12 Best Aviation Headsets in 2017

There are plenty of things we can skimp on during our lifetimes. Many of us have shorted someone on a tip or gone cheap with a new gadget or charger to save a few bucks. When it comes to things a bit more important, you’re better off paying up for the best. Needless to say, if you are a pilot, mechanic or work with ATC, aviation headsets are not something you want to be cheap about: especially if you want to keep your hearing.

Finding a good headset people in the aviation industry is not going to be an issue for most. There aren’t too many quality options, and the same names will pop up more often than not. Finding the best aviation headset is a different matter as it all comes down to quality and features once you get past the price tag.

Top 12 Aviation Headsets Comparison Table

Design Name Noise Reduction Type Rating (1-5)
   1. Bose A20 Aviation Headset with Bluetooth Dual Plug Cable  Active  Over-Ear  4.6
   2. KORE AVIATION KA-1 Premium Gel Ear Seal PNR Pilot Aviation Headset  Passive 24dB  Over-Ear  4.6
   3. David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset  Passive 23dB  Over Ear  4.5
   4. Rugged Air RA900 Black General Aviation Stereo Pilot Headset  Passive 24dB  Over Ear  4.5
   5. ASA HS-1 Aviation Headset  Passive 23dB  Over-Ear  4.4
6. Lightspeed ZULU.2 (Straight Cord, Dual GA Plugs, Battery Power)  Active  Over-Ear  4.3
7. David Clark DC PRO-X Hybrid Electronic Noise-Cancelling Aviation Headset  Active  On-Ear  4.3
8. FARO G2 ANR (Active Noise Reduction) Premium Pilot Aviation Headset  Active  Over-Ear  4.2
   9. Lightspeed Tango Wireless Aviation Headset  Active  Over-Ear  4.2
   10. CRAZEDpilot CP-1 Aviation Headset Pilot Headset  Passive 24dB  Over-Ear  4.1
   11. Telex 850 Airman Anr Pilot Headset  Passive 12dB  On-Ear  4.0
   12. Clarity Aloft Classic Headset  VPNR 34-45dB  Ear Buds  3.9

Buying Tips to Keep in Mind

All of the headsets on our list have passive noise reduction due to their style, and the microphones have noise canceling properties as well.

  • Noise Reduction – If you are flying on an airplane, it can get a little loud when those engines roar to life. If you are piloting the craft, it’s a different story altogether, especially on smaller planes. Keeping your hearing intact while being able to communicate with the world around you is key, which is why we’re going to take a look at popular types of noise reduction tech for pilots and aviation professionals.

Active and Passive noise cancellation are the two types of noise reduction techniques you’ll find on our list. Active is best by far as they use tech, tiny speakers, and microphones to catch unwanted noise before it gets to your eardrums. Passive or Isolating techniques take a more low-tech approach but are still effective to a degree.

Passive setups generally consist of thick padding in and around the cups to create a seal. Just like cupping your hands over your ears; this blocks out the sound. Different types of materials and construction techniques can make a major difference although there is only so much you can do without taking a more active approach. You are also likely to encounter some exotic materials and tech in your research. If in doubt on a term, just remember Google is your best friend.

  • Microphone Quality – This is another area of utmost importance regardless if you are in the pilot’s seat, on the runway or just a passenger in the cockpit. If you don’t have a great microphone, you are in for a tough and potentially dangerous trip.

As we mentioned, all microphones on this list will have a form of noise-cancelling technology. Some like the headsets from Bose and David Clark will perform better than others. How good of a mic you need may depend on the type of aircraft you’re dealing with along with whom you will need to keep in touch. ATC is a lock, but are you going to be chatty with passengers you may want a specialized microphone with better tech.

Comfort is Key

This one is a no-brainer. While flight is faster than wheeled travel, you still want something comfortable on your head. Some cheaper headsets tend to “clamp” down on your head, which can be uncomfortable and cause issues on long flights.

Glasses or sunglasses are also something to consider. While many aircraft have visors to handle the glare, you want to ensure you have enough room to wear glasses with your headset. How they adjust can be equally important as well – thumbscrew systems are usually found on cheaper models and not quite as comfortable.

A Few Extras

If you don’t want anything fancy with your headset, skip ahead. If cash is not an issue and you want something a little swankier, there are options. Some of the top aviation headsets will allow you to jack into your favorite mp3 player or smartphone. There are also models with controls that allow you to take calls, but that features isn’t quite as common as you think. Want wireless? You’ll need to pay considerably more for that option on most headsets.

Top 5 Best Aviation Headset Reviews

1. Bose AV20 Aviation Headset

If the price is not an issue, the Bose AV20 Aviation headset will be your new best friend. You know you’ll get quality on the audio side, but you are also going to get comfort. The headset is light at only 12 ounces and designed to not clamp down on your melon as hard as traditional aviation headsets. You can also detach the mic in case you prefer it on the left side over the right or vice versa. Those are just a few of the simple features as the audio is where the action is.

The BOSE A20’s use ANR or active noise reduction. External mics will pick up and block unwanted noise, which helps ensure you hear clearly. It is a powered feature, however, so this headset (and any others) will go into passive mode if you run out of juice. Despite that, the headset will perform like a champ and offers up extras like the company’s Active EQ tech, a control module, and Bluetooth connectivity.

Whether you want to customize your audio setup or just be comfortable on long flights while keeping your hearing safe, the Bose A20 aviation headset is our top pick. The only downside is that the Bluetooth-enabled model is a bit pricey. A number of plug types are available as well including Dual Plug and the U-174.

2. KORE Aviation KA-1 Premium Aviation Headset

When we said pilots and aviation aficionados would recognize the major players on our best aviation headset list, we weren’t necessarily talking about KORE. They haven’t been around as long as David Clark or Bose, but have gained some fans on the airfields due to their inexpensive, but quality headsets.

The KORE KA-1 is a PNR headset that has a noise reduction rating of 24dB. That will help drown out the sounds along with the gel-based ear seals in the cups. These are not wireless but do have dual volume controls on each ear, and you’ll get a 3.5mm port in case you want to listen to some tunes. The Y-Block Mono/Stereo switch and Gold-plated plugs are also of note. It has everything you need to get started, but won’t be the most comfortable headset on our list by any means. Classic would be the word best used to describe its style.

On a positive note, the KORE Aviation KA-1 headset is far cheaper than the majority of its competitors. That means it is a great beginners headset or would make a solid backup in your flight bag.

3. David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset

Bare bones and affordable are the first thoughts to come to mind when looking at the David Clark H10-13.4 aviation headset. It is easy on the eyes with a classic vibe and doesn’t appear to have any special features or extras. Well, don’t let those looks fool you, especially if you want an amazing noise-canceling mic.

David Clark offers up a wide variety of headsets for aviation, but the H10-13.4 is of their best passive models. It will keep harmful noises out with a peak reduction of 23dB and sports the M-7A noise-cancelling microphone along with a low profile volume knob. The David Clark H10s are on the lower end of the pricing spectrum but have the bonus of a 5-year warranty.

4. Rugged Air RA900 General Aviation Headset

Rugged is another manufacturer responsible for producing affordable aviation headsets for rookies and pros alike. The Rugged Air RA900 was our favorite due to the price and solid feature set. It’s right there with the best passive headsets on our list in the noise reduction department as well with a rating of 24dB.

Rugged’s headset may be a little low tech compared to the Bose A20, but it still has several solid features to consider. There is a PTT (push to talk) button up top and a 3.5mm headphone jack in case you want to break out the iPod. The foam ear seals will take care of most of the engine noise while 50mm audio speakers handle the sound. As for the all-important mic, the RA900 has a “noise reflective” cup mic with a flexible boom. It is sturdy, however, so it shouldn’t sag with extended use or frequent adjustments. It is an entry-level headset but one that offers up more than most in its class.

5. ASA HS-1 Aviation Headset

If you liked the look of Rugged’s aviation headset, you will appreciate the ASA HS-1’s style. It is a dead ringer for the RA900 down to the little wings on the cups; however, with a different logo. There are some differences however as the NRR rating is 23dB on these. That could be due to the materials used in the earcups as everything else appears to stay the same.

The ASA HS-1 has a flexible boom mic and dual volume controls that allow you to adjust on the fly. High-grade cables ensure a strong connection while adjustable thumbscrews give you some extra room for hats and glasses. They are one of the most affordable aviation headsets you can buy and come with a lifetime warranty as well.

Final Thoughts

Flying is expensive, so dropping $400-1000 on a headset can be tough for some pilots and professionals to do. While you always want to keep your needs in mind first and foremost, price does not need to be the deciding factor when it comes to finding the best aviation headset. If you fly as a hobby or professionally, you’re hearing is something you need to protect long-term.