I'm currently a student pilot, and I'm starting at an aviation university this fall to major in commercial aviation. Needless to say, I will be flying a lot. I'm looking to upgrade to a nice headset from the pretty basic one I have now, and I'm looking for a bit of guidance. I'm 6'3, so I wouldn't say I have a small head, and I've had problems in the past with headphones feeling cramped on my ears, which I don't want to be the case with my headset. I plan on having this headset for a while, at least all the way through college and hopefully several years after that.

First of all, is noice-cancelling actually that important(in terms of health and comfort)? I know there are a few decent headsets are out there w/o noice cancelling, and they are quite a bit cheaper than noice cancelling headsets.

I've been told about a couple commonly used expensive headsets that are pretty widely used across the industry. However, these headsets are $850+. At this price level, does the price of the headset accurately reflect quality, or is everything more personal preference? What are some of the pros and cons of the more popular headsets, and what should I look for when purchasing one?

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    $\begingroup$ Shopping questions are unfortunately off-topic here. If you can edit your question to remove the "product specific" or "product recommendation" parts, I think it could be a good question. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Jun 13, 2018 at 1:30
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    $\begingroup$ David Clark are good too. I upgraded my non-noise cancelling DCs to noise cancelling with a kit from Marv Golden many years ago. Taking out all the low frequency vibration/noise really makes hearing ATC a lot easier. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Jun 13, 2018 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ I recently bought 2 pair of noise cancelling headsets from Headsets Inc, Model DRE-6001 (several colors available) with the music-in jack (which I checked out, but don't actually use in flight, lot of ATC to listen to in my area). The noise cancelling works very well. I highly recommend noise cancelling to save your hearing, and to make flights more comfortable mentally. $400 plus shipping. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Oct 8, 2019 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ “But it nice or buy it twice.” Cheap products usually cost more over time than quality ones. A good headset can easily last decades if you take care of it, while cheap ones may need to be replaced every few years. $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Dec 1, 2021 at 15:47

4 Answers 4


I've had problems in the past with headphones feeling cramped on my ears, which I don't want to be the case with my headset

Do your best to test them out before you buy. Some pilot shops will let you put them on your head and if you are nice to the people that lurk around the airport they may lend you one for a flight to try out. I find that the Zulu's have bigger ear cups than the Bose but I don't have any hard numbers on size this is personal experience wearing them.

First of all, is noice-cancelling actually that important(in terms of health and comfort)

Yes, just ask any one that flew in the pre-headset days. I personally find that I can comfortably fly for longer times with an ANR headset. Another thing to note is that the ANR head sets tend to not squeeze your head quite like the passive headsets I find this to be the real gain in comfort.

One of the big functional differences is that some of the LightSpeed headsets do not cary a TSO, I belive all of the Bose do. This may impact your ability to use them for commercial purposes in the future. You can find a discussion on it here.


Good headsets are expensive, but an investment as they aren’t something you purchase every few months, you keep them for years - which makes the decision all that much more tricky.

Factors to consider:

  1. ANR vs PNR

With regards to active noise reduction in a headset, it makes a huge difference. It is significantly quieter, giving you clarity in busy airspace calls and obviously, and most importantly they mitigate damage to your hearing - cockpits are loud, especially helicopters. Be weary though, their battery’s last only about 40 hours and although they will still work when this happens you won’t have ANR and it is much worse than passive headsets at this point, almost unbearable to fly with. PNR don’t need batteries, only advantage.

  1. Impedance, high or low.

Without getting too technical, civilian aircraft use high impedance electet microphones and military/ex military aircraft use low impedance microphone. You most likely will fly Pipers/Cessnas/Robinsons, so get high impedance.

  1. Plugs

    a. Dual Male Plugs - Fixed Wing b. Single Male Plug - Helicopter c. Panel Powered plugs - Here are various types but the most applicable to your case would be lemo - most newer aircraft have these plugs and allow you to use your ANR headset without batteries.

  2. Bluetooth

It’s maybe an extra $100, but it’s already so expensive don’t regret not having spent extra cash early on. What will you connect it to? Music, maybe. Modernised instrument panels or iPads with aural flight information, yes, and it lets you make a phone call, although it’s not permitted in flight - it doesn’t stop many pilots, it may just come in handy.

  1. Brand

The competition gaps have closed but the biggest international brands with good after purchase service are David Clark, Bose and Lightspeed. New contenders may have joined the game and are owed a consideration as well.

Consider a high impedance Bose A20 lemo with the appropriate fixed with and/or helicopter adapters and Bluetooth. Most adaptable option with excellent after market service. This is what I have experience with.

The Lightspeeds are really nice but I have no experience.

The David Clarks are my favourite PNR headsets.


While "comfort" may seem like a luxury, it's no fun to fly around with a headache. Give them a good try and look for minimal "squeezing" pressure. Also see other answers and comments re taking hearing protection seriously. Also if you routinely wear glasses (including sunglasses) be sure to test while wearing them-- they may break the earcup seal in a way that lets more noise in, or they may cause uncomfortable pressure points.


When I got my pilot's license in 1978 my instructor said...

"If you are going to fly for a living and want to look professional while you gas up, you should pay the exorbitant price for a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses, a David Clark headset, and Jeppesen charts.

If you want to save \$1500, you can buy a pair of \$2 polarized sun glasses, a \$100 FlightCom headset, and use free Govt charts. They will work just as good!"

The one thing that made more difference in my comfort than anything else was using cloth ear protectors. They are more comfortable than any ear cushions I have tried, and allow a constant supply of cool fresh air to breath past your ears.

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Cloth ear covers allow fresh air to breath past your ears and prevent sweating.

I have tested ANR and they make a huge difference in eliminating background noise. While they are worth the extra money if you have it, I have other things more important to me for $500 and have never purchased a pair.

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    $\begingroup$ What's your hearing worth to you? Noise exposure over time will cause hearing loss. Every little bit of protection helps reduce it. If you think ANR headsets are expensive, check out the price of hearing aids. $\endgroup$
    – Gerry
    Jun 21, 2018 at 16:07

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