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Second life for headsets

Be kind to your ears and your wallet

Don't let the flaking ear cups fool you—your aviation headset still has a lot of life left in it. We tried these refresh kits to make our old headsets like new again, or better.
Photography by Chris Rose.
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Photography by Chris Rose.


Lightspeed Aviation has two different refresh options, or three if you include the company’s generous trade-up program. First, the most basic. For $50, you can replace the flake-prone ear seals and head pad. Replacing the components doesn’t take any special tools or skill, and will make most headsets feel new again. It’s a minor investment for such a high-end headset. If you own a Zulu 2 and are looking for more, Lightspeed offers a $400 conversion program that takes the Zulu 2 and essentially converts it to a Zulu 3. You send in your Zulu 2, and Lightspeed’s technicians evaluate your headset, fix any minor lingering issues, replace the cord with a superior braided cord, replace the battery box, and replace all the components included in the refresh kit. The total turnaround time is quick, and the package comes with a new three-year warranty. But if you absolutely must have that new Zulu 3, your Zulu 2 will get you $300 off the purchase as part of the company’s trade-up program. —Ian J. Twombly

Photography by Chris Rose.Bose

Bose A20s have endured a lot of abuse since the model was introduced in 2010. The sophisticated electronics in mine were going strong after almost a decade of use, so I purchased an A20 refresh kit to replace the flaking ear cushions. The kit includes fresh ear cups, a headband cushion, and a replacement mic muff and can be assembled in minutes with no instructions or tools. The $49 price tag is just right for those of us who aren’t ready to drop $1,299 on a new A30. The refresh kit for the A30, which was announced in 2023, sells for $40. —Sarah Deener

David Clark

David Clark Co. technicians can refurbish a headset to alleviate common problems or upgrade it to better technology; however they prefer to evaluate the item at the company’s Worcester, Massachusetts, headquarters before quoting an exact price. In 17 years of wear-and-tear, my noise canceling David Clark H10-13.4XL headset and AA battery pack suffered abuse during training flights, aircraft ownership, and rentals. Scratchy or intermittent audio; intermittent, muffled, or no-microphone; and sidetone problems were compounded by sometimes catching the cord in the pilot’s door or yanking too hard on the dual plug jacks. Delaminating earmuffs and a disintegrating mic muff called for a complete overhaul. The DC specialists pampered my poor headset and brought it up to new standards by installing a smaller, modern 9-volt battery pack and new dual-plug cord; new microphone; new noise-canceling electronics; new earmuffs; and new headband pad—for $150 in about two weeks. It’s been dependable ever since—and no, I won’t part with it! —David Tulis

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