Ok, I have four headsets. Yes, four. No, I don’t need four and, to be honest, I’m not really sure how I ended up with four. I didn’t start with four headsets, and I didn’t set out to acquire four headsets, but some deals presented themselves and four was the number that I ended up with. This is about one more than I need and, frighteningly, likely to be one less than I’ll end up having due to poor impulse control at airshows. In my inventory, I have two David Clark headsets and two LightSPEED headsets, and just for the one or two of my vast readership of six or so that are unfamiliar with aviation. These are not your run-of-the-mill-plug-into-your-HiFi headphones. No, these are Aviation Headsets, (if only I could get an angelic glow out of that text) specific to airplanes and flying in airplanes. Or at least those airplanes that have radios/intercoms, which is different post for a someday that is not today. The post that is for a someday that is today concerns only one of my one to many headsets, the LightSPEED Mach 1. In en effort to get some more content into this blog, and because I kinda said I would, I’m going to give my opinion on the LightSPEED Mach 1 headset.
The cockpit of the typical GA single engine aircraft is a noisy place, especially when the airplane is a few years old and doesn’t have any real noise damping insulation. All aviation headsets that I have encountered have a good degree of noise attenuation, most of the high end headset and active noise reduction, (ANR) to the mix to get a very quiet cockpit. Most headsets conform to the form factor you would expect, two big earmuffs and a microphone boom sticking out of the left side. The LightSPEED Mach 1 looks more like what you would expect from the modern age.
It has an earbud on one side and an earbud/microphone on the other. Much like you would find people in the dark hell of a telemarketing shop wearing. While most headsets cover the entire ear to block the environmental noise, the Mach 1s fit snugly into the ear canal with the included foam plugs, the set I have also came with a variety of silicone plugs. To be honest, the first time I tried the Mach 1, I used the silicone plugs and they were very uncomfortable. After about 30 minutes of flying I started taking them out for a few seconds at a time to give my ears a rest. After that I tried the foam plugs, they were better, but did not dampen the ambient noise as much. Then I got my custom silicone ear pieces, and they made all the difference. At the time I picked up the Mach 1, I had a very nice lady shoot what I can technically call “goop” into my ears, I than sat with this goop in my ears while I’m sure people said bad things about me. I wouldn’t know, because the goop was keeping me from hearing anything. After a few minutes of ridicule, none of which I could hear, the very nice lady popped the goop out of my ear, and every body started saying nice things about me again. What had happened was I had molds made of my ear canal, and these molds were used to make the custom fitted earplugs I mentioned. With these ear plugs I now get a very quiet ride, with most of the ambient cockpit noise blocked. The radio and intercom clarity on the Mach 1 is as good as your system will allow it to be. I’ve never had a problem understanding or being understood while using it. The headset has an independent volume control, and an input jack for a cell phone or a personal audio device. I occasionally have trouble putting the earpiece with the microphone in, because the earplug has a tendency to slip off the post when I am twisting it in. I have to twist the custom ear pieces in, you might not have to depending on the shape your ear. This didn’t happen when I was using the foam or the silicone earplugs, because I could just push them in. Another problem is that I have small ears. At least that’s what people have told me, I’ve never measured. What this means is that the earpiece with the microphone has to be at its smallest setting in order to keep earpiece from falling off. Even at it smallest setting, it’s still a little bit to big. It’s not the fault of the Mach 1, just my particular problem. One of the great things about the Mach 1 is its weight. Almost none. While this is not quite true, it sometimes feels like it. With my other headsets, the weight and pressure on my head get uncomfortable after awhile. Particularly the pressure as the earcups are pressed against my head. Basause of the design, this is obviously not an issue with the Mach 1. With both earpieces together weighing in at less than an ounce, weight is also just not an issue.
Of course what is an issue is how well they work at keeping the bad noise out and the good noise in. As I said before, the radio and intercom clarity is excellent, so keeping the good noise in is not a problem. Fortunately the Mach 1 also does an admirable job of keeping the bad noise out. With out having measured the noise level with any knod of instrumentation, I’d have to say that the Mach 1 performed better at noise attenuation than my two non-ANR headsets. The choice between the ANR head set and the Mach one is a toss up. I haven’t done a side by side comparison in the cockpit of a Cessna to actually see which was less noisy. But I will say this: The Mach 1 is in my flight bag, and the ANR headset is the one I give my passenger. The saving is size and weight makes it any easy choice for me.
So there you have it, my first and quite possibly my last, product review opinion talk thingy.