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I was about to go out solo for my night rating in a PA28 and curiosity of what the power button did on my Bose A20 headset adaptor got me. I pressed the power button, and immediately – silence. Is the engine even running??
My world was transformed. It was like flying around in a vacuum! I couldn’t believe I had just done 100hrs of flying in a single-engine piston aircraft and not realised the noise cancelling feature had been turned off the whole time ?????!
What an idiot I can be!
Taxing out, I was concerned about how silent everything had become. I have had my Bose A20 for about five years now. I have flown around 2000hours with it, of which around 150hours were in single and twin-engine piston aircraft. The remainder in the B737!
Bose claim the A20® headset gives you 30% greater noise reduction than conventional aviation headsets, so you’ll enjoy a peaceful flight from short stops to long hauls.
Whilst I could not measure the exact decibel reduction, there is no doubt that the Bose A20 Aviation Headset gives a step jump in noise reduction.
The Bose A20 weighs 340g and is probably one of the lightest over-ear headsets available. The clamping force is not excessive, which improves the headset’s comfort. I liked the feature of the sheepskin cushions, which makes the headset all the more comfortable.
Bose A20 Aviation Headset
Dimension & weight: 21.4 cm H x 16.1 cm W x 8 cm D (340 g)
- Frequency band of operation 2400 to 2483.5 MHz.
- Maximum transmit power less than 20 dBm EIRP.
- Certified to FAA TSO and E/TSO-C139 standards.
What is inside the box:
- A20 Aviation Headset
- In-line clothing clip
- Control module
- Two AA batteries
- Aux-in cable adapter
- Carrying case
Bose A20 configurations
- 6-pin plug
- U174 plug models
Bose A20 aviation headset features
- Noise reduction (Bose claim 30% less)
- Active equalisation
- Customisable audio prioritisation
- Side swappable mic
- Comfortable, stable fit (Bose claim 30% less clamping force)
- Bluetooth feature on some models
- 45 hour battery life
Bose A20 Operation
The control module is easy to use. The control module has an auxiliary audio input (and you can adjust the intercom/ auxiliary priority switching). The aux input allows you to get auxiliary warnings if using Skydemon or Foreflight.
I haven’t used the aux input in this way myself, as I found the Bluetooth link to be more convenient without needing a hard cable.
I found the customisable audio mix to be a helpful feature. The Bose A20 has a MUTE/ MIX and OFF. Off wholly turns off the secondary audio source. The MIX setting allows both primary (intercom/ ATC) to come through with the secondary audio. The mute function will mute the secondary audio whenever you have a transmission on the primary (intercom/ ATC).
One of the features of the Bose A20 (that could be useful) that I do not use myself is the Auto Power on/off. There is circuity within the headset that allows you to set this up. I am lazy and prefer to manually switch the power on and off as I need when flying!
The Bluetooth can also be configured for taking calls or listening to music.
I’ll now share seven reasons you need to get a Bose A20 if you will be doing a lot of flying!
Reason #1: The Bose A20 noise cancelling is unreal!
I did 100hours in a noisy Piper PA28, not realising that to start the noise cancelling, I had actually to turn the headset on! With the A20 headset with noise-cancelling off, I had no issues.
Subsequently, I have found pilots who prefer to fly with the noise cancelling off because they like to have noise feedback, e.g. engine noise, stall warner etc.
With the noise cancelling on the A20, it can feel like flying around in a vacuum. It took me a bit of time to get used to this. When I started flying the B737, I actually did my first few flights with the noise cancelling off as I wanted to hear the engines’ tone etc.
Now, I happily spend 12 hour days with the headset on without any problems. So good is the A20 noise-cancelling people complain it is too effective!!!
Reason #2: Comfort – You can use the Bose A20 headset for 12 hour days in pretty good comfort.
I used to have a David Clark H10 headset. The David Clark H10s was brilliant during PPL where I was strictly speaking, not doing that much flying. I used to find the David Clark headset used to clamp down on my head and become annoying after an hour or two. I get no such problems with my A20 headset.
The Bose A20 headset doesn’t apply as much pressure onto your head. The memory foam Bose A20 ear cushions also stop your ears from getting hot!
Anything you have to wear on your head will become annoying after 12 hours, but with the A20, the irritation is much less.
Reason #3: The Bose A20 aviation headset Bluetooth functionality is handy
With most people using tablets with ForeFlight/ Skydemon etc., you can connect the Bluetooth from your A20 headset onto your tablet. If audio alerts are enabled, you can have traffic alerts, terrain, airspace alerts etc. all play into your headset.
The A20 has a selective mute function that allows any audio paying to be paused during intercom or ATC transmissions.
Reason #4: Having a high-quality headset will improve your ATC radio work and interactions
Although not specific to the Bose A20 headset, having a high-quality headset will improve your ATC communications. I had not realised how much having a good headset was a game-changer until I joined my airline.
One of the most annoying issues I have come across is when a fellow flight deck crew member has a mediocre headset, and you spend all day having to mess about with the volume on the intercom because their audio is not clear.
The same applies to ATC. The better your headset is, the easier it is to hear and respond appropriately to commands. Don’t underestimate how critical this is!
Reason #5: The Bose A20 build is solid
I have had my Bose A20 for three years, and the build is completely solid.
I have lost count of the number of times I have dropped my headset onto the flight deck floor and it has been completely fine afterwards. I won’t lie, my headset is starting to show signs that is has been ‘well used’. For example, I could do with some new ear pads.
The mic boom arm could probably do with tightening a little to give it some rigidity. Not a big deal – just me being lazy! The modular nature of the A20 means most of the main components can be replaced as they wear. For example, if you need a new mic, it is simply 2 screws that would need to be undone.
Reason #6: The cost. Yes, the upfront cost is high, but you save over the life of the headset.
I agree that the upfront cost of the Bose A20 headset is high. I am convinced though that the excellent build quality would save you money over the headset’s full life. A quick search of Bose A20 on eBay also gave a pleasant surprise.
The resale value of A20 headsets is quite high. I found most buy it now options to be within 15-20% of a new headset’s sales price, which shows how desirable the product is second hand.
Reason #7: I know pilots who have purchased the Bose ProFlight Series 2 Aviation and have said they would rather the A20 they had beforehand!
Some of my friends and colleagues have ‘upgraded’ to the ProFlight Series 2, and they say, it is not as hard-wearing a product, and they would have prefered to have an A20!
I have not tried the Pro-Flight Series 2, but from what I understood – it would come down to how noisy your aircraft is. I spend most of my day on the B737 and occasionally fly a PA28.
For that, I much prefer the rugged, raw noise-cancelling power of the Bose A20. If you fly a silent A350, then the Pro-Flight Series 2 may be better.
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How do I use my Bose A20?
Complete the initial setup, including:
- Attaching the microphone assembly and making sure it is on the correct side for your use (refer to the Bose A20 owners manual)
- Open the battery compartment and add the batteries
- Check and set the operational switches to suit your requirements. The operations switches set the priority for the secondary audio.
- Set the Auto On/ Off feature as needed. The A20 will automatically turn on when aircraft power is detected with the Auto On feature selected. With Auto Off, the Bose A20 headset will manually have to be switched on and will turn off after 3 to 9 minutes of inactivity.
- Connect the headset to the aircraft
- Put the headset on. There are L and R markings above the headset to help orientate it
- Adjust the headband and microphone position to suit.
- The Bose A20 has clothing clips. I usually fit the clothing clips in such a way as to take the bulk of the weight of the control module (and also keep the cable out of the way).
- Reducing the weight of the A20 control module and headset being transmitted through the connection ends will prolong the life of all your connections
How does Bose A20 Bluetooth work?
The Bose A20 Bluetooth is straightforward to work with.
- Turn on the power by pressing the power button to the headset
- Make sure the secondary audio mode is on Mix or Mute
- Make sure batteries are good: Just to note, the power indicator shows green, yellow or red depending on how much battery is left. I found that the battery level is red (i.e. batteries need changing), the headset would not connect to Bluetooth until the batteries were changed.
- Once power is on, the Bluetooth indicator will flash purple (showing pairing mode)
- Go into your Bluetooth setting on your device and select “Bose A20”
If during pairing, 5 minutes pass and there is no activity, the Bose A20 will exit pairing mode. To reactivate pairing mode, press the Bluetooth button.
To add a new device, hold down the Bluetooth button for 1 second, and you will see the purple pairing Bluetooth light flashing.
Go into your Bluetooth setting on your device and select “Bose A20”
Is the Bose A20 Bluetooth worth it?
I guess it depends on the expected use. The axillary audio input on the control module allows audio input without Bluetooth.
You then have extra cables, and there isn’t always the functionality from iPads/ iPhones for example, to have a direct aux link, so Bluetooth probably offers more flexibility.
The price difference between Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth was around £90 or $123 (total price £910/ $1245 without Bluetooth or £999/ $1365 with Bluetooth).
I decided to go straight for the Bluetooth option because buying a new module later on if I wanted to upgrade would cost way more than £90 or $123 (price difference at the point of sale). FYI the Bose A20 Bluetooth capable control modules costs are around £270/$370.
Can you upgrade Bose A20 to Bluetooth?
Yes, you can upgrade the A20 to Bluetooth, and the process is straightforward. All you need to do is purchase an A20 control module (with Bluetooth). The cost is around £270/$370.
Are Bose A20 worth it?
If you have the money, then I would say the Bose A20 headset is definitely worth it. Using the Bose A20 headset compared to my David Clark H10 headset, I definitely feel less tired after a long day, and the sound quality is excellent.
Aside, you certainly notice it when you fly with someone else who does not have as good a headset compared to the Bose A20. With the Bose A20, the sound is very clear, and you have no difficulty communicating with the headset.
How long do Bose A20 last?
45 hours with a new set of AA Batteries.
It does depend on the use. I tend to get around 5 long days of flying from a new set of AA batteries. If you have the Bluetooth on, then you can expect the battery not to last as long.
Surprisingly, I have found the best batteries that last the longest to be the Alkaline batteries from Ikea. Don’t waste your money on expensive Duracell batteries – just go to Ikea and get the ALKALISK range of AA batteries – £2.50 for a pack of 10!
They are excellent.
When did the Bose A20 come out?
Bose A20® Aviation Headset with enhanced features and Bluetooth audio came out 20th July 2015
Although I have not tried it myself, my understanding is that you can not use the Bose A20 for gaming.
The Bluetooth protocol for phones/tablets/communication is different to what is used for games consoles so audio will work but you may struggle to get your mic to function correctly.
Bose A20 frequently Asked Questions
How long do the Bose A20 batteries last for?
You can expect around 45hours of use from a new set of batteries.
Are there any Bose A20 promotions, offers and discounts?
Bose A20 discounts tend top-up up from time to time. I will do my best to keep this section updated with Bose A20 offers. Please see the links below:
Where can I got a Bose A20 Manual?
How long is the Bose A20 warranty valid for?
The Bose A20 has a five year manufactures warranty.
If you have any questions on the Bose A20, or I have missed anything, please leave a comment in the section below. I would love to hear from you!
Kudzi Chikohora is a B737 pilot with around 2,000 hours flying in Europe. He holds a masters degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a chartered engineer and a member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
Kudzi completed his pilot training via the self funded modular pilot training route and created kcthepilot.com to share pilot training and aviation content.