Used Aviation Headsets – should you buy a used headset?

Aviation headsets are essential tools for pilots, providing communication and hearing protection in the cockpit. In this article, we explore various aspects of aviation headsets to help pilots and aviation enthusiasts make informed decisions. We cover the compatibility of headsets with different aircraft types, whether pilots are responsible for purchasing their own, and popular choices among airline pilots. By the end of this article, readers will have a comprehensive understanding of aviation headsets and the factors to consider when choosing between new and used aviation headsets.

Introduction

Aviation headsets are critical equipment for airline and helicopter pilots, as they facilitate clear communication, protect against hearing damage, and enhance overall situational awareness and comfort in the cockpit. However, there are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing the right aviation headset, not least of which is the cost. Becoming a pilot is an expensive business, and therefore many budding pilots find themselves asking the question: is it okay to purchase a used aviation headset?

In this article, we address some of the common questions surrounding aviation headsets, providing valuable insights for aviators who otherwise may not know where to start. If you’re in this boat, then keep reading, Captain, as you’ll soon have all the answers to all of your headset questions!

pilot in cockpit, aviation headset
The responsibility for purchasing headsets varies depending on the airline and individual arrangements. Some airlines provide headsets for their pilots, while others require pilots to bring their own.

Can you use any headset for aviation?

Aviation headsets are specially designed to meet the unique and demanding requirements of the cockpit environment. They are equipped with noise-canceling technology1, most with dual GA plugs, adjustable headbands, and microphones optimized for clear voice transmission. While it is technically possible to use other headsets, such as those designed for gaming or music, they may not offer the same level of performance and functionality required in aviation. Additionally, the classic headphone jack and the now commonly used lightning and USB-C connections are not compatible with airplane cockpit set-ups. Therefore, if you want maximum comfort and compatibility, save yourself the headache of finding the correct adaptor, and purchase a headset specifically designed and certified for aviation.

Do pilots have to buy their own headsets?

The responsibility for purchasing headsets varies depending on the airline and individual arrangements. Some airlines provide headsets for their pilots, while others require pilots to bring their own. In cases where pilots need to purchase their headsets, they must make sure they buy one compatible with their respective cockpit, and one that they won’t get sick of wearing, particularly if they’re a long-haul pilot!

How long does an aviation headset last?

The lifespan of an aviation headset depends on the quality of construction, frequency of use, and how well it is maintained by its owner. Like most devices, the average, well-maintained aviation headset can last for many years. However, similar to a used car, if you will, it is important to regularly inspect the device for any signs of wear and tear and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and replacement.

For example, Bose recommends replacing the consumables on their A20 headsets2, including the ear cushions, head cushion, and microphone windshield, every 6 months or as required.

used aviation headsets, pilot
Aviation headsets are specially designed to meet the unique and demanding requirements of the cockpit environment.

What headset do most airline pilots use?

While there are several reputable brands and models of aviation headsets favored by airline pilots, the most popular among them remains a fierce debate in the aviation community, with two key contenders: the brand new Bose A303 (preceded by the infamous A20) and the Lightspeed Zulu 34. With both headsets made from quality materials and offering similar features, the difference between the two mostly comes down to price- the A30 currently sells for US$1,299 and the Zulu 3 for $899.

For those looking to spend a little (or a lot) less money, David Clark5 headsets remain a popular choice. With their headsets ranging from roughly $285 to $1050, they lack the Active Noise Reduction (ANR) capabilities of the A30 and Zulu 3 but offer a cost-effective solution for those happy with Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC).

LIGHTSPEED Zulu 3 Premium ANR Aviation Headset with Noise...
  • Superior Quiet - Zulu 3 delivers advanced active noise reduction...
  • Low Profile Comfort - Weighing just 14.6 ounces (including ear...
  • Durability and Longevity – Made almost entirely of stainless...

Do aviation headsets have to be certified?

Aviation headsets must indeed be certified to meet particular standards to ensure they comply with aviation regulations and provide reliable performance. The most recognized certification is the Technical Standard Order (TSO6) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)7. TSO-certified headsets have undergone rigorous testing and meet specific criteria for audio quality, noise reduction, and durability.

Do airlines reuse headsets?

Many airlines these days provide each cockpit with 2 headsets, plus a spare for redundancy. In effect, this means airlines are “reusing” headsets from pilot to pilot. Oftentimes, though, these headsets are not considered comfortable for long-range trips, and many pilots prefer to bring their own headsets for sanitary reasons. In other airlines, pilots may have to supply their headsets. If you work for an airline that supplies headsets to pilots, the choice is yours whether you use your own, or the one supplied, but there is certainly a strong case to be made for using your own, from a hygiene and comfort perspective.

If you’re looking for your own headset as an airline pilot, consider selecting a lightweight, comfortable option, like the Bose Proflight Series 28, over a heavier, over-ear option with greater noise-canceling. Airline cockpits are much quieter than the cockpit of a GA aircraft!

pilot in cockpit, headset, aviation headset
Many airlines these days provide each cockpit with 2 headsets, plus a spare for redundancy.

How much do brand-new aviation headsets cost?

As discussed previously, the cost of brand-new aviation headsets can vary significantly based on brand, features, and overall quality. High-end models from reputable brands like Bose and Lightspeed can reach as high as $1,300. However, there are also more affordable options available in the market that provide satisfactory performance and durability, like David Clark, whose range starts as low as approximately $200.

How much are used aviation headsets?

Used aviation headsets are available at lower prices compared to brand-new ones. The cost of used headsets depends on many factors such as their age, condition, and brand. Generally, used headsets can be bought at a fraction of the cost of their new counterparts, making them a more budget-friendly option for pilots (especially those just starting). With a budget of just a few hundred dollars, you should have no trouble at all finding a worthy headset to do the job, until you become a captain and can afford the upgrade!

used aviation headsets, pilot
He looks happy! He must have got his headset either supplied or at a great price!! ; )

Where can you buy used aviation headsets?

Used aviation headsets can be purchased from various sources, depending on what they have in stock of course. Online marketplaces, like Amazon and eBay10, aviation forums like PPRuNE9, pilot supply stores, and classified ads are common places to find used headsets. However, it is crucial to carefully evaluate the condition of the headset, check for necessary certifications, and ensure compatibility with the specific aircraft you’ll be flying before making a purchase.

David Clark H10-13.4 Aviation Headset
  • Super Soft, Double Foam Head Pad
  • New Comfort gel, undercut ear seals
  • Universal Flex Boom for perfect microphone placement

Are used aviation headsets worth it?

Used aviation headsets can be a viable option for pilots on a budget or those looking for a specific model at a more affordable price. However, it is important to consider factors such as the condition, remaining lifespan, and the potential cost of repairs or replacement parts. Buying from reputable sellers and conducting thorough inspections can help mitigate risks associated with used headsets.

Conclusion

Selecting the right aviation headset is essential for pilots to ensure clear communication, hearing protection, and overall comfort during flights. By reading this article, pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike can address key questions about aviation headsets, their compatibility, lifespan, costs, and certifications, and make informed decisions when choosing the most suitable headset for their needs. Whether opting for new or used headsets, it is essential to prioritize the safety of all crew and passengers, the quality of the headset, and individual preference to enhance the overall flying experience.

You may also be interested in our articles on:

3 best aviation headsets – HERE

Lightspeed Zulu Review – HERE

Bose A20 review – HERE

How to become a pilot USA – HERE

How to become a military pilot – HERE

Reference List:

  1. What is Noise Cancellation and what can I expect?, Sony, UK. Published (updated): March 30, 2023. Accessed online at https://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/support/articles/00203389 on June 7, 2023.
  2. https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/aviation_headsets/a20-aviation-headset
  3. https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/aviation_headsets/a30-aviation-headset.html#v=A30-HEADSETAVIA
  4. https://www.lightspeedaviation.com/product/zulu-3-anr-headset/
  5. https://www.davidclarkcompany.com/
  6. Technical Standard Orders (TSO), FAA. Accessed online at https://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/design_approvals/tso#:~:text=A%20TSO%20is%20a%20minimum,referred%20to%20as%20TSO%20authorization on June 7, 2023.
  7. https://www.faa.gov/
  8. https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/aviation_headsets/proflight-aviation-headset
  9. https://www.pprune.org/trending.php
  10. https://www.ebay.com/
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ken johnson

Ken

Ken is a passionate aviator, a professional pilot and flight instructor. He has over 17 years of flight experience across hundreds of aircraft ranging from recreational, aerobatic, historic, commercial and military aircraft, training hundreds of students along the way. Find out more.

Ken has 124 posts and counting. See all posts by Ken

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