Section 4: Conclusion
3 of this series dealt with the physical characteristics of headsets and
their effect on performance.
The focus of this session discusses the emergence of two basic classes
from what we've learned.
In the end, design decisions to maximize Passive attenuation will limit
the levels of comfort and Active quieting the product will deliver.
This is why two basic 'classes' of ANR products have emerged.
- Passively Optimized: Those with good to very good
Passive performance but relatively weak Active cancellation
- ANR Optimized: Those designed for optimal Active
performance but with below average Passive attenuation
Each has its advantages in quieting noise...but the resulting profile of
residual noise is noticeably different. The low rumble noises are
substantially eliminated with the ANR optimized models but there is a more
noticeable mid frequency noise present. That's because of the sub-optimized
passive performance of that design. The converse is true of the
So then I should buy the one that has the quietest total
Probably not...though it will depend mainly on the noise spectrum you are
experiencing!! The fact that a product delivers the most attenuation may OR
MAY NOT make it the quietest on your head, in your airplane!! In the
'typical' single-engine GA plane (172/182, Warrior, etc.), the 'ANR
Optimized' models will probably perform better. Reference to Section 3 of
ANR 101 for the details regarding noise spectrums and why the tradeoffs of
passive vs active headsets are generally worthwhile. Even if it's the
quietest, you may choose other headsets that fit you more comfortably and/or
have features you desire. Certainly from a comfort standpoint, the 'ANR
Optimized' group would also generally rate higher for long-term comfort.
While this is less 'empirical' feedback than the acoustic issues of active
and passive performance, discussions we've had with literally thousands of
pilots confirm this.
There ARE aviation noise spectrums where the 'Passive-optimized' versions
provide superior performance. These include aircraft with rotary engines,
kit-built planes with limited insulation, open cockpits, etc. In a future
tutorial, we'll analyze various noise spectrums to see how the differences
between a 182 and, say, a R44 helicopter might effect which type of platform
you would say is quietest. We'll look at 6-8 different platforms doing
In the end, this question of which is 'best' for you has a high degree of
personal preference and subjectivity! You can narrow your choices with data
but you're still going to have to try out the models that are most popular
(and within your budget) to make a final choice.