Dyson Zone: First impressions

An unlikely pairing made real.

by Justin Choo

When you think about it, the Dyson Zone is an ambitious attempt to neutralise two sources of pollution in one sitting: it’s essentially a pair of noise-cancelling headphones with an air purifier attachment.

Or is it the other way around?

Never mind the fact that the Zone looks like something that’s a visor short of a MOSPEADA riding suit helmet or the lower half of Thomas Bangalter’s helmet; the Dyson Zone has earned the right to look the way it wants. To put it another way, you have to be bonkers to design a product with such unlikely bedfellows as the key features. Or perhaps, you have to be Dyson.

Same same but different.

The way we see it, the Zone is simply a tech flex: hey guys, we can miniaturise our motor tech to this degree, and we’re going to put it on headphones that we designed for the fun of it.

I can’t understate the fact that the air purifier is the most clever bit of design in this ensemble. So much so, that the headphone almost feels secondary.

For starters, the air purifier doesn’t wrap around your face to create a seal, which is a relief–forget those hard-to-breathe N95 masks or portable air purifiers that can’t direct air towards your nose quickly enough. In our short time with the Dyson Zone, we found that breathing was surprisingly effortless, and it seemed to be rather good at preventing particles from reaching our nostrils, as demonstrated by a simple spray of a lavender scent right in front of us.

Dyson says the electrostatic filters are able to capture 99 per cent of particle pollution as small as 0.1 microns. In addition, the carbon filters that are enriched with K-Carbon and potassium will take care of acidic gases–nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide–commonly found in city pollution.

The engineering is far more complex than it lets on.

It may be marketed as a pair of headphones, but make no mistake, the air purification unit is perhaps the most important feature of the Zone. Weight of the headphones notwithstanding, it is perhaps the most comfortable mask or purifier mask that you can buy right now.

The Zone may be fairly large and imposing but Dyson also designed it such that it won’t get in the way of regular activities. You can lower the chin guard, which also turns off the purifier. Raise it up to your face and the purifier resumes operation. If there’s no need for you to filter the air, you can easily remove the unit altogether. Reattaching it is just as simple as well.

The Zone is also significant for the fact that these headphones mark the company’s first foray into the world of audio. Dyson makes it a point to mention that they do not rely on a golden listener to tune the sound and opted to take a science-based approach. The Zone isn’t radically different from other headphones and is built around a 40mm neodymium driver, and the entire system from driver to housing is designed around minimising distortion.

For noise cancelling, eight of the 11 built-in microphones monitor surrounding noise 384,000 times a second, generating up to 38 dB of noise cancellation from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. The headphones will equalise the output with intelligent signal processing 48,000 times a second, which, together with the noise cancellation, neutralises harmonic distortion to inaudible levels across the full frequency range (0.08% @ 94 dB @1 kHz).

You wouldn’t have known that the motor resides here.

In practice, the sound is decent enough, and Dyson has given it a battery that’s large enough for up to 50 hours of listening. However, when you turn on the air purifier, the battery life throttles down to four hours–that’s enough for commutes and a bit of grocery shopping. Recharging an entire battery fully takes three hours. Of course, we’d like a full day of purifier use, but to afford a headphone like this, you’d likely be spending very little time on the move. Work your grindset, goddammit.

For a company doing audio for the first time ‘from scratch’ and on its own terms, the Zone is a decent effort though nothing outstanding for a pair of headphones in this price range; in this respect, it’s done itself no favours by having two expensive devices marketed as one. As such, it’s impossible to do a like-for-like comparison; if the only thing that matters is sound, then you have plenty of alternatives for the same money.

But if what you’re looking for is a decent enough pair of headphones with an effective ANC AND an awesome air purifier (oddly specific, but not judging), there’s only one for you–the Dyson Zone is perhaps the most comfortable air purifier cum ANC headphones you can wear today.

The Dyson Zone is priced at $1,249 and $1,399 for the Absolute+ package. Pricey for a headphone, sure, but you get way more ‘flex value’ than flagship smartphones, how about that?

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