Stereo vs. Mono Aviation Headsets – What’s the Difference?

First, what does mono and stereo mean?

Simply put, mono sound means that the exact same signal is provided to both ears, so both the left and right ear hear the same thing. Stereo sound means two different signals are provided, so each ear can hear a different sound.  Considering most aircraft intercoms and radios are mono, a mono headset is all that is required to communicate when flying,

Okay, so mono headsets are by no means always necessary for aviation purposes. In that case, why even buy one of the top rated aviation headsets that supports stereo then? Why do most headsets, at least modern ones, even seem to support stereo in the first place?

Well, if you’ve ever tried listening to music in mono you know that you’ll want to switch to stereo straight away. You want to hear that hi-hat in your left ear and those crunching guitars in the right. A lot of pilots like to listen to music while they fly. In fact, it’s quite rare these days to come across a pilot who never listens to music while up in the air.

Of course, if you know for certain that the plane you will be flying is wired for mono, there is no need to buy either an ANR or PNR headset with stereo support. You might even save some money in the process. Of course, circumstances can change, and instead of making your headset obsolete it might be a good to buy a stereo headset in the first place. You never know when you might want to rock out either.

Do I Have to Decide Between a Stereo and Mono Aviation Headset?

When deciding to buy a stereo or mono headset there is usually no compromise to be made. While a stereo headset plugged into an intercom wired for mono headsets will inevitably only give you sound out of one side, virtually all stereo headsets support both mono and stereo. All it takes is a flick of a switch on the headset to change between the two.

Don’t think you’ll always have to switch between mono and stereo when you want to listen to music, though. Most aviation headsets, especially the premium models, are able to playback in stereo even when set to mono by having the Bluetooth or aux input wired for stereo use. If not, switching back and forth soon becomes annoying.