The New Headsets At AOPA Expo: Forget ANR
At least two companies, LightSpeed Aviation and Aloft Technologies, have set aside over-the-ear headset ANR technology with in-ear technology products, driving sound with hearing-aid speakers and dampening it with ... replaceable ear plugs. A third, the Panther CATS system (which is similar, but not as new) takes a mold of the user's ear, making the sets individual-fit perfect -- but multiple-user exclusive. All three units look very much like fancy earplugs at the end of some wire (excluding the tiny boom mics). So there's a marketing challenge for the arguably superior products: It's not likely to come in comfort (we've tried them all) or noise dampening, and it might take some talent to convince pilots that what appear much like earplugs on a string should cost more than $400. All manufacturers -- LightSpeed, Aloft, and Panther -- claim comparable attenuation when compared to active-noise-reduction sets and superior attenuation when compared with conventional passive sets, especially in the low-frequency (read engine-noise) range. Differences between the LightSpeed and Aloft units include the way the replaceable earplug portion attaches to the speaker unit. Aloft has a patented twist-on design and a metal structure that slips over one ear and around the back of the head to stabilize the boom mic. LightSpeed simply slips its plugs over an acoustic post, which may make their removal from the ear seem a bit more delicate, and allows the boom mic to hang from the left ear's plug/speaker unit. LightSpeed also includes a jack for cell-phone or stereo device input.