As if the list of things that can make flying an annoying experience isn’t already long enough, Devialet has partnered with a company called Safran to create a new personalised speaker system built right into the headrests of aeroplane seats. This will theoretically give every passenger their own private sound system — but how private will it actually be?
Devialet is a French audio company that’s not yet a household name amongst consumers, as it’s best known for its Phantom line of wireless speakers that sound fantastic but cost well over $US1,000 ($1,388). That’s a tough sell when companies like Google and Amazon are pumping out relatively cheap wireless smart speakers in an attempt to dominate the smart assistant market. Devialet has recently started to expand its portfolio: first, with an equally pricy pair of wireless earbuds called the Gemini, and then a few months ago with the novel-looking all-in-one Dione sound bar.
The company’s latest attempt to reach new users isn’t a product consumers will be able to buy at all, but one they may get to experience if they’re willing to splurge on a flight. Devialet has partnered with Safran, a company who, based on its website, makes everything from landing gear to lavatories to even air-to-surface missiles. The company also has a division called Safran Seats that’s focused on making a variety of different seats for passenger planes, from business class to private first class cabins.
Together the two companies have created an experience called Euphony, which stuffs “two Devialet bespoke loudspeakers on each side of a standard sized headrest.” The general idea is to free passengers from the need to wear headphones when enjoying in-flight entertainment, which also ensures that announcements from the flight crew and pilots can easily be heard at the same time, and not tuned out. The Euphony system can also adjust itself in real-time to compensate for increased levels of ambient cabin noise, and is promised to provide “an optimum listening experience without affecting other passengers on board” — a claim that has us raising an eyebrow.
Seats that provide a private surround sound experience aren’t a new idea, but products like the Flexound Pulse use a combination of high walls surrounding each chair plus vibrating soundboards and drivers built into the cushioning to minimise any sound leakage between seats. When installed in private first class cabins that seal passengers off from each other, the Euphony experience is almost certainly private, but if used in business class where seats are all crammed right up against each other, there’s a good chance passengers are going to end up hearing at least a little of what their seatmates are listening to, and vice-versa.
As much as we’d love to forego having to wear headphones for peace and quiet during an entire flight, when the Euphony system starts showing up in planes next year, there’s probably going to be more reason than ever to splurge on a pair of good ANC headphones.