Note: More information about the models and brands listed in this article can be found in our guide to buying an aviation headset article.
There is no one single answer to this question. It largely depends on what you’re looking for from an aviation headset. What a student pilot is looking for, or someone who needs to buy a headset for their passengers, is likely to be different to a commercial pilot with no set budget. So the best brand will vary.
It’s therefore best to attempt to answer this question according to what the main reason is for buying a headset. There are also a couple of other factors to consider too, like ANR and PNR headsets, and whether the headset is TSO’d or not, as these can also change the answer.
Best Brands for Student Pilots
While a student pilot may love to own a top of the range Bose or David Clark ANR headset there is no real need to. A student pilot just needs a headset that is functional, can be depended on, and is inexpensive. This will largely mean that an ANR headset is out of question due to their higher prices. The exception is the Faro G2, which is the best brand for an ANR headset for student pilots.
As student pilots will usually be on a tight budget, PNR headsets will be their best bet. Brands like Kore Aviation, Rugged Air and ASA cater towards this market. The pick of the punch from these manufacturers are the Kore Aviation KA-1 and ASA HS-1A. A step-up in quality would be from David Clark with their PNR headsets costing the same as the Faro G2. All these would also make great a back-up pair too.
Best Brands for Passengers
Aviation headsets for passengers more or less fall in the same category as those for student pilots. If anything, you could probably spend even less if this is the case. These headsets will likely be used for short durations and as a one-off with passengers you won’t necessarily see again. There is therefore no need to break the bank. Models like the Rugged Air RA200 and Kore Aviation P1 are good inexpensive options, costing half of what the aviation headsets for students listed above cost.
If you’d like to spend a bit more to deliver a better, more comfortable flying experience for your passengers, any of the headsets listed for student pilots are a good option. Then there are some other options to consider. Passengers would likely love to be able to listen to music in the air. While you could buy an ANR headset that comes with Blueooth, a PNR headset with an audio input is the smarter choice. Additionally, David Clark would provide a step-up in comfort.
Best Premium Headset Brands
While we now know why there isn’t necessarily a best brand due to different use cases, if I was absolutely forced to pick the best of the best I would inevitably lean towards David Clark and Bose. What people are usually asking when they want an answer to this question, is which manufacturers don’t skimp on quality.
Well, Bose and David Clark manufacture headsets with the best noise reduction at the very forefront of their design, as well as comfort. But with high quality comes high prices. The headset market isn’t different to any other market in this sense.
ANR vs PNR
While the Bose A20 may be a superb ANR headset, if you’re looking for a PNR headset from Bose you’re out of luck. In my and many other pilots’ opinions who have had extensive experience with headsets, David Clark make the best PNR headsets. For ANR headsets, it’s not quite as straightforward, but Bose, David Clark and Lightspeed Aviation are the top 3 brands to consider.
Not all airlines require their pilots to use a TSO’d headset – in fact, it is much more common for this to not be a requirement. But if the airline requires it then your options are limited. You may love the Lightspeed Zulu 3, as many others do because it can compete with the Bose A20 for the price, but it unfortunately isn’t TSO approved. If you need a TSO’d headset you are limited to Bose and David Clark.
As you can see, the best brand of aviation headset depends on several factors. In short, the best premium headsets come from Bose and David Clark. Lightspeed Aviation occupy the middle ground. Kore Aviation, Faro, ASA, and Rugged Air fight it out in the budget market, catered more towards student pilots and passengers. If you’re looking for a TSO’d headset, you’re stuck with Bose and David Clark, which is certainly no bad thing. If a PNR headset is more to your liking, no company does it better than David Clark.
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