Not often does a new player come into the aviation headset market, so we were excited to hear about Beyerdynamic, a well-established German audio headset company, joining the fray. Since headsets are notoriously personal, we welcome another option in the search for the perfect fit. We tested the HS 300; other models in the line will debut shortly.
In-flight testing among several members of our staff brought mixed results. Fit on me was less than ideal, with the ear cups fitting unevenly — tight on top and small gaps on the bottom. Other staff members reported a better fit. The sleek silver styling looks good; round ear cups offer a different fit than similar headsets, so if you have wider ears these might fit you better. The light weight (13 ounces; 18 ounces with battery case) should reduce fatigue.
Audio quality is good, with mic quality excellent — other people on the intercom with me noted a "radio station" quality to my transmissions. The mic comes with a wind muff, and is sensitive — a good thing, since the mic arm is on the short side. The arm is infinitely adjustable and stays in position well.
Batteries (2 AA) appear to be required for cell/MP3 function — the head-set is passive only. The battery case is large, and wired closer to the jacks than to the headset, which could be awkward if you need to adjust the volume in flight; on the other hand, this feature could make it easier to stow away.
The carrying case is well padded, with a removable foam cutout for you to use with the headset if you wish. The design of the case left me scratching my head: The zippered front flap is attached to the top of the case, rather than to the bottom, making it impossible to open the case from the top while holding it — you must lay it flat to open it without having things fall out. Not a big deal, but not what I expect from German engineers. A handle on the other end of the case would solve the problem.
Price: about $299 through various dealers
Contact: 631/293-3200; www.beyerdynamic-usa.com
The latest audio panel from the specialists at PS Engineering takes the company's popular features and turns them on their, well, ears. Aiming at the light-sport and homebuilt markets, PS Engineering purports the PMA9000EX to be the most integrated audio panel in existence.
The engineering team came up with a sunlight-readable liquid-crystal display (LCD) to upgrade the interface, displaying data such as radio audio sources, stuck-mic warnings, and MP3 titles. The audio panel still features a front-mount input jack for ease of use with cellular phones or MP3 players — the jack is also a USB connection, allowing for use of a memory stick to download music directly to the PMA9000EX's on-board 512-megabyte memory card. A Bluetooth interface helps minimize clutter when used with capable phones.
A number of audio/music configurations can be set using the data knob and LCD. Like the PMA8000B, the new unit includes PS Engineering's IntelliVox system, which eliminates the need for a separate squelch knob. An internal recording system gives the pilot the ability to play back most recent transmissions. The unit is plug-and-play compatible with the Garmin GMA 340.
Price: $2,395 plus installation
Contact: 865/988-9800; www.ps-engineering.com
A couple of years ago, AirGizmos came up with a solution for the legions of pilots who use a handheld GPS unit for VFR navigation in the cockpit with its Panel Dock (see " Pilot Products" January 2006 Pilot). Now the company has an answer to part of the spaghetti crisis of wires that we struggle with in connecting a weather datalink antenna to certain handhelds. The Antenna Dock provides a cradle for Garmin's XM WX antenna and organizes the antenna cable. The dock keeps the antenna setup in one package. The Antenna Dock looks like a permanent installation but, like the Panel Dock, is temporary yet robust. If you utilize several XM antenna locations in the airplane (depending on your area of the country, aircraft, and on-course heading), you can use more than one cradle and move the antenna from dock to dock. The twist-and-lock mechanism allows you to trade out the antenna without tools. Designed for use with Garmin GPSMap 496 and 396 XM WX antennas, it includes a cradle, base, and cable.
Contact: 972/671-8001; www.airgizmos.com
Anywhere XP Flight Planner by Control Vision is now available for download from the company's Web site. The flight-planning software contains all the latest features of the AnywhereMap XP software without the XM and GPS connectivity for on-the-ground use.
Price: free to current subscribers
Upgrades to the Caribbean Sky Tours Web site provide more tools for pilots flying south of the border. The Pilot's Guide to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula includes Mexico airports bordering Texas, and the number of charts available on the site has doubled to include ONC-VFR and DOD IFR charts through Central America and the Caribbean.
Contact: 866/420-9265; www.caribbeanskytours.com
McFarlane Cowl Saver baffle seals offer a new alternative to help prevent cowl damage by reducing the vibration transferred from the engine to the cowl. The gray seal material comes in three dimensions; kits including soft rivets and aluminum retainer strips also are available.
Price: from $58.14 for materials; from $75.97 for kit
Contact: 800/544-8594; www.mcfarlaneaviation.com
Unless otherwise stated, products listed 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.