Sennheiser introduced its latest headset at AirVenture, which opens today and runs all week. Called the S1 Digital, the headset features “NoiseGard/digital” adaptive active noise reduction technology that analyzes the surrounding environment at the push of a button, then adjusts to cancel out background noise.
“This is a breakthrough headset with breakthough technology,” said Gus Skalkos, International Business Development-Government Systems.
This is the first new GA headset Sennheiser has introduced in 10 years. It released its first aviation headset in 1981, then debuted its most popular GA headset, the HMEC 200, in 1992. That was followed by updates every few years.
“We had taken that to the max,” Skalkos said. “We knew that. That’s when we started to bring this new technology to the marketplace. Digital is the next step.”
Four years in development, the headset features a “Smart Update” button integrated into the ear cup. When a pilot pushes the button, the NoiseGard digital circuitry measures the spectrum and intensity of surrounding noises, then applies individual filters to adapt to each situation.
“In four seconds you’ll hear a beep, which will let you know the frequency has been reset,” Skalkos explained. “Every cockpit has its own anomaly, so this will knock out the sound of a fan or a whistling sound. It adjusts for different environments — one size does not fit all.”
At the core of the new noise cancelling technology is a “particularly powerful” digital signal processor, explained Jörg Buchberger, Sennheiser’s business segment manager of aviation. “This processor generates a filter algorithm that specifically reduces the dominant noise proportions.”
Microphones inside and outside each earcup work together to analyze the noise and adjust the system.
Pilots can continually adjust the Active Noise Reduction (ANR) systems, pushing the button while taxiing to cancel out one type of noise, then pushing the button again at altitude to cancel out a different type of noise. Pilots also can fly and not use the adaptive technology. “It will work just fine that way too,” Skalkos said.
While marketed to all GA pilots, the S1 is expected to be especially popular with pilots who work in noisy environments — think of those in Alaska flying SuperCubs or Beavers — or pilots who are members of flying clubs who fly a variety of aircraft, as well as CFIs who move from plane to plane.
Sennheiser officials also tout the new headset’s comfort, with adjustable contact pressure for the ear cups and a special comfort zone for glasses, as well as a “clear voice transmission” with a user customizable treble boost function, especially good for pilots with hearing loss.
Sennheiser designed the new noise canceling microphone to be positioned 45° and two fingers from the mouth for optimum performance, according to Skalkos, who noted the headset also features an adjustable headband to ensure a tight, yet comfortable fit.
Another feature is the “top of the line” Bluetooth interface, which can be paired with any smartphone, iPod, computer, or other device. “The sound quality is exceptional,” Skalkos said, noting the company relied on its more than 65 years in the business of manufacturing microphones, headsets, and transmission equipment in developing the headset.
“To bring out the best from the different audio sources, the headset has two separate audio mixers for communication and music,” added Buchberger. “The ATC signal and mobile phones are reproduced with a narrower band for high speech intelligibility, whereas music is played with a broader bandwidth to provide an excellent sound experience during the flight.”
External devices are controlled via an intuitive interface. If the cell phone rings, the music is interrupted, an LED on the control unit flashes, and the pilot is given an additional audio signal in the headphones. Calls are taken by pushing a button. The ATC signal is always given priority, officials emphasized.
The headset is powered by two lithium batteries, which provide 40 hours of use with just the ANR, 25 if the Bluetooth is used as well.
Offered at an introductory price of $995 (usual price is $1,095), the S1 Digital headset comes with a carrying case, a belt clip, a windshield, a cable clip, and is available now. Built in Germany, it comes with a five-year warranty.
For more information: SennheiserUSA.com
Sennheiser will once again host the Flying Musicians Association at its exhibit, which is located in a tent outside Hangar B.