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Devialet wants to cancel in-flight headphones with luxury in-seat sound systems

TechRadar logo TechRadar 6/13/2022 Becky Scarrott
Devialet and Safran's in-flight speaker system built into an airline seat © Provided by TechRadar Devialet and Safran's in-flight speaker system built into an airline seat

The quest for high-end sound systems in similarly auspicious transportation vessels often results in mouth-watering partnerships – see Maserati and Sonus Faber or Mercedes and Burmester for starters. 

Research

But however aspirational, the sound systems in those vehicles aren't meant to leave the ground en masse (not yet anyway) and they don't have to counteract the powerful jet engines all passenger aeroplanes are equipped with. 

Luxury French audio specialist Devialet seems undeterred, however. The Devialet Dione maker has partnered with Safran, an international high-tech group operating in the aviation (propulsion, equipment and interiors) business, to head to the skies – and straight into our aeroplane seats. 

The result of the collaboration is Euphony, a headset-free sound solution for luxury aircraft seating that promises a "high-quality individual sound experience".

Safran explains that Devialet’s team of world-class engineers used patented acoustic technologies for the two loudspeakers built into the anatomy of the seat itself, enabling first class and business class passengers (you never fly coach, right?) to enjoy an in-flight sound experience without the inconvenience of headsets and cables. 

The seats will start appearing in 2023 across Safran's business class and first class seat portfolio – and as one of the world's leading manufacturers of aircraft seats for both crew and passengers (1 million Safran Seats-manufactured aircraft seats are currently in service around the world) the chances are you may at least see it on a flight soon, even if you can't actually sit there.  

Analysis: can in-seat speakers battle jet engine noise?

Bose, as you probably know, is credited with the creation of active noise cancelling headphones to help pilots land aeroplanes, in the late ’70s. And nowhere is a set of noise-cancelling cans more useful and effective than on a flight, or anywhere with constant low-level extraneous noise. 

I struggle to see how the best noise-cancelling headphones can be beaten by an in-seat speaker solution, even if it comes from a formidable brand such as Devialet.  

As much as I'd love to try it out (and the glass of bubbles on arrival too, thank you) I'll still be keeping my Sony WH-1000XM5 close by for takeoff and movies. 

With no more communication barriers between fellow travelers and cabin crew (and no swiftly removing those free wired headphones to avoid awkward tangles when putting the tray table down or leaving your seat), Euphony promises a seamless and sociable on-board experience for passengers. And all of this is to be encouraged.

But the crucial claim is that Euphony can "adjust in real time to the audio content and the ambient cabin noise, to offer an optimum listening experience without affecting other passengers on board", a serious ask for any speaker system that cannot benefit from natural passive isolation, ie. being strapped to your head, over or inside each of your ears.

The best noise cancelling earbuds do a top job of nixing noise and they come in a tiny little pocketable case, perfect for carry-on bags. Can a pair of speakers built into an airline seat melt away that low-level constant engine thrum? I doubt it. But I'd so love to be proven wrong…

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