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Pirep: Quiet Technologies Halo headset

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The recent Zulu vs. Bose X thread prompted me to post this, in case anyone's interested. (For the record, I have no ties to Quiet Technologies nor do I benefit from them in any way by sharing my positive experience. I'm just a satisfied customer sharing my experience with others, for whatever that's worth.)

I did my primary training using a David Clark 10-13.4. Like all basic DC's, it performed just fine. My major complaints are the same with all over-the-ear passive headsets: It gets heavy after a while, and the clamping force can also cause discomfort. Glasses can interfere with the fit of the ear cups and allow noise to leak in. Finally, and this might've been the last straw, I'm based in Texas, and it gets HOT in the summer. The headset pad on top of my head is just one more thing to trap heat, and not only is that uncomfortable, but there's also the headset equivalent of "bed-head" to consider.

After I completed my primary training and started flying my own plane ('73 PA-28-180), I decided I wanted a new headset. ANR seems nifty, but still comes with all the baggage of every other earcup-style headset, at a cost of at least 3x what I wanted to spend. Instead, I started looking at the Quiet Technologies Halo[/url:2676ppyf] lightweight passive headset.

There are other pireps on this headset out there, and most are very positive. There are typically only two complaints people seem to have: The in-ear bits are uncomfortable (a common complaint), and/or the microphone is problematic (a rare complaint, but I saw more than one person mention this during my search for reviews).

First, let me address the mic: I bought my headset in summer of 2010, and it's my understanding that my headset has a different mic than earlier models (I don't know exactly when the design change was made, or what the change was). I don't know how big a difference the "new" mic makes, but I can say that I have noticed no difference in mic performance compared to my DC headset. It picks up my voice just fine, is very clear, and does not pick up ambient noise any more than the DC set did. In short, I see no reason to consider the QT mic inferior in any way to my DC headset's mic.

Re: the in-ear buds...well, that's always going to be a personal preference issue. However, with the prevalence of iPods and other music players in recent years, I think most folks have learned to live with earbud-style headphones. The QT comes with two distinct options for earbuds. One is essentially a soft foam earplug that's had a hole drilled in the middle of it for the sound tube. You roll/squeeze it between your fingers to make a small, tight cylinder out of it not much bigger than a Q-Tip, then insert that about 1/2" into your ear canal (here's a [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6SGPdJnJUI&feature=player_embedded:2676ppyf]video demo[/url:2676ppyf] of how that works). As soon as your fingers let go, the foam gently tries to expand back to its original size/shape, which causes it to mold itself to the shape of your ear canal and be fixed in place. If you're not sure you'd be comfortable with that, you can spend $1.99 at the drug store to get a pair of foam earplugs and try them yourself to see exactly how they feel. As a side bonus, you'll also get a preview of the noise attenuation this set offers at the same time.

The other earbud option is a [url=http://img3.prosperent.com/images/250x250/www.activeforever.com/images/product/medium/C15714.jpg:2676ppyf]triple-flange silicone insert[/url:2676ppyf]. Whereas the foam earplugs will pick up earwax and/or harden and need to be replaced after a few weeks or months, the silicone earbuds can be cleaned and reused for a longer period. In my experience, these earbuds need to be inserted a little farther into the ear canal to achieve good sound dampening, and they're slightly more uncomfortable than the foam earbuds. However, they're still not uncomfortable enough for me to notice them while flying. I completely forget that they're there, unless something causes me to focus on them. I used the foam earbuds for the first few months I had the headset, but then tried the triple-flange buds and found to my surprise that I prefer them to the foam ones. Again, I think this is very much a personal preference thing, and every user should try both to see which works best for them. (There's also the option of getting custom ear molds like hearing aids typically use, but that's expensive and not all folks consider them to be any better than the "foamies".)

Re: noise reduction, I have not done any direct Halo vs. DC comparisons, like switching headsets in flight or wearing one on the outbound leg and the other on the return leg of a trip. And I have never used an ANR headset, so I have no idea how the Halos might compare to a Bose X or a Zulu. Rather than try to assess whether the DC or the Halo is "better" or "quieter", I will simply say that the Halos are perfectly fine for me in terms of noise reduction. I can certainly still hear the engine, and I can also hear voices in the cabin if someone's not talking on the intercom, but I can also hear the intercom and radios very clearly, even at relatively low volumes. I certainly don't feel like I'm compromising anything on noise reduction compared to the DCs.

Where these headsets really shine, in my opinion, is in overall comfort. Again, some folks might be bothered by the in-ear design, and that might be enough to eliminate these as an option. If so, that's a shame, because otherwise these things are so comfortable you'll forget you're wearing a headset. The wire band that holds the mic boom in position rides behind your head and the "clamping force" is almost non-existent. The mic itself just seems to float in front of my lips, but remains in position without causing problems. I routinely wear sunglasses with my Halos and that's not a problem at all (and of course the sunglasses have zero effect on the sound quality of the headphones!). Perhaps most notably, I have never had the "Aaaah!" moment of blissful relief when removing this headset that I *always* had after a flight with an earcup-style headset!

If you put a gun to my head and tell me I have to say something negative about them, about the only thing I can come up with is the wire from the panel jacks to the headset. It's very thin and lightweight, which is part of what makes the set so comfortable to wear, but it also causes me some concern about durability. A couple of times, the cord has gotten caught on my shoe as I was exiting the plane and I gave the set an unintentional "yank" with my foot. Perhaps it speaks well of the set's durability that nothing bad seems to have come from this abuse, but I cringed each time I did that, because the wire does not seem very robust. I try my best to treat the set delicately, and have learned to consciously check that the wire's clear before trying to leave my seat!

Bottom line: Overall, I am *very* happy with my Halos. Performance is very good, and comfort is outstanding. I give the Quiet Technologies Halo headset two thumbs-up based on my experience with them for the past 8 months. Considering they've got a 45-day money back guarantee (and in my search for reviews I saw other folks who took advantage of that option after deciding they didn't like the feel of the in-ear buds), it's easy to try them out and see if you like 'em or not.

Jim
 

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