Hamburg, Germany (CNN) — As wireless headphones become more and more popular, standard airline headphones with intertwined cables and multi-faceted jack plugs appear to be increasingly obsolete.
Sure, you can link your personal headphones to the in-flight entertainment system of an airplane, but will the battery last for long-haul flights and never be seen again at the risk of losing expensive earphones with the seat mechanism? ?? ??
Join Euphony, a new aircraft seat concept by French aircraft interior designer Safran Seats, co-produced with audio technology company Devialet.
Euphony eliminates the need for a personal headset. Instead, speakers are installed in the headrests of individual seats for perfect noise levels, allowing passengers to enjoy in-flight entertainment without being overheard or disturbed by their neighbors.
Euphony is designed for business or first class cabins.
At first glance, the AIX prototype resembles a regular business class airplane seat. Safran has made minor aesthetic adjustments to the headrest design.
But as soon as in-flight entertainment is turned on, the difference becomes apparent. Sound begins to sound from the headrest, and pre-recorded airplane engine sounds echo in the experience room.
This screen plays a fast-growing trailer of the recent Marvel movie “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” Atmospheric music sounds the headrest before the system switches to several different audio experiences, including podcasts for comparison.
It will take some time to put the headrest in the perfect place. For best sound quality, keep the headrest as close to your ears as possible.
However, with the right settings, personal speakers seem to be working fine. The engine rotation of the simulated airplane is mainly background noise, and my attention is focused on what I see and hear.
Euphony is not a replacement for the cocoon-like experience of noise-cancelling headphones, but it is a comfortable setup and is similar to the experience of watching a movie on the sofa. It’s perfect if you’re flying with others and want to chat and interact while watching a movie together.
In the AIX Experience Room, it is difficult to determine if there is really a sound leak. There is only one Euphony mockup. However, the fact that the sound cannot be heard correctly unless the headrest is placed next to the ear shows that there is relatively no leakage, at least in business and first class, when the passenger spacing is wide.
Travelers seeking complete noise cancellation and privacy may want to use a personal headset, but Safran’s senior architect Paul Wills and his team have the idea behind Euphony to travel. He says it’s about offering more options to people. Travelers can also connect their personal devices to the system via Bluetooth, and headrest speakers work when the seat is fully reclining and upright.
In-flight announcements will also be broadcast throughout the cabin and will not be broadcast from the headrest. The Wills team wants to avoid “funny sounding mash mash”.
Instead, announcements from the captain or cabin crew simply stop in-flight entertainment, as is already the standard for flights.
Complex design process
Safran has partnered with audio expert Devialet to complete the sound design.
Euphony has been under development for several years, and Wills and his team say it took trial and error and teamwork to complete the concept.
When Safran first experimented with putting speakers in the headrest, Wills said the sound quality was “terrible” before Devialet appeared.
“At that point it was clear that we were good seat designers, but we weren’t sound designers, so we had to find someone to do that,” he says.
Franck Lebouchard, CEO of Devialet, said the project was a “thrilling” challenge for his group of audio professionals.
“Aircraft are probably the most complex sound environment you can imagine, both in terms of frequency (low and high frequencies) and volume,” Lebouchard told CNN Travel.
The difficulty of blocking the low and high frequency sounds of an airplane at the same time is the reason why the team encouraged the development of Euphony without noise canceling technology. Designers wanted to avoid blocking one frequency and unintentionally raising the other.
However, Safran and Devialet say Euphony’s current iterations are tuned in real time to mask cabin noise, and future iterations of the concept aim to further improve the sound mix. increase.
Another challenge was to ensure the best possible sound quality with the least weight. Airlines are constantly trying to avoid unnecessary extra loads in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and avoid extra costs.
The finished product will add an extra kilogram to the existing seat. Part of this reason, Euphony is a business and first class product, at least for now.
“It may not be appropriate at this point in the economy, purely and simply because it’s too heavy,” Wills explains.
But in the future, the team believes they can fine-tune the low-cost cabin concept.
“There is a clear demand for it,” says Wills.
Saffron has a partner launch airline that has yet to be revealed and will premiere its products in first-class and business-class cabins in early 2023. The euphony test flight will take place at the end of this year.
According to Wills, the ultimate goal is to recreate the relaxing experience at home and make the flight as “normal” as possible.
“When I go home, I don’t wear headphones in the evening to watch a movie. That doesn’t work. I can’t chat or scream with my partner or friends. Dogs and whatever else I need. You can. You have to move around freely. This was the idea. Sit down, turn on the TV, play the movie. It’s like home. “
Top photo courtesy of Saffron