Over-ear vs In-Ear Aviation Headsets

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Over-ear vs In-Ear Aviation Headsets

When it comes to aviation headset designs there are two styles. Most common is the over-ear headphone style but the new and emerging style is that of in-ear headphones.

For the last month we have been test flying the leading headsets of both designs, the Bose A20 and the new Bose Proflight Series 2 to see which works better in the commercial aviation environment.

All the comparison has been flown in the Boeing 737 across Europe, in future articles we will look at the business jet environment and of course light aircraft flying.

To compare the two headset styles we have looked at some different areas of aviation headsets to see which design style works best.

A20s vs ProFlight 2, Over-Ear vs In-Ear, the great headset debate.

Noise Cancelling

Noise cancelling is one of the most important parts of aviation headsets in the commercial cockpit.

Winner: Over ear (Bose A20)

On the exact same flight I switched between both A20s and ProFlights with the same battery set to experience the noise cancelling. Over Ear headphones offer a base level of noise cancelling through the cup itself. This in combination with the noise cancelling software makes the maximum possible noise cancelling slightly better than the in-ear competition.

It is important with in-ear headsets that you wear the correct sized ear piece both for comfort and quality of noise cancelling. With the right ear piece and the max setting on the ProFlight 2 the noise cancelling is still absolutely sufficient.  



The 737 features one of the smaller flight decks for commercial aircraft, and I am a taller person too so the size of the headset does matter.

Winner: In Ear (ProFlight Series 2)

In Ear headsets such as the ProFlight Series 2 weigh considerably less than over-ear, this means that the headband is often far smaller therefore reducing the size of the headset.

I do find the A20s sometimes catching on window edges and the roof of the cockpit if stood up still wearing your headset. However whilst wearing the PFS2 you feel more freedom in the cockpit due to its lighter design and considerably thinner cable but if you do catch the wires or headset it tends to move the headsets positioning on your head.  

Glasses and Sunglasses

Most pilots will wear sunglasses during flight and some require prescription glasses, how does each style of headset manage this?

Winner: In Ear (ProFlight Series 2)

The main problem with glasses is the frames encroaching on the cup of over-ear headphones. This causes a ‘leak’ which allows external noise to enter the cups sometimes greatly reducing the noise cancelling capability. The A20 cups are fitted with soft cushions which means that thinner framed glasses do not have too much of a negative impact, but thicker framed glasses can caused a decrease in available noise cancelling.

The In-Ear alternative (PFS2) does not suffer from any such trouble. The headset design bypasses this area allowing you to wear whatever style of sunglasses/glasses you need without affecting your headset.



Arguably the second most important part of any aviation headset is its comfort. Which style is more comfortable after extended periods of wearing?

Winner: Personal Choice

Over-Ear headphones are easier to get used to but often weigh more than In-Ear. With In-Ear headphones its vital you get the correct sized earpieces to feel comfortable, even then some users do not find the in-ear sensation is something they like – despite the considerable weight saving.

One captain I flew with often rides motorbikes and wears earplugs, for him the transition to In-Ear headphones was very easy – it really is personal taste.

I personally would use the Bose A20s, the over-ear style suits my head better and I can deal with the slightly heavier headset thanks to its supports and cushions.


Aviation headsets are a lifelong investment, helping to both protect your hearing and your comfort. Does the style of headset affect the price?

Winner: In-Ear (ProFlight Series 2)

Pricing is more Bose Aviation specific than a direct comparison between In-Ear and Over-Ear.

The Bose Proflight Series 2 (In-Ear Headset) is priced at £910.00 (£960.00 with Bluetooth)

Special Offer: Get a free SoundLink Micro Bluetooth® speaker — of up to £119,95 retail value — when you purchase a ProFlight Series 2 Aviation Headset between 20 November and 31 December 2022.

Participate Now

The Bose A20 Aviation Headset (Over-Ear Headset) is priced at £ 1,159.95 (Bluetooth Included)

When it comes to buying your aviation headset, attempt to try and test fly a headset first by asking a friend of colleague and then make the best decision based on the type of flying and aircraft you will be on. Each pilot will have their own needs and desires from a headset.

Stay tuned for more articles featuring our title sponsor Bose Aviation in the New Year!

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