Since Evenflo was kind enough to send us a complimentary new Symphony 65 child restraint to review, I decided to focus on comparing this Evenflo 3-in-1 to the other popular Evenflo convertible – the Triumph Advance.  For the sake of full disclosure – the Triumph was not a freebie from Evenflo, rather something I bought with my own funds to use as a training seat in our CPS Technician certification classes.

*UPDATE: Check out our full review of the newest Symphony 65 e3 model HERE.

Symphony 65 & Triumph Similarities

Harness Height Adjustment:  Both seats utilize Evenflo’s new “Infinite Slide Harness Adjustment” technology which allows you to raise or lower the harness height simply by moving the red tabs on the top of the harness straps up or down on a track.  Really. Really. Simple.

To Tighten & Loosen Harness:  The harness straps on both seats tighten and loosen at the hips instead of at the shoulders (like most other carseats on the market).  FYI – the harness is NOT removable on either seat.

Rear-Facing Weight Limit:  Both of the models shown are rated to 35 lbs in the rear-facing position OR are outgrown by height rear-facing when the top of the child’s head is 1″ from the top of the shell.   Update: the newest Symphony 65 models and the newest Triumph models are both rated to 40 lbs in the rear-facing position.

Lowest Harness Height:  Both seats have very similar bottom harness heights.  The lowest harness height positions on both seats measure about 8″ (due to the infinite harness mechanisms – measuring harness height is a little subjective).  This could make either seat suitable for many full-term, average to large newborns.  The dolls in these pictures measure 20″ long and are roughly the size of a newborn weighing approximately 8 lbs.

20" Newborn Dolls in Sym65 & ETA

   

    

Tallest Harness Height:  Both seats have a similar top harness height of about 16″.  Again, due to the infinite harness, it’s a bit subjective.

Rear-Facing Height Room:  When the Sym65 is adjusted to the 2nd lowest headrest height (max height for use in the RF position), both seats measure approximately 23″ to the top of the shell/headrest.

      

   

Weight:  They are both relatively heavy but this is to be expected.  Almost all well-made convertible and combination seats on the market today are heavy.  According to my bathroom digital scale – the Triumph weighs 18 lbs and the Sym65 is slightly over 20 lbs.

FAA Certification for Airplane Usage:   Both seats are certified by the FAA for use in commercial airplanes.  However, the Symphony 65 can only be used (rear-facing or forward-facing) with the 5-pt harness on a plane.  Since all booster seats require using a lap/shoulder seatbelt and since aircraft seats only have lap belts – it isn’t possible to use any booster on a plane.  The Symphony 65 in booster mode is no exception.  Now, whether or not either of these seats will actually fit in a standard coach seat is another matter.  Honestly, I have no idea but hopefully someone who has BTDT will comment to let us know.

Symphony 65 & Triumph Advance Differences

Lifespan/Expiration:  The Symphony 65 has an 8 year lifespan before it expires.  The model I have was manufactured in Dec 2009 and the back of the shell (just below the metal bar that the tether strap is attached to) has a stamp that says “DO NOT USE AFTER 2017″.  The Triumph model that I own has a 6 year lifespan before it expires.  The model I have was manufactured in March 2008 and has a stamp on the side of the shell (on one side, just under the opening for the rear-facing belt path) that says “DO NOT USE THIS PRODUCT AFTER DEC 31, 2014″

Harness Adjustment:  The Symphony65 has a front harness adjuster strap  – the Triumph has knobs on the sides of the seat.

Forward-Facing Weight Limits:  The Symphony65 has a maximum weight rating of 65 lbs for the harness – the Triumph Advance is rated to 50 lbs with the harness.  However, since they both have very similar top harness heights of approximately 16″ – it’s likely that most children will outgrow the harness on the Sym65 long before before reaching 65 lbs.  Taller, thinner kids might even outgrow the harness on both seats before reaching 50 lbs.  My son is 5 years old, 46 lbs and 45.5″ tall in these pictures and as you can see, he is close to being too tall for the 5-point harness.  On both seats, the slits in the cover are a bit deceptive – the top notch on the harness track doesn’t go all the way to the top of the slit in the cover.

    

   

Installation Modes:  The Symphony is considering a “3-in-1″ seat.  It can be used either rear-facing or forward-facing with the 5-point harness.  It can also be used without the harness as a belt-positioning booster (using just the vehicle’s lap/shoulder seatbelt) for children who have outgrown the 5-point harness either by weight or height.  For more on the Symphony 65 as a booster please see my previous blog review HERE.  The  Triumph Advance is a rear-facing, forward-facing convertible carseat.  It cannot be used as a belt-positioning booster.

The Symphony has 3 “recline” positions (fully reclined, semi-reclined and upright) but there are rules involved:

  • When installed rear-facing (5-35 lbs) you MUST use the fully reclined (#1) position
  • When installed forward-facing for a child weighing between 20-40 lbs you may use either the semi-reclined (#2) position OR the fully upright (#3) position
  • When installed forward-facing for a child weighing between 40-65 lbs you MUST use the fully upright (#3) position
  • When used with vehicle’s lap/shoulder belt as a belt positioning booster you MUST use the fully upright (#3) position

The Triumph Advance also has 3 “recline” positions but with different rules:

  • When installed rear-facing (5-35 lbs) you MUST use the fully reclined (#1) position
  • When installed forward-facing for a child weighing between 20-50 lbs you may use either the semi-reclined (#2) position OR the fully upright (#3) position

To clarify, neither seat can be switched back and forth between upright and reclined once it’s installed.  I think many parents mistakenly believe that this is a feature of a carseat with different recline setting but that is rarely ever the case.  You cannot just reach back and recline the seat when a forward-facing child falls asleep in either of these carseats.  In order to switch from the fully upright to the semi-reclined position (assuming the child meets the criteria to use either), you would need to remove the child and re-install the carseat.

Chest Clip:  The Sym65 has the newer style Evenflo chest clip which is considerably smaller than the old style chest clip used on my Triumph Advance model.  However, it appears that Evenflo has switched over to the newer style chest clips on all their newest Triumph models.

Buckle Positions:  The Sym65 has only 1 buckle position.  The Triumph Advance has 2 positions for the buckle/crotch strap.

     

Crotch Strap Length:  The Sym65 definitely appears to have a longer crotch strap than the Triumph Advance.  The crotch strap on the Sym65 is removable (you invert it when using the seat in booster mode) but the crotch strap on the Triumph Advance is not removable.

Infant Inserts:  Both of these seats came with infant body inserts and head support pillows.  However, neither seat comes with any type of  harness strap covers.  It is important NOT to use any type of after-market harness strap covers with either of these seats as the pads may interfere with the red tabs on the top of the harness.

LATCH attachments: The Symphony 65 has Evenflo’s new, unique self-ratcheting “SureLATCH” lower anchor connectors – the Triumph Advance comes with either hook-style LATCH connectors or the push-on style lower LATCH connectors (depending on the trim level).  Generally, only the higher-end Triumph models are the ones with the push-on style LATCH connectors.  The Triumph model that I have used for this review has the standard hook-style LATCH connectors.

Switching LATCH Connectors (from rear-facing to forward-facing beltpath):  The Sym65 has a clear, unique method of switching the lower LATCH strap from the rear-facing beltpath to the forward-facing beltpath and vice versa.  The Triumph does not use the same system (at least not on the 2008 model that I have) but I think it’s a great concept and I’d love to see Evenflo use this set-up on all their convertible models.

 

Energy-Absorbing EPP Foam:  Both seats have it but the way it is distributed is quite different.  A baby would not have any EPP foam behind their head in the Sym65.  Not until the child’s head is closer to the top of the seat (with the headrest in the lowest position) would there be any benefit from the energy-absorbing foam on the Sym65 headrest.  However, on the plus side, I would like to point out that the foam in the headrest is deceptively thicker than it appears since it is recessed into the plastic.

     

Overall Height:  Since the Sym65 can also be used as a BPB (belt-positioning booster) it makes sense that it can be adjusted taller than the Triumph Advance.  The Sym65 has an adjustable headrest with 5 different height positions.  But again, with options – come rules:

  • Rear-facing the headrest can be in either of the 2 lowest positions
  • Forward-facing the headrest should be positioned so its bottom is nearest to the red harness tabs
  • Booster mode – adjust headrest so vehicle’s shoulder belt crosses the center of the child’s collar bone – midway between shoulder and neck

   

“Footprint” of base:  The seat bases are shaped differently and this could make a big difference in certain installations.  The Triumph footprint is wider and has a square, boxy shape.  It measures 14″ across.  In contrast, the Sym65 base is contoured and more narrow near the forward-facing beltpath which could make a big difference in smaller vehicles or very narrow center seating positions when the seat is installed forward-facing.  The narrow end of the base measures 11″ across.

 

All in all, both the Symphony 65 and the Triumph offer some excellent features.  Like all other carseat models, there are pros and cons to each and it’s really up to the consumer to prioritize which features are most important for their particular situation.  As always, the best advice is to try (with the child in your vehicle) before you buy, whenever this is possible.  At the very least, keep the box and the receipt until you know it’s going to work out.

*Update:  There are two new models of Evenflo Symphony 65 currently available. The first is the Symphony DLX (aka Symphony e3). The DLX/e3 model has deeper head wings with e3 foam technology and SureLATCH connectors. The new Symphony LX model has the original shape headwings (so it’s basically the same size and shape as the Sym65 shown in our blog pictures) and it has push-on style LATCH connectors (Evenflo calls them “Quick Connectors”) instead of the self-ratcheting SureLATCH connectors.  All Symphony models going forward are rated to 40 lbs in the rear-facing position.

For more information on child passenger safety, please visit our forums at:  www.car-seat.org