In 2003, Bose introduced a new version of its high-end Aviation Headset X (which, like the fastest Citation, is the number "ten" and not the letter "X"). The updated model, which Bose introduced at Oshkosh, is available now.
The Aviation Headset X is a great unit. It had better be. At a suggested retail price of $995, it's more than a third again as expensive as other manufacturers' models that also boast excellent performance. Clearly, the Headset X is positioned for pilots who want the very best and are willing to pay a good bit more for it.
The original Headset X, introduced back in 1998, did have its flaws. One shortcoming, a headband "hot spot," was fixed shortly after the introduction. Bose now uses a sheepskin pad in place of the foam one that wasn't thick enough to protect the crown of the wearer's head from the pressure of the headband hinge. Also, the portable unit was powered by a single nine-volt battery, which gave the Headset X only a decent battery life. It was decent, that is, if you remembered to turn it off every time you get out of the airplane. Another thing I didn't like much about it was the volume control, located on the awkwardly configured battery pack, which featured a pair of hard-to-access and difficult-to-adjust volume knobs. And the mic could be hard to place just right, too.
As I said, in the grand scheme these were and are minor caveats because the headset has so much more to offer. The unit's effective noise reduction, its wonderful sound quality and its supreme comfort are the rewards you get for your investment. The Headset X is very light (12 ounces) and very comfortable. In fact, I can wear them on 10-plus hour trips and not feel the usual headset fatigue at the end of the day. It is the only full-coverage headset that I've tried about which I can say that.
A good thing sometimes does get better. The newest version of the Aviation Headset X has fixed everything wrong with the original and added new features.
The most noticeable improvement is the control module that features easily accessible, large thumbwheels for controlling volume in both left and right ears. (Why separate volumes? Easy. Most airplanes are noisier on one side than the other, and while most pilots of any age are somewhat hard of hearing, many are even harder of hearing on one side than they are on the other.)
While the new control module is easier to use than the old one, it's also much better at doing what it does. Bose replaced the single nine-volt battery with a pair of AA's, which are cheaper to buy and easier to find at the FBO nine-volt batteries are. And the batteries last a lot longer, forty hours or more, claims Bose. It might take you a while to figure that out, though, as the unit now turns itself off automatically after you've taken it off your head for any length of time. (When testing it, it was hard for me not to turn it off; after wasting a few three-dollar nine-volt batteries on the original model after forgetting to flip the power switch to the "off" setting, I've gotten almost obsessive about this chore.)
The other big improvement is the updated mic, which sounds even better than the excellent original but which, thanks to a new boom design, is easier to put into place and keep there. My last rave-and I failed to mention this when I reviewed the original Headset X a few years back-is that the Aviation Headset X, with its black and titanium styling, is as beautiful to look at as it is comfortable to wear.
The Updated Aviation Headset X is available now through retailers or direct from Bose. Owners of the original Headset X can get a self-install upgrade kit from Bose that includes the new power pack and boom mic for $125 (after a $70 refund on your old cable). For more information, call 800/242-9008 or visit www.bose.com.