Aviation Headset Recommendations for Students and Pilots

An investment in an aviation headset will be one of the most important purchases for a pilot, and like almost everything else in aviation, it is a relatively expensive purchase.

However, a good quality headset will not only protect the pilot (and/or passenger's) hearing, it will also help to reduce fatigue and headaches on long flights and help keep the pilot focused.

General aviation headsets can be divided into 2 categories, Passive Noise Reduction (PNR) and Active Noise Reduction (ANR). PNR headsets block noise by simply ear cups that seal around the year. ANR headsets on the other uses electronics to cancel out noise at certain frequencies. ANR headsets require power and are typically more expensive than their PNR counterparts.

ANR or PNR Headset?

So, which type of headset is better? Ultimately, it will come down to your budget and personal comfort.

If your budget allows it, I strongly recommend purchasing a quality ANR headset. The comfort and fatigue reduction are well worth the cost. Headsets last a long time so it will not be a frequent purchase. In fact, you may need more headsets when you starting taking passengers.

This post will focus on 3 well-known brands of headsets I have used and would recommend.

David Clark 10-13.4 Passive Noise Cancelling Headset

The David Clark 10-13.4 headset is one of the most popular entry level headsets. It is durable, proven, and is very capable to get you through your flight training if you are just starting your flight training. I have owned this headset for 17 years and still going strong. I have only had to change the gel ear seals once during this time. This headset now serves as a good backup.

Cost: ~$450-$500 CAD


  • Lower entry cost vs ANR headset

  • Reliable


  • Noise cancelling not as great vs ANR

Lightspeed Zulu 3 Active Noise Cancelling Headset

The Lightspeed Zulu 3 is a great noise cancelling, lightweight headset with many features including Bluetooth. The headset comes with sturdy cables that won't get easily damaged and has a small housing for 2 AA batteries. The headset also features auto-shutoff in case you forget to turn it off after the light.

The headset only had a left-side mic, unlike the David Clark headset above and the Bose A20 headset described below.

Cost: ~$1100 CAD


  • Excellent noise cancelling headset packed with plenty of features

  • Lower cost than the Bose A20 Noise cancelling headset


  • One-sided mic

Bose A20 Active Noise Cancelling Headset

The Bose A20 is a high-end noise cancelling headset, available with our without Bluetooth. Bose is well recognized industry name and can't go wrong with this purchase. This headset does have a side-swappable mic unlike the Lightspeed headset, however, the cables on the Lightspeed to sapper to be stronger.

Cost: ~$1395 CAD with Bluetooth or ~$1245 CAD without Bluetooth


  • Excellent noise cancelling headset packed with plenty of features

  • Lower cost than the Bose A20 Noise cancelling headset


  • Price

Both Bose and Zulu also have great support if the headset ever needs to be sent in for repairs or upgrades. Purchase the best headset you can afford and one of the above 3 headsets will suit you well.

Honorable mentions

Here are few other headset options that may also be very suitable, however, I have no experience using them.

Happy and safe flying!