Review: Bose A20 vs Lightspeed Zulu 3

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Sinistar, Jan 12, 2020.

  1. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Line Up and Wait

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    Just about everything. From the typical piston singles to the Extra 300 to light twins to the Gulfstream 450. Not too long ago I used my Bose A20 with an adapter in a Robinson R22.

    In the summer that is my typical configuration just about every practical test I conduct and they work just fine in that application, in my experience.

    That is the exact opposite of my experience, although I wouldn't say the Lightspeed ANR is "worse," in fact it is somewhat comparable but not quite as good as the Bose. Rather, my chief complaint is simply the ruggedness of the Lightspeed models. A very common problem from what I've gathered.

    I owned a Pitts Special S-2C years ago and it was pre-Zulu era (I had the 25XLs.) Actually that was the application which moved me to the Bose X (no A20 at the time.) A much better, quieter headset, especially in the Pitts Special.

    I was flying an Extra 300 recently and let the other guy try my Bose A20. He was using David Clarks with a strap. He said he was going to order a pair.

    I'm not doubting your experience, but I have a mountain of time with both of these headsets in just about anything with wings or rotor blades, and I'm absolutely convinced that Bose's A20 model is the best civil aviation headset ever built. Comfort is entirely subjective, so I have no doubt that either might be perceived as "more comfortable" than the other by a given user. But in terms of reliability, functionality, sound quality and ANR, Bose simply wins.
     
  2. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Line Up and Wait

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    Well, they're not cheap... and flight instructing isn't exactly known for being a lucrative profession. :)
     
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  3. kgruber

    kgruber En-Route

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    I've never seen an airline pilot wear their headset backward.
     
  4. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Somewhat related, I was recently in the market for some wireless ANR (over the ear) headphones primarily for airline travel. I listened to the top units from Sony, Bose, Sennheiser, and B&O. Sony won the battle for value on sound quality and ANR. It beat or matched the Bose ANR, and had much better audio quality. The B&O had noticeably better audio quality than all of them, but the ANR was lacking a bit and it had some other quirks that made it not worth the price premium over the other 3 sets. If I were to rank them on overall ANR/Sound quality it would look like: Sony, B&O, Bose, Sennheiser. The Bose ANR just didn't make up for the terrible audio quality, for me. Maybe Sony needs to get into the aviation headset market, lol.
     
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  5. pigpenracing

    pigpenracing En-Route

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    Honestly flying a Cessna with both windows open the pilot side mic on the left works best and passenger side mic on the right works best. If you do it the other way you get lots more wind in the mic..
    Every application is different.
    So in a Stearman will the mic work better on the left or the right? What about a Cub flying in the rear seat?
    It makes a difference. I know you like the right side mic and so does my wife. But from my testing each application is different.
     
  6. Crashnburn

    Crashnburn Line Up and Wait

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    With my big ears, to go along with my big hands and feet, it's Lightspeed all the way. (When I start committing aviation again.)
     
  7. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 En-Route

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    I’ve wore them for 12 hours, no problem. Are you putting your glasses under the ear muffs?
     
  8. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Where else would you put them? LOL.

    Still isn’t a headset maker that’s put a reinforced hole through the muffs with foam noise guards at both ends, for the majority of us who wear prescription glasses.

    DC used to make some dippy foam wedges that don’t work.
     
  9. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 En-Route

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    Just tilt them up so the temples ride on top of the muffs, not underneath.
     
  10. OkieAviator

    OkieAviator Pattern Altitude

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    I have about 600 hours on my A20s all flying piston planes... I have about 10 hours on some Zulu 3s but returned them and just bought a second pair of A20s. Me personally, I didn’t like the feel of the headset and my cable started falling apart.

    Opinion based reviews just list out the categories and will place a ‘winner’ for each category. The gets tallied up with an overall winner. This allows the consumer to pick what is important to them. Some reviews will use a 1-10 or 100 pt scale but that’s when it’s based on actual quantitative data, such as db reduction of ANR given a range of external sound in dbs.
     
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  11. BrianNC

    BrianNC En-Route

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    I’ll try that.
     
  12. denverpilot

    denverpilot Tied Down

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    Doesn’t work well with bifocals. Get off my lawn! :)
     
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  13. BrianNC

    BrianNC En-Route

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    We'll see how they work with progressives. :D
     
  14. MountainDude

    MountainDude Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My wife and I tested the ANC DC, Zulu 3, and A20. Both of us liked the Bose the best, so we both got the Bose.
     
  15. WDD

    WDD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    What did you like and not like?
     
  16. Tusayan

    Tusayan Pre-Flight

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    Me too, and I never knew I had big ears! I originally bought Zulus because I tried a friends set and liked them. I’m now on my second set, years later, having in the meantime flown with Boses. I find the Bose ear cups to be oddly small. With effort I can make them work but what’s the point. There’s no chance I’d buy them.
     
  17. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 En-Route

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    Hmmm, interesting that both of you don’t have your picture in the avatar, so I’m to imagine what y’all look like with Dumbo like ears. ;-)
     
  18. MountainDude

    MountainDude Pre-takeoff checklist

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    We liked everything about Bose. Zulu 3 did not have as good ANC or comfort. Zulu 3 are very good, but this is a long-term purchase, so we are fine spending the extra money.
     
  19. WDD

    WDD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    About half say Bose is more comfortable and better ANF, with remaining saying the same of Zulu 3. Seems like it’s personal preference and beyond that it seems like hard to go wrong with either.
     
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  20. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    Exactly. To me the ANR is indistinguishable between the two at least in the airplanes I have been in. Ultimately I bought the one that fit my head shape the best. Even if the Z3's were more expensive I would have still chosen them as the Bose hurt my ears.
     
  21. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I let my wife try the Bose on one leg and the Lightspeed on the next. She wanted the Bose back. The Lightspeed is quieter to me, but still somehow I don't like the sound quality. I can't explain it, and the Bose fits me better.
     
  22. WDD

    WDD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    For me - since it’s this close - I’m just going to see about getting a good deal on a Z3. I don’t think it’s worth trouble to buy both, test each and send one back. Any one of them have to be light years ahead of the David Clark 10-13 my wife used.
     
  23. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Does your local FBO/flight supplies shop not have either that you could rent for a flight or two before you make the decision? You'll probably be perfectly happy with either one, but there could be some cheap options nearby to give you a chance to demo without having to order one of each and return one.
     
  24. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 En-Route

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    I believe the Bose allows mid range (voice frequencies) to go uncancelled, while canceling the rest. Depending on your hearing range, it may seem not as quiet or give other sounds will sound different.


    Tom
     
  25. Aviator305

    Aviator305 Pre-Flight

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    The plastic holding the positive battery terminal on my wife’s Lightspeed Sierra broke after 1 1/2 years. I am sending it in for repair this week. Although I am confident they will fix it, I am concerned about the durability of this brand. The rubber encasing the wire coming out of the earcup is unraveling/breaking. In contrast, my 8-year old Bose A20 still looks new.
     
  26. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Line Up and Wait

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    Comfort is subjective, reliability is not. This is the common refrain with all of the Lightspeed products. Not very durable compared to Bose.

    On the plus side, their support is excellent and they will get it back to you pronto. But I'd rather just not have the problem in the first place.
     
  27. Ryanb

    Ryanb Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    I always get a kick out of discussing this topic. Those who own a particular headset are naturally inclined to promote that model.

    Truth is, the difference between the noise reduction in the Zulu and A20 is negligible. Some people used to get blue in the face telling others how much better the ANR was in the A20’s when compared to the Bose X - it’s basically the exact same. It’s all a placebo.

    Now, the DC Pro-X are just crummy in all ways. Haven’t tried the One-X yet, but I’m sure it’s a lot better.
     
  28. Ryan F.

    Ryan F. Line Up and Wait

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    I've owned many pair of Lightspeeds and many pair of Bose.

    To me it's clear that Bose's ANR is "a little better." That seems to be verifiable, to me and most people I associate with in aviation. The margin is slim, but it's there. I've had one or the other brand on my head for most days of my life since the Bose X and Lightspeed 25XL were new. My first Bose headset was the Series I! Gel earseals and all. There are certainly people who've had more experience with both brands other than myself, but I'm betting they're few and far between. Other than cursory evaluations I've never dealt with David Clark, Clarity Aloft, et. al. I always returned immediately to these two brands.

    That meager margin in ANR performance alone can't justify the price difference. But the ruggedness of the Bose can. I've mentioned this story many times so I won't do so again in detail here, but I outfitted an entire flight department with Lightspeeds for years and I literally lost count of how many times we sent them back for repair. I've sent my Boses (I've "owned" 6 pair total, compared to 12 pair of Lightspeeds, if I'm counting correctly) back for repair twice in twenty years. To give Lightspeed credit, they always turned the headsets around lightning fast, but I ultimately purchased a spare just to throw into the operation whenever we were down one for repair -- which was almost always.

    Comfort is subjective. The Lightspeeds are pretty comfortable by my estimation. The cushions are soft, the clamping forces light. The earcups are a bit bulky so there's more bumping around. I don't personally find them any more or less comfortable than the A20s, but I do recognize it's mostly personal opinion.

    In any case, Ryanb, generally, you're right -- folks will always champion whichever brand they happen to own. But in my case I wanted to be a Lightspeed guy. The Lightspeed headsets have great features. They offered a bluetooth mobile phone and music option long before it was available from Bose -- that key feature kept us in the Lightspeed camp despite the reliability issues. But as soon as the A20 with bluetooth music was offered I switched. Zero RMA numbers requested since then. :)
     
  29. Stan Cooper

    Stan Cooper Cleared for Takeoff

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    Gotta say, I've got Lyndon Johnson size ears and my A20s have never caused any discomfort on day-long cross-countries. The ANR is superb in my noisy LSA with a bubble canopy. My everyday glasses for decades have been Randolph Aviators with the thin clear plastic temple pieces, progressive lenses and neutral grey clipons, so there have never been pressure points from the ear cup cushions.
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2020
  30. Matthew Rogers

    Matthew Rogers Line Up and Wait

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    Oh man, you know the flying community is getting old when things are measured in 45 year old metrics. I was -10 years old at that time. <— is a negative number, not an approximate.
     
  31. Stan Cooper

    Stan Cooper Cleared for Takeoff

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    Heh heh... Mea culpa, Sonny, but you don't have to be my age to see how freaking big LBJ's ears were.

    Lyndon Johnson.jpg
     
  32. WDD

    WDD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This afternoon I drove to another local airport that has a pilot shop with both Bose and Zulu 3; tried them both on.

    Zulu 3 fit perfectly. When I tried the Bose, instantly I could tell it was 1) a little lighter, and 2) squeezed the tops of my ears a bit. Never thought of myself as big eared, but I guess I'm just a bit over the "Bose average" design limits. Zulu 3 it is.

    I figure I'll wear the Zulu 3 except when not with the wife (who also tried on both), and for those times I'll use the clarity alofts.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2020
  33. WDD

    WDD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Instead of a 55 year old reference to LBJ, how about a 30 year old image of someone who might have a problem with a headset?

    spock.jpg
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2020
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  34. TooTall

    TooTall Filing Flight Plan

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    I'm in the market for one or the other now. Has anyone used the Flightlink App with Lightspeed that allows you to replay audio? Seem pretty nice to be able to do instant replays on ATC or record your flight audio but don't know how practical or usable this is. (But my memory is bad enough, I write down everything) Just wondering if this would be enough to sway the choice toward lightspeed? Then again, there may be apps that do this with Bose but Bose doesn't offer any apps as far as I know.
     
  35. KyleG

    KyleG Filing Flight Plan

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    I have nose A20 and love then.

    I bought a second set off Craigslist because guy complained about connection issue. Brought them with to Oshkosh and Bose warrantied them on the stop. Great customer service!