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Pilot Products: Headset grimePilot Products: Headset grime

Refresher kits for that ear seal residue

The grimy black residue around my ears was a not-so-subtle hint that it was well past time to give my worn aviation headsets a little TLC.
Pilot Briefing October 2020
Photography by Chris Rose

Pilot Briefing October 2020My batch of three Lightspeed Zulus was at least five years old, and they had been through extensive travel, temperature extremes, and the regular abuse pilots heap on general aviation headsets. But how best to bring these classics back to life?

Like other headset manufacturers, Lightspeed offers an array of options: a factory trade-up program on new Zulu 3s would cost about $600 per headset; a factory conversion to make each dated Zulu into a Zulu 3 was $300 per headset; out-of-warranty repairs were $175 each; a “refresher kit” that I could install myself and included new ear seals, head pad, and mic muff was $50 per headset, and replacement gel ear seals were $35 a set.

The upgrade options were tempting, especially the much more durable and flexible cords that are standard on the Zulu 3, and an industry-leading seven-year warranty that comes with a new unit. But these headsets still worked just fine, there were three of them, and I saw no need to repair things that weren’t broken. I just wanted to get rid of the grime.

In the end, I bought three refresher kits on the Lightspeed website for $50 each (plus $14.11 for shipping) and they showed up on my doorstep five days later. The new ear seals and head pads snapped into place in a few minutes, as did the mic muffs. In the airplane, I was amazed at how much better the gel ear seals reduced ambient noise than the worn foam ones they replaced.

Lightspeed recommends replacing the ear seals every 18 months but, realistically, who does that? I tend to overlook headsets unless they stop working, or they leave telltale black ovals on the sides of my head.

Replacing the worn items dramatically improved the performance and comfort of the headsets and seem like a good value. I intend to wait longer than the factory-recommended 18 months to replace the ear seals again (and will likely skip replacing the head pad altogether). But I won’t wait until the ear seals are falling apart like I did the first time.

PRICE: $50

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Dave Hirschman

Dave Hirschman

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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