I tried Zone, Dyson’s futuristic air-purifying headphones
In a move that will no doubt surprise many, Dyson has been working on a pair of over-ear headphones for six years.
Yes, you read that right, headphones.
Of course, these aren’t just any old earbuds, with Dyson using its premium air-purifying technology to bring outdoor air purification to users for the very first time. So it’s Dyson’s first foray into the world of audio and wearables, and it’s with a product that’s the first of its kind. Classic Dyson, am I right?
While it’s easy to dismiss it as an ‘out there’ idea or even a gimmick, I was very impressed with the hardware on offer after using it in a hands-on, behind-closed-doors session at Dyson headquarters. .
Dyson technology, but miniature
Dubbed the Dyson Zone, the one-of-a-kind air-purifying headphones seek to tackle rising levels of noise and pollution, especially in big cities where up to 97% of the population live with unhealthy levels of air pollution, with an intuitive design packed full of Dyson firsts.
The idea is simple; there are compressors and filters built into each earcup that actively draw in and filter air, and that air is then routed out of the canisters to your face via a visor that snaps onto the earcups using magnets .
Of course, the execution was anything but simple, with Dyson noting that a lot R&D has been devoted to in-can technology, particularly with respect to air purification and compressors. In fact, the cans have been in active development for over 6 years, with some notable changes between an early prototype I used in March and the near-complete version I used in early December.
Lewis Painter / Caster
The filters used in the cans use a new manufacturing process that uses electrostatic filter media to negatively charge the dual-layer filters, actively drawing particles and other airborne pollutants to the filters. Dyson claims this can filter out 99% of particles in the air down to 0.1 microns, and this includes harmful gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone at ground level, no filtered with traditional particulate filters.
It should also prevent the wearer from catching COVID-19 if particles are present in the air. Dyson hasn’t tested it specifically with the virus itself, but has tested it with the almost identical H1N1 virus with excellent results.
The supercharger’s job is to suck in air, and it’s described as the company’s smallest and most finely balanced motor. Despite their small dimensions, the compressors – one in each earcup – can draw in an impressive 2.5L of air per second at its maximum of 9,750 rpm.
But not only are they small and powerful, they must also be almost silent in operation, being so close to the ears.
Dyson has achieved this with a balanced impeller (the opposite of a propeller) that reduces movement, and the system is suspended in the ear cups – rather than attached directly – to keep vibrations to a minimum.
While I could still hear the faint hum of the spinning motors when carrying the cans with no audio, it was instantly drowned out when the music was playing.
Tom William Chapman / Dyson
Breathe more comfortably
All that nice, purified air is delivered to your face via Dyson’s touchless Clean Air Delivery visor – eye-catching, right? The visor looks a bit strange when worn, and this will probably be the most important factor that potential buyers will have to overcome, but Dyson is convinced that attitudes are changing with the requirement for masks in recent years .
However, it looks like a tiny much like Bane.
Visuals aside, the visor works great, channeling air from the cans towards your face with a mesh lid so it doesn’t blow air directly into your nose and mouth. It would be uncomfortable, says Dyson. Instead, the mesh cover creates a “plume” of clean air around the mouth and nose without the need to come into direct contact with the skin.
The amount of air needed will likely vary depending on what you’re doing, and Dyson has included sensors that will detect what’s going on and adjust the flow between low, medium and high depending on your air intake. It should be noted, however, that it is not designed for exercise, and it will likely be a disappointment for runners and cyclists.
If you’re sitting on the tube, the airflow will be slower than if you’re walking down Oxford Street, partly to optimize battery life, which ranges from 1.5 hours to 4 .5 hours with air purification on.
The visor may seem stiff, but it’s surprisingly flexible and, using magnets to snap into place, it’s easy to put on and take off at any time. It even has a talk mode, activated by pulling the visor from your mouth. This will not only turn off the fans to save battery while you chat, but it will also activate a Transparency mode to make it easier to hear your surroundings.
As well as being an outdoor air purification system, the Dyson Zone is a pair of headphones – and very premium headphones, with all the bells and whistles of flagship wireless headphones.
The Zone headphones feature 40mm, 16 ohm neodymium drivers – developed in-house by Dyson, of course – with an impressive 6Hz to 21kHz range, resulting in an immersive audio experience that the company described as an audio production level. Although my working time was limited, I was impressed with crisp vocals that are unaffected by the deep, powerful bass on offer.
That bass can be taken further by activating the Bass Boost EQ, available through the Dyson Zone app, allowing for exceptional bass that doesn’t muddy the rest of the frequency range.
What’s more impressive is the active noise cancellation. The Zone headphones pack no less than 11 mics measuring environmental, motor, and in-ear noise, with power supplies connected to an ANC system that cancels low-pitched noises like tube rumble. Two of them double as beamforming mics, allowing you to take calls using the headset as well, with an additional mic in the visor for better grip.
While that’s quite impressive, the Zone also offers impressive passive attenuation, which cancels high-pitched noises like the click-clack of a keyboard – an area where most ANC headphones tend to fall out.
That’s an incredible environmental softening of over 30dB on average, which really does have a noticeable effect on what you can pick up – although I’d be interested to see how that fares in the particularly noisy London Underground , rather than in a silent meeting rooms.
There are a few caveats; noise cancellation isn’t adjustable like Sony’s popular WH-1000XM4, and while an equalizer is available via the Dyson Link app, you’re limited to three preset modes. But, given the overall experience on offer, these seem negligible.
If you just want to use the Zone as a regular headset, the battery life stretches up to 50 hours, but once the headset needs a recharge it will take almost three hours to go from full dish.
Add other high-end features, including real-time air quality monitoring, ventilation from previous trips, and a fancy hard case for storage, and you have an intriguing prospect for those aware of the problem. increasing air and noise pollution. .
Tom William Chapman / Dyson
Dyson confirmed in December that the headphones will retail from £749 in the UK, with US prices still to be confirmed. The company has also confirmed that the headphones will go on sale in 2023, first in China in January, followed by the US, UK and other regions in March 2023. The headphones are exceptionally expensive, given the hugely popular Sony WH-1000XM5 headphones come in at half price and even Apple’s AirPods Max are £200 less, but it will no doubt be a tempting option for some.
Still, if you’re serious about reducing your exposure to polluted air and noise on your daily commute, the Dyson Zone is your only real choice – for now, anyway.
We discussed the Dyson Zone concept and Lewis’ practical thoughts on a recent episode of our weekly Fast Charge podcast, which you can watch below:
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