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Pilot products: Bose A20 review

Bose introduced its new headset recently at EAA AirVenture to much fanfare. The company had a full advertising plan in effect the day the A20 was announced, as well as a series of press conferences to give aviation journalists a first look at the $1,095.95 active noise reduction (ANR) headset. The hype was big, but how is the performance?

We tested the headset on a seven-hour flight back from Oshkosh, Wis., to Frederick, Md., in the very loud Fun to Fly Sweepstakes Remos GX. If you consider the ANR performance of a headset to be the most important quality, the new Bose A20 will impress you. The passive attenuation is markedly better than most ANR headsets we’ve tried, and the active noise canceling is in a class with few competitors. We have extensive experience with Lightspeed’s Zulu, a headset with superb ANR performance. Is the Bose A20 better? It’s tough to say because we weren’t able to do a side-by-side comparison. Needless to say, the A20’s ANR won’t disappoint buyers.

Among its many upgrades from the X, the A20 features Bluetooth technology for music and cell, although music can’t be wirelessly streamed from a cell phone, a feature of the Zulu. The headset is also supposed to have a better fit than the X, which was true on our tester’s head, but may not be true with others. Talking about fit with headsets is a bit useless. Every buyer needs to determine this for himself.

Battery life is reported to be an outstanding 40 hours on two AA batteries. Like the X, the A20 is available in panel-powered or battery modes.

Should you drop more than $1,000 to buy the new Bose A20? The answer depends on what you’re looking for in a headset. It has excellent ANR performance, a nice fit, and good features. However, there’s also a reason the company discontinued the X and its recent $850 price tag. Other than the additional Bluetooth capability, justifying the extra $250 would have been difficult for most buyers. Now if you want a Bose you have to get the A20. Not that that’s a bad thing.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.

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