The past couple of years have been strange, but not so strange that I'd have found myself trying out a pair of headphones with a built-in air purifier. But that's exactly what the new Dyson Zone offers. And no this isn't an early April Fool's, but it may be an innovation too far.
The Dyson Zone is as crazy as it looks. It blends a sturdy pair of headphones combined with a vizor that crosses over the mouth. This unusual combination means the air you breathe will be purified while you’re on the move, with the added luxury of blocking out the noise of the real world.
I got to pop on a pair of Dyson Zone headphones myself, and, well, I have some thoughts.
Dyson Zone: Availability
The Dyson Zone will be coming to UK Dyson stores and dyson.co.uk from Fall 2022. During the press briefing, the company did not announce a price, nor when they would be available in other parts of the world.
Dyson Zone: Appearance
Nothing can quite describe my initial shock upon first seeing the Dyson Zone. I really didn’t know what to expect when Dyson said it’s something new, but this definitely wasn’t even in the top 10. There was a profound silence as I soaked it in.
It looks like a pair of substantial headphones in iconic Dyson colors, complete with a purple headband and protruding grey earcups. Then there’s the unorthodox addition of a vizor which crosses over the nose and mouth and attaches to each cup. It really does look like something from the future, and I couldn’t make head or tail over what to think of it.
At first, I thought Dyson had gone crazy and taken things a step too far. Innovation for innovation’s sake perhaps. But then I realized how refreshing it was to actually see a new type of product on the market, fit to serve a whole new purpose. After all, didn’t we think the first pair of headphones looked crazy, and did we not judge the first air purifier as a bit pointless? In any case, I was keen to see what the Dyson Zone could do.
Dyson Zone: Design
The visor of the Dyson Zone is detachable and is held in place via magnets. It sits over your nose and mouth, but does not make direct contact. I was handed the headphones separately at first and found them easy to adjust from the band and comfortable on my ears. The cups are made from microsuede rather than leather.
I cautiously held the visor over my face towards the cups and it quickly snapped into place. You can control the Dyson Zone via the settings on-board the back of each cup or the Dyson app on your smartphone. There are three airflow speeds to choose from as well as an auto mode which self-adjusts. Three active noise cancellation modes are also available — Isolation, Conversation and Transparency — which varies the level of noise cancellation.
If you want to have a conversation with someone, you can also drop the visor down which will automatically pause the music. Fitting it back over the mouth then starts up the air purification and music once again. You can use both functions at the same time, or you can detach the visor and just use Dyson Zone as a pair of headphones. There’s also a community face covering provided, should you want a sealed mask, plus an FFP2 face covering attachment.
In terms of battery life, the time you will get from a full charge depends on the settings you’re using. The Dyson Zone should last 40+ hours on audio mode, 4.5+ hours with low airflow mode selected, and 1.5+ hours on medium/high airflow mode with music playing. Dyson has yet to officially confirm these figures, but they were approximated during the unveiling.
I was admittedly hoping for a bit longer on the highest airflow setting, but you are unlikely to use it at this speed for such a prolonged time. We don't yet know how long it takes to charge, but we do know it comes with a USB-C charging port, and you could leave it plugged in for long-haul journeys, such as on a plane.
There were a couple of potential problems I spotted when trying on this unusual design. Firstly, the controls felt very sluggish — it took a few seconds for the headphones to register and keep up with my airflow selection. The weight also felt pretty heavy, not so much in the visor, more so in the headphones. I think this would take some getting used to.
Lastly, I had a horrible moment where I forgot about the detachable visor, and as I started to remove the headphones, it fell off and bounced on the floor. I held my breath as I picked it up. No damage and the team didn’t seem at all worried. In fact, one demonstrated its durability by bending it out of shape. While this was a huge relief, it did raise concerns about how easily this could happen while you’re on the move. What if it fell into the train tracks for instance?
Other than that the design was certainly impressive — it felt premium and substantial. It’s supplied with a microfiber sleeve for protecting the visor and a neat Prussian Blue case for holding everything as well.
Dyson Zone: Air purification
The Dyson Zone purifies air by sucking it in through the cups, passing it through dual-layer filters (including a carbon layer), and then supplying it to the nose and mouth directly via the visor. The removable filters are the smallest I’ve seen and sit within each cup. Unfortunately, these miniature filters aren’t washable, so you will need to replace them when the time comes. The app will give you a handy warning when it’s time to do this. Filter lifetime will depend on use and location, but should last around a year with regular use.
I can’t judge the performance of the air purifier without data on the CADR, but I can say it supplied a good flow of air. There are three speeds to choose from to suit your level of breathing, as well as the auto setting which was mentioned earlier. The Dyson Zone uses on-board accelerometers to register your breathing pattern and adjusts the airflow automatically on this setting.
My only concern when using this function is how dry the air might feel on the mouth and throat after extended use. You don’t usually breathe air directly from an air purifier — it combines with the atmosphere first, including any moisture in the air. By breathing in more concentrated purified air, this may dry out your throat and make it uncomfortable to use.
It does come with a mesh panel on the visor though to create a zone of clean air, rather than a solid jet of air, which should help. Plus, it’s still likely much better for your system than breathing in some of the heavy pollutants you will find in cities.
You can see the difference the Dyson Zone has made via the app, much in the same way you can with the Dyson air purifiers. Charts are displayed to show the levels of pollutants as well as any noise you’ve encountered too.
Dyson Zone: Audio
As over-ear headphones, the Dyson Zone offers three ANC modes to suit different circumstances. Isolation mode puts the noise cancellation into full effect, and eradicates the noise of the outside world as much as possible. Conversation mode will activate automatically when you drop the vizor — the music will stop, and you will hear conversation much more easily in this setting. Transparency mode, on the other hand, amplifies the noise of the outside world when you need it, such as listening out for sirens.
When I tried on the Dyson Zone, the noise cancellation was indeed effective; I could only just hear the hum of others speaking, even without music playing. The music also managed to cover up the sound of the air coming out of the vizor on its highest setting. The sound was crisp and clear; it’s safe to say these are a decent pair of headphones.
Dyson Zone: Outlook
It all comes down to this — will people be wearing the Dyson Zone on their daily commute? Perhaps. Will people think they’re crazy? Definitely at first. This wearable air purifier is a bold fashion statement to say the least, and it’s going to take confidence to be the first to walk down a street wearing it. But, considering we all listen to music as we travel anyway, is it really that far of a stretch?
Air purification has become more popular than ever since the pandemic too, so you could argue Dyson’s timing with this product couldn’t be better. There’s no indication of the price yet though, and you can bet it’s not going to be cheap. Only time will tell how this will fall on the market.
The Dyson Zone will be available to buy in UK Dyson stores and dyson.co.uk from Fall 2022. Its release date will vary by geography and will be confirmed in the coming months.