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Lightspeed 25XL ANR Headset Review

In the middle of July, I received an early Xmas present. Allen Schrader, President of Lightspeed Technologies, Portland Oregon, answered an email I had sent...

In the middle of July, I received an early Xmas present. Allen Schrader, President of Lightspeed Technologies, Portland Oregon, answered an email I had sent. I had explained to him that I was shortly departing with two groups on the Flynorth.com trek to Alaska and owned a noisy 210 and thought that perhaps we could do a review for Lightspeed and make my trip more comfortable as well. Allen made such a generous offer such that I could not refuse and with a sense of urgency his efficient secretary, Deb, had them UPS'd to a nearby border crossing town. A friend who accompanied me to fetch them, wore them most of the way back home in the car and was most impressed, as a student pilot himself. Next morning my wife, Diana, and myself went for a $200 coffee (didn't it used to be $100) and flew for almost two hours each way to Springhouse, British Columbia, to visit Larry and Judy Chamber of Lawrence Aviation and to oversee final preparations for the Flynorth.com meeting place and welcome barbecue.

LightSPEED 25XL

We fired up the noisy IO-470 Continental and made tracks. The first thing we noticed with the 25XL sets was the comfort. We had tried them on at Arlington airshow, and had realized right away that these were exceptionally comfortable. You can read many things about ANR headsets, about the frequency coverage and Decibels etc but if they don't make a good impression with fit and comfort then they are not worth buying. I have tried other sets and I compared them all to my old non-ANR David Clark headset with extra soft Gelseals installed, and most were not as comfortable. Until now! Finally I have a headset, which just makes you want to go flying just to wear them.

I had not yet switched them on. As we taxied out I switched them on and noticed immediately that I was inside a commercially silenced Piper Cheyenne or something pretty smooth. I had to do the take-off and climb out by very careful attention to RPM and mixture settings not by noise as per usual. I had read of ANRs where you now start to feel the engine through your feet on the rudders or your posterior in the seat, but I had not believed that. Well this was happening. The noise level was very smooth. The sets sat on over my glasses like they had been there ten years. All communications came through so clear that we had a most enjoyable 1.8 hour flight for our coffee and pie, courtesy of Judy at Lawrence Aviation, (and by the way it about matches Chilliwack -hungry pilots!) this 25XL really does cut out low frequency rumble.

The theory is that a noise picked up is countered by an opposite phase generated noise resulting in the eradication of the sine wave which produces sound. That's the way I understand it anyway. As you lift off the 25XLs you head an immediate buzz and you can tell it is generating noise OK.

Noise Reduction Chart

Now to the details:- Older ANR sets had cumbersome battery packs. The 25XL has a light battery pack for 2 AAs and runs 50 hours and the battery pack has the volume adjustment and battery life indicators on it as well. It sits nearer the jacks and does not hang from the headset at all. It could be mounted somewhere for ease of access with Velcro. The 25XL has an automatic shut off so after a couple of minutes of being off your head it goes into sleep mode. I have noticed that I am developing that feature too as I get older-if I am ignored by the world for a couple of minutes I doze off. The built in Gel seals are really thick and soft. This is a critical feature as the immediate fit is important. An ANR headset should be as comfortable as the old headset you are replacing and should work at least as well without the ANR feature active. My gold standard was the David Clarks I had (non-ANR) and the 25XLs passed that test fine. The other thing I noticed right away was the very soft pads, across the top of my head, and the gap in the middle, so you can wear your favourite cap without having to go and seek out caps with no little bump on top. A small point but important. Even the cups on the 25XL are an unusual design, being triangular instead of oval and each set comes with a spare set of ear seals.

You have to wear the sets with the microphone on your left side, they can only be worn one way but have an easy to adjust pliable boom. The reason for this is explained in the Lightspeed website and has to do with fine design of noise cancelling features such that the shape of each individual ear is important and noise cancelling must work at the ear. The wind muff works well as I flew back this day in plus 30 centigrade temps on the ground and left air open on my face most of the way, with no noise pick-up in transmission. There was no noise leakage around the seals, especially a problem normally for those of us blessed with glasses (and that accounts for most of us who could afford ANR headsets in the first place).

By the end of the days flying we were starting to wish we could keep going and make it a $500 'Burger Flight' but we had things to do to get ready for Alaska. But we were so impressed with the 25XL that I decided to write the review post haste and will add later comments after the Alaskan trip. I have only one very minor complaint. Other headsets I have used have a little lapel fastener so you can anchor the cord to your short lapel. I find this very useful and would suggest to Lightspeed that they incorporate it in future design. Lightspeeds are not cheap and retail for between $580 and $599 but this is one headset that stands out head and shoulders above all others and if you really appreciate comfortable headsets and noise free communications, then for many years of luxury flying these are really good value. Start dropping Xmas hints now to your loving spouse, who will surely appreciate the necessity for these!

Lightspeed Aviation Portland Oregon 503-968-3113 or check your local aviation supply because they will surely be stocking these soon. Lightspeed have a website www.anrheadsets.com and you can read other reviews there as well as checking out Lightspeed's technical site if you want to understand the whole subject as well as see how much time and effort Lightspeed have put in to their product. Like I say these are a lifetime buy and it is about half of one years full hull insurance.

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About This Author:
John Dale has been a member of COPA for thirty years, since he began to fly. He has accumulated 2500 hours on 65 types of aeroplanes and added Flight Simming to his addiction about two years ago. He is an Aviation Medical Examiner in Nelson BC, where he belongs to the Nelson Pilot’s Association. He also runs Flynorth.com, which offers aerial tours to the north, as well as a database of BC and northern flying tips. Details of this can be found at www.FlyNorth.com.
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