With the Dyson Zone, the vacuum cleaner specialist from Great Britain ventures into consumer electronics for the first time – with a curious mixture of headphones and air purifier. The over-ear combines Active Noise Cancelling, Bluetooth transmission and Purifier function with a spacey design that could almost come from “The Mandalorian” from the Disney+ streaming channel. And we could already try out whether this curious mixture works.
Once upon a time in a world where hand dryers made a lot of wind and, more importantly, noise, but didn’t serve their purpose. Most manufacturers couldn’t even get a decent sensor to activate it. Then came James Dyson in 2008 with his revolutionary Airblade. The rest is history. Suction bags – once a lucrative business for classic vacuum cleaner manufacturers – and diminishing suction power when the dust container was full were just as much history by then. With his Cyclone technology, derived from suction systems in sawmills, the Englishman had already revolutionized the way vacuum cleaners work today six years earlier. He made his name synonymous with it, for incredible gadgets that really work perfectly. Who thought the curling iron Dyson Airwrap with coanda effect like the Avrocar, a flying saucer from the late 1940s. be the latest craze, he probably has not heard of the Dyson Zone.
The brand’s first headphones don’t just make music. Countless products from other manufacturers can already do this. The over-ear from Dyson comes up with the secondary virtues of an air purifier. Sounds whacky, doesn’t it? It is. After the first, disbelieving frown, anyone who thinks about how this project can even be implemented in line with the market will not be able to stop marveling. Finally, some by no means trivial questions about the size, weight and noise development of the fan need to be clarified. You can be as impressed as you like by the hand dryers or cordless vacuums of the inventor brand, which became a kind of Apple among household appliances. But how Dyson’s latest ambitious venture is supposed to succeed somehow initially aroused the author’s sense of a marketing gimmick.
But let’s take a closer look at the solutions to the conflicting goals mentioned in the previous section.
Size: Yes, there are significantly smaller and lighter headphones, even in the over-ears range. Just take the recently reviewed Valco VMK 25. The fin also has a folding mechanism, which facilitates transport in a backpack or travel bag. But there are also behemoths like the Sennheiser HD 800 or the electrostatic Stax SR-09. However, and this makes a significant difference, they are made for home use by hi-fi fans in their quiet chamber. The Dyson Zone, on the other hand, with its Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) and air purifier, is literally drawn to the street or one floor lower into the metropolitan subway shafts polluted by fine dust. We’ll have to see how the Zone performs in practice and how it is received by its target group of young, fashion-conscious and well-heeled subway commuters. (We’ll now disregard domestic self-protection scenarios against chain smokers who turn up the TV extra loud during embarrassing C-list celebrity couples shows.)
Heavy equipment, but feels light on your head
Weight: It is still too early for a practical assessment in everyday use. And thanks to the combination of diesel driving bans and particulate filters from Mann und Hummel on both sides of the five-lane B14, Stuttgart’s Neckar sector no longer lives up to its nationwide reputation as a particulate hell. But after the first encounter with the new king of headphones, we can at least attest: With its soft velours fabric cushions on the ear cups and headband, the Zone fits like a glove and conveys a pleasant wearing comfort.
The Dyson headset does not look as heavy on the head as its massive appearance would suggest. The visor, which transports the air sucked in by both earpieces to the mouth and nose without body contact, is of no consequence at all. In addition, the plastic part can be removed in no time at all. It is automatically placed in the right place by magnets alone and can be attached again at the drop of a hat without the need for a mirror. Only the transport of the half-moon shaped plastic part after removal should be a problem zone for zone users. But if Dyson’s calculation works out and urban normads disguise themselves like clone warriors on the way to their climate-neutral co-working space, the question shouldn’t even arise.
Shielding service on tap
Intermediate question: How, pray tell, am I supposed to communicate with others in the event of an emergency with the Over Ear, which is already heavily shielded from the outside world with active noise cancellation turned off? For once, Dyson did not have to reinvent the wheel. Its first headphones, like most other noise-canceling headphones, feature a transparency mode that picks up environmental noise and speech via external microphones and streams it into the closed ear capsules in a well-dosed manner. The corresponding transparency mode is automatically activated during setup. If you don’t want to hermetically shield yourself from your environment with a fabulous almost 40 dB of attenuation due to 180 degrees of anti-noise rotated in the signal phase to match your own high-purity air supply, you have to activate ANC by tapping on the touch surface of the left ear cup. It sounds simple, but many of our colleagues from other Hi-Fi magazines only managed it after typing several times. Let’s see if Dyson finds a solution for this trivial, but for users crucial problem until the sales launch in June?
Let’s move on to the third fundamental question: how do you feel about noise, Dyson? To do this, it must be remembered that the zone must necessarily suck air through small electric turbines and direct it through ducts to the mouth and nose via the removable visor. The solution with a circular particulate filter reminiscent of old carburetor engines and a second stage with an electrostatic carbon filter commands respect. The inventor company placed everything together with the necessary compressor behind the drivers in each of the two XXL earcups.
We can only answer the related questions about battery life or runtime extension by limiting it to pure music listening without gadgets like air purification or ANC after the detailed review. But what can also be said about the Dyson Zone after the short first encounter: Yes, you can hear that you have the first Turbo headphones on your ears when the via MyDyson app three-stage adjustable air supply is activated. With the audio samples of the smartphones paired with the Zone via Bluetooth in Dyson’s quick check, however, it was not distracting. The pop and rock tunes masked the twin turbos. We will only be able to assess what classical music lovers might think about it in a detailed practical review soon.
The Dyson Zone raises many questions
After the short technical excursion, the two decisive user questions remain open: How does Dyson’s first Over Ear sound and how does the fresh breeze feel? To keep up the suspense, the second, simpler question should be answered first: Yes, there is something about the fresh wind around the nose. The Zone sparks a gentle breeze that is less distracting or artificial than you might think. In Germany, the air may be thick for many climate activists. But anyone who has ever experienced the murky smog in Beijing, reminiscent of a sandstorm, can certainly speak of complaining at a high level. Thus, even with the highly innovative lifestyle product conceived during the pandemic, Dyson sees the biggest markets in emerging markets China and India. This is plausible, but it remains to be seen how the product will be received in view of the expected price of around 900 Euros.
Does Dyson have a plan B? According to first listening impressions, this could well be the case. Even if it must seem almost like an insult to the master of misappropriated, applied aerodynamics: The British could also move something (air) as a pure headphone designer in the trivial sense. So, if the high-purity Over Ear doesn’t achieve the desired effect, Dyson could compete with Sennheiser, Sony, and the likes of hi-fi earpiece manufacturers.
Highest purity of sound and breathing air
The scientific approach to development of the acoustic design is also aimed in the same direction. Instead of leaving the sound tuning to the “golden ears” of a sound guru, Dyson held regular headphone concerts with 500 test listeners and thus collected 5,400 hours of listening impressions. With this empirical basis in mind and the physical framework of transmitting the audible frequency range between 20 Hz and 20 kHz as completely as possible (Dyson specifies 6 Hz-21 kHz in its data), they tailored a sound tuning that should do without artificial effects.
Yes, and at first glance, this has been achieved extremely convincingly. Even though the Zone simultaneously shows off particularly fresh but clear highs in line with the increased fresh air supply, the first Dyson of its kind immediately plays in a target corridor that could be called audiophile with a clear conscience. However, he particularly shone in the bass with various pop and rock examples. On the one hand, the Zone dives deep into the lowest octaves. On the other hand, the bass remains very undistorted and crisply dry at high levels. Speaking of which, the Dyson app for the Zone not only records ambient air pollution levels, but also hearing exposure through listening levels. Thus, the certainly healthiest headphones in the world can take care of its wearers all around.
Dyson Zone: Conclusion of the quick check
With the Zone, Dyson combines one of its core areas, air purification, with a new field of activity, acoustics. Since air also has to be moved in a controlled manner here, we can certainly expect a lot more from the inventive Brits in this field in the future. The first impressions of the cross between purifier and over-ear headphones wears better than expected, sounds very impressive and rich and also awakens in our editorial team desire for the extensive review, which will soon appear on STEREO GUIDE.