in-the-ear headset --good or bad?

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I'm thinking of getting an in-the-ear headset like the Lightspeed Mach
1, Clarity Aloft, or halo tubephone.

What are your experiences, both good and bad, with these headsets in
the C172, C182, Arrow/Archer class of aircraft, or even noisier aircraft?

I emphasize that I would like actual experience, not speculation.

-- Ren Curry, May 7, 2007


I haven't tried these in an aircraft, only on the ground. The noise reduction is the same as putting in earplugs, i.e., quite good for high frequencies and not so great at low frequencies. I think it would be a nice thing to have on a long flight. I would use a Telex 50D with earplugs for most of the flight and switch to an in-ear headset for maybe one hour in the middle. I think the in-ear headsets would also be fine for the back seat passengers (it is typically 3-5 dB quieter in the back).

-- Philip Greenspun, May 9, 2007

I have both a ANR (Headsets Inc. conversion from a David Clark) headset and a Clarity Aloft headset.

I think the audio quality is hands down better with the Clarity Aloft than any conventional (ANR or not) headset I have worn.

I find the subjective noise levels less on the Clarity Aloft than I do on the ANR headset, though neither is objectionable. As Philip mentioned, low frequency noise is attenuated more on the ANR headset than the Clarity Aloft, though the difference is not as striking as you might think. However, the attenuation of the high frequency noise, such as air leaks, etc., is much greater on the Clarity Aloft than on the ANR. With higher clamping pressure on the conventional headset (and a near perfect seal on the ears), one might get close to what the Clarity Aloft is capable of. However, if one adds earplugs to the ANR headset the result would, in my opinion, be superior to what the Clarity Aloft can achieve. In doing this, though, you would be getting the "worst of both worlds" - let me explain:

ANR (conventional) headset - hot and tiring because of the larger amount of gear worn on the head. The clamping pressure becomes an issue on longer flights. I typically wear my conventional headset in the winter, where (in typical cold MN winters) it acts like a set of earmuffs.

Clarity Aloft: Earplug style earpieces can get irritating to the ear canals after long usage and this can be cumulative over days of flying. There is also noticeable pressure in the ear canals. Selecting the proper size plug (there are several choices in these) helps but does not, at least with my ears, totally obviate the problem.

So, wearing earplugs with a conventional headset exposes the wearer to both of the above problems. Your mileage may vary.

I hope this helps!

-- Mark Olson, June 2, 2007

I haven't worn in-ear ear buds when flying, but I have a pair of Etymotic ear phones I use when listening to music. Compared to my Bose Quiet Comfort headphones, the in-ear phones provide more noise isolation. However, after a couple of hours my ear canals ache a little. You can get custom ear molds, which have a near-perfect fit, but when I asked Etymotic about them, they said -- surprisingly -- that those provided less noise isolation.

-- Max Rahder, June 24, 2007

I just got the Clarity Alofts and I am convinced they are the best headset available. I fly a turboprop that is not incredibly noisy, like a GA a/c, but is still about 80db in cruise. I have literally tried every headset and type of headset out there. I've tried the Mach1 and it is simply a flawed design. I think they need to get to Mach2 to get it right. I started out with a basic DavidClark and have tried a Denali, a BoseX, a Lightspeed ANR, a Peltor ANR, 2 Sennheiser ANR's (one over-the-ear, one on-the-ear), 3 Telex(one standard, one ANR, one light-weight ANR)and one Pilot-Avionics ANR and for the money and comfort nothing touches the Clarity Aloft. The longest leg I've flown has been 1.5 but it is virtually like wearing nothing. The biggest downside is having to BUY the replacement foam ear plugs. And at $4 a pair it's not cheap over a year. They will be deductable come tax time though. Clarity's website says that each pair should last a month so that's $50 a year. Maybe the same expense as buying batteries. I will say that the ear plugs do a great job at noise reduction and they are MUCH more comfortable than standard foam plugs.

It can be switched from mono or stereo, the volume control is a bonus and the option for listening to an ipod is nice even though it's not my bag.

The Mach1's supposedly revolutionary stock earplugs suck and the custom ear molds are a pain the butt to try and get right between going back and forth to an audiologist and trying to get them to stay attached to the speaker posts.

I haven't tried the other Lightspeed lightweight model, I think called L1.

Don't even consider Panther in-ear headsets. I won't even get started with how horrible they are.

You could buy 2 pairs of Clarity Alofts for the price of one BoseX.

Conventional sunglasses may be an issue with the Clarity's because I wear a pair of light-weight plastic, straight arm Oakleys that weigh nothing and rest on top of the loops that keep the Clarity's to your head. They have a 30-day money back guarantee if you buy them direct.

Good luck.

-- B A, August 4, 2007

Thanks to everyone who replied, especially those people who had actual experience

-- Ren Curry, August 4, 2007

With the Mach 1 and custom moulds get a small ring of epoxy put around the end of the audio output tube this holds the moulds tighter on the transducers, The mould Co. suggested and installed this mod, stops moulds coming off

-- brett tustin, August 29, 2007

I fly army rotory wing and civilian fixed wing. L2K Technologies sells the CEP custom earplug molds that fit the Clarity Aloft Headset and the CEP system. Since the speaker housings are identical, I can use my custom molded ear plugs on both ITE systems. also offers the Custom Molded Ear pieces for the Lightspeed Mach 1.

-- Mike Colone, January 26, 2011