Bose Grandiose


Of course I was testing new recording gear with my Bose A20 headset when the A30 drops. So, what’s the difference?

First of all, Bose aren’t paying for this piece. It’s just me and my thoughts, so that we’re loud and clear (see what I did there?). If Bose are going to call this their highest-performing aviation headset masterpiece ever released, it’d want to be good… and it is, but I wouldn’t say it’s leagues above the A20 if that’s where your expectation is.

A bit of background on my choice of Bose headsets. For one, they’re a brand that has been strong across the audio sector for a while. That earns them some street cred with me. Secondly, I had an audio problem with my last headset and the A20 solved it brilliantly. Is it the only headset that would have solved it? No. Would I buy another Bose headset? Yes. Would I be a bit teary about the price tag, but probably do it anyway? Yes. If I flew less than 25 hours a year, would I still spend the dough? …Probably not, call me stingy.

Any time I put on a spare or old headset I’m reminded of my student days where my headset was so crackly that I developed a slight fear of the radio, because I could barely hear a word.

I thought it was a pilot standard to have a crackly headset that left degrading black specs in your hair, until I was handed a Bose headset and I realised what I’d been missing out on.

Bose haven’t dropped a new headset in years now (the A20 came out in 2010), so naturally your expectations might be high. Whilst it’s a completely new headset in Bose’s eyes, it’s damn close to the A20 from a piston pilot perspective.

At 404 grams in weight, it has 60 grams on top of the A20, but you probalby won’t notice it. Instead, on the longer flights, you’re more likely to notice the comfort upgrades, like the sudden disappearance of ear pain because they’ve reduced the clamping pressure by 20%. Nice touch, Bose.

The noise cancellation feels very similar to the A20, but now you have controls (low, medium and high, altered on the power block). As a piston pilot, I’m going to want every bit of noise cancellation I can get and ‘high’ feels a lot like what I’m used to with my A20s. The audio quality for inbound audio is the best I think is on the market, albeit very comparable to the A20 (which was/is a damn good benchmark). The major change here is people slowly upgrading headsets and transmitting clearer
audio, in my opinion.

The microphone audio has improved with better noise cancellation on the mic (all you chopper pilots out there, take note – as cool as a turbine sounds in the background of your radio calls, you might want to consider the A30 upgrade too. And yes, I am jealous that you have a cooler engine noise in the background than me). You can run a hot-mic or PTT activation, depending on your aircraft setup.

If you don’t have glasses or sunglasses that suitably fit with the headset, you’ll break the ear muffle seal and you won’t get the full ANC (Active Noise Control) experience. It’s not dissimilar with the A20, but take note of this before you buy.

You still have a Bluetooth option with multi-pairing (one device pairs and plays to multiple headsets), AA batteries that will last around 45 hours (very efficient, if you look at alternatives), independent left/ right volume control, and a very similar full around-ear headset. They’ve also kept the ‘mix’ feature between your Bluetooth audio inputs and radio calls, which is a nice touch if you use it, but I know many pilots don’t.

In the box, it’s the same as the A20 – headset, carry case, 3.5mm audio cable, 2 x AA batteries, a control module hanger, and smile because AusPost didn’t lose your package.

Yes it’s a great headset, but it isn’t a ‘giant leap’ from the A20. If anything, it shows off that Bose nailed the A20 headset 13 years ago and the A30 is a comfort and currency update.

The price tag? We’re talking around $1,969.95 at the likes of Flight Store, Downunder Pilot Shop or any other alike retailer. Are you crying yet? Me too. If you have decent A20s, I’d stay put. If you’re a gear-head or you were looking for a new pair, then I’d strongly recommend. The A20s are being delisted from online stores.

Only you can decide where to draw your line on a headset – any pair will get you in the air, but they’re not going to be the Bose A30.