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Wed, Jul 25, 2007

Lightspeed Aviation Demonstrates New 'Zulu' Headset At Oshkosh

Company Takes Orders, Announces Upgrade Path From Thirty-3G

by ANN Correspondent Dave Ziegler

Last week, Lightspeed Aviation announced the company's latest active noise cancelling (ANR) headset, the Zulu (as in, Zulu time). This premium priced offering promises to be smaller, lighter, quieter, clearer, and more comfortable than any previous Lightspeed product, but the company doesn't expect Oshkosh visitors to just take their word for it: Those who stop by the Lightspeed booth are able to compare the Zulu first hand against several competing models in a simulated cockpit environment. I was invited to do the same, and as you'll read below, I was quite impressed.

The Zulu has several noticeable improvements over the Lightspeed's previous highest-end model, the Thirty-3G. Physically, the Zulu is smaller, and weight has been reduced from 15.8 ounces to just over 13.9 ounces. The earcups are more shallow, and lower side pressure reduced by 40% thanks to thin, flexible spring steel. Unlike the Thirty-3G, the Zulu now folds for easier storage. Battery life has been extended from 25-30 hours to an estimated 40, and similar to the Thirty-3G there is an automatic shut-off feature.

If you currently own a Thirty-3G, Lightspeed has some good news for you. "We've announced an upgrade path from our Thirty-3G to the Zulu," said Mueller, "and it's $350 plus your Thirty-3G." The program is slated to begin the first quarter of 2008. While trade-in programs for other models are not certain, the possibility has not been ruled out. "We will probably have an upgrade for all of our headsets, but that's the one we settled on out of the chute."
As a Thirty-3G user myself, I was quite impressed with the Zulu's improvements, but how does it compare to, say, the Bose Aviation X headet?

Bose still wins the battle of the bulge, coming in at a noticeably lighter 12 ounces. After trying both headsets in a side-by-side comparison in a simulated cockpit environment, however, I feel that the Zulu is ahead in terms of active noise reduction capability, and had significantly better passive noise reduction characteristics. How much better is more a matter of opinion as the company has not yet released many statistics. According to Lightspeed, statistics may not reveal the whole picture. "A 3dB cut at one frequency can make a bigger difference than a 10dB reduction at another."

"Our dealers are taking orders now," explained Jim Mueller, Vice President of Operations at Lightspeed. "We're expecting to be shipping in September and October, and by November we should be caught up with the demands at that point." The MSRP of the Zulu is $850, and may be pre-ordered on-line from the Lightspeed's website.



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