The most important factor in choosing an aviation headset is its ability to protect your hearing and facilitate clear communications.

The AXIS does not use active noise reduction (ANR). Instead, it provides superb noise reduction through simple ear plugs (or custom ear molds). This is the same fail-proof technology that has been used in other noise-sensitive professions for decades – no batteries or uncomfortable head clamping involved.

So, how exactly does the noise reduction from the AXIS compare to traditional aviation headsets?

ear-tips-assorted
The AXIS is compatible with a variety of foam ear tips which provide surprisingly effective noise reduction.

AXIS vs. Over-The-Ear Passive Aviation Headsets

Compared to traditional headsets which reduce noise by clamping an ear cup over each ear, the foam ear plugs provided with the AXIS provide a significantly better Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) with superior comfort – making the AXIS a clear winner:

HeadsetNRR
(Noise Reduction Rating)
Head clamping
Traditional over-the-ear headset
(in this example, David Clark 13.4)
23High
AXISComply™ tips27N/A
AXIS3M™ foam ear tips (available in the Ear Tip Variety Pack)29N/A

AXIS vs. Active Noise Reduction (ANR) Headsets

It’s harder to make a simple comparison between the AXIS and ANR headsets, since NRR is not reported for active noise reduction performance.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that ANR primarily reduces noise in a limited sound frequency range, which may or may not be the primary source of ambient noise in your particular aircraft.

Subjectively, some pilots have reported that their AXIS performs as well or better than ANR headsets they have worn in the past  – even in general aviation aircraft:

"Had 5 flights last week and wore the AXIS for all but one of them. I did this to baseline myself to what I was used to. Although not noise canceling, the AXIS has better sound quality compared to the [high-end ANR headset]. I would have never thought I would say or even think that."
P.B.
Flight instructor (flies various GA aircraft)
"The passive noise reduction was nearly the same as the ANR [high-end ANR headset]."
V.A.
Private pilot, Beechcraft Musketeer

Will you have a similar experience? Here are some factors to consider:

What is the noise profile of your aircraft?

ANR tends to benefit general aviation propeller aircraft more than jets. This is because ANR primarily reduces noise below 500 Hz, and the low rumble engine noise from propeller aircraft falls into this frequency range.

Can you get a good ear tip seal?

The way you insert the ear tip has a large impact on the resulting noise reduction, because sound can easily leak into the ear canal if the tip does not fit quite right. By trying the six types of ear plugs we provide with the headset and closely following the insertion instructions, we are confident you can achieve a good fit with some practice.

Do you want to be dependent on batteries?

Despite our best intentions to carry spare batteries, sometimes you can be stuck with a dead ANR headset. In this case, you may have difficulty communicating, because the passive reduction on ANR headsets is typically not strong.

While ANR may at first glance seem “better” for propeller/GA aircraft because it targets low-frequency noise, you must also consider:

1

What is the actual performance of the ANR when you wear sunglasses?
Wearing sunglasses with an ANR headset can break the ear cup seal, allowing noise to leak in and degrading performance. This is not a problem with our in-ear headset design.

2

How well does the ANR headset handle frequencies above 500 Hz which can also lead to hearing damage?
Does your ANR headset provide enough passive reduction for these frequencies – and is the head clamping needed to accomplish this worth it?

3

How does the ANR headset reduce background noise in the speech frequency range (300 to 3000 Hz), where ear plugs do an excellent job at facilitating crisp speech understanding?
Some pilots report that it’s easier to understand radio transmissions with foam ear plugs even compared to the most expensive ANR headsets.

4

What distortion does the ANR headset introduce?
ANR headsets involve digitally generating audio signals, and distortion can occur as you’re moving your head or in other conditions. With simple earplugs, you’re hearing pure, analog audio signals, without the potential distortion from complex electronics.

The conclusion?

As you can see, many factors come into play. For many pilots, even if ANR would further reduce engine noise in piston aircraft, the enhanced comfort and reduced cost make the AXIS a better choice.

In the end, the only true way to see if the in-ear headset is a good match for you is to try it for yourself. With your unique ears. In your specific aircraft.

While the in-ear headset is not for everyone, we invite you to take advantage of the 30-day return policy and to evaluate how the noise reduction, clarity, and comfort of the AXIS compare to other headsets.

References & notes

[0] Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) describes “the average sound level reduction (attenuation) provided by a hearing protection device (HPD) in a laboratory test.” “It does not take into account the loss of protection that occurs when hearing protectors are not fit properly.” NRRs provided on this page refer to the ear tips alone. The NRR of the ear tips attached to the AXIS headset may be slightly different. https://multimedia.3m.com/mws/media/91867O/3m-hearing-protection-how-to-use-the-noise-reduction-rating-nrr.pdf

[1] “Certified Noise Reduction Rating – 23 dB” http://www.davidclarkcompany.com/aviation/fixed-wing-passive.php (July 16, 2021)

[2] “Comply™ Canal Tips offer the highest level of noise isolation with an average NRR above 29dB. Actual NRR depends on communication device design and requires certified testing.” https://www.complyfoam.com/products/canal-canal-tips/ (July 16, 2021)

[3] NRR for the 3M™ foam ear tips is based on the 3M™ E-A-R™ Classic™ – https://www.3m.com/3M/en_US/worker-health-safety-us/personal-protective-equipment/foam-earplugs/ (July 16, 2021) 

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