When looking to buy an aviation headset one of the first decisions you will have to make is whether to go for an ANR or PNR model. If you’re on a tight budget, this decision might have already been made for you. A premium PNR headset can cost the same as a budget ANR headset, making the latter out of reach. Generally, the best aviation headsets for student pilots are therefore PNR models.
If budget isn’t a deciding factor, however, there are a few reasons why a pilot might prefer one over the other.
First, let’s find out how they both work.
How do ANR and PNR Headsets Work?
Inside an ANR headset’s earphone is a tiny microphone and speaker. The microphone picks up any sound and the speaker produces a “mirror image” of the original sound. This works to cancel out the sound. Batteries are required for this noise cancelling technology to work. Not all sound is cancelled out, though. If this was the case you wouldn’t be able to hear things a pilot needs to be able to hear, like speech and changes in the engine’s sound. Propeller noise, on the other hand, will happily get cancelled out.
PNR headsets are designed to reduce sound more simply. No electronic technology is required which drastically reduces the expense. The pads are designed to fully cover the ears and create a tight seal. Just how effectively a PNR headset is able to reduce sound is primarily down to the seal created.
Is Bluetooth a Must?
If you want your aviation headset to have Bluetooth, a PNR headset is out of the question. Bluetooth needs batteries to function, which inevitably means an ANR headset is your only choice. Some pilots love Bluetooth and all the benefits it brings, while others are more concerned with other aspects of a headset.
Comfort is an important factor for any headset, but perhaps even more so for PNR models. As mentioned, PNR headsets are all about the seal created. So creating a tighter seal is more necessary than when wearing an ANR headset. A tight seal can cause hot, sweaty ears, and too much tightness can also lead to headaches. Gel pads are therefore more frequently found on PNR headsets.
Which headset is more comfortable is up for debate and largely down to its design. All things being equal, it will be the ANR headset that will be more comfortable because less of a seal and clamping is required. It’s harder to get a PNR headset right in the comfort department.
What About Over-Ear, On-Ear or In-Ear Aviation Headsets?
Due to the way in which PNR headsets reduce sound, you will never find an on-ear model. It’s actually rare to find an on-ear ANR headset, but it does exist in the David Clark DC PRO-X2. While over-ear models are by far the most available, in-ear headsets do exist. These can use ANR technology like the Bose ProFlight, or PNR like the Faro Air In-Ear.
This is the minimum performance standards an aviation headset must meet. It is determined by the FAA. Regardless of which noise reduction method you prefer, options are limited either way with just a couple of brands designing them.
For ANR headsets you have Bose and David Clark headsets to choose from; whereas for PNR headsets you just have David Clark headsets to choose from. In the unlikely event a TSO Approved headset is an absolute must and you’re on a budget, knowing you can buy a David Clark PNR headset is a great option to have available.
Sooner or later most pilots will opt for an ANR headset, especially if they plan to make a career out of flying. The additional benefits of owning an ANR headset, and I’m not just talking about having something like Bluetooth available to you, but more so the noise protection and the easier to get along with comfort, can’t be ignored.
If you’re just starting out, however, a PNR headset can’t be beat. There’s a reason why most student pilots use PNR headsets.