The debate about which headset is the better product will never cease. We do know this for sure, though, Lightspeed and Bose make the best noise canceling headsets out there. David Clark’s offering doesn’t match up with these two. Newcomer AKG has a light (weight-wise that is, as the headset is equipped with a pair of LED lights as well) ANR headset that the jury is still out on. For now, Lightspeed and Bose sit atop the ANR kingdom.
The comparison for this article will be between the Lightspeed Zulu 2 and the Bose A20 headsets, both of which I have used quite extensively in my flying career. I am officially in the Lighspeed camp at this point and after reading my comparison below, you’ll see why.
Between the two, the Bose A20 cancels out more noise, no argument there. This isn’t to say that the Lightspeed Zulu 2 doesn’t. Quite the opposite, actually. The Lightspeed Zulu 2 does a great job of canceling the noise. But with the A20 on in a C172, you can barely hear the engine running. The difference before you press the power button and after is extremely noticeable. I had one client turn to me after turning on the noise canceling function of his new A20 headset and state, “These things are awesome!”
The other advantage Bose has is a continuation of the noise canceling. About the only thing I don’t like about the Lightspeed is if you don’t have the headset sized just right on your head, each time you turn your head to look at something, then the suction gets broken around the ear cup and you get some ambient noise. My glasses probably don’t help with this. It’s not that big of a deal, you just have to readjust the size of the headset, but, since I’m a little OCD, it bugs me. Once I get the set sized right, it’s smooth sailing.
Far and away, the Lightspeed Zulu 2 is much more comfortable than the Bose A20. I flew for 5 hours in the right seat with my Lightspeed set on the other day. I switched to the left seat for the last leg and used the owner’s A20 headset since it was plugged in on that side already and I noticed quite a bit of difference. The ear cups seemed to press against my head more. The pad on top of my head didn’t seem to be as cushiony. It just wasn’t overall as comfortable as the Lightspeed Zulu 2.
Bose has made a lot of progress from their original noise canceling headsets. Those didn’t have much of a cushion on top at all. After about 2.5 hours, the slim ear cushions began to dig in to the side of your head. So, the A20 has made some progress, but the Lightspeed Zulu 2 takes the cake in comfort.
“Wait!” You Bose boys scream (no pun intended). “The A20 is lighter than the Zulu 2!” While this is true (the Zulu 2 weighs in at 15.7 oz while the A20 is only 12 oz), the way that weight is distributed makes a massive amount of difference. The Lightspeed Zulu 2 feels lighter on top of your noggin than the A20 because the weight of the A20 is firmly planted on the top of your head in a single point. With the Zulu 2, the weight is distributed evenly across the top of your scalp, so even though the set is heavier, it feels lighter on your head because the weight is not all concentrated on one point.
All this adds up to why I like the Lightspeed Zulu 2 more than the Bose A20. As for a practical example, I wore my Lightspeed Zulu 2 set for 9.1 hours one day two weeks ago. Needless to say, it was a long day. But, once I climbed out of the airplane, I had no pain on the top of my head and only a very little where my glasses ran along the side of my head. Now I call that a winner.