Dyson’s weird new headphones have a built in air purifier

Dyson enters headphones in the most stylish way possible from Dyson: The Zone, a pair of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones with Built-in air purification technologyThanks to the weird looking magnetic face mask. It’s the strangest and most ambitious product the company has ever made.

Today’s announcement is just an initial reveal of the region’s headphones before the fall release date, and Dyson isn’t announcing specifics like price or specifications (including how much the headphones will weigh or how long the battery will last) at this time.

The aim of the district is to make urban life more comfortable by trying to mitigate air and noise pollution.

Half Air Purifier Zone does not reinvent the Dyson wheel. Instead, it minimizes the company’s existing air filtration technology into a unique form factor. The zone pulls air through each earbud using a pair of small compressors. The air is then filtered and directed through a “screen” (which sounds a bit weird) for the user to inhale – without most particulates and pollutants.

Despite its shape, the mask does not touch your face like a mask does. Instead, it sits in front of your face, creating a gap where a bubble of clean air can collect and breathe in. (The company offered a separate attachment that can be clipped in for instances where you might need a full connection fitting face mask, too.)

Dyson District on the company’s test stand, Frank.
Photo: Dyson

The mask attaches via a series of magnets, allowing it to be removed if you only want to use the headphones as headphones. It also has a flip-down hinges so that you can talk to people naturally without having to take off the entire device. The Zone filtration system also offers multiple settings for different voltage levels. For example, if you are climbing stairs or trying to board a bus, you will be breathing more heavily (and need more air) than if you were on a pleasant walk. There’s even an automated setup that uses accelerometers to automatically adjust airflow.

Dyson says the area can filter up to 99 percent of particulate pollution — although the filters are not reusable and will need to be replaced after about a year. (The company says the exact time will depend on how much air pollution you encounter and how active you are using headphones.)

The headphone part is fairly traditional, despite it being a new product category for Dyson. The company says its goal with The Zone was to create “loyal” versions of the musician’s original tracks. Noise cancellation is provided by a combination of passive cancellation from the universal design and active noise cancellation through a series of microphones.

There are three different noise canceling modes in the area. Isolation mode is active for ANC when the eyebrow is raised. Lowering an eyebrow automatically switches to conversation mode, which disables ANC so you can hear the person you’re talking to. There’s also Transparency mode, which filters out important sounds like car horns and sirens. Charging is via USB-C, and the headphones connect to the Dyson Link app, which can provide more detailed information about the air quality around you.

I was able to try an area prototype a few weeks ago, and it definitely seems to do what the company claims. I could feel the jets of air pumping in front of my face – even though I was indoors, so it was hard to tell just how pure it was.

ANC worked well too (but, again, a quiet hotel room wasn’t the best test scenario), and the sound quality of the music was good without the sexy bass (which arguably was the company’s goal).

On the other hand, the area headphones are also is very Significantly large and heavy. Dyson has done a great job cradling all this technology into a pair of headphones, but they’re still relatively larger and bulkier than a pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, for example. In addition, the hum of the compressors was still slightly audible when the engines were running at higher speeds and I wasn’t listening to music to drown out them, even though the noise was cancelled.

The Zone is definitely one of the most unique products from Dyson (or more likely any company) that we’ll see this year. There are still a lot of important details we don’t know – including the price and battery life. And while mask-wearing has largely normalized over the past couple of years, we’ll have to see if customers will be willing to embrace this very strange-looking product.

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