Bose A20 Aviation Headset Review

by Brandon Ray · August 9, 2010

The New Bose A20 Aviation Headset

Have you been considering a new headset? The new Bose A20 Aviation Headset is top-notch quality with several excellent features. Based on the previous Bose Aviation X, Bose took a great headset and made it even better. I just picked mine up at Oshkosh last weekend and have flown with it every day for the past week.
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For the past 6 years, I have been flying with my Sennheiser HMEC 400 electronic noise-cancelling headset. The active noise-cancelling technology is well worth it, especially if you fly often. I was pleased with the quality of the HMEC 400, and the 10 yr warranty from Sennheiser at the time I purchased it. I’ve flown with several different headsets, including David Clark, Lightspeed, Bose, and others, but nothing seemed to compare with the overall quality of the Bose products. The Bose Aviation X headset was lightweight, low-profile, and high-quality.

Lightspeed was notorious for having good noise cancelling qualities in the past, but some of their headsets had earcups large enough you might knock out your passenger if you turned your head too quickly. With the introduction of the Lightspeed Zulu, they finally had a product to compete with Bose, featuring Bluetooth technology and a slimmer, lighter design than on previous headsets. For the past year, I have been considering the Bose Aviation X or the Lightspeed Zulu as the best options for my next headset purchase. I wanted the quality of the Bose, but the features of the Zulu.

Last week, my decision was made easy when Bose introduced the new A20 Aviation Headset. New features include built-in Bluetooth (optional) for cell phone connectivity, auxiliary audio input, and improved noise-cancelling technology. Although it is still at a higher price point than the Zulu ($1095 vs. $850 for the Zulu), the Bose A20 headset has all the features I was hoping for from a top-name brand. My old headset required 4 AA batteries, and only lasted for about 15 hours of flight time. The new Bose A20 uses just 2 AA batteries but lasts for 40 hours. Impressive!

After flying with my A20 for a week now, I am confident that I made the right decision. I typically fly for several hours each day, so it is important to have a headset that won’t leave me feeling fatigued. So far, the A20 has proven itself to be extremely comfortable. In a side-by-side comparison in flight, it is obvious that the Bose headset offers lower noise levels than my previous Sennheiser, with better sound quality and clarity.

Here are some of the improvements for the A20 over the previous Bose Aviation X:

  • Bluetooth connectivity (for cell phone use… not audio)2015.04.10 01.34 Flyhpa 552728ab00e23
  • Aux. audio input (cable included)
  • Intercom/aux priority switching
  • Volume knobs are recessed to protect them from accidental adjustment
  • Additional noise sensing mic inside the earcup to improve active noise cancelling
  • Less clamping force
  • Headset band features a different “clamping angle” to prevent headset from compressing the ear seals… Earlier models would compress the ear seals, reducing the effectiveness and sometimes causing the speakers in the earcups to press against the user’s ears.
  • Deeper earcups to allow more space for the user’s ears
  • Improved materials in the earcup for better noise canceling

Recommendations for connector type:

The Bose A20 features several different connection options… A 6-pin panel-powered model, and a standard GA 2-plug “bayonet” style adapter. You can purchase separate cables for the headset, but for $295.95 it’s not very cost effective. Here are my suggestions based on what type of aircraft you fly…

If you always fly an aircraft with the 6-pin panel-powered adapter (Columbia, Cirrus, Corvalis), go ahead and get the 6-pin headset.

If you never fly an aircraft with the 6-pin panel-powered adapter, get the headset with the standard GA 2-pin connector.

If you fly multiple aircraft with different types of connectors, I would suggest getting the 6-pin panel-powered headset, and get the Bose 2-pin adapter for $59.95. This way you can connect to either type. This is what I opted for since I frequently fly Columbia, Corvalis, and Cirrus products with the panel-power, but also fly traditional aircraft with the 2-pin connectors. You can purchase a replacement cable, but at $295.95, it is not likely a cost-effective solution.

Even the panel-powered unit will require 2 AA batteries. These batteries serve as a backup for the panel power and also will power the Bluetooth until the panel power becomes active.

The A20 sells for $1095 with Bluetooth or $995 without.

Buy online:

If you choose to buy a new Bose headset, feel free to use my affiliate links below.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

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The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

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