When shopping for an aviation headset you may come across several different plugs. With so many available options, it can be overwhelming at first. However, just use this handy guide and you will soon be able to tell the difference between a GA plug, XLR plug and everything in between.
The GA Plug is the most common and recognizable plug. It also goes by a few different names. So, if you see a Twin Plug or Dual Plug stated, just know that it refers to the same thing. For most fixed wing aircraft – i.e. pretty much all civilian and commercial planes, a GA Plug will be the required and only connection. There are some exceptions to this, such as in newer aircrafts, where a GA or Panel Power Plug can be used.
As the name implies, there are two plugs. One is used to provide audio and the other to power your microphone. If in doubt which plug you need it’s likely going to be this type.
Panel Power Plugs
Also referred to as a LEMO or Redel Plug, Panel Power Plugs can be inserted directly into the panel connector to provide power. One of the great things about this type of plug is how it can provide power to not just your ear cups audio and microphone, but all aspects of your headset, including ANR and Bluetooth. What this means is that no batteries are required for ANR. These plugs have 6 pins, and you might even hear them referred to by that name.
While not all aircraft are set up to be panel powered, it is becoming a more common option and preference for many pilots. A Panel Power Install Kit can be used to accommodate this setup.
The U174 Plug is used in helicopters. While it looks similar to a GA plug, if you look closely enough you can see that it is a bit shorter and fatter. It can also simply be referred to as a Single Plug.
While dual plugs are needed to supply power to your ear cup audio and microphones for GA Plugs, just the single plug is necessary here.
The XLR plug is used in commercial aircraft, specifically in Airbus aircrafts. This plug looks similar to a Panel Power Plug, but if you look close enough you can see that it has 5 pins instead of 6. It may also be referred to simply as a 5-Pin because of this. Audio to your ear cups and power to your microphone is supplied with this connection.
Regardless if it’s a fixed wing or helicopter, if you’re flying a military aircraft you will probably need to use a U-93A plug. While this is the same size as a U174 Plug, headsets used in military aircraft generally require a lower impedance to function.
What can pilots do if their headset isn’t compatible with their aircraft?
If your current headset isn’t compatible with a new plane, or if you picked up a headset that isn’t compatible with your current plane, there is no need to worry.
There is no need to rush out and buy a costly new headset. You can buy an adapter that will allow you to connect your headset with minimal hassle. You won’t have to pay any more than $100 for a suitable adapter – most of time you will spend just half that.