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Ham Radio Headphones, Headsets, and Speaker Microphones in the Field

One of my favorite parts of ham radio is public service events. It is sure a lot of fun to help serve the community. One thing you quickly notice, though, is how much different noise and other distracting conditions can be from event to event.

The Heil Sound BM-17 (above) is one of my favorite headsets to use. It is lightweight, comfortable sitting just on top of the ear, and has good sound quality. But how would it hold up in the field or during an event?

While having two ear pads helps restrict outside noise and improve radio reception, this feature of the BM-17 could work against you at times. In a quiet environment, you might not want to have both ears covered. You may need to pay attention to your surroundings. You may need to work with a partner. How can you listen to more than one source at a time? In these situations, I like to wear something like this:

A Heil HTH Series Headset is a less expensive, one-ear alternative that is great for quiet to mid-level noise environments. There is a downside, however. Each headset in the series is hard-wired to only work with a specific brand or brands of transceiver. So if you have more than one transceiver (an Icom and Yaesu, for example) that you would like to use a headset with, you would need to buy more than one pair. The Heil BM-17 can be used with different transceivers via adapter cables. The HTH Series is also available as a dual-ear model, but the same con applies.

In a noisy environment, having one ear exposed can be a detriment to hearing your radio traffic. Even the trusty Heil BM-17 may not block out enough background sound to let you properly hear net control.

You might have noticed that all the headsets I have mentioned so far have a boom mic. Plenty of cheap headsets with no boom mic are available also. Still, please make your net control happy and stress-free and have a way for them to hear you reliably.

One popular way to make sure you are being heard is to have an external speaker microphone. This is a great way to be heard, but it can make it even more difficult on the listening side. One way to combat that is with a speaker microphone from a brand that has a jack for a set of headphones.

With an external microphone and an external speaker of some kind, you are ready for any kind of special event or challenge. Bonus for having and carrying one of each method so you are ready for any kind of service moment.

Questions? Share them in the comments below or email me at

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