I am a student pilot who decided to purchase a set of aviation headsets. My purchase was shipped to me next-day air free of charge and the headsets arrived packaged very securely. The sales rep, Claudia, was more than helpful and even sent me an email after they were delivered to ensure I got them and there were no problems. She wrote, UPS shows your order delivered this morning. I just want to make sure you have it. That, folks, is a level of customer service very seldom seen anymore.
I chose the Bose A20 after much research, checking out technical specifications and reading manuals on various brands, to include the closest competition, the Sennheiser S1 digital. One of the things I liked more about the Sennheiser over the Bose is that the Bluetooth can be utilized with music, not just a cell phone. Despite this, I didn't buy these for music and made my purchase for flying, choosing the Bose for features I thought would be more beneficial for the task. The Bose are TSO certified while the Sennheisers are not. I have the foggiest idea what that means, but if there is some form of certification, I am willing it makes a difference to some people.
There are a plethora of different plug configurations you can get, too, so choose the right one. Both eht Bose and the Sennheiser offer versions that can be powered from a compatible receptacle, such as those found in Diamond aircraft. Since this version still requires batteries for the Bluetooth functions, I got the non-powered GA plug to utilize in a wider variety of aircraft. The microphone in the Bose can be removed and placed on the other ear while this cannot be done on the Sennheisers.
The Bose are lighter, too, and by a large margin. The Sennheisers weigh in at 410 grams while the Bose are a feathery 340 grams, a difference of about 2.5 ounces. Unfortunately, I cannot make a direct comparison of the two since I've only the Bose and no reason to purchase a second headset.
I received the Bose A20 active noise cancelling headsets and unpacked everything, leaving packing peanuts all over the floor. I removed the A20's and after checking out the construction (very sturdy, by the way), I glanced through the manual and enabled the Stereo mode, located on a tiny little dip switch located inside the battery compartment. There is a second dip-switch, as well, which enables the auto-shutoff, in case you are the type that forgets to turn off your headsets. The defaults for these two switches are Sound = Mono and Auto Shutoff = enabled.
I installed the batteries and closed the compartment, which locked closed in a reassuring manner. It is worthy to note Bose doesn't ship these with the crummy Chinese green-colored Alkalines that come standard with most products these days. They come shipped with the Energizer Max batteries. This may sound to be a non-issue to many, but it is this kind of attention to detail that I find refreshing and gives me confidence this is a quality product of the highest caliber. Still, when these batteries die, I will be replacing them with Lithium-ion batteries.
After getting the batteries installed, the first thing I did was to plug in my iPhone and listen to some music. Silly, I know, but what else was I going to do? I was in my office. These headphones sound even better than my Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones that are made for music, which are some of the most spectacular headphones on the planet. I was completely blown away by the sound of the A20's. While the Bluetooth cannot be used to listen to music there is a male 1/8 to male 1/8 plug that fits both the iPhone and auxiliary port located on the Bose audio control module. Wearing it was snug, but they are very comfortable. The padding is first rate and the headsets contour to your head very nicely. The volume controls on the headset control module do not alter the auxiliary volume in any way. You can hear a very slight hiss when the noise reduction is activated this is inevitable because it takes sound generation to stop sound intrusion. This is how active noise reduction works.
Next, I enabled the Bluetooth, syncing it up with my iPhone. It was completely painless. Simply open the Bluetooth Menu on the iPhone, make it discoverable and press the Phone button on the headset's control module. I didn't even have to type in a passcode. Very nice who's going to try to steal a passcode when you are flying anyways?
Now came the real test. Well, not the real test since I don't go up until Sat morning. Instead, what I did on this beautiful South Florida day, is to put the top down on the car, open all of the windows and make a hands-free phone call while traveling 85 MPH on I-95. It should be noted my car is a BMW 330 CIC with a cam and a racing exhaust that sounds baritone and musical. The tires are 19 inch low-profile Bridgestone Potenza track tires which are noisy as can be at speed. Together, with the buffeting wind, talking on a phone is all but impossible at anything over 65 MPH.
I put on the ear phones and turned on the power and I had the weird sensation of the wind blowing while my ears processed the quietness of a luxury automobile. Have you ever seen a war scene in war movies where a bomb goes off and even though there is fighting all around, all is quiet to represent the charter's hearing loss? It was that kind of feeling because it was so darned quiet. Bizarre.
Finally, I made a telephone call to my business partner, who sounded crystal clear in both ears. I was talking to him and despite the fact I was traveling under the before-mentioned conditions, he thought I had him on speakerphone at my office. When I told him what I was doing, he was shocked and told me that other than sounding a little tinny, he heard absolutely no wind noise whatsoever. I don't know what kind of technology Bose incorporated into the microphone, but I can attest that it is extremely effective.
While I have used three different kinds of aviation headsets, these are my first set I've purchased. I have always lived by the mantra of buying the highest quality you can afford and these headsets are no exception. When I go up on Saturday, I will amend this review to include additional details and findings.