Dyson’s strange new headphones have an air filter built in
The Zone, a pair of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones with , owing to a strange-looking magnetic face shield, is first foray into headphones. It’s the oddest and most ambitious product the company has ever created.
Dyson isn’t disclosing precise specifics like price or specifications (such how much the headphones weigh or how long the battery will last) at this time, and today’s presentation is only an early glimpse of the Zone headphones ahead of a fall release date.
The Zone’s purpose is to make city living more comfortable by attempting to reduce both air and noise pollution.
Dyson doesn’t reinvent the wheel with the air purification component of the Zone. Instead, it shrinks the company’s existing air filtration technology into a new shape. Using a pair of small compressors, the Zone draws air into each earpiece. The air is then filtered and fed into the (admittedly odd-looking) “visor” for the user to breathe in – free of most particles and contaminants.
Despite its appearance, the visor does not make contact with your face in the same way as a mask would. Instead, it sits in front of your face, providing a space through which a bubble of pure air can collect and be inhaled. (The company also demonstrated an additional clip-on attachment that may be used in situations where a full-contact face mask is required.)
The visor attaches to the headphones with a series of magnets, although it can be removed if you only want to use them as headphones. It also features hinges that allow you to talk normally with others without having to remove the entire gear. The filtration mechanism in the Zone also has many settings for various levels of exertion. If you’re sprinting up a flight of stairs or rushing to catch a bus, for example, you’ll breathe faster (and require more air) than if you’re taking a leisurely stroll. There’s even an automated setting that adjusts the airflow based on accelerometers.
The Zone, according to , can filter out up to 99 percent of particle pollution, however the filters aren’t reusable and must be updated every year or so. (The actual amount of time depends on how much air pollution you encounter and how actively you use the headphones, according to the firm.)
Despite being a new product category for Dyson, the headphone section is a little more typical. The purpose of the Zone, according to the business, was to make “true” replicas of a musician’s original songs. Noise cancellation is achieved by combining passive noise cancellation from the overall architecture with active noise cancellation via a network of microphones.
On the Zone, noise canceling is available in three separate modes. When the face visor is raised in isolation mode, ANC is activated. When you lower the visor, you enter conversation mode, which disables ANC so you can hear the person you’re speaking with. A transparency option is also available, which filters out important sounds such as car horns and sirens. The headphones connect to a Dyson Link app, which can provide more extensive information on the air quality around you. Charging is done via USB-C, and the headphones connect to a Link app, which can provide more detailed information on the air quality around you.
I had the opportunity to test a prototype of the Zone a few weeks ago, and it appears to perform exactly what the manufacturer claims. I could feel the air being blasted in front of my face, though I couldn’t tell how much cleaner it was because I was indoors.
The audio quality for music was good without particularly dramatic bass (which, arguably, was the company’s intention), and ANC worked well (although, again, a quiet hotel room isn’t the ideal test scenario), and ANC worked well (but, again, a quiet hotel room isn’t the best test scenario).
The Zone headphones, on the other hand, are quite large and heavy. Dyson has done a great job of fitting all of this technology into a pair of headphones, but they’re still larger and bulkier than a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, for example. Even with the noise suppression, the humming of the compressors was still audible while the motors were running at higher speeds and I wasn’t listening to music to drown it out.
The Zone is unquestionably one of the most distinctive (or, for that matter, any other) items we’ll see this year. We still don’t know a lot of important factors, such as the pricing and battery life. And, while mask-wearing has been more common in recent years, we’ll have to wait and see if customers are willing to accept this strange-looking product.