Choosing the right headset is one of the most important decisions you make when it comes to equipping yourself for flight. A comfortable, quality headset is an important purchase. At its most basic, a headset allows you to communicate with ATC and/or others in your cockpit with clarity, provides vital hearing protection and lets you enjoy your flight. 

To determine which of our many headsets is right for you, we've listed a few basic questions in our aviation headset buying guide you should focus on:

If you already know what you need, check out our selection of aviation headsets. 

What Type Of Aircraft Are You Flying?

Generally speaking, we break down the types of aircraft you may be piloting into two groups: general aviation and commercial. The distinction makes a big difference in what headset features may be most important to you. 

General Aviation 

When choosing a headset for flying general aviation, typically you’ll need to focus on noise cancellation above all else, as these cockpits tend to be very loud.

Generally, you’ll want to look for a full-dome over-ear headset. And be sure to read our section below on different types of noise cancellation, as you’ll likely want to look for something with active noise reduction. 

Most of the lighter, commercial headsets won’t work in a general aviation aircraft because they won’t block out enough noise. You may be tempted to try and make one work, but trust us, you’ll regret it. 


On the other hand, commercial cockpits tend to be much quieter, meaning noise cancellation becomes less of a consideration when choosing a headset. 

Since commercial flights tend to be a lot longer than general aviation flights, comfort is a very important factor. Generally you’ll want to look for something lightweight and on-ear rather than over-ear.

Also, be sure you’re getting a TSO (Techincal Standard Order) headset, which is certified by the FAA to handle catastrophic environments (such as electrical failures, freezing temperatures, etc) ensuring that they’ll be reliable. 

Is Your Headset Comfortable?

How comfortable your headset is might seem like something that would be considered a bit of a luxury. After all, the most important thing is how well it works, right? Comfort is just an afterthought, something that would be nice to have but not really a necessity, right?

No, that’s not right at all. 

Depending on the length of your flight, you could be wearing your headset for hours at a time, and it won’t take long for an uncomfortable headset to feel more like an instrument of torture rather than a critical aviation tool. 

That considered, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Headset Weight

It’s a pretty simple concept: the lighter your headset, the easier it is to wear. That doesn’t mean that a heavier headset is inherently worse or a lighter headset is inherently better, but it’s something to keep in mind when considering comfort. 

Fortunately, the days of heavy, clunky headsets are mostly a thing of the past. Just about every headset on the market today is what you would consider “lightweight.” So if you’re buying a new headset, you probably don’t need to worry too much about getting a 'lightweight’ headset.

Headband Hinge Placement

The way your headset fits over your head is a very important thing to consider. The main element that comes into play here is the hinge placement on the head band, which will play a big role in how the headset will feel when wearing it. 

The head band is the part of the headset that stretches between the earcups; the main decision to make is whether the hinge is in the middle of the headset or at both ends.

The only way to tell which type of hinge you prefer is to try on different headsets, so ask your instructor, seatmates, etc. to borrow their headset whenever you have a chance. 

Middle Hinge

Side Hinges

Over-Ear vs On-Ear vs In-Ear Headsets

Like we’ve already discussed, how your headset fits over your ears is heavily dependent on whether you’re flying commercial or general aviation. 

Beyond that, the main thing to consider is personal preference. What feels best on your ears? 

When it comes to in-ear, the Clarity Aloft headset is a bit of a unicorn: it’s an in-ear headset that doesn’t have active noise reduction (more on that below) because it doesn’t need it - it blocks your entire ear canal! So if you want to go that route, look to the Clarity Aloft Pro Plus (TSO) for commercial, and the standard Clarity Aloft for general aviation.

Clarity Aloft Headsets

How Much Noise Reduction Do You Need?

A headset's ability to reduce the noise of the cockpit is critical, especially for pilots who fly in louder cockpits. 

Active Noise Reduction vs. Passive Noise Reduction

All aviation headsets will provide what is known as Passive Noise Reduction (PNR), which is the physical blocking of cockpit noise, but other headsets can go a step further.

Certain headsets will also provide Active Noise Reduction (ANR) which is additional electronic noise canceling. A headset with ANR will provide you with more hearing protection, but it will cost more than a similarly built PNR headset.

In use, an ANR Headset will leave you feeling less fatigued and will protect your hearing more than a Passive Headset. ANR headsets are generally more costly but also usually better quality. 

However, if you are just learning to fly, a PNR headset will be easier on your budget but will not be as effective in the cockpit as an ANR headset over time.

One other thing to keep in mind: ANR headsets require a strong seal around the ears, so if you wear eyeglasses or sunglasses with thick frames while flying, you could break that seal and cause feedback or sound distortion. So be sure to only wear eyeglasses with thin frames when flying with an ANR headset. 

Level Of Cockpit Noise

For pilots who fly light aircraft or piston-engine planes, noise reduction is a critical element of selecting a headset which may supersede other considerations. They may want to consider a full-dome headset, which has two ear cups that surround the wearer’s ear, and may prefer ANR rather than just PNR. 

Pilots who fly commercial aircraft (or any other quieter cockpit) have the luxury of being able to focus more on comfort than noise. 

See our above section on comfort for tips on choosing a comfortable headset. 

ANR Headsets For Loud Cockpits

Mid- Priced ANR Headsets For Loud Cockpits

Good ANR Headsets

Bluetooth Capabilities

Bluetooth capability has become a standard feature in…well, just about everything it seems. There are aviation headsets that also carry this capability, but even headsets that don’t have bluetooth out of the box can be equipped with it through the use of adapters. 

HOWEVER, there is an important distinction to be made here: When thinking of a “bluetooth headset,” you may be thinking about a wireless headset that you might use for things like gaming or Zoom meetings. That is NOT what a bluetooth aviation headset is. 

Aviation headsets with bluetooth capabilities DO have a cable that will connect the headset to your aviation panel. Think about it, what do you really need a wireless headset for in a cockpit? Are you planning on taking a walk in the middle of your flight?

No, a bluetooth aviation headset has another use: You can use it to connect to your cell phone or tablet so that you can use those without additional wires. This is great for things like weather/traffic reports, music, or making calls in the event of an emergency. 

Entry Level Bluetooth

High End Bluetooth


There are quite a few things to consider when picking your aviation headset, but at the end of the day there’s really only one way you can know for sure that you’re getting the headset that’s right for you:

Try some out!

You don’t have to buy and return a headset every time you take one for a test drive; ask around and see if one of your fellow pilots will let you take theirs for a spin. Or have your seatmate or instructor tell you about their headset and ask if they’ll let you try it out. 

It may take you some time to learn which features are the most important to you, but over time we’re sure you’ll find a headset that ticks all of those boxes.

When you're ready to make your selection, head over to our store and check out our selection of aviation headsets!