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IAC Discussion Summary

Noise Attenuating Headsets

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Disclaimer: These IAC pages are developed by individual IAC members and do not represent official IAC policy or opinion.

Collected by: John Harlan


Anyone had any luck with active cancellation headsets in a Pitts? I'm told some don't work well in very loud environments. (The ringing in my ears tells me my Pitts qualifies). My David Clark H10-13.4's take the edge off, but I'd sure like more attenuation. I've tried earplugs but then I can't hear the dang radio. Maybe a louder radio plus earplugs is the answer.

David Clark also lists something called an H10-50 for "really noisy application." Any experience with those?

John Harlan


I think that the heavier H10-40 attenuates the "Pitts" type of noise better than does the H10-13.4. Also, it seems like the headband spring is stiffer so you can bend the ear cups together and really clamp the thing to the old noggin. I haven't tried an ANR headset in the Pitts...I gave up on the one I was using in an Aerostar. Too many wierd squeaks and pops, and poor attenuation when the batteries went dead.

Doug Sowder

I have a Skybolt and I put the "kit" active noise set in my David Clark's. It sure makes a difference in that I can hear the radio much better.

Bill Unternaehrer

Ive got a lot of experience of acitve headsets in my Pitts, because I have the opprotunity to get them loaned by the manufacturers. (I write about it), Generally: every active headset is superior to non active ones. But: make very sure the Earcup-Sealing fits for your head-shape. Even a very little gap causes the electronic circuit inside for overload distortions which feel like a hand strike on your ears. So for aerobatics you have to modify the headset with a chin-strap so the headsets will stay in a tight position even on outside maneuvers. By the way: dont forget to install an extra power supply in your Pitts, because batteries are always empty when you need them! Not every active Headset provides for an external Supply. There are small special circuits for such installations, which keep away sparks on the power, which could damage the electronics. Happy landings


I've been using a Flight Suits Unlimited helmut with active noise reduction - it's effective but pricey.

Other's have used the Bose and rave about them.

While in OSH last week I talked with the folks at Oregon Aero - they manufacture foam padding specifically designed to reduce noise and improve comfort - they'll upgrade a David Clarke for about $75. I'd do that before I did anything else. They have a good catalogue try 1-800-888-6910

FYI, I had the same ear problems you describe - especially after a 3 hr x-country. My AME said that I should actively try to reduce the noise because of the long term effects of noise on hearing. Active Noise Reduction is very effective and worth the investment. You'll hear people express concern that you loose some of the noise cues an engine sends along about its condition etc.; those concerns aren't valid - you actually hear more things for the airframe and engine when you reduce the high noise levels.

Patrick Clyne

I use the Bose headsets in my modified 260hp Great Lakes with an open cockpit and am quite pleased with them. I ferried (1000miles) an S2S with them (they were the A/C owners, so he agrees with my opinion) and I have also ferried Bill Thomas' S2B with them (he uses them all the time and swears by them). I have tried most of the other brands as well and found that, unfortunately you get what you pay for. The Bose are the best by a wide margin and should be because the are the most expensive as well.


I've been really happy with my Sennheiser Headset in my S1S. It's light, comfortable, and does a fine job keeping the noise down.

Kent Taylor

I recently purchased a LightSPEED 15K ANR headset to use in our club's Pitts S2A (Victorian Chapter of the Australian Aerobatics Club).

I could go on about how comfortable the 15K's are, how well they work, how convenient the battery facility is etc. But it's quicker to sum up my comments by saying that anyone who's flying with a legacy headset is missing out on one of the best developments in piston powered aviation technology since inverted fuel and oil systems. They're that good.

Better still, the LightSPEED products are reasonably priced. The only big decision you would have with LightSPEED is deciding if the additional 3db noise reduction available with the 20k model is worth the additional $150 or so. I haven't tried the 20k so I can't comment.

There have been a number of independent reviews of the LightSPEED headsets that are accessible via any of the aviation shop web sites. You can also access LightSPEED's FAQ at


PS. No, I don't have any affiliation with LightSPEED, I'm simply a happy customer. Yes, I was the twit who was walking around in the Espy (a famous Melbourne pub that features very loud rock bands) with the LightSPEEDs on having a quiet time - just testing!

No name available

Order the hush kit from Oregon Aero in Scapoose, Or. They are better than the ANR as they also filter out the high frequency noises that cause loss of hearing. They also move the speaker nearer to the ear for better radio reception.

Don Taylor

I have tried both Telex and Bose ANR type headsets in my DR-109. Neither were very good at staying on my head (I've already heard all the pin head jokes) while doing akro. And as noted they don't provide very mush protection when the batteries wear out which happens quite fast (especially when you forget to turn them off). Then I tried to Headsets Inc. ANR Kit. I modified two of my Sigtronics (Dave Clark clones) and have been very happy with them. The battery box is small and the basic headset offers quite a bit of protection when the battery wears out plus they stay put on my head. They are much cheaper than any store bought ANR system. It does take a few hours of work with a soldering gun. So far no problems! I'm very satisfied.

Dan Rihn

Please note that Bose offers a cloth mesh helmet for its original ANR headset. It is available from the factory. I saw Brad Lang's at Fond du Lac and he said he was very happy with it. It appears to be a slightly modified Perrone product. The new Bose ANR introduced at Oshkosh is lighter and apparently has better ear seals.

I have screwed a Flight Suits military chin strap onto my LightSpeed 20K and it stays in place plus offers greater noise protection by increasing clamping pressure. I also substituted a sheepskin pad for the bulky crown cushion and lowered the overhead to just 5/8 inch. There is occasional amplifier overload clipping noise on take-off which is like a low buzzing rattle but this has decreased with new stiffer ear pads from the factory. Overall I am delighted with the 20K and will probably convert my jacks to a permanent installation when it becomes available. They now offer a new 25K about which I know nothing.

Warren Anderson

I think the H10-50s are "helicopter" models, but with our type of plugs on the end. I used them in my S-model for several years. my ears still ring
(severely). Call John Freemann @ Aerosport in St. Augustine. He told me

about a combination of vitamins once that is supposed to Stop (or heal, I can't remember which) ringing in the ears. One of the vitamins in the combo is non-blushing Niacin. I don't remember the other. I never tried it but I'm going to ask him when I see him again. (If I can remember)!!!!!!!!!!

Scott O.

I've used the original Bose and the Telex 4000 both with good results (the spec on the newer designs are much better). I've only had problems with "motor boating" when I didn't have a good seal - usually due to sunglasses. I've used the Telex 4000 with a standard David Clark cloth helmet in my S2B for 4 or 5 years. The helmet ear openings can be pulled over the Telex cushions without disassembling the headset, making it much easier to get around to washing the helmet. I get better than 40 flight hours out of a set of 6 AA batteries with the battery pack stowed in a pouch velcro'd to the cockpit side panel. I can hear my radio and intercom much better with the noise canceling and long cross countries are much less tiring. My first impression on using the Telex was that the results were not spectacular. But after I had used them for 20 hours or so and had to go back to my passive DC headset while I had the Telex in for a repair, I really noticed the difference.

Dave Swartz

One more vote for the Headsets Inc. ANR kit. The price is right and they install in my Flightsuits Helmet (El Cajon, CA) for both noise reduction and crash protection. And when I had difficulty with the install, the tech support was terrific. One other (cheap but effective) product:a truely tiny survival kit with a signal mirror,compass,trail markers,fire starters, sun dial and survial guide -weight only ounces, fits in a pocket and cost $12.95 - at that price you add your own preferences and still win ("Natures Answer" 1014 2nd Ave North, Great Falls Montana).

No name available

Well, we're absolutely on the same track and I'm keenly interested in what you find out. The only difference with my open cockpit is that I have twin two strokes, so I'm not sure the ANR function matters at this range of the spectrum. But anything that you learn would be valuable to me. There's an English set called the Lynx that got good reviews. Might be worth a look, also.

Jeremy Lezin

Your comments about ANR and the Flight Suit helmet interests me. I've just started flying the S-2B and find the noise level to makes it VERY frusterating to communicate with ATC. I've tried Softcomm and David Clark, and can't seam to find any combonation that allows for really good communications between pilot and passanger and ATC.

I've considered the ANR kit and a helmet, but have not made the dollar "leap" yet.

I would appriciate any comments you have on this subject. Is it work the $$, are you using Gel Seals, Electic mike, etc.

No name available

As they say in the commercial: "just do it". I have always believed in headsets for hearing safety as well as ease of communications (flying Cessnas) and when I started acro they were mandatory. Unfortunately, I could never strap them tight enough to keep myself from shouting at ATC. Several years ago, an airshow pilot friend and I were talking about helmets (i.e. a few were showing up and it seemed to be a macho/safety argument) - he advised me just to shut up and buy one. Given the vast expenses of this sport anyway, the idea seemed sound and I made the plunge. I chose the high option of custom fitting - but no fancy paint. At that time, they (Flight Suits - El Cajon, CA) were not doing any installations for ANR but I heard about the "do it yourself kit" (1 800 876 3374) and bought one. The real trick was to get a power cord into the helmet. I then, anticipating installing the ANR, had Flight Suits add a third line into the helmet along with the mic and headset. The rest of it was downhill - I pulled the factory earphones and soldered in the modules (really not too hard with the small soldering iron from Radio Shack). The real story however, took about a year and a half before I had them installed. It provided me the opportunity to fly with/without and during that time the ANR company developed a sweet little battery box with switch to make the power connection (I had jury rigged a switch in a very cheesy plastic box). I had also burned out the modules (used them with batteries successfully, then tried to hard wire it into my plane, reversed the connections . . . and back to no ANR). The company responded to my need by installing new modules plus the new battery box for a very modest charge.

just do it . .

One more suggestion. If you are redoing the helmet wiring (or ordering the latest new color for $$$$) I suggest you consider a quick disconnect plug. Let me explain. Another friend had the opportunity to test his parachute skills in real time - control cables bound up in a hammerhead and he lost the aircraft - landed no injury. He told me after nearly exiting the cockpit, his headset and cords jerked him back and he had to "unplug" to exit. Now, if you look at how your mic and headset plug into the panel, and consider how sturdy that helmet is attached to your head - well, I do not want to run the experiment on the "weak link". Simple solution: another plug at the helmet end of the cords (type 38 U-174 plug for the mic/headset & CX-4708 U-179 jack for the power cord). The trade off is another potential loose connection - but it is one less thing to think about if you are real low and slow.

A further thought - since they (Flight Suits Ltd) will now install ANR - you can just write a bigger check. The unit I have is not the equivalent of the Bose systems - but it sure beats the lack of noise suppression.

sorry for the long response, but I got several queries about my comment and thought others might find it useful.

I have a Flight Suits helmut with their ANR headset installed. The helmut is excellent and can be worn many hours without discomfort.

I am less happy with their ANR installation - it is only moderately effective. When used in a Pitts S-2-B it isn't worth the investment; however, other ANR installations are much more effective that Fight Suits, I would use those instead of the pricey Flight Suits ANR unit.

Even with the ANR system disconnected the Flight Suits helmut provides better accoutics than the standard David Clarke headset.

When at OSH this year I visited the Oregon Aero booth. They install passive noise reduction padding in Flight Suits helmuts; for $125 or so they will retrofit a helmut with padding that substantially reduces noise. I plan on having them re-do my helmut this winter.

The comments on quick disconnect fittings are well taken -

Finally, the safety benefits of using a helmut seem to out weigh any of the problems they present.

Patrick Clyne

I purchased a surplus Canadian military helmet from John Ramberg
( and added gel earseals and a Headsets Inc. ANR kit. The

noise reduction is quite good, and the helmet itself is comfortable.

A good electret mic is a necessity in the S-2B, as is a foam muff. I installed a Flightcom A7A.1 mic, which seems to fit almost any mounting setup. Lastly, I had to add a military-to-civilian conversion cord which also serves as a quick disconnect. To my surprise, my local avionics shop had that cord in stock.

Total investment: about $450.

DJ Molny

Jeff Poehlmann said you guys are using the headsets inc. mod on your David Clark headsets in an S2B. Does it work well? I'm trying to find a solution for my S1S. It is LOUD!

John Harlan

Actually we are using them in our helmuts, but they are really working well and we love them. It makes a huge difference!! They are now making a new/improved cord, which is worth it because the original cords are too light and disconnect easily when turning our heads. We had to have FlightSuits make a new cord/plug set for us which we're installing into our plane. They should make a huge improvement in your David Clarks though, and I highly recommend them.


Sorry I took so long to get back to you. I'm using the Headsets Inc. ANR powered by the Aircraft. I have them installed in a military issue HGU-55p helmet(civillianized) and highly modified. I've used this helmet for several years in S-2B,S-1S,Extra-300, Extra-300L aircraft. However, I have not had any trouble untill now. In Our S-2B w/3-blade MT, I'm having some noise problems. I do like the system. It is just taking more time to tune and tweak it. I am getting pretty well versed on what does and does not work. Iwould be happy to Help.


I have read a lot of posts on the Headsets, Inc. ANR retrofit kits for various headsets and helmets and tried them in my Eagle. They made a substantial and pleasant difference! This guy wotks for my airline and is a distributor for them, so if you're interested, he can fix you up, far cheaper than a new ANR headset and just as good.

Ashley Messenger

I ended up purchasing the Headsets, Inc. ANR kit for my David Clark H10-13.4 headset. I am quite satisfied with this combination, which allows me to use the David Clark K10 helmet. The ANR mod does somewhat reduce the passive ability of the 13.4's, but once the switch is on there is no comparison.

I have a general question for those of you who use Electronic Noise Canceling headsets.

Does anyone find an ENC headset better over a Non-ENC headset and if so which one and why? I have a vary noisy airplane and am wondering if I would do better with an ENC headset or would it just be cutting out important sounds I would want to hear.


I started a thread sometime back on this subject. I'll collect all the responses and send them to Guenther for the IAC web site. There was a variety of opinions, but the consensus was positive for active cancelling. In my case, after reading all the responses and trying a few different options, I ended up quite satisfied with the Headsets, Inc. modification installed on a pair of H10-13.4 David Clarks.

The type of noise that is cancelled is annoying low frequency rumble. I think you can actually hear important sounds better with the active cancellation engaged.

John Harlan

IMHO the active noise cancelling headsets are worth the extra $. I prefer the David Clarks, since they're a little lighter than the Bose. We use Lightspeeds in the Husky (also a noisy airplane) and they do a nice job.

Bob Brown

On a slightly different approach..

Has anyone tried the Pilot headset with a throat mike? Saw it in a catalog and the claim was for great performance in open-cockpit aircraft. The Starduster Too I fly is pretty noisy.

Art Clark

the problem with the Bose is that they have the mike hung under one ear or the other. This is not a problem until you put on a Strong parachute and then try to turn your head. The mike boom attachment catches on the sholder strap. So, I can go with a security chute or change to a less noise cancelling headseat that has the mike boom coming out of the head piece (like the TELEX). Problem is, when I wear the Telex I also have to wear ear plugs. With the Bose the pain of the noise is gone completely and I do not have to wear ear plugs.

Dudley Fort

I'm curious if any of you are using the ANR (Active Noise Reduction) system that FLIGHT SUITS sells for their helmets?

I have one of those $900 custom fit, kevlar, HGU-55's ( but I leave it at home when I go flying due to the poor noise protection that mine provides. The only way that I can wear my helmet is if I also wear foam ear plugs, which then makes it difficult to hear my radio effectively. Instead, I almost always wear my David Clark's which work perfectly, even without the ear plugs. Luckily so far, I have not needed my helmet...

My goal is to get my helmet fixed so that it provides reasonable noise protection. Thomas Nutter, the GM at Flight Suits is suggesting that I send my helmet back to have it upgraded with the ANR system but before I spend another $600 dollars on my helmet, I would really like to hear some positive feedback from others who have tried it and are happy with the results. I'm also curious if it works as well or similar to the BOSE system that I recently had the pleasure to try out. If so, I'd gladly pay the extra money. Actually, if it would just work as well as my standard David Clark's, I'd settle for that and start to wear it.

Geryl Mortensen

I have a HGU-55 helmet from Flight suits, and I had the same problem--poor noise attenuation. I found a new ear seal that works great. Throw away the fancy leather pad, and put this on your earcup. (Requires the optional plastic earcup). The set comes with adjustable pads to go between the earcup and the helmet shell. Note: Flight suits does not sell this. Go to:

I don't have ANR, but I know someone who installed a "do-it-yerself" ANR kit, and it works great. Cheaper then Flight Suits ($150-$200). Go to:

Other sites for nomex, leather, helmets, etc.

Marc Ludtke

I rebuilt a Canadian mil-surplus helmet using an ANR kit from Headsets, Inc. I had to order a special version for the shallow earcups of the helmet. Web address:

Even with ANR and gel earseals, the S-2B is pretty darned loud, so I also wear foam earplugs and then I have to turn the radio up to full volume. But that arrangement works well.

The ANR makes a huge difference; if I accidentally pull out the power plug for the ANR unit, the noise reaching my ears triples. Or so it seems.

DJ Molny

When I bought my helmet from Flight Suits, the salesman suggested getting the Headsets Inc. ANR kit and putting in in myself, for less than half of what they were charging. He wasn't too impressed with the unit that he sold. That was probably a year and a half ago, so things may have changed. I'm still planning on doing this, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I'll let everyone know how it turns out when I do.

Jeffrey Lo,

What about using an SPH5? They are a little more bulky but offer great hearing protection.


I taked to the folks at Head Sets Inc the other day. They can fit their ANR into helmets at a very reasonable price. I've had great success with their ANR kits on my headsets. Call them at 1-800-876-3374 or

Dan Rihn

I've long ago elected that as soon as get into a Pitts I would get a helmet. Well, I'm beginning to fly a pitts now and would like to purchase a helmet. Can anyone recommend a place, a store, a catalog or on-line that has a selection of helmets you can use in a pitts. I've found some places that sell flight helmets but do not need to buy an USAF F-15 type helmet, you know. Looking for either a one-piece hard helmet or a NAVY flight deck crew two-piece helmet?

Alex Belov

I've been through this decision process and I have some opinions based on my investigation:

The USAF "HGU" style fighter helmets (29 to 45 ounces) look cool and offer good impact protection, but they seem to be very poor in isolating noise. Jet fighter noise level is very low, so there is no big design driver for these helmets to offer good noise isolation. I tried out one in my Pitts and found the noise level to be unacceptably high. Granted, it wasn't a custom fit, and I can't say all versions are the same, but the ear cups were sealing properly. Flight Suits sells two versions of earpads, one purported to have better noise attenuation. I don't know which version the one I tried had.

You can get helmets with active noise cancellation from Flight Suits Ltd, or the ANR retrofits are available from Headsets, Inc., but the passive attenuation is so poor that even with active cancellation I question how effective the final product would be, but then again I haven't tried one.

For noisy airplanes (mostly helicopters) the military and others use the "SPH" style helmet, which has a larger cavity over each ear. I think this is so there can be room for a more effective ear cup. I tried one of these long ago, but too long to remember how good the attenuation was. However, I suspect the attenuation is much better, although the helmet is somewhat heavy (56 ounces).

David Clark makes a "K10" helmet that is designed to accommodate any standard David Clark headset. I use this helmet with the H10-13.4 headset, to which I have added the Headsets Inc. active cancellation mod. The combination is supposed to weigh about 42 ounces. This setup provides I believe to be far superior noise attenuation compared with the fighter helmets, and provides impact protection as well. I would guess the impact protection is not as good as the full coverage HGU or SPH types, but I find this to be a reasonable compromise.

Sources: David Clark K10 helmet - See the Chief Aircraft catalog - there is a picture. Flightsuits Ltd Check6aviation Flight helmets Government surplus sales

John Harlan

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