Saturday, February 2, 2008

My very own headset: a David Clark H10-60

As mentioned in my previous post, I finally decided to buy myself a headset. I decided on a David Clark H10-60. I bought it online from SkyGeek in the US and got it shipped to Australia, which saved me about $150 compared to the cheapest Australian pilot shop. To put things in perspective, that’s one hour of solo flying in the C152!

For the selection process, I first proceeded by elimination. Since I expect this headset to last me for many years, there was no point skimping on quality. This took care of some of the cheaper brands such as Altronics and Flightcom.

On the other hand, the price of some of the top-of-the-range General Aviation headsets is so incredibly high that it borders on the ridiculous. I’m sure they are all fantastic pieces of technology, especially headsets such as the Bose-X. If I ever end up with a career in aviation I think I’ll go for one of these. But not now.

I also looked at recent expensive headsets such as the Lightspeed Zulu. The ad calls it “the world’s quietest ANR headset”. It may be true, but with a price tag well over $1000 it’ll be some time before I have one in my flight bag. It’s a pity, because it has some very nice features, such as the possibility of plugging in any mobile phone with a “hand-free” feature. This may come in very handy in flight for obtaining weather reports and forecasts, checking availability of fuel or simply letting people know everything’s OK (or not, depending).

To make a long story short, I decided in the end to go for a David Clark headset. The brand has a good reputation and good worldwide service, and all the people I asked around me were very positive about this company’s products. I also found a lot of good feedback about them on pprune. Going through their list of products, I narrowed down my choice to two models, the H20-10 and the H10-60.

In the end I decided on the H10-60. I didn’t like the look of the H20-10, especially the abundance of green plastic and the squarish shape of the ear cups. From the technical description both headsets sounded comparable. My only concern was weight. The H10-60 is nearly a hundred grams heavier than the H20-10, which can make a big difference on a long flight. I couldn't find any decent comparison of General Aviation headsets online that would go beyond listing the characteristics given by the manufacturer. I could find some useful anecdotal information here and there, but that's about as useful as the Internet was in the selection process.

After considering all these different trade-offs, I decided to go for the H10-60. Now that the selection was over, the next challenge was to find where to buy it from.

I had a look at the Web sites of all the Australian pilot shops I could find. I looked at SkySupply, Airsupport, Concept Aviation, AeroShop, the Downunder Pilot Shop, Skylines, Ozpilot and SkyShop. SkySupply clearly came ahead of the pack with a price tag of $490. The other two shops that offered the model were Airsupport at $630 and the Downunder Pilot Shop at $650.

Since most headsets are manufactured in the US, why not try to order directly from there? The US are a larger market than Australia, and with lower taxes, so American pilot stores such as Sportys and SkyGeek may have a better deal. SkyGeek turned out to be the cheapest, with a price tag of US$ 314. The headset carrying bag was an extra US$ 16, and the shipping cost was only about US$ 20 with the Fedex Economy option.

I ordered from SkyGeek and I received the headset and its carrying bag one week later. All was in perfect condition, and the grand total was US$ 352. In Australian dollars I was charged exactly $409. Quite a good deal in the end, I saved about $150. It sounds to me as if the Australian pilot shops took advantage of the fall of the US dollar vs. the Aussie dollar but didn’t exactly pass on the savings to their customers. I mean, why charge $48 in Australia for the exact same headset bag sold at the equivalent of $17 in the US? That’s nearly three times the price.

The David Clark carrying bag is very good, must better than the ones usually given away for free with cheaper headsets. It is made of very sturdy fabric and has three pockets, including one zipped one. In the zipped pocket I have space for my pilot license, ASIC card, wallet, car keys, mobile phone, etc. The other two pockets are great for holding a couple of pens, the local VTC and a few sheets of paper or cereal bars if need be. That’s the only bag I take when I go on local flights.

The headset itself is amazing. The gel ear seals work really well, even with sunglasses on. The headband is easy to adjust and doesn’t move. The mike stays perfectly in place. The volume controls on top of each earcup are easy to find. And you can’t even feel the weight of the headset on the top of your head. OK, I’ve only used the headset for about one hour at a time so far, so we’ll see how it behaves on longer flights. But I'm pretty confident I'll keep on calling it my very own awesome headset for many years.

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