July 1, 2003
JULIE K. BOATMAN
In recent months, the Lightspeed family of passive and active noise reduction (ANR) headsets has grown by a couple of new members, while others have undergone refinement.
When we looked at the 25XL (" Pilot Products," July 2000 Pilot), it was the top of the line for Lightspeed. Now the Thirty 3G has taken over that spot, essentially replacing the 25XL and adding to it a personal equalizer with bass and treble boost selections (for improved music listening) and a cell-phone interface that allows for hands-free talking while on the ground (handy for obtaining a clearance at satellite airports). We tried the Thirty 3G in several cockpits; in one airplane our first model suffered an intermittent feedback problem that was quickly corrected with a replacement from Lightspeed. The Thirty 3G features 28 to 30 dB of ANR, and 12 to 22 dB of passive attenuation, and has a 50-hour battery life (we had used ours for roughly 25 hours as of press time) and an auto shutoff. The look is a little more stylish than the XL series, with blue ear cups and headband. The headset weighs roughly 16 ounces, not including the battery box. Lightspeed also offers the Twenty 3G, with 24 to 26 dB of ANR.
Another improvement comes to the lower-price XL series with the 20XL2. While the look is the same — steel-gray ear cups with super-cushy foam ear and headband padding — the 20XL2 features an input for audio, such as a CD player or audio checklist device. The headset gives 22 to 24 dB of ANR, with 12 to 22 dB of passive reduction. The 20XL2 also weighs about 16 ounces, not including the battery box. We tested the 20XL2 for about 20 hours and found it particularly suited to the high-noise environment of a canopied tandem-seat airplane with a radial engine — it outperformed an ANR headset system installed in the airplane, with a higher degree of comfort.
Lightspeed also has upgraded its QFR line (see " Pilot Products," May 2001 Pilot) with auto shutoff and audio input jacks on the QFRXC2, and the addition of the QFR SoloSS with a plush headband and dual volume controls. The QFR Solo remains the company's budget offering at a $139 list price and with 28 dB of passive attenuation (the Solo sets in the series don't have ANR, while the XC2 does), according to Lightspeed.
Price: $599 for the Thirty 3G; $479 for the Twenty 3G; $399 for the 20XL2; $299 for the QFRXC2; and $199 for the QFR SoloSS Contact: 800/332-2421; www.anrheadsets.com
The latest handheld transceiver from Vertex Standard/Yaesu packs a lot of functionality in a small case.
The VXA-700 Spirit can access aviation VHF, FM, and amateur radio bands, recall 190 frequencies from its memory, and receive the NOAA weather channel (in the U.S. version). We tested the transceiver's five-watt transmit power and found we could consistently establish clear communications at a 10-nm distance. A one-touch emergency frequency button takes you to 121.5 MHz instantly, though accessing VOR functions requires reading the user's manual.
Learning the best way to access basic functions, such as tuning in a frequency, also takes some instruction. Punching in a frequency requires you to be in the correct mode, with the band noted in finer print, which was initially confusing to our testers. However, once you understand the scheme (aviation frequencies are accessed on the AM band, and not identified on screen as aviation or VHF), it becomes easier to operate. We found it easier to dial in frequencies as opposed to punching in their numbers on the keypad — a limitation, as it can take a little longer to do so.
The magnesium die-cast case is sleek and submersible to three feet for up to 30 minutes. It also features a waistband clip that allows the user to flip the transceiver up and out of the clip quickly. A microphone jack and DC power jack are also included, as is a lithium-ion battery.
Price: about $419 at dealers nationwide Contact: 714/827-7600; www.vertexstandard.com
Ryan International announced its 3ATI multi-hazard display, which places all essential hazard information — traffic, weather, and terrain — on a single 3.2-inch-high liquid-crystal display screen. While the 3ATI works now with Ryan's 9900BX traffic advisory system, Ryan is working with manufacturers of other hazard-avoidance equipment to display their data as well, decluttering multifunction displays. Delivery is expected in the third quarter of this year.
Price: $7,990 Contact: 800/877-0048; www.ryaninternational.com
Fly-Right introduced its aircraft procedures checklist, a full-color, model-specific checklist printed on waterproof, tear-proof pages with stair-step tabs suitable for one-handed cockpit use. The checklists can be tailored to suit individual or company needs.
Price: $14.95 Contact: www.fly-right.net; firstname.lastname@example.org
Aviation Points Exchange (Apex) announced its aviation rewards program, teaming with S&H greenpoints, which were once offered as Green Stamps at more than 500 FBOs nationwide. Pilots receive a membership account and card and earn points with the purchase of fuel or select services. Points are redeemed for merchandise from a catalog online or in print.
Unless otherwise stated, products listed herein have not been evaluated by AOPA Pilot editors. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors. However, members unable to get satisfaction regarding products listed should advise AOPA. To submit products for evaluation, contact: New Products Editor, AOPA Pilot , 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701; telephone 301/695-2350. Links to all Web sites referenced in this issue can be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links.shtml).
With all the recent attention to in-the-ear and on-the-ear headsets, Lightspeed has fired back with a cutting edge new over-the-ear model that takes noise attenuation and audio processing to new levels.
Respected author and aviation funny man Rod Machado has written a new book he hopes will get you back to basics.
Port-A-Cool is trying to keep things cold with its new Hurricane evaporative cooler.
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