Today, I tested my Chinese not-so-"el cheapo"-anymore headset. Maybe some of you are interested.
Basically, there are three/four levels of Chinese OEM aviation headsets:
1. passive, DC 10-13.4 clones, 100 £ including shipping (Aliexpress)
2. ANR, DC 10-13.4 clones 180£ including shipping (Aliexpress)
3. ANR DC 10-13.4 clones with Bluetooth 220£ without shipping
4. ANR with Bluetooth, fancy carbon shells, don't now whom they copied, 400£ including shipping (Aliexpress)
I bought the third level, a DC form factor with ANR and Bluetooth. Unfortunately, they didn't sell that at aliexpress, so I had to buy it at Alibaba directly from Raytalk. In addition to the 220£ advertised came premium for buying a single unit, handling fee, shipping via DHL, PayPal fees. Something about 23£ import fees in Germany. Finally, maybe around 280£. Most of the premium is caused by buying via Alibaba which is targeted at b2b unlike consumer oriented aliexpress.
Initially, they couldn't tell me a delivery date, got put off week after week. Communication was very easy and quick via Alibaba's chat tool. Only when I got worried and set a deadline of two weeks for delivery, things changed and the unit arrived after 5-7 days (normal shipping via aliexpress takes 14 to 30days), so really fast. Had to organize to pay 30€ import tax and don't know what in Germany.
Packing was very good. No manual, had to ask for it via email, got a quick response with a very helpful pdf attached.
Build quality was very good. Not significantly different from my DC 10-13.4s.
The DC has nice cloth cover of the head-clamp (see pictures), I think I will transfer these to the Raytalk. The DC has gel ear pads, the Raytalk has fine soft foam pads, gel pads are available from them for 10€. I choose the green color intentionally to mix them with the DC and there is really no difference between the Raytalk and the DC color. Maybe / most probably, the ear covers are interchangeable.
The unit takes two AA cells which is good (ubiquitous and cheap).
You can use the headset in a) passive mode, b) ANR, c) ANR with bluetooth as well as aux jack as secondary inputs. Pairing with an iPhone was fast, albeit sometimes had to push the telephone button at the box.
The ANR electronics are in the battery box, problem is, as you may see here, the cable length is ideal for 'legacy planes' aka old models with their headphone jacks at the panel. If the headphone jacks are moved out of the way and to the back of the pilot, the box isn't accessible in flight. This is a no-go. Have to (have someone) solder longer cables between jacks and box.
Most importantly, the acoustics:
ANR works. However, the effect in my apparently already quiet plane isn't that dramatic. The noise is "thinner" as only the lower frequencies are muted actively. The resulting sound is unpleasant at first (thin, mechanically), but you get accustomed to it.
Passive attenuation is on par, maybe a very little bit worse than the DCs.
I guess it depends on the plane but foremost on the engine. With a non-geared American engine, you may appreciate the effect more than I do as they scream at you at the lower frequencies.
BT works fine, you can make and receive calls via your mobile phone, could communicate by phone with the local tower with the engine running at 40% on the ground. You Amy listen to music too.
My verdict, if the hypothesis holds true that Chinese ANR aren't much worse than high end Bose etc. :
- passive Raytalk to anyone as they are excellent value for money with the quality being (nearly?) on par with the DC
- ANR with or without Bluetooth to pilots of louder planes with American engines.
- no ANR in quiet Rotax-equipped planes as the effect isn't that pronounced
- ANR with Bluetooth for quiet Rotax-equipped planes if BT is the selling point here for phone calls and music, alerts etc...
Next time I would
- buy from aliexpress as usually (cheaper),
- buy either passive or active with BT for my Rotax plane.
- buy any ANR for LyConti
- not buy more expensive ANR Bose, Lightspeed etc.. Even if the ANR quality might be a little better. I would regret the 240-550£ more for these brands in my special case