Dyson Zone: First review of the tech company’s controversial air-purifying headphones

It’s the most controversial Dyson product ever conceived, and Aussies are now one step closer to getting their hands on it with confirmation looming.

The Dyson Zone Noise Canceling Headphones claim to clean the air while you listen to music.

This is very good, but it is his appearance, with a thick Mad Max– ea narrow visor around the mouth and nose, which has seen critics “laugh, rivals” raise eyebrows and the product described as “strange” and even “absurd”.

News.com.au is one of the few media outlets able to test run the Dyson Zone ahead of its global launch. So what’s the truth about this divisive product: is it the next big thing in technology, or are the spikes confirmed in reality?

It actually works a lot better than you might think if you’re judging it by looks alone. And it offers a number of nifty features that might be compelling enough for you to consider shelling out $1400 when it debuts in Australia later this year.

Secret product not yet released

News.com.au had access to the Dyson Zone on the sidelines of CES, the world’s largest consumer technology show, held in Las Vegas.

So secret is the Dyson area that it was nowhere to be seen in the main CES conference room. Rather, it was squirreled away in a hotel suite overlooking Las Vegas casinos with first looks by strict invitation only. It’s usually movie stars making new movies that get this treatment, not some headphones.

There’s no doubt about it: the Dyson Zone is a visually confronting and chunky piece of equipment. It’s a love it or hate it vibe.

At almost 700 grams of plastic, it’s heavier than most large headphones and certainly more than a pair of Apple Air Pods which are only 4 grams.

Its earcups stick out, it has inflated pads to fit your head, and of course there’s the visor. But while the detachable mask adds to the visual weight of the Zone, it’s actually the lightest part.

Put on the Dyson zone and you’ll barely feel the weight, as is the padding and ergonomic design. Although you might not want to do vigorous exercise as it might have a habit of moving around.

“Clean Breathing Bubble”

Dyson’s senior director of design, David Hill, said that while it may seem like a product born out of the pandemic, development began six years ago and the main thrust was to enable people to protect themselves from daily pollution of the city that surrounds us.

In practice, their air filtration systems have as much to do with the headset as with the visor. Air is drawn through the ears by a compressor fan which is then sent through a series of filters. Dyson knows a thing or two about filters, as that’s what they use in all of these vacuum cleaners.

According to Dyson, these filters capture about 99 percent of particles down to 0.1 microns in size. If you’re not sure of your microns, that’s smaller than exhaust fumes, which are generally around 2.5 microns in size.

Dyson also believes it can filter out the H1N1 flu virus, but makes no claims about Covid-19.

The cleaned air is then sent to the visor which lifts it with a cool breeze to the nose and mouth.

Air flow can be adjusted using a button on an ear piece. The feeling is like a cool breeze and it is really quite refreshing. Although in a cold Vegas storm, it was almost a little spicy.

Here’s one of the surprises of the Zone: It doesn’t actually fit your face.

Instead, “It creates a clean breathing bubble,” Hill said.

When asked if the lack of flush fitting could mean all the fancy filtration work could be undone, Mr Hill said that the filtered air escaping around the edges was actually pushing outside air away .

The visor isn’t even meant to be used all the time.

“You might not use the visor outside and then stick it on when you get off the subway or subway and then take it off again,” Hill told news.com.au.

“It’s providing flexibility of protection.”

In fact, without a visor, the Zone simply looks like high-end headphones.

The visor snaps into place

The visor attaches using magnets. You push it into the headset and it snaps into place. It’s super easy.

You can lower the visor if you need to have a short conversation with someone, such as ordering a coffee. This automatically turns off the airflow and any music. Put it back in place and the jet will turn on again.

Another notable thing: The visor looks solid, but it’s incredibly flexible and almost crush-proof. You can bend it, fold it and – said Dyson – step on it and it will stay intact.

A tap on the headphones changes the sound profile from ‘isolation’ – just you in a bubble of your own – to ‘transparent’ where outside sounds can creep in, like when you’re cruising down multi-lane roads in Nevada.

Dyson has said it designed the compressor fan to minimize noise. Also, a lot of effort has gone into making the area noise-cancelled. The product includes no less than 11 microphones, two of which are dedicated to canceling the noise of the filtration system. The microphones scan surrounding sounds 384,000 times per second and Dyson has said it can reduce background noise by up to 38 decibels. And not just white noise like airplane engines, but also intermittent noise like screeching tires.

The fan is noticeable when it is on

But since the fan is right next to the ear, there’s still a slight hum that gets louder the more you turn up the flow.

In the interior it is noticeable; outdoors, with the noise of the Las Vegas strip behind, it was much less and with the music blasting, maybe it wasn’t there.

Dyson isn’t known for audio; But Hill insisted the British company had worked on sound quality for years and it was now best in class. It claims to go beyond the audible to reproduce frequencies from 6Hz to 21kHz, “making sure every note or word is heard.”

And there’s no doubt about it: in the quick test conducted by news.com.au, the sound quality was first rate.

The zone should last 50 hours between charges,

Dyson is confident there’s a market for bulbous headphones with plastic mask attachments that make you look a bit like Bane from The dark Knight Rises.

There has to be, because at the moment the unique nature of the product means there’s no way to make it smaller. All these filters, mics, compressors and whatnot is why the Zone is such a beast. If Dyson wanted to make just a standard pair of headphones, they would have been much smaller.

Great asking price

While an Australian release date and price has not been released, it will go on sale in the US in March for $949. That converts to about $1400.

Tech website The Verge said the price was “more outrageous than the device itself.”

If your main concern is listening to crisp, clear music without choking on traffic fumes, there are cheaper options. A pair of high-end Bang and Olufsen phones from JB HiFi will set you back $849, while a 10-pack of N95 masks from Chemist Warehouse is $20. That’s still about $500 less than the Zone. But then, where’s the fun in that?

The Dyson Zone is a quality piece of equipment, with great sounds and some interesting features. And the design is as eye-opening in the flesh as it is in pictures.

This time next year we should know if the Zone was an aesthetic step too far, or if, like Bluetooth headphones, it’s a bit of technology we’ll all get used to surprisingly quickly.

Originally posted as Dyson Zone: First look at the tech company’s controversial air-purifying headphones

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