Gadgets

Dyson Zone preview: We try the wacky, air-purifying headphones

There are a lot of things that spring to mind when you first see the Dyson Zone, the company’s air-purifying, noise-cancelling headphones.

The concept looks ridiculous. It also sounds crazy. But that’s just the initial perspective. Is it actually futuristic and sensible – inevitable, even

We tried out a prototype model behind closed doors at Dyson HQ in Malmesbury to find out what the Zone is really like, and whether we think it could catch on.
Surprisingly, the Zone isn’t as bonkers as we thought when we first saw the release and accompanying pictures.

Back then, we imagined air jets firing across your face as if you were standing in front of one of the company’s driers. However, the overall effect is much more subtle than that, and we suspect it will be refined over time if there’s enough interest.

We’re still very much in the prototype stage here, after all, with no price or release date yet announced.

So, while it certainly won’t be for everyone, we can definitely see some in urban areas wearing the Zone in order to combat pollution.
The Dyson Zone headphones follow the standard design for a pair of headphones, as you might expect.

There are two very large earcups, a well-padded headband that hides the battery within its cushions and various touch-sensitive buttons to let you control the ANC options.
It’s the moment you magnetically attach the mouthguard to the headphones that things start to get a bit more interesting.

It is this visor, hovering mere centimetres from your face, that catches the air pumped in through two hidden motors sitting in the earcups that allow you to breathe clean air. The motors, which are miniaturised versions of what’s found in the company’s vacuum cleaners, sit behind two filters and purify the air as it’s pulled into the system.

In theory, it’s all very straightforward. However, this has taken more than five years to develop, with over 500 prototypes in that time leading to the one we eventually tested. The design itself, even without the visor attached, is polarising. Since they’re housing speaker drivers, as well as motors and filters, the earcups protrude quite far from the side of your head.

This is a big pair of headphones, and, once in the accompanying case, are actually worthy of their own bag. This isn’t a pair, then, that you’ll be able to slip into your regular backpack.
It’s not just the look, either – all the parts and batteries quickly weigh up. Given the task at hand, Dyson has done the best it can, but the Zone is by no means lightweight. And while that padded headband helps a lot, we would say they still feel heavier than the Apple AirPods Max, and certainly heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM4.

Dyson has yet to share the official weight. This is a prototype, after all, and therefore still subject to change. In fact, it’s noticeably different to the official press photos released back in March.
Despite the look and the weight, the fit is incredibly comfortable. It’s tight enough to create a good seal, but it isn’t overly compressing. Once on, you connect the visor magnetically to the earcups, and it can be easily moved away from your face without falling off, allowing you to talk, eat, or drink.

Of course, it’s still big enough for you to always be aware of it, but it’s not as oppressive as we were expecting. It’s also not as uncomfortable as wearing a face mask – partly because it never actually touches your face and merely hovers in front of it.

Snapping it into place automatically turns on the active noise control, too, playing music if you’re listening to something as the air purification begins. The whole movement is subtle. There are no jets of air blasting you as if you’re in a wind tunnel, but you do instantly notice something is different.

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Ajmal Solangi is a Tech writer specializing in the intersection of tech and reviews. He likes tech news, mobile unboxing, reviews, gadgets, and more.

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