I bought the A20 to replace one of the Bose X sets in my Husky. After several years ending up with sore ears after longer trips, I finally had had enough. It was a close call between the A20 and the Lightspeed Zulu, both have earcups that fit completely over the ear, unlike the X, and both have good passive and active noise reduction. Having flown both in noisy airplanes like Huskies and Super Cubs, my impression is that the A20's audio quality is clearer and crisper.
I used the A20's for the first time a couple of days ago, wearing the set for two two-hour legs. It was much more comfortable than the X, which would have just begun to hurt my ears at the two-hour mark. I tried the bluetooth connection with my iPhone, which worked well- excellent audio for the receive side, while the people I called said they couldn't hear any background noise. I also tried out an iPod using the cord Bose supplies. The sound was great, far better than playing an iPod through the Husky's intercom using the auxiliary music-in jack on the panel. In summary, the A20 is a big improvement over the X and i wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. I'm sorry I endured the sore ears for so long, should have bought an A20 earlier.
Great headset, this is my second A20. I upgraded to the newer A20 and passed my used one onto my son who is starting to fly. I use my A20 for work, it's quality and functionality is great.
In the past I've owned several DC's both passive and active and there is NO comparison, Bose wins hands down. Well worth the money!!!
I have now been flying for almost 400hours with it (on Falcon 900) and there is no way I will change. Sound is very clear (very important in the environment I am flying). The headset is comfortable even during 8 hours flights, the autonomy even better than advertised and the bluetooth just perfect.
All the people I fly with are either going to get one or whish they had one.
Vast positive difference in both noise cancellation and comfort. Bluetooth works perfectly with the iPhone. I wear hearing aids and they work fine with no feedback.
Not sure why they made it necessary to manually power it up each time.
My twenty year old headset had started to fail so I decided to try the Bose A20 headset to see if the noise canceling was worth the high cost. But I wanted to make an objective evaluation. To that end I assembled some test equipment. This started with a digital sound level meter to accurately measure the ambient sound in the cockpit during cruise flight. Next I downloaded a decibel meter app for my iPhone 7. To get a sound reading from inside the headset I utilized the Apple miniature headset (EarPods with Lightning Connector) that came with the phone. The microphone on this mini headset is very small and is situated under the roughened area of plastic between the + and – symbols of the headset volume controls. Before flight, I used medical tape to attach and hold the microphone of the mini headset at the center of my ear with the microphone facing outward towards the center of the aircup of the A20 headset. I also wore my Air Force style glasses (with bayonet temples) and a baseball cap which is my norm for general aviation flying. There certainly is sound leakage getting through from these but I wanted to get an objective reading for my typical flying arrangement. In the settings of both the digital sound lever meter and the iPhone app, I choose to use a weighting level of A which most closely corresponds to the human hearing range.
I choose three aircraft that I fly regularly to do measurements in, a 150 hp Citabria, a 180hp Cessna 172RG and an Airbus A-320. First I took sound level readings in the cockpit during cruise flight with the Bose A20 headset momentarily off my head to calibrate the decibel meter app on my iPhone to equal the sound level readings on the digital sound level meter. (The app had an adjustment scale for this in settings.) Now that I had an accurate phone app sound level reading, I put the Bose A20 headset on first without noise cancelation and then with.
In the Citabria, the sound level was a very high 100 dB in cruise flight. Without noise cancelation, this was reduced to 97-98 dB. According to the website dangerousdecibels dot com, a 97 dB level of sound can result in hearing damage within only 30 minutes of exposure. Next I turned on the A20 noise cancelation and found that the sound level inside the headset was reduced to 82 dB. At this level, according to the website, there is no risk of hearing damage.
In the Cessna 172RG, the sound level was 95 dB in cruise flight. Test results were much the same, without noise cancelation sound was reduced to 92 dB and with noise cancelation down to 77 dB.
Finally in the A-320, the cruise sound level was only 82 dB to start with so there is no real risk of hearing damage. The Bose A20 results in the A-320 were a reduction to 79 dB without noise canceling and down to 66 dB with. But since there isn’t a risk of hearing damage to begin with, I wouldn’t go to the effort of bringing a headset with me for flying this aircraft.
On a side note, I conducted similar tests on a brand new David Clark H10-13.4 headset. The sound level reduction in the Citabria was from 100 dB to 90 dB and from 95 dB to 85 dB in the C-172RG. Keep in mind that I was wearing a pair of glasses and a baseball cap so there was sound leakage from those.
A few observations, the Bose A20 does a great job of reducing sound when its noise canceling is working but if it isn’t working, there is just not much passive noise canceling there to prevent hearing damage in very loud aircraft. The Bose A20 does a very good job of making the radios easier to hear. ATC never sounded so crisp and clear than when I was wearing the A20 with the noise canceling. On the other side of the coin, I noticed that during early takeoff in the Citabria the Bose A20 had a tough time keeping up with the changing sound and did let through a spike of high sound that actually kind of hurt my ears but only for a moment. Also on one day in which I wore the Bose A20 headset for an hour and half flight in the Citabria, in continuous noise canceling mode, after getting home and sitting in a quiet room I experienced a faint, high pitched ringing in my ears. Perhaps there’s a high frequency sound level that the A20 doesn’t work as well with in the Citabria. I’m not sure. I did not experience this after flying in the C-172RG. But on taxi in after the flight in the C-172RG, I did notice that the Bose was having some trouble keeping up with the very low frequency sound of the 180HP engine at idle.
All in all I think the Bose A20 is an excellent headset. But if you are flying a very loud aircraft, I would definitely recommend carrying a spare set of batteries and/or earplugs to protect yourself with in case the noise canceling feature stops working.
The Bose X has proven to be rock solid, comfortable and works great. The Lightspeed Zulu is also well made, comfortable, has better NR, the Bluetooth works well, (although there are perhaps too many cables involved if you want to also hook up your iPod for music). The Control module design and controls do not inspire great confidence in their longevity, but so far have worked well. The Bose A20 has better NR than the X, and I would say that it is roughly on a par with the LSZulu, so I would say they are even there.
The A20 control module, however, is even more "plasticy" and fragile than the LSZulu, and indeed the Bluetooth volume adjustment knob, just fell off or broke off during normal use after about 4 flights. The Bluetooth electronics also just quit working at all, at the same point.
I called Bose and they agreed to replace the unit, but by the time the RMA arrived, they had none left to ship me, and it is now going to be weeks and perhaps over a month before they can replace the unit. First let me say that I am a good, and frequent purchaser of Bose audio products, and this is the first time I have had one fail in 10 years of Bose purchases. This experienced reliability is why I purchased their new headset instead of another LSZulu. Features and NR performance, being equal, I chose Bose. Now, I am very disappointed, and given the nature and timing of the failure, I have to say this issue should not have happened with their new $1000+ headset, and feels like a too early release of a new product, due perhaps to arrogance and greed on the part of Bose, in releasing a less than perfect new product in order to get it to market quickly. This almost immediate failure and the questionable product design, make me believe they rushed the A20 to market before it was fully tested in order to compete with the LSZulu, which offered better NR performance, desirable, up to date additional features the Bose X did not, and was clearly taking market share away from Bose in the professional market. I suspect they did not adequately test the sub components, materials and product design of their unit to make sure it was rock solid like the X is.
My conclusion is that it is potentially a good unit, and can undoubtedly be reconfigured to provide good service, but they may have to adjust some materials and 'chips' to make it right if there prove to be reliability, strength or product design issues with the product, as I suspect based on my experience. Bose is a strong company, and can, and I believe will, fix any flaws in their new design, and make it right for their trusting customers, but it is annoying and expensive to be caught in what looks to me like a "beta test" situation with a new product, and a rush to meet sales quotas instead of retaining an adequate supply of units for field failure replacements. When I spend over a thousand dollars for an aviation headset, I expect "perfect" and "well tested" and excellent Quality Control. Clearly, this did not happen this time.