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Is anyone still using one of these headsets?

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Is anyone still using one of these headsets?

Old 19th Dec 2022, 21:01
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Is anyone still using one of these headsets?


In the UK, probably not very likely given the dominance of Sennheiser and Airlite 100s these days. Incidentally, this is my own, customised with red GPO cable and very fetching cloth covers. I don't suppose NATS or other ATC units had them quite like this!
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Old 19th Dec 2022, 21:12
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I have one in my understairs cupboard somewhere. I saved it when we changes to a digital system. The new system was much better, allowed me to continue when my hearing was failing. But I couldn't be without my old friend af some 30yrs!!!


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Old 19th Dec 2022, 21:16
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Liked them - they were always very robust unlike our newer ones which were never ATCO-proofed and sometimes only seem to last a few weeks.
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Old 19th Dec 2022, 22:03
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Yes, the good old Amplivox or Racal Astrolite. I know they haven't been made for at least a decade but they were in production for what seemed like forever. Not cheap but robust, about a dozen different configurations and relatively easy to service and repair. They had them in the control tower at LBA for about thirty years.

This is one of three new-old-stock units I've recently acquired. Racal label still attached. They came with NATO stock numbers so probably destined for the RAF.

Last edited by Mooncrest; 19th Dec 2022 at 22:14.
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Old 20th Dec 2022, 18:13
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Urgh. Hated those.

Couldn't wear one for more than 30 mins before it became painful. The Astrolite with the larger padding was better, but nothing is as comfortable as the Sennheiser (HMD-46 (soon to be HME-46)) to wear (I have spectacles).
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Old 21st Dec 2022, 05:01
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The HMD and HME seem to have taken over now. I have some of the bigger Astrolite earpads but I thought they looked a bit weird, which I suppose isn't as important as comfort.
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Old 3rd Jan 2023, 19:58
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We had Astrolites at 'CC, both in the tower and the centre. I had the thinner castellated ear-pads with cloth or tissue 'muffs' and never had a problem, even as a spectacle-wearer. I couldn't thad the thick ear-pads. Several colleagues had sealed ear pads which were like being underwater. It was almost impossible to hear conversations on adjacent sectors. When the unit split into TWR/APP and Area, the aerodrome side got some really rubbish kit, and one pilot asked why tower/approach sounded like the 'medium wave'. The Sennheisers were lighter, but the sound quality was nowhere near as good.
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Old 4th Jan 2023, 10:24
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Sennheiser don't offer ventilated earpads with any of their headsets - it might just have been a Racal thing. I actually fitted a pair of scrap Sennheiser earphone speakers to an Astrolite and the sound quality is much the same as with regular Racal parts. The fact that the donor Sennheiser set was in a state beyond repair speaks volumes for their longevity and robustness (or rather lack thereof)!

I think all CAA/NATS units used Astrolites, plus some other airfields (LBA and BRS). Everywhere else seemed to go for the Airlite 62, twice as heavy but half the price. And still in production.
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Old 4th Jan 2023, 14:02
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We used Jetlite RA112s before switching to Sennheiser
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Old 4th Jan 2023, 18:47
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I also have one or two Jetlites. Identical components to the Astrolite, fitted to a very lightweight but not as tough headband and boom rassembly rehashed from a few decades earlier. Known to suffer from insulation parting company with the earpads and downleads! Not Racal's finest hour.
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Old 5th Jan 2023, 06:59
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nice ... there was also a later version with a smaller mic and thicker padding on the headband
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Old 5th Jan 2023, 08:36
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Originally Posted by poppiholla View Post
nice ... there was also a later version with a smaller mic and thicker padding on the headband
That version was fitted with an electret microphone which was tiny and only needed a small housing. They were used at LATCC but I don't think the NATS airports got them. The bigger microphone in my pictures is a magnetic-dynamic type, producing quite trebly and nasally speech with a basic tape recorder but perfect for radio and telephone systems of the time. It would be interesting to see how well the Astrolite would perform with modern ATC communications systems.
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Old 7th Jan 2023, 14:14
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I don't suppose NATS or other ATC units had them quite like this!
Used them many years ago and found them functional and pretty robust. Engineers seemed to like because they could be easily repaired when necessary. The fetching, or otherwise, knickers were seen by some as not just a quick way to identify one's own headset but also a fashion statement. Personally, mine took on the 100-wash grey very soon after I got a new pair, and stayed that way until some new ones got ordered.

Don't use a headset professionally these days but modern ones may be a bit more comfortable - but not always - but rather flimsy and not inspiring confidence that it will work at that moment when you really need it to. But I'm clearly a luddite, I can recall the days of RDCE in NATS (at airports) and every 'advance' since then seems to have been a backward step from the users' perspective! I wonder whether it's an age thing, and whether younger people don't find some of these advances as much a hindrance as a benefit but I guess we can't stop progress .

​​​​​​​PS - apologies for the rambling thread drift.
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Old 8th Jan 2023, 11:16
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RDCE was in use at LBA until 2005. Not the NATS - designed stuff but a home-grown system using the same sort of panels and switches. That system lasted 28 years, was replaced by Schmid gear in 2005 and this in turn only managed 16 years before Frequentis came along. Sometimes, the old-school British stuff really is the best!
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