Words: Ian Seager
28 March 2023
– High quality feel from design and materials
– Great sound quality
– That second to none ANR performance
– The new headset bag. It’s very plush and all that, but where’s the exterior pocket gone?
Thirteen years ago Bose launched the A20. It started its life at the top of the tree, and it’s from that envious position that it can now look forward to its well earned retirement. There’s a new kid in the cockpit, and it’s the Bose A30.
To oversimplify for those with an even shorter attention span than me, it’s great, will likely get greater still, has some new technical features, and has one thing that I’m not a big fan of.
If you think of the A30 as a better, smoother and more refined version of the A20, you’d have pretty much nailed it. The materials are different and while it’s very clearly a Bose, there are lots of design changes that add up to a much nicer looking and feeling headset that oozes quality. The control box cable is significantly thinner and lighter, and there’s now a posh and shaped rubber band that gives you stretch over the control box to give you a hanger.
One significant and useful design change is the method used for attaching the microphone boom. It clips in and out simply, making changing the side a simple and tool-free experience. My only real niggle is the new headset case which has somehow lost the A20 bag’s oh-so useful external pocket.
Given Lightspeed Aviation’s recent and welcome integration of a carbon monoxide monitor in its Delta Zulu headset you, like me, might be wondering what plans Bose has given the lack of any additional sensors on the A30s. I put the question to Bose.
As you might expect the company declined to share their product roadmap with me, but it is clear that thirteen years after the A20, the A30 has significantly more processing capability onboard, and FLYER was told, “The mechanical and digital architecture will allow the creation of sensor modules or additional down cables with new and exciting use cases to meet the needs of customers in the future. What excites us about this is that it will allow customers to choose and swap out these items via interchangeable modules, allowing a long list of potential sensors or capabilities that could be added to the product over time.” So watch this space.
The official information from Bose states that the A30 is lighter than the A20, and that it has 20% less clamping force. If you’ve watched the video, you’ll see that we found a bit of a different story. On our scales the A30s weighed in a few grams more than the A20s, and although the clamping force was less, it wasn’t 20% less. That’s not to say that Bose got it wrong and we got it right, frankly that’s unlikely. It could be that our scales were not as consistent as we’d like, and it’s definitely likely that our clamping force methodology might not withstand some serious peer review, but they’re the results we got.
Those numbers of course are a bit abstract, and with the proof of the comfort being in the wearing I jumped into the C182 with Ed Hicks to see what they’re like in the environment that really matters.
As soon as you put on the A30s and adjust them to fit your head they feel comfortable and light. The ear cushions are soft (although I’m not sure they are quite as soft as A20s, but that may be because I was comparing them with Ed’s well worn A20s). The ear cushions certainly soft enough to cope with the relatively thick arms of my glasses without sacrificing the seal.
The padding on the headband has changed from the previous synthetic fur to some kind of foam. Whatever it is works well as the headset sits comfortably on your head. Thinking about those weight and clamping force numbers mentioned above, in practical use I’d say that the A30s are probably a smidge more comfortable than the A20s, but subjectively there’s not a huge amount in it.
As mentioned, the cable leading to the battery box is notably thinner and lighter than its predecessor, which results in a bigger benefit than you might expect. Hurrah.
It’s now possible to adjust the amount of active noise reduction the headset delivers. The three levels, Low, Medium and High are adjusted via a slide switch on the battery box, and have been designed to make the headset a good fit for cockpits ranging from modern pressurised business jets to unpressurised piston aircraft. I must have said it at least ten times in the accompanying video, but if you are in a GA aeroplane the only level you are going to be interested in is the full-fat high setting which will give you excellent active noise reduction so that you can enjoy the high quality audio provided.
The A30s also benefit from the double tap feature that was introduced with the ProFlite in-ear headset. Basically, if someone who is not plugged into comms wants to communicate, you can double tap on one of the ear cups and it will reduce the ANR performance in that ear cup to the low setting (you have to have it set on Medium or High for this to work). It’s a feature that’s useful for aircraft with cabin crew, or with passengers who for one reason or another don’t have their own functioning headset.
Most of the time, it’s not going to get used in a GA cockpit, although I could see myself using it to better study those unexpected changes in engine note that comes with coasting out. There’s a dip switch in the control box that allows you to switch the double tap function on and off. My guess is that most GA pilots will leave it set to off, and the ANR switched permanently to high.
The new A30 is a high quality headset that’s very comfortable while delivering excellent ANR capability and audio quality. It’s on sale now, and the good news is that the new model with all of its improvements will be sold at the same price as the A20, so £1219.95 if you opt for the model with Bluetooth (which you should, as when paired and configured with the right equipment you’ll get a lot more information about controlled airspace and traffic).