Bose has a rich and varied history when it comes to ANR headsets. The company designed the first commercial Active Noise Cancellation headset for pilots in 1989. Since then any pilot looking for the best ANR headset doesn’t usually settle for anything less than the A20.
It also helps that the company is able to use their vast experience in the personal audio world to design a headset with comfort and sound quality at the forefront of its design. Sometimes it seems like other brands are playing catchup.
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The A20 is best in-class at noise cancellation. While any pilot should never take their ears for granted, it is pilots who fly day in day out who need the most assurance that they aren’t putting their ears at risk. The A20 may seem expensive, but when you need to protect your hearing, spending a few hundred more for the A20 over another headset becomes well worth it.
Some pilots may even find the A20 is too quiet. While this isn’t necessarily something I agree with, it’s fair to say that it can take a bit of time to get used to. Once you do, you don’t want to go back to any other headset.
Bose has plenty of experience in the personal audio market. It is largely this experience that puts them well ahead of their competitors when designing aviation headsets – not just in comfort and noise cancellation, but also in sound quality.
The A20 easily beats all others when it comes to listening to music. No tinny sound here. Of course, audio quality when communicating is also excellent. Everything comes through crisp and clear.
The A20 is one of the lightest, if not the very lightest aviation headset on the market – at least if we discount in-ear models like the Bose ProFlight. It weighs just 12 ounces. If you’ve ever flown with a heavy headset sitting on top of your head for a couple of hours, you know just how much a lighter weight model can contribute to a more comfortable flying experience. Clamping force is very little, and weight distribution is superb when wearing the A20.
However, in Bose’s goal to make a headset as light and comfortable as possible, there are arguably a bit too many plastic parts. In some pilots’ eyes if there is one aspect that the A20 can be improved upon, it is this. While build quality is still very good, and the A20 will be able to take some abuse, plastic is still plastic at the end of the day.
The battery life of the A20 stands at 45 hours. This isn’t actually best in-class, as the David Clark DC Pro-X2 and DC One-X have it beat in this regard at 50 hours. However, one of those doesn’t have an audio input, and the other is an on-ear model.
Don’t get me wrong – they are superb aviation headsets and comparable to the A20 in several aspects. But some pilots can’t get along with an on-ear model (Pro-X2), and others can’t imaging using a headset without an audio input (DX One-X). There are compromises to be made with those two headsets from David Clark when there aren’t any with the A20.
While the A20’s 5-year warranty is fairly standard, the level of customer support you get certainly isn’t. While you would expect the company to replace parts and fix anything that goes wrong within the warranty period – which they of course do (with a very quick turnaround) – there are countless stories of Bose sending replacement parts for free even once the warranty has expired.
A Bluetooth or non-Bluetooth version of the A20 is available (the Bluetooth version is definitely the more popular of the two), and both come with an audio input.
The control box also comes in handy throughout various stages of a flight. This allows you to prioritize which audio you want to hear. For example, you have the choice of completely turning off all external audio, mixing external audio and communications, or muting all external audio when communicating.
Not every pilot needs a TSO approved headset, but for those who do can be safe in the knowledge that the A20 fulfils the stringent performance standards set by the FAA. The A20 is used by professional pilots worldwide, so you’re in good company.
Is the Bose A20 expensive? Sure. It’s the most expensive headset on the market. But for pilots who don’t want to compromise on noise reduction, comfort, and audio quality there is nothing better.
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