A focus on value - not just price
Everyone wants a good price, but at Sporty's we've learned the hard way there's a difference between a great price and a great value. There are plenty of cheap headsets on the market (we've flown with most of them), but often these "hot deals" focus exclusively on low price, which leads to low quality. Comfort is sacrificed with cheap ear seals, durability is decreased with cheap plastic components and cables are notoriously short-lived. No matter how inexpensive it is, a headset that fails after three months is not a good value. That's why we don't sell a lot of inexpensive headset brands.
Faro takes a different approach, which is why we're excited to partner with them. Kevin Faro and his team focuses on low prices, but only if they can be achieved without sacrificing quality. The new Stealth headsets don't have every last bell and whistle, but they are well made and comfortable. At $199.95 for the passive model and $399.95 for the ANR model, we think they're a terrific value. Sure, they're perfect for student pilots or passengers, but they're also good enough to wear every day.
Active or passive noise reduction
Most pilots will tell you that once you fly with active noise reduction, you'll never go back. That's probably true, and for under $400 the Stealth makes it easy to go ANR. But we like how Faro offers both options with the same basic features. You can start with the passive, then move up to ANR as your flying and budget expands. When you do move up, you'll be comfortable with the fit and features of the Stealth.
Hardly any passive headsets offer a music input, which we think is a shame. A long cross-country flight is more fun with a little music from your phone. An auxiliary input is also helpful for receiving audio alerts from your iPad or portable GPS, like terrain or traffic callouts. Both the Stealth ANR and the Stealth Passive include a music input plug. It's a minor detail, but we liked how it's located on the juncture box where the headphone and microphone plugs come together, and an auxiliary input cable is included. Just plug in and enjoy.
Double thick ear seals
Ear seals are where the rubber meets the road for a headset. While plenty of other factors affect comfort, this one is at the top of our list. For the Stealth series, Faro spent a lot of time designing a new ear seal, and we like the result. They are thick, no doubt about it, but they are also very soft and comfortable, with protein leather covers. We found the passive noise reduction to be excellent.
Reversible electret microphone
The microphone on the Stealth sounded clear and crisp to us, although such judgments are fairly subjective. More noticeable was how easy it was to move the microphone on the Stealth. It has a fully-flexible mic boom for easy positioning, and it also rotates 360 degrees. That means you can place the mic on the right or left side, a great feature for flight instructors who plug into the right side of the cockpit.
Stereo audio with dual volume controls
Stereo audio is practically essential for us, especially if you're listening to music, and both Stealth headsets offer this. In fact, there's a simple stereo/mono switch so the headsets are compatible with all airplane intercom systems. It's easy to independently control volume levels to both the left and right ear, with no confusing knobs.
You probably shouldn't buy a headset based on looks, but we liked the all-black finish on the Stealth, which is the source of its name. It looks cool, but it also reduces glare and bright flashes in the cockpit, which is particularly noticeable on sunny days in low wing airplanes.
Helpful customer support
Faro Aviation is a relatively new name for many pilots, but they've actually been around for 18 years, and have a team of pilots based in Nevada. We tested their customer support and found them to be responsive and helpful. Both Stealth headsets also include a 3-year warranty.
So how do the Stealth headsets perform? Overall we think both models are really great values. They're heavier than a Bose A20 and they don't have the advanced Bluetooth features of a Lightspeed Zulu, so buyers with an unlimited budget may not be satisfied. But for anyone shopping in the sub-$600 price range, these look hard to beat. They're surprisingly quiet, well made and have the music input we like.