(August 2011) This year Lightspeed introduced an upgraded version of its already highly pilot-regarded Zulu headset. Lightspeed said that the new model, the Zulu.2, would have all of the features of the original Zulu with even better comfort and performance. We loved nearly everything about the original, so we were curious to see if the new version could possibly be better.
One of the big tests of a headset is how it does not in terms of immediate performance but over the long haul. To find out, I flew with the Zulu.2 on two trips, one four-hour leg of a flight up to Denver from Austin, Texas, and one shorter leg of a trip to Wichita, Kansas. Both flights were in loud airplanes that would push the limits.
There are new earcups and seals, a new mic and a new headband design, all of which are easy to miss until you wear the headset for a while.
The Zulu.2 is clearly quieter than the previous model, which is a result, says Lightspeed, of an improvement to the active noise reduction, a patent-pending approach it calls “Microport Vent” technology. However it’s done, the effect is that the low frequency noise is canceled effectively. The cool-looking magnesium earcups, moreover, are good at blocking high frequency noise, according to Lightspeed.
The seals are good at their job. Even when I was wearing a pair of sunglasses with bulky temple pieces, the seals formed around them nicely, keeping out nearly all of the noncanceled outside noise.
As far as comfort is concerned, the Zulu.2 is greatly improved. One of the only complaints I had about the original was some headband pressure on long flights. With less side pressure and a new adjustment system, the Zulu.2 does away with that hot spot and that objection. Even after a four-hour flight with the Zulu.2, I felt as though I could have easily flown some more.
All high-end headsets these days need to have additional features, and the Zulu.2 has a number. There’s a two-channel Bluetooth receiver, so you can have music and a cell phone attached, and you can, of course, listen in stereo or mono. (Mono? Ask your grandparents, kids.) You can also hook up a cord to the controller if your device doesn’t have Bluetooth.
The sound quality of the headphones is excellent. While at 13,000 feet between Colorado Springs and Amarillo, Texas, I had extended opportunities to listen to some tunes. Crank it up. The Zulu.2 sounds great. The microphone is completely new too, utilizing a disc-shaped diaphragm to get great sound, directionality and noise cancellation. The clarity and presence of the mic, at least as it sounds through the intercom system, is as good as I’ve heard.
When Lightspeed said its Zulu.2 was lighter (13 ounces), more comfortable and quieter, it was right. At $900, it’s hard to call the Lightspeed Zulu.2 a bargain, but it is 10 to 20 percent less than the excellent product from its main competitor. Even if priced identically, the Zulu.2 is so good it would still be a tough product to pass up.