February 1, 2008
By Ian J. Twombly
Not since Bose introduced its first noise-canceling aviation headset in the late 1980s has there been such a buzz over an active noise-reduction headset. The Lightspeed Zulu is the company’s best headset ever, and by all indications Lightspeed has knocked the competition out of the park.
Lightspeed has been producing ANR headsets for years, but the Zulu is a step above anything it has done in the past. Everything about the Zulu is a departure from Lightspeed’s traditional design, from its silver-gray color scheme to its magnesium and composite plastic construction to its markedly smaller ear cups wrapped in soft leather. Although Zulu sports a clean and contemporary design, it’s the performance and comfort that really makes the difference.
Aside from excellent noise canceling capability and comfort reminiscent of a trusty recliner, the Zulu also carries two key features not found together in any other headset. First, there’s an auxiliary jack for audio equipment. In testing, the music played beautifully through the Zulu in flight and on the ground. Although I was VFR at the time, I did test the music mute feature. Just like an expensive panel-mounted system, the music becomes quiet when the aircraft radio receives a transmission. You’ll also find Bluetooth on the Zulu, a technology not yet discovered by the rest of the headset manufacturers. It allows you to wirelessly connect to your MP3 player or cell phone. That means not having to take off the headset and yell over the engine on your cell phone to flight service for a clearance. The sound quality of the phone call wasn’t nearly as good as a standard Bluetooth headset made for the task, but it was useful nonetheless. A friend on the other end said the sound quality was “tinny.”
Bluetooth and music are great features, but an ANR headset is made to protect your hearing, keep you comfortable, reduce fatigue, and generally make flying more pleasurable. Rest assured that Zulu will do it all. I tested the headset on a number of separate flights, each more than three hours long. It was by far the most comfortable headset I have ever worn. After the trip it was as if I had never put it on—no headache from clamping, no fatigue around my ears from ear seals. Radio transmissions were clear and cabin noise was virtually nonexistent. In all, I wore the headset for 14 hours of flying and wished I could have kept on going. But of course with headsets, head shape and other factors often change the review. Another tester said it wasn’t quite as comfortable as her Bose, but still a good general fit and finish.
Lightspeed is mum on most of the ANR details, only saying that it works better than the competition because the company’s engineers realized the key was where the noise reduction frequencies were in the spectrum, not just how strong they were. But as with all headsets how the Zulu fits on you, the user, will determine how its noise canceling capability stacks up to the competitions. The unit weighs 13 ounces without the battery pack and according to Lightspeed, grips with 40-percent less pressure than its 3G series of headsets. Two AA batteries will last more than 40 hours, according to Lightspeed. Price: $850 Contact: www.anrheadsets.com; 800-332-2421
Aerox Oxygen Systems, maker of portable aviation oxygen products, recently introduced a product that makes life on aviation oxygen a little easier. The company’s new Glow Gauge and Glow Meter emit a glow-in-the-dark green light, allowing the pilot and passengers to easily see the amount of oxygen left in the tank and current rate of oxygen flow during night flights. Both units are easy to read in daylight, and are self-illuminating and shine brightly for more than four hours at night. Glow Gauge and Glow Meter are compatible with all of Aerox’s portable and built-in oxygen systems. Price: $33.50 for the Glow Gauge; $65 for the Glow Meter Contact: www.aerox.com; 800-237-6902
From ASA comes a new view-limiting device for initial instrument training or instrument currency flights. The Hoodwink is a collapsible hood that folds to the size of a change purse and easily fits in a pocket. To unfold, simply remove it from the carrying pouch and the metal frame springs open, making the hood ready for use. The small hood resembles a hat with flaps on the side to limit the pilot’s view. It fits well on top of a headset’s ear seals, making it comfortable for a long training flight. Although the Hoodwink doesn’t restrict the outside view as well as a pair of view-limiting glasses, the comfort factor makes up for it. On the downside, the Hoodwink isn’t adjustable, though it will likely fit most pilots, as it does stretch somewhat for different sizes and shapes. Price: $16.95 Contact: www.asa2fly.com; 800-272-2359
AOPA’s aircraft valuation partner, Vref, now has an online component. If you do frequent valuations, are an airplane broker, or just want highly detailed information on an airplane you’re thinking of purchasing, try Vref for your online valuation service. It offers slightly more functionality than AOPA Online’s version, and customers aren’t limited to a certain number of valuations each day. Price: $195 for a year subscription Contact: www.vrefpub.com; 800-773-8733
A new company called VirtualPOH is seeking to make aircraft information more accessible with its new Web-based, aircraft-specific pilot’s operating handbook. Whether for training or general reference, VirtualPOH contains the entire aircraft manual in an easy-to-navigate online format. A narration walks the user through the POH, explaining concepts as you go. The Web-based application also features quizzes and interactive aircraft performance charts. Currently it’s only available for the Cirrus SR22, Cessna Citation II, and Learjet 35/36 and 31/31A. Price: $50 for a one-month subscription; $349 for a 15-month subscription Contact: www.virtualpoh.com; 973-539-4080
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Unless otherwise stated, AOPA Pilot editors have not evaluated the products listed. 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 the products editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.