Vacuum cleaners, bladeless fans and hair styling gadgets are what most people associate with Dyson. But the UK-headquartered company quietly spent the last six years developing its first-ever headphones. Designed as an urban companion, it is a device that besides acting as a regular pair of headphones also protects you from air pollution. The new Dyson Zone was launched earlier this year and we were fortunate to go hands-on with it a few weeks ago.
The first thing that caught our attention was its size – it’s large and conspicuous, and the visor will only serve to attract more attention wherever you go. But if you’re unafraid of curious glances, its size no longer remains the slightest matter of contention. It helps that it is generously padded along the earcups and headband to compensate for its size and also its weight of approximately 600 grams.
Dyson says that it has used the same carbon filter technology in the headphones as you’d find in its air purifiers. It claims that the electrostatic filters capture 99 per cent of particle pollution while the carbon filters intercept acidic gases and smells.
A small button on one of the earcups activates the headphone’s air purifying function. The compressors, one in each earcup, draw air through the perforated metal cap over the earcup and feeds that through the dual-layer filters. That stream of clean air is then channelled through the visor, which does not make contact with your face, but rests over your nose and mouth. The visor is magnetically attached to the headphones and can be easily lowered when you want to talk. Lowering it will automatically pause the audio, noise cancellation and airflow functions. The visor can also be fully detached to allow the Zone to be used as any other pair of headphones.
While the air purifying function is a nifty one, these are after all a pair of headphones and so the ultimate criteria on which it should be judged is its audio ability – and this is where the device excels. The wireless headphones have an excellent and all-encompassing audio quality with deep bass and soaring highs, thanks to its 40mm drivers. There’s a small joystick button built into the back of the earcup to start and pause the audio, and which can be pushed up or down to control the volume, or right to fast forward and left to rewind.
This is a noise-cancelling device and does a stellar job on that front – Dyson says that the Zone provides 38 dB of noise cancellation. There are 11 microphones built into it (as compared to nine that you’d find on Apple’s AirPods Max), with eight of them dedicated solely to the active noise cancelling function. Double-tap the earcup to activate or deactivate the noise-cancelling mode. A transparency mode will allow external noise to filter in – a necessary feature when you’re in a space, such as an intersection, that requires you to pay attention and have your wits about you.
The Zone has lithium-ion batteries that last for 50 hours on a single charge if you’re using only the audio function. But if you’ve got all the bells and whistles of this gadget including its noise cancelling, audio, and air purification functions working simultaneously, the battery would last you for roughly an hour-and-a-half – enough for your commute to the office or back home. The device charges from 0 to 100 per cent in around three hours.
The MyDyson app controls the airflow speed, noise-cancellation mode and the audio preference across three modes: Dyson EQ, Bass Boost and Neutral. While there is little to fault the headphones as far as its audio capability, noise-cancelling ability or air purifying credentials are concerned, a potential deterrent could be its hefty price tag of nearly US$1,000. So, is it worth it? We’d resort to another question to answer that: Have you ever come across a pair of high-end headphones that simultaneously purifies the air you breathe?