One of the first factors pilots are prone to consider is the price of available headphones. Aviation earsets are available over a wide range of prices. With minimal research, prospective purchasers can discover models from less than $100 to over $1,000. However, price is only one factor general aviation pilots should consider. To determine an appropriate budget, pilots should evaluate several factors when pondering a pilot headset.
As consumers, everyone enjoys finding a good bargain. As pilots, these bargain-hunting traits can lead headset shoppers to limit their searches to low-priced options. Though low-priced browsing can uncover hidden gems, the adage that you get what you pay for is usually true. Don't sacrifice quality and comfort just to save a few dollars.
Face it. Pilots spend vast amounts of money to pursue their passion. Aircraft rental, aviation insurance, and airplane fuel are pricey expenses aviators routinely purchase. Many pilots take great pleasure in making the popular $100 hamburger flight. Despite their willingness to shell out for big-ticket activities, many pilots are unnecessarily stingy when it comes to smaller purchases. Have you ever flown with an expired aeronautical chart to avoid buying a current one? Do you go years between purchasing a FAR/AIM edition to save a few bucks? It's this flawed rationale that leads aviators to purchase inferior headsets when high-quality models are available for relatively little additional money.
To overcome this stinginess, pilots should view quality headsets as a wise insurance investment. You only get one pair of ears. Sacrificing your hearing to save a few hundred dollars probably won't seem worth it if you're unable to hear in the future. Besides, don't you have to pass a medical exam to continue to fly? If noise-induced hearing loss prevents you from obtaining a medical certificate, you'll likely be quite limited in the flying activities you're able to pursue. Avoid this possibility by investing in a quality headset model to protect your ears. For the price of a few hours of aircraft rental or a single $100 hamburger run, you could purchase a quality set of earphones that will last you for years to come.
A headset's top job is to protect the user's hearing. Price and available features are irrelevant if a headset fails to deliver adequate hearing protection. Look for models with a high noise reduction rating (NRR). Consider the benefits of an active noise reduction (ANR) model. In addition, research reviews of a model's communications clarity. Only after an earset passes the hearing protection and communications clarity tests should a pilot consider the price tag.
Comfort and quality are other factors that deserve attention. A model that suppresses sound yet induces ear pain isn't a good choice. Neither is a noise-blocking model that falls apart after limited use. Make sure comfort, quality, and ear protection are all features of a model in question. If not, move on.
Besides the absolute basics a headset must offer, prospective buyers should carefully consider the type of flying they plan to do. An aviator who will stay with single engine piston planes has different needs that a pilot hoping to move up to twin turboprops. The type(s) of aircraft the user plans to fly have a profound effect on the model of headset needed. In many cases, one pair of earphones will adequately address all the pilot's needs. In other instances, an aviator might need to purchase more than one pair of headphones to sufficiently address his needs. Regardless of your individual requirements, consider your unique headset needs before examining your pricing options.
Once the fundamental requirements have been considered, pilots should look at additional features. These days, aviation headphones are available with a number of cell phone and audio features. Many are available as Bluetooth connections. In addition, wireless aviator earsets are gaining popularity in general aviation (GA) cockpits. Consider the features you'd like to have and how often you'd use them. For bargain hunters, this is one area where you can skimp on price. If you plan to frequently use an available feature, go ahead and spend the additional money. If you will only occasionally connect to a novel amenity, perhaps a cheaper, no-frills model will serve you better.
So, how much should you budget for a pilot headset? As much as is necessary to meet your unique needs. Begin by insisting on a model that protects your hearing and provides clear communication. Make sure prospective earsets are comfortable and built to withstand the rigors of the cockpit. Select a model that's appropriate for the type of aircraft you fly. If you're into amenities, choose headphones with the features you'll use. Once all these requirements are met, compare prices and choose an appropriate model. Remember, you're spending a lot to enjoy your passion. Don't let a few hundred dollars convince you to settle on an inferior headset.