Avionics News August 2016 - 30

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cations. Today, stereo headphones - absent the headset's microphone - stand among the most-common accessory for listening
to music or movie sound on personal devices ... smartphones,
tablets and dedicated movie players. And aviation continues to
prove fertile ground for innovations that have taken the capabilities of aviation headsets to previously unheard of levels.
Primary targets: Maximum attenuation,
maximum comfort
Sound engineers and audio specialists can help a prospective buyer sort out the adequacy of a headset's frequency response - the range between low frequency and high frequency
the speakers can produce, as well as the frequency response
of the microphone, be it electret or dynamic with backgroundnoise attenuation.
The degree of attenuation - measured in a drop in decibels
from the unattenuated sound outside the earcup to what the ear
can hear inside the earcup - is the best measure of how effective a headset will be in protecting the user's hearing. Beyond
attaining the maximum attenuation a prospect can afford, the
comfort of the headset ranks next in importance.
After all, pilots and passengers may need to wear a set for
hours at a time. Too much clamping pressure can lead to headaches; too little can let noise leak through. And since weather
conditions are almost always VFR - on top of the clouds - the
comfort of headsets when worn with glasses (of any kind) is
paramount. No sense forgoing eye protection in favor of hearing protection - or vice versa - when with careful shopping
and the right budget, a pilot can enjoy both at their best.
Variations and permutations yield
scores of options for pilots
As personal as the choice of an aircraft or clothing, aviation
headsets come in a dizzying variety encompassing the entire
spectrum of options in style, design and technologies used.
For example, one AEA member company, Aircraft Spruce
& Specialty, provides prospective customers with its Headset Wizard, an online shopping aid available at aircraftspruce.
com that breaks down the options into their individual categories. And what a variety to enjoy. Aircraft Spruce's Headset
Wizard turned up 236 headset models - from virtually every
vendor in the business.
The wizard listed options sourced from 30 listed manufacturers, covering both passive and active models and seven different connector types. Beyond the common two-jack general
aviation type, the connection variations include six-pin Lemo
plug, helicopter U-174 plug, plugs for military panels and ultralight connections, handheld radios and for Airbus cockpits.
Consider these options, their strengths and limitations.
30

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august

2016

Passive headsets
Passive headsets, once the ruling technology, remain a
common and plentiful option. Predominantly offered as overthe-ear systems, passive, hard-wired headsets represent the
most-affordable option of this vast collection. Nearly every
headset maker offers passive/hard-wired headsets.
Pilots must take care to choose among models with connectors that match the female jacks for mic and headphones of the
aircraft in which they'll fly.
They all share the benefits of light weight - and with no
batteries to die en route.
Active noise reduction headsets
Active noise reduction, or ANR headsets, today dominate
the market with models from most every manufacturer. Their
benefits are substantial given that they can be designed to
cancel sound in frequency spectrums specific to their mission - piston aircraft, for example, versus turboprops or jets,
open-cockpit versus enclosed aircraft, and the like.
Downsides include a need for power - typically provided by replaceable batteries, but also available from ship's
power with the proper connection. Some pilots feel they're
heavier than passive headsets, and some have clamping
pressures that can become uncomfortable after a moderatelength flight.
Options exist to convert a set of passive headsets to ANR
with kits that swap out the electronics inside the earcups - a
good, inexpensive way to step up for users happy with the fit
and comfort of their passive sets.
Meanwhile, some pilots don't trust that they'll hear some
of the telltale sounds of an engine developing problems.
Most ANR technologies focus on canceling exhaust and
prop noise, however, without dampening the mechanical
sounds that can come from an engine.
Wired headsets
Wired headsets remain the overwhelmingly dominant connection technology employed in modern headsets, though
variations exist. For example, at least one company offers a
proprietary connector that encompasses pins to connect the
headphones, the microphone and clean power to drive its
ANR headsets - while also offering models with the standard
two-plug system that dominates the field.
Wireless headsets
Wireless headsets represent the latest step forward in
headset technology, and already the options are many. These
models may use a Bluetooth-capable audio-control panel to
make the connection, or a Bluetooth adapter that plugs into
the aircraft's headset jacks. Others use their own wirelessContinued on page 32



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Avionics News August 2016

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Avionics News August 2016 - Intro
Avionics News August 2016 - Cover1
Avionics News August 2016 - Cover2
Avionics News August 2016 - No label
Avionics News August 2016 - 2
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Avionics News August 2016 - Cover3
Avionics News August 2016 - Cover4
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