July 18, 2024


Technological development

Look like Bane, spend like Batman with $949 headphones • The Register

If you’ve ever thought “I wish my incredibly expensive Bluetooth headphones were double the price and included a detachable mask that shot purified air at my face,” Dyson has the product for you.

The Dyson Zone headphones come with a removable “visor” that uses a pair of compressors and electrostatic filters to “project purified air at the wearer’s nose and mouth.” Don’t go thinking this is actually a protective device, though – the visor doesn’t make contact with the wearer’s face, meaning there’s no seal protecting you from contaminated cross-breezes.

Instead, Dyson sees the headphones and their air filtration system as something designed “to tackle the dual challenges of city noise and air pollution” – if you have a spare $949 lying around, that is.

The British biz, which moved its headquarters to Singapore a few years ago, is known primarily for vacuum cleaners and bladeless fans and other stuff that moves air around. It’s made its first foray into audio products with the Zone, which gets its filtration power from a pair of 9,750rpm compressors in the ear cups that are paired with negatively-charged electrostatic filters.

Without knowing how loud the dual compressors in the ear cups are, it’s tough to say how much work the Zone’s noise canceling system will be doing just to reduce the hum generated by the headphones themselves.

The only potential clue comes in the form of Dyson’s word about how many microphones the Zone has: eleven, eight of which are used to capture and reduce up to 38 decibels of environmental noise. Dyson nominates a single microphone as being used for phone calls, leaving two unaccounted for – possibly used solely to eliminate compressor noise.

Dyson claims the filters in the Zone last for 12 months and can pick up 99 percent of particles as small as 0.1 microns2, as well as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and ozone. Dyson Zones will have an associated smartphone app for controlling airflow speed, equalizer and noise cancellation features, as well as showing local air quality.

Oh, and they produce sound, too

Dyson took six years and 500 prototypes to arrive at the Zone’s final design. Initial prototypes included “a snorkel-like clean air mouthpiece paired with a backpack to hold the motor and inner workings,” the announcement revealed.

Much of that time seems to have been spent in an effort by Dyson teams around the world to integrate the visor and solve “a problem of Dyson’s own creation” – namely noise that required “an advanced noise cancellation system.”

Headphones-wise, the set seems to be at least comparable to devices like Apple’s AirPods Max – a similarly designed pair of over-the-ear headphones. Like the AirPods Max, not too much audio specification is provided for the Zone, aside from promises that it can reproduce frequencies from 6Hz to 12kHz and promises of “absolute clarity” across sound ranges.

As for battery life, the Zone apparently gets up to 50 hours of listening time. With the air purifier running that drops to a mere four hours – and possibly less if the air purifier is turned up to a higher setting.

Then there’s the issue of weight. The Dyson Zone, with its visor attached, weighs in at 670 grams, or around a pound and a half. The AirPods Max, on the other hand, weigh just 384 grams, or a little under one pound. Even with the visor removed, the Zone still weighs around 595 grams – a heftyish thing to carry on your head.

If you’re still keen to get a dose of clean air from your audio device – as much as you can expect from a forced-air visor that doesn’t attach to your face – you’ll have to put in a bit of leg work to get a pair once they’re available next year.

The Dyson Zone will go on sale in China in January 2023, while customers in the US, UK, Hong Kong and Singapore will have to wait until March. Even at that point, Dyson isn’t making it easy to get: At least for US customers, the Zone will only be available at launch for preorder by appointment, with stores and the internet getting stock “shortly after.” ®