Dyson’s strange new headphones include an air purifier

The Dyson Zone, which has been in the works for six years, is slated to be unveiled this fall. It combines noise-canceling headphones and a personal air filter into a single unit.

Dyson's strange new headphones include an air purifier
The Dyson Zone is set to ship this fall.

Dyson’s latest Zone air-purifying headset appears to be something out of a nightmarish sci-fi film. But, according to Dyson, it is a real item that will be available for purchase this fall.

Dyson, best known for its high-end vacuum cleaners, is making its first step into wearable electronics. The Zone is a pair of noise-canceling, over-ear headphones that “concurrently transmit immersive sound to the ears and filtered airflow to the nose and mouth,” addressing “urban challenges of air quality and noise pollution.” There is no word on pricing yet, but it seems safe to think that these will be more expensive than your regular premium noise-canceling headphones from Bose and Sony, and possibly even more expensive than Apple’s AirPods Max headphones.

For years, there have been reports that Dyson was working on such a device. Bloomberg reported in 2018 that Dyson was working on an air purifier-headphone combo, and Dyson registered for a patent for a new set of headphones with a built-in air filter in 2020.

“Air pollution is a global issue that impacts us everywhere we go. In our homes, at school, at work, and wherever we go, whether by foot, bike, or public or private transportation, “says Jake Dyson, chief engineer (and son of the company’s namesake). “The Dyson Zone filters the air you breathe while you’re on the go. Unlike face masks, it uses high-performance filters and two miniature air pumps to produce a plume of fresh air without touching your face. We’re thrilled to be able to give clean air and pure audio anyplace after six years of work.”

Dyson says it created 500 prototypes over the course of the Zone's six-year development.
Dyson says it created 500 prototypes over the course of the Zone’s six-year development.

The air-filtration component, according to Dyson, is a “non-contact” device, which means it does not touch your face like a mask, but rather sits just in front of it. Dyson states, “The compressors in each ear cup suck air through the dual-layer filters and project two streams of cleaned air to the wearer’s nose and mouth, routed through the non-contact visor.” “Sculpted returns on the visor keep pure airflow close to the nose and mouth and as diluted by exterior crosswinds as feasible.”

Dyson claims that creating a non-contact solution was critical to avoiding the “discomfort and irritation associated with full-contact alternatives.” No one appears to mind wearing filt-plugs in their noses to pull moisture from exhaled air back into their stillsuits for later drinking in the latest Dune film. In the actual world, though, people can have strong feelings about wearing anything on their faces, especially masks.

Dyson claims that its engineers tested the Zone using a breathing mannequin dubbed Frank, which was outfitted with medical-grade artificial lungs and monitoring equipment that matched human breathing patterns in a controlled chamber. This sensor device assessed pollution levels in the nose and calculated “the filtration effectiveness of those particles, which would otherwise end up in Frank’s prosthetic lung.” According to a Dyson representative, the mannequin was dubbed Frank because it reminded the engineers of Frankenstein.

Frank, the mannequin.
Frank, the mannequin.

Razer introduced its cyberpunk-inspired Zephyr Pro air-purifier mask earlier this year. Initially, the manufacturer claimed to employ N95-grade air filters but had to rescind that claim due to negative press. In terms of air filtration, Dyson does not mention any medical-mask grades but does state that electrostatic filtration captures 99 percent of particle pollution as small as 0.1 microns, such as dust, pollen, and bacteria, and that a potassium-enriched carbon filter captures city gases like NO2, SO2, and O3. The cost of replacing that filter is unknown, but filters for its full-size air purifiers range from $70-$80, depending on the model.

Dyson promises a premium listening experience with an accurate, neutral audiophile sound profile and unique sophisticated noise cancellation. The headphones are also designed with comfort in mind, though Dyson hasn’t revealed how much they weigh or how long their battery life is with air filtration and noise-canceling turned on. Dyson claims that the two motors in each ear cup are the smallest in any of its machines to date. The headphones connect through Bluetooth (no word on which version number) and can also be used to make phone calls.

We’ll share more information about how the headphones function and how they feel to wear around New York City’s streets and subway system as soon as we get our hands on a review sample later this year. We anticipate some amusing reactions from our fellow tourists.

Dyson’s major features for the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones

A revolutionary new format for on-the-go cleaned air and high-fidelity audio.
Electrostatic filtration collects 99 percent of particles as small as 0.1 microns in size, including dust, pollen, and germs.
NO2, SO2, and O3 are captured using a potassium-enriched carbon filter.

Contact-free air transport The visor directs two streams of filtered air to the nose and mouth and was designed primarily for use outdoors and in crosswinds.

Two motors, the smallest in any Dyson machine to date, reside in each ear cup and serve as the “heart” of the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones.

Advanced ANC and a high-performance neodymium electroacoustic system create rich, immersive audio that faithfully reproduces music as intended by the artist or maker.

The Dyson Zone project was supported by 15 undergraduate students from the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, who worked on areas as diverse as acoustics development, electronics, and airflow systems.
There are three ANC modes: Isolation, conversation, and transparency
Isolation mode: Maximum active noise cancellation.

Conversation mode: When you dip the visor, the filtration is turned off automatically to save battery life and the conversation is amplified.

This fall, shipping will begin.

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