I’ve spent a while agonizing about what I carry in my flight bag. As happy as I am with my gear, it’s just too big — and not too practical for instructing. The biggest contributor to the bulk? It’s my headset.
For the last few years, I’ve been flying with a Lightspeed Zulu.2 headset — you can read the review of that here.
It’s a great headset. It’s comfortable, the sound quality is fantastic, it’s got nice extra features like bluetooth, and it cost a pretty penny. All of those facts made me hem and haw quite a bit about even thinking about switching the headset I carry.
But ultimately, the prospect of lightening up my gear won out — and I decided to at least try out one of the super lightweight headsets that have hit the market.
Lightweight, in-ear headsets have become incredibly popular lately, particularly with professional pilots (like CFIs) who switch equipment frequently. A few of the popular contenders include the Quiet Technologies Halo (which we’re talking about today), the Clarity Aloft line, and now the relatively new Faro Air.
The Clarity Aloft and Faro offerings are very similar designs — they both use earbuds that go in your ear, with a boom mic that hooks around your head. The QT Halo uses the same microphone setup, but one major difference with the Halo is that the speakers are actually located on the headband — acoustic tubes connect the speaker output to earplugs that actually go in your ears.
Because of that, the electronics are quite a bit removed from the threat of sweat, snags, and… earwax.
(QT’s owner is an audiologist, which makes me feel a lot more confident in the safety aspect of their in-ear headset.)
If you snag earbud on the plane door when you’re getting out, and rip it off, you’re looking at a minor $10 fix versus wrecking your brand new headset. That really appealed to me. So did the price. At $359, the Halos are actually cheaper than either of the competing in-ear headset models.
Apparently, that appeals to a lot of other people too, because, as of this writing, they’re actually pretty hard to get ahold of.
Visiting Quiet Technologies’ web store is pretty hit-or-miss for finding headsets in stock — they’re struggling to keep up with demand. That’s another pretty good sign that the headset is a good choice. But they do keep the web store updated, and with a little regular checking every few days, it’s not hard to squeeze in an order when headsets become available.
Since my go-to headset has been the Zulu.2, that’s going to be my point of comparison with the Halos. Yes, I realize that’s not exactly a fair comparison — a pair of Zulu.2s will set you back almost three-times as much as the Halos. But Quiet Technologies bills the Halo headset as comparable with ANRs, so I think it’s still worthwhile to think about how to two headsets stack up…
For starters, the Halos come in a nice package.
Halos ship with a small zippered carrying case that holds the headset as well as a bevy of different earpieces. I went with the yellow foam earplugs, and haven’t looked back…
First, let’s talk comfort. Before I ordered the Halos, I’d heard from a few people that they were comfortable — and they weren’t wrong. While my Lightspeed Zulu.2s sit firmly on your head like a couple of luxurious cushions, the benefit of the Halos is that they’re so light and unobtrusive that you can forget you’re even wearing them.
While some people might object to the in-ear aspect of the headset, I’d suggest trying it first. The earpieces are actually very comfortable (and if you don’t like them, it comes with a variety of other types). If you’re still not convinced and you want to test that for yourself, I’d suggest spending a couple dollars to order some ear tips directly from QT to try them before investing in the headset.
The band can be worn a few different ways, but I prefer the more conventional behind the back of the head arrangement.
As far as sound quality goes, the QT Halos are quiet, but honestly they’re not quite as quiet as the Zulu.2s. That said, speaker and mic quality are both top-notch. Radio calls come in clearly, and I’ve had zero issues with people trying to hear me. It’s important to note that there’s a bit of a technique to proper ear tip insertion, so getting good performance requires actually putting them in correctly.
While the Halo’s ear pieces are a little more involved to put on than the conventional Lightspeed, it’s really just a momentary delay. With a little practice, I think it’s a negligible difference.
With a couple dozen hours on the Halos at this point, I like the fact that the headset is super lightweight, and you can actually leave them on from the time you first climb into the airplane until after shutdown — just hold off on the ear pieces until the avionics master is on, and you can communicate easily with the radios off.
Portability was one of the primary reasons why I bought my QT Halos — and it’s fantastic. The Halos can basically lie totally flat in a bag, effectively taking up zero space. Besides trimming down the heft of a full flight bag, the portability of the Halos makes it practical to bring them along on trips where I’ll be flying commercial and doing some GA flying once I get to my destination. In the past, I’ve used some really unpleasant head-clamp loaner headsets, so having my personal set with me is a big perk.
It’s really not practical to bring a full-sized headset like the Lightspeed Zulu.2s along for the ride when luggage space is at a premium, but it’s a piece of cake with the QT Halos.
The Halos have a small controller with dials for left and right ear volume, a mono/stereo switch, and an aux input. One sidetone: when switching to a different plane for the first time, I found that I only had one ear working — it took me a while to realize that I just needed to flip that little stereo switch to fix things.
I wasn’t a huge fan of how long the acoustic tubes are that connect the speakers on the back of the headset to your earpieces. At full length, they kind of look like droopy earrings. No thanks.
Luckily, you can trim the tubes if you want to (the owner’s manual includes instructions on which side to trim) — and one of the first things I did was cut them down to a less excessive size. Apparently, because the tubes are tuned, you can lose a bit of quality when you shorten them, but I haven’t noticed that in my case.
Because the sound tubes are a replaceable $10 part from QT, I didn’t sweat cutting them, and I’m much happier with how they look and how compact and snag-free they are without the extra length.
Build quality seems good so far, but I have been a little gentle with it because I’m a little nervous about breaking it. I think that goes with the territory for any super lightweight tech, though…
If you’re looking purely for comfort and sound quality, I don’t think that the QT Halos have a huge advantage over one of the flagship ANR headsets, like the Lightspeed Zulu.2 or the Bose A20.
But where the Halo really shines is in the big picture: if you’re looking for a quality headset that’s just about as quiet as the ANR, but takes up zero room in your flight bag and costs a third as much? The QT Halo becomes really impossible to beat.
For my money, it’s really the perfect headset for instructing. And it’s also a perfect headset for just about any other GA applications too.
As much as I love my Lightspeed (and I do love it), I haven’t flown with it since my QT Halos came in — I think that says a lot.