Dyson Zone is a personal air purifier with a pair of noise cancelling headphones attached. Or is it the other way around? I don’t know if the likes of Bose, Sony and Apple will be quaking in their boots, but then Zone is not a direct rival to them. It‘s something genuinely, joyfully, barkingly NEW. And I got to try it out! For a bit. Now I’ve got to try it out a bit more, AND take some pics. The Zone is still not in a completed state but the look is unlikely to change much.
The idea of Dyson Zone is that, even on the most polluted street, it allows you to breathe in fresh, pure air, whilst dressed as Bane. It's worth noting at this point that Zone is not intended to protect you from viruses and bacteria, which has stirred a certain amount of online controversy.
The reaction of most people to Zone seems to be 'OMG that looks crazy LOL!' and I have to say it is hard to argue with that point of view. However, having tried it, I can say that at the very least it is not as uncomfortable or claustrophobic as it looks in Dyson's vaguely dystopian promotional photos. Look how chilled I look!
In every way, except one, Dyson Zone is an upmarket pair of over-ear, noise cancelling headphones. A rival to Bose NC 700 or Sony WH1000Xm4. It just happens to be a rival with an air purifying visor snapped to the front. Made by a brand better known for vacuum cleaners, hairdryers and, to be fair, some of the best air purifiers that you DON’T strap to your head. best air purifiers
The only comparable product on the personal purifier side of things that I can think of is LG PuriCare. Announced last year, I don't think that ever got a release in the West. Puricare is an electronic, air purifying face mask but needless to say, it doesn‘t come attached to a pair of noise cancelling headphones. I bet LG‘s R&D guys are kicking themselves now!
Zone isn’t available until Autumn at the earliest, so the world has plenty of time to ready itself for the sight of cities being filled with people looking a bit like a Dyson-logoed Bane. With its mix of slabs of primary colour and metallic flourishes, Zone is clearly a Dyson product. It's just one that you happen to wear over your head and mouth.
I was lucky enough to have a demo of the product a few months back. That demo was firstly quite brief in terms of hands-on time and secondly conducted in an office but Zone certainly appears to work as both a wearable, personal air purifier and as a solid pair of noise cancelling headphones. Today I got to flex my Zone style again at Dyson HQ, and while I didn’t learn anything new, I did get to take the photos here.
The only questions are, does the world need a personal air purifier (that is also a pair of headphones), and if they do, will anyone wear something quite so futuristic looking?
This is a very disintinctively Dyson-styled pair of noise cancelling headphones. As you now know, into the headphones is integrated a superhero-like facial mask that purifies the air you breathe as you go about your daily business. It’s strikingly futuristic. I don't think the image above captures quite how unearthly it is… but this one below does.
The wearer below is Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer and also son of James Dyson. He's previously been best known for heading up the design and launch of Dyson's various lighting products but he is now evidently in charge of its brand new wearables arm as well. You have to say, he doesn’t exactly look thrilled to be wearing Zone, but maybe he’s going for a smouldering, ‘blue steel’ look.
What is the thinking behind this? Well, World Health Organisation figures suggest that 90% of people globally are routinely breathing air that is too polluted to be considered safe.
To address this, Dyson has spent six years developing Zone, with no fewer than 500 prototypes being developed before the final design was achieved. The various incarnations of the Zone were tested on a manikin called Frank, ‘fitted with medical-grade mechanical lungs and sensing equipment,’ to simulate a living, breathing human.
After all that effort, the way Zone works is relatively straightforward, although fiendishly clever. The ‘mask’ part of it does not in fact sit on your face but slightly in front of it – Dyson refers to it as a ‘non-contact visor’. As you breathe, air is pulled in with a tiny impeller motor in each earcup of the headphones, and cleaned via filters.
It's worth noting at this point that the Zone is designed to remove particles and gases – the full spec claims are at the bottom of the page. It's not intended to protect you from viruses and bacteria.
Two streams of purified air are then channelled to your nose and mouth via the mask – sorry, non-contact visor. You also have the option of using a detachable, fabric fask mask as well, if you prefer.
When I had my brief go on Zone, I found that it is way more comfortable than it looks. The way the removable visor clicks into place is very intuitive and it does indeed sit in front of your face rather than on it, so it is also not as claustrophobic as it looks either. In fact, as pairs of metallic plastic headphones with a large face mask clipped to the front go, it is incredibly comfortable and non-claustrophobic. But it does look bloody odd; there's just no way of getting past that.
Dyson told me that the amount of air placed in the space between your nose and mouth to breathe is surprisingly large, but I can confirm that it feels like breathing naturally, rather than having air blasted up your nostrils. There are several power settings available, with an Auto mode being the one most people will use for most purposes. There's also a more high-powered mode for when you are exercising or otherwise exerting yourself. It is pretty hard to picture people cycling, jogging or playing tennis in a Dyson Zone, but I guess we'll see.
As you can clearly see, Dyson Zone is also a pair of headphones. With a small motor whirring away in each ear, you can imagine that the active noise cancelling (ANC) needs to be highly impressive, and it I found that it is indeed pretty good. Minimal whine was audible from the air purifier's impellers when it was on max mode but in general it was impossible to hear – and I was trying it in a quiet room, with the music not on particularly loud.
As well as removing the motor sounds, Dyson says it also filters out the noises of the city, from speech to transport rumble. Again, from my brief hands-on, I can confirm that it was good at blocking out speech. I was in an office, so I can't tell you much more than that, but the ANC on premium headphones is usually very good these days and I am sure this will be no exception.
There is also, as is standard on headphones these days, a hear-through mode so you can converse without needing to remove your cans and, erm, air purifier mask thing. There is, however, the option to remove the visor entirely and use the Zone as headphones alone.
Dyson says it tested the audio in a similar way to the air purifier, using technology to ensure low distortion and a neutral frequency response, ‘to faithfully replicate music as the creator intended.’
This is the first time Dyson have made an audio device, although it has done a lot of work in managing and reducing the noise of its products. Inevitably, the audio produced by Zone is described as ‘pure’, just like the air your breathe through it.
This reveal was quite funny for me because the patent for this audio-cum-air-purfiying device had been kicking around for a while. And it just so happened that the mot recent thing I’d written about Dyson was “No way will they be releasing a pair of headphones with an airfilter and mask built in.” So that shows what I know.
The amount of work and research that has gone into Zone is really rather mind-boggling. There's no doubt that it's highly impressive. Dyson may have expanded its brief in recent years to include hair care products, and it made an abortive attempt to enter the electric car market a few years back. However, I don't think anyone was expecting it to launch a pair of headphones that sucks air in from the vicinity of your ears, filters out all the pollution and dust, and sprays it in front of your mouth and nose to breathe.
Will anyone willingly buy and wear Dyson Zone? It is by far the wackiest thing I’ve seen in years, but then think about when Airpods came out. Early reviews and consumer reaction to Apple’s buds was that they looked preposterous, but now everyone in the world wears them, all of the time. Perhaps by 2023, city streets really will throng with people dressed like a high-tech, Dyson-logoed Bane.
It’s unlikely we’ll see a more innovative product than Dyson Zone in 2022. Whether the brand is able to convince people to buy high-end headphones with a visor attached remains to be seen, but the concept is futuristic and fabulous.
Dyson Zone: release date and price
The official word is that 'Dyson Zone will be available online and in-store at Dyson Demo Stores and Dyson.co.uk from Autumn 2022. Timings will vary by geography.'
I don't have any confirmed pricing info, but they won't be cheap, put it that way. Think high-end headphones but with a miniature air purifier attached.