Dyson Zone Review: Air


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Apr 07, 2023

Dyson Zone Review: Air

Chris Haslam If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a

Chris Haslam

If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more. Please also consider subscribing to WIRED


As you may recall from our reveal story in March 2022, the Dyson Zone is the brand's first foray into audio, and the world's only active noise-canceling, air-purifying headphones. And if the truth be known, we never thought this bizarre chrome-effect plastic Ant Man mask would make it to market.

But today, for a mere £750, or £820 for the Absolute+ premium package ($949 and $1,000 in the US), you too can look like a Fisher Price Batman villain. Or maybe you’re thinking it's more Lando Calrisian, or, if you’re of a certain vintage, you’ve had flashbacks to Woody Allen in the 1973 sci-fi comedy Sleeper.

What is the Dyson Zone like to wear, though? Do they help keep your lungs clean? Does it sound good, and can the active noise cancellation (ANC) successfully muffle the hoots of derision from strangers in the street? Taking one for the team, I endeavored to find out.

The Zone's air visor attaches magnetically.

To anyone unfamiliar with the concept of the Dyson Zone, it is a head-mounted, fan-powered personal air purifier with headphones. It features miniaturized components similar in concept to those used on Dyson's Cool and Hot range of home air purifiers.

These two tiny ear-mounted, precision-engineered compressors draw air through dual-layer filters. The negatively charged electrostatic filters apparently capture 99 percent of particle pollution down to 0.1 microns, while a potassium-enriched carbon layer grabs gas pollutants like NO2 and SO2 . After that, it simply squirts a smooth stream of "clean" air across the wearer's mouth and nose.

The Zone has four air-purification settings, toggled by the small button on the left earcup, or you can leave it on Auto, which uses onboard accelerometers to judge how fast you need your clean air delivered.

Turning to the "headphones" part, the ANC employed uses 11 microphones, and Dyson says this can reduce external volume by up to 38 dB (the same volume as a decent dishwasher). They come with a 50-hour battery life for audio (it crashes to four hours if you’re wanting continuous clean air), have dual-microphone beamforming and noise-suppression tech for clear voice calls, and the specification sheet also points to ultra-low distortion from the neodymium electroacoustic drivers, with signal processing 48,000 times per second and a full frequency range (6 Hz to 21 kHz) EQ.

In addition to the Bluetooth 5.0 headphones, noise canceling, and air purifying, the Dyson app uses the onboard sensor to monitor real-time air quality (NO2) and noise levels, and allows you to adjust noise cancellation, tweak EQ, and see all manner of data-rich graphs.

We asked people to try the Dyson Zone and tell us what they thought.

According to WHO data, 99 percent of the global population breathes air that exceeds their guideline limits on pollution. So virtually everyone needs to breathe cleaner air, with an estimated 7 million people killed every year from air pollution.

Unsurprisingly this data is heavily skewed toward low- and middle-income countries, with China and India both experiencing over 1.2 million air-pollution-related deaths each year. Even in the UK, air pollution is the biggest environmental threat to health, with up to 36,000 deaths each year attributed to long-term exposure to poor air quality.

Dyson Zone

Rating: 4/10

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Undoing the atmospheric damage caused by centuries of unchecked industrialization was never going to be easy, but, thanks to Dyson, at least those who can afford it can now enjoy clean air as they walk among us.

Dyson sent me the (even) more expensive Zone Absolute+, and I was duly impressed by just how luxurious everything was. Components are safely stored in velvet pouches, and the company has gone all-out with a huge designer binocular-style hard carry-case, complete with on-trend climbing rope shoulder strap.

The case needs to be huge, however, because the Dyson Zones are enormous. They’re significantly heavier than every other pair of headphones in my office, which include the stay-at-home Philips Fidelio X3, lavish Focal Utopia, Apple AirPods Max, and Bowers & Wilkins PX8.

On my scales, they weigh 648 grams (1.4 pounds), which, for wireless headphones, is astonishingly heavy. The Apple AirPods Max were widely criticized for being too heavy, and they weigh just 384 grams—nearly half that of the Zones.

Setup is simple, mind you. I had no issues synching with my iPhone, and the onscreen instructions were comprehensive. Fitting the replaceable filters into the earcups took just a couple of seconds. The laser-cut earcups are flawless, and, as with all Dyson products, every aspect has been carefully considered.

There's a single button on the left ear for adjusting the speed of the fans and powering on/off, and a neat toggle switch on the right with comprehensive audio controls. A double tap on either ear controls the ANC.

Battery life is rated at 50 hours (just four if using audio and air purifying, though), but be warned, despite Dyson having a sleep mode when not in use, I found it to be irritatingly unreliable, and while the music stops when you remove them, they often remained connected, or powered on, so the battery drained quickly.

I even asked Dyson about this, and they suggested turning them off completely to conserve battery. This is a common feature on premium wireless headphones, and it's a real minus not to have it here. To prove my point, I just reached for my pair of AirPods Max, and, despite not having used them for weeks, they powered on instantly.

Chris Haslam braves the London Underground (strange looks from commuters just out of shot.)

I’ve been putting off going outside wearing the Dyson Zone. I’ve spent hours at my desk (I’m freelance, so I work alone) wearing them, but catching my reflection in screens or mirrors confirms what I knew from first donning them: They’re hugely embarrassing to wear. I’m no fashionista, but my acute unease about having to be seen in public wearing these can't have been high on Dyson's prelaunch checklist.

Dyson Zone

Rating: 4/10

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As a first step into the Zone, I start by wearing the headphones out and about without the clip-on mouthpiece. They’re big, yet extremely comfortable, and undeniably heavy. I can feel the weight of them bounce a little as I walk, but it isn't so noticeable as to distract from the quality of the noise canceling, which is—and there's no other word for it—phenomenal. Double-tap either earcup and you hear a whooomp sound as a huge amount of background noise is instantly eliminated. Combined with the passive noise isolation from the plush ear pads, and in this respect the Zones are up there with the very best.

As standalone headphones, they’re good. Dyson's algorithms have done a solid job creating an engaging profile with plenty of scale and performance across the genres. But they’re not as musical as I would want from a pair of seriously premium headphones. There's a lack of something in the playback; they’re stifled, almost playing it safe.

I’ve yet to experience any goosebump moments listening to them, which is often the sign of a great pair of headphones—and for the money charged, they need to be superb. Instead, they’re good, and enjoyable enough, but I’m not swapping my B&W Px8 for them anytime soon.

Would you wear these? Our reviewer didn't enjoy the experience.

I have meetings in central London, so will need to travel into Oxford Circus using the notoriously loud and smelly Victoria Line Underground. The time has come to face my fears, and see if the Dyson Zone actually works while I count the number of sideways glances, stifled giggles, and hilarious comments I expect to receive.

Once sitting on the Tube, however, with headphones and visor in place, I’m largely ignored by the commuters around me. There are a few double-takes and a couple of smirks, but none of the pointing and laughing I expected. But this is central London, and we ignore each other.

Dyson Zone

Rating: 4/10

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The ANC works extremely well, and, while the headphones aren't the loudest I’ve ever used, there's a good balance between noise canceling, sound isolation, and music to drown out the din on one of the noisiest sections of the entire Underground system. With the visor in position, however, the cool breeze flowing across my mouth really is rather pleasant.

If I pause my music, I am vaguely aware of the fans whirring in my ears, but it is nowhere near as noticeable, and unacceptable, as it is in the office. This is a relief, but there's no question that from an audio perspective, the fan's motor does cloud the audio quality. Is it a compromise you might be willing to make for a blast of fresh air?

The fan noise is considerably louder if you happen to be sitting next to someone wearing the Dyson Zone. No, it's not as irritating as someone playing music through a phone speaker, or, for that matter, standard headphone sound leakage—but it's there. There's something uncomfortably selfish about an expensive personal air purifier that actually produces noise pollution.

As mentioned, having cool air blown across my nose and mouth (especially on public transport) is a rather nice sensation. Of the four levels, the most powerful was my go-to, despite the added battery drain, because at lower speeds I could barely feel the breeze. Auto mode adjusts according to air quality around me, but it never clicked out of the lowest speed, despite being in some pretty grotty conditions.

Which brings us to the question: How do you know if they’re working? The app has plenty of data for you to dive into, with regional air-quality reports and real-time NO2 monitoring, with a traffic-light system showing how bad the air quality is. But the real-time readout only kicks into gear when you’re wearing the headphones, and, bafflingly, there are no poor air quality alerts, which feels like a missed opportunity.

This is especially noteworthy as Dyson has admitted that it (possibly after the industry-wide bemusement following the original product reveal?) sees the Zone as a "headphone first" product, with the air purifier bit as a nice-to-have extra. Regardless, being told when to wear the visor should definitely be on the features list.

The filters last a whole year, and you’re reminded to buy more via the app, but when it comes to just how well the negatively charged electrostatic filters and potassium-enriched carbon layer work, we have to take Dyson's word for it.

It's also worth noting that when standing at Oxford Circus in central London—one of the UK's most polluted streets that has broken legal limits of air quality—the app never registered more than the "green" base rate of 0.5. I dread to think how bad the air quality would need to be to get into the red rate.

If somehow you couldn't tell from this review so far, let me be clear: I did not enjoy my time in public testing the Dyson Zone. They’re oversized, overpriced, and over-the-top. Maybe one day we will all be wearing personal air purifiers? Covid did teach us how quickly what "normal" looks like can change. But, for now, I can't look past them as an elitist symbol of late-stage capitalism. Quite frankly, I’m amazed they exist.

But that doesn't mean they’re not an engineering marvel, and they could well find themselves an audience, and you can't but applaud Dyson's ability to squeeze all that technology into a pair of headphones.

Indeed, if Dyson feels inclined, it could design a superb pair of headphones, with best-in-class noise canceling, impressive talk-through transparency, solid audio quality, and head-turning looks. Get rid of the filters, fans, and visor—which would significantly reduce the overall size, weight, and price—and it would have a hit on its hands. Asking the public to drop up to $1,000 for them, with an ostentatious air-purifying visor as a bonus feature, is farcical.

At nearly twice the cost of AirPods Max, however much Dyson wants to spin this product as being "headphones first," the Zone's raison d'être is to provide portable clean air while we walk about our polluted planet. But it's purer air for the well-off, for those who likely live in better, cleaner environments already, who want protection when they venture into nasty urban places. And that's an uncomfortable thought. A thought that's almost as troubling as wearing the Zones themselves.

Dyson Zone

Rating: 4/10

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