Flying the Sennheiser S1 Headset

Can it compete with Lightspeed and Bose?

Sennheiser S1

Sennheiser S1

(October 2011) Sennheiser, which for years has been an also-ran in premium headset competition, showed up at AirVenture with a new product, the S1, a great-looking, premium ($1,095) full-featured unit that the company hopes will give it some traction against the likes of Lightspeed and Bose, both of which are enjoying strong sales for their premium headsets, the Zulu.2 and A20, respectively. So, how does the S1 fare in the competition?

As it turns out, not badly. The headset is quiet — in the same class as its competitors’ — but it seems a bit bulky, and it is — though in all fairness, it doesn’t feel that way on your head. It’s adjustable, though the way you do that — by rotating the earcup at the joint — is awkward and odd. That said, you have to make that adjustment only until you get it right and then leave it there. The pressure of the headset is light, and on a four-hour leg, it was comfortable with no noteworthy hot spots or areas of discomfort.

In terms of features, the S1 has a number of them, including a one-touch sound sampler to optimize cancellation and dual-channel Bluetooth connectivity (it was easy, and the stereo sound was great), so you can listen to tunes or do the cell-phone-in-the-cockpit thing. The S1 also has a couple of new electronic moves that allow pilots to hear voice calls more clearly, including a setting that boosts the treble to let you better hear what those controllers are yapping about. The mic on the S1 sounds very good too.

In terms of comfort, the S1 is the best full-coverage Sennheiser aviation headset yet, but it’s not quite as good as either the Bose A20 or Lightspeed Zulu.2. Of course, headset comfort can be a subjective call; your mileage may vary, but for my head, the S1 comes in third in this race.

Overall, the S1 has a lot going for it. But against a couple of competitors that are known quantities and better known, it might be an uphill battle competing for customers at the same or a slightly higher price point. Still, if you’re looking for something different with decent fit, quiet performance, good sound and good features, the S1 is worth a look.