first job’s arguably the most complicated, however. Noise is a complicated thing, and airplane noise doubly so. Small airplanes are built light and have very little insulation against the engine drone or wind noise on the airframe. What’s more, their engines run at high power constantly. 

The issue of fatigue is difficult to correlate to noise levels, especially on the individual level. When you begin flying for your private pilot’s license, you’ll only be sitting in the plane for an hour or so at a time.

Bose A20 headset in the bag

Aviation Headset Comfort

Even on long cross countries, you’ll likely only have your headset on for a few hours at the most. Additionally, everything in flying is so new that you’ll likely not be able to sort out what is expected and what is not for a few hours. 

It’s not until you do a few longer cross countries that you’ll start to identify just how comfortable and effective your headset is. The more time you spend in the plane, the more likely you will start feeling tired or even suffering headaches.

Are you constantly fiddling with your headset? Is it crushing your ears or uncomfortably pressing on your temples? If so, it might be time to start looking for something more comfortable.

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