This review covers one of Sennheiser's more popular aviation headsets, the Sennheiser HMEC-461.
Here is what I like about this product…
– At $ 730, it costs less than its competitors (Bose A20 = $ 1095, Lightspeed Zulu = $ 800)
– Superior noise reduction – Made with German quality
– You can plug your cell phone directly into the headset
– Best warranty in the industry (10 years)
– Very low clamping force
What I don't like about it…
– Clamping force is very low
Ok, let's look a bit deeper now…
Here is what you get:
– Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headset
– Bag to carry the headset and the related apparatus
– Clip to attach the wires to your clothes
– Owner's Manual
– 2.5 mm cable connectors for your cell phone and 3.5 mm jacks for playing your MP3 player
The most noticeable thing about the Sennheiser HMEC-461 is the light clamping force. At first, when you compare them with other high-end aviation headsets you immediately notice that they feel less stable on your head. The good thing is they feel very comfortable. The bad thing is they may be too comfortable, as in they feel as though they may fall off.
The type of ear pad material Sennheiser uses is also fine for short flights, but if your flights tend to be lighter than that, you will likely find they aren't as comfortable as Bose or Lightspeed's comparable products.
Here's how headset makers can suppress noise in the cockpit…
1. Passive noise protection
2. Active Noise Reduction
Sound is first blocked by the physical action of the ear cups.
Active sound reduction filters noise in a different way. First, the ANR system uses microphones to pick up noise in the cockpit. Then, it electronically matches the sound in opposite amplitude and frequency. This mirror-image of the original sound is then broadcast into the ear cup, thereby canceling the noise so you don't hear it.
What do actual users of the Sennheiser 461 have to say about the product?
– Only 2 negative comments out of a total of 33 found on the internet (that's a 94% positive rating).
The bottom line is, the Sennheiser 461 is an excellent headset but you have to check it in flight to make that determination. Almost any headset will work on a short flight of an hour or less. Where a high-end headset earns its keep is when your flights are longer.
It is wise to read the reviews on the internet and talk to other pilots before you move forward. The best thing of all to do is try several manufacturers' products under your actual flight conditions. Then, you have some field-tested data that leaves out the guesswork.
One last thing… remember – you can't regain the hearing you have already lost.
I have lost some of my hearing because of all those hours in a Cherokee 235 growing up in the 1960's flying with my dad. Very few people wore headsets in those days.
We all get busy, move on to other things, and neglect to take actions on things that aren't nipping at our heals. Hearing loss is so incredibly gradual you don't even notice it.
I wear an ANR aviation headset religiously now. There are a number of high-quality competitors for the Sennheiser HMEC-461, including the Bose A20, and the Lightspeed Zulu. If you try one and don't like it, exchange it for another until you find what you like. That is as easy to do through an online or bricks and mortar store.
There's just no way to know which one is right for you until you try several and pilot stores expect that.