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Aviation Headsets

Given that just about everybody owns their own plane these days, you'll probably want to pick up a pair of these aviation headsets. They are designed to provide a comfortable and clear form of communication while minimizing the noises common in airplane cockpits.

Active Noise Reduction Versus Passive Noise Reduction

One of the first, and arguably most important, decisions that you have to make when choosing a new aviation headset is whether you prefer active noise reduction — sometimes referred to as active noise cancellation — or passive noise reduction.

ANR headphones work by canceling out specific sound frequencies. A small microphone located in the earcup of an ANR headset picks up outside noise. The noise is then transferred to the headset's electronics, which power a small speaker inside of the earcup. This small speaker produces an exact replica of the outside noises, while at the same time the electronics add a signal that is 180-degrees out of phase with the original sounds sent by the microphone. A 180-degree, out-of-phase sound is an exact opposite frequency of the original sound. These two opposing frequencies cancel each other out, resulting in silence.

This doesn't mean that ANR headsets will leave you unable to hear anything going on around you. They are tuned to mainly cancel out low-frequency and repetitive sounds or those that contain a very limited number of frequencies — think the droning of an engine or hum of a large electronic device. High-frequency or constantly changing sounds, like somebody's voice or music, are more difficult to cancel out and will generally pass right through an ANR headset with minimal reduction. The fact that changing sounds are difficult to cancel out also means that if a constant low-frequency sound all of sudden experiences a change in frequency, like an engine suddenly reducing in power or a propeller slowing down, it should still be noticeable through ANR headphones.

PNR headsets work in a very different manner. Rather than using technology and opposing frequencies to cancel out sounds, they simply use soundproofing to muffle exterior noises. It is akin to what happens when you place your hands over your ears, though much more effective. To muffle exterior sounds, a PNR headset will make use of dense foam or gel combined with a pressure seal. The clamping action created by a headset's headband keeps the earcups firmly placed against the side of your head to create a seal that prevents exterior noises from entering.

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