Retractable Headrest Speaker Wings Give Every Car Passenger Their Own Stereo System

Retractable Headrest Speaker Wings Give Every Car Passenger Their Own Stereo System
Screenshot: Harman

Well-equipped vehicles come with climate control systems allowing every passenger to customise the temperature at their seat. Today Harman revealed a more ambitious idea that brings that same level of customisability to a car’s sound system, with retractable speaker wings on the headrest of every seat in the vehicle.

Road trips in the past usually involved everyone either gleefully singing along to the same song blasting out of the stereo, or complaining and demanding the track be skipped. Today the driver, who needs to also be able to keep their ears on the road, usually gets to control the stereo while everyone else in a vehicle just puts on headphones and rocks out quietly to themselves. (Heaven forbid you have a conversation.)

As a potential solution, today Harman revealed its Personal Audio Headrest Platform, which automakers can use to provide every passenger in a vehicle with their own set of private speakers integrated directly into their seat’s headrest. The base version of the Personal Audio Headrest allows each passenger to customise their sound experience by tweaking the EQ to their own preferences or boosting the volume level to their own likes or needs without deafening every one else riding along.

Image: Harman Image: Harman

For those wanting to splurge, Harman has also developed a premium option called the Personal Audio Headrest Plus that adds a pair of speaker wings that swing down and extend to position a private speaker on each side of a passenger’s head.

Screenshot: Harman Screenshot: Harman

This approach not only allows for sound profile personalizations, it can also create spatial audio experiences, so someone watching a movie during a drive would get a pseudo-surround sound experience. Harman promises the speaker wings will quietly extend and retract without distracting a driver (yes, the driver can get a pair too, because the speakers don’t block noises from the road and other vehicles). They’ll also allow for private sound zones where each passenger can listen to their own thing — be it music, podcasts, or talk radio — without needing headphones to keep sound isolated.

As in-car audio experiences go, this definitely feels a little over-the-top, but when travel is a thing again, it could potentially be a genuinely useful way to help keep the peace when everyone along for the ride has very different musical tastes.