Dyson Zone Air-Purifying Headphones Review

Posted on 5th May, 2023

Dyson Zone Air-Purifying Headphones Review

Cheryl Tan enjoys the sound of music with mountain-fresh air to match, with this quirky new pair of air purifying headphones…

Dyson

Zone Air-Purifying Headphones

From S$1,249

When Dyson first announced its take on a product that was not only a pair of active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones, but one with a built-in air purification system, it was met with no small amount of incredulity. And while the new Zone headphones do look eye-catchingly odd, we actually came away quite impressed after testing them for a week or so. 

Priced at US$949 | S$1,249 (S$1,399 for Absolute+ package), the price tag is as astonishing as the product itself. Thankfully, the Dyson feels incredibly well-built and premium in hand, making one feel like they’ve somewhat got their money’s worth. For the Absolute+ package, you even get a hard-sided leather case that protects the headphones and can be used as a travel case when paired with the cord strap. In the box, there’s also a change of filters (Dyson recommends changing filters once a year), an in-flight adapter kit, a soft pouch and a cleaning brush. 

UP CLOSE

Putting all these accessories aside, let’s talk about the actual headphones themselves. Because of the materials used – aluminium mainly, for the earcups – it weighs a hefty 590g on my kitchen scale. This is heavier than the Apple AirPods Max, already weighty enough at around 390g. Thankfully, Dyson has done some clever engineering to try and make the bulk of the headphones a little more balanced and not so fatiguing.

On the top of the headband, there’s a plush cushion covered in a microfibre material that does an excellent job, with no pinching. There are two other cushion-looking parts on either side of the headband, but they’re actually the batteries – located inside the headband rather than the earcups themselves. This supposedly helps lighten the load on the head, and I do have to give Dyson props here because the Zone does feel very well-balanced when worn. 

As for the earpads, they’re very plush and use the same microfibre material as the headband cushion. Detachable via a twist-lock mechanism, each is easily replaceable. When removed, we can see the 40mm drivers inside, along with three microphone capsules facing in towards the ear, which are used for the ANC. This 40mm driver isn’t manufactured by Dyson, although it would be more of a surprise if the company did decide to take on the challenge, seeing as it has never ventured into the audio space before.

On the outside of the earcup is a cover made out of a thin sheet of aluminium, with perforations that lead to the filters and air purification system. Removing the metal cover, you’re greeted by the white electrostatic carbon filters as well as the motor in the middle that’s covered by a clear piece of plastic. This motor is essentially the heart of the air purifying system, drawing in air through the filters before passing it through to be delivered to the wearer. Because of that clear plastic covering, the motor can be seen whirring away when the system is active. Of course, the wearer won’t be able to see the blades spinning, but it’s a fun touch regardless.

Dyson says there’s also one microphone somewhere on the outside of the earcup on each side for ANC, along with one microphone for telephony and two for noise reduction. That means there’s a total of eleven microphones fitted, which is definitely more than most wireless headphones nowadays have. 

IN USE

Controls are exceedingly simple on the Dyson Zone. You get a single button on the left earcup that toggles between three fan speed settings for the motor as well as an auto mode, and a long press and hold handles power and pairing. On the right, you get a joystick button that handles play/pause, track skipping and volume controls.

The air purification part of the Dyson Zone is handled by the motors and filters in the earcups, and the visor is another important part of the setup. This plastic piece attaches magnetically to the headphones on either side, and there are only two positions it can be in – either up or down. Here’s a good time to note that Dyson does not recommend using this product if you have implanted medical devices, such as a pacemaker, due to the magnets.

When raised up and covering the wearer’s nose and mouth, the motors automatically start up and begin drawing in air. After the air is drawn through the filters, it gets sent to the middle of the visor. The result is a slight breeze of air right in front of your nose and mouth on the lowest setting, and a much stronger blast on the fastest setting. The purified air smells surprisingly clean, even when strong-smelling objects like mint leaves and candles are placed right in front of the visor.

This is not a product that replaces a face mask to prevent the spread of germs. The visor does not form a seal and is not supposed to even touch the wearer’s face, so there’s no protection against airborne viruses, hazardous chemical fumes and the like. At the start, people were excited that this seemed to be a replacement, but it simply is not. Instead, Dyson’s target audience is people living in polluted cities like Beijing in China.

Once you pull the visor down, the Zone automatically turns on transparency mode and pauses your music, and it’s just in time to hear the motors wind down. Even though the ANC does a decent job of dampening the sound of the motors, it’s still audible whether there’s music playing or not. With louder music, it’s reduced to a hum in the background that’s not very distracting, but if you typically listen to classical music or acoustic songs, it’s definitely present. If you turn up the speed to maximum, then it’s much louder and will certainly impact the music.

For other ambient sounds, the ANC works pretty well. Dyson did claim that the Zone headphones offer up to 38dB of noise cancellation. However, the MyDyson mobile companion app does offer visualisation and 7-day tracking of external versus internal sound levels, and I’ve never seen the difference go beyond a 12 to 15dB difference. Numbers notwithstanding, the performance is good enough to effectively dampen the noise when commuting and muffle background chatter and voices. 

Battery life is rated at a very decent 50 hours if you’re just listening to music, although that does drop to around four hours when you have the ANC and air purifying system working. This is enough for a commute in the city, but definitely not enough for most international aeroplane rides.

THE LISTENING

The Dyson Zone is a very impressive pair of headphones. Indeed, given that the company has no prior experience in this field, this is an excellent first attempt. The frequency range goes from 6Hz to 21kHz, so you do get a little extra oomph in the lows. Bass is punchy and provides plenty of kick, while still being well-controlled. The low-frequency rumble isn’t quite as deep, but I feel it’s decent enough. A track I typically use for testing bass performance is StreamBeats by Harris Heller’s Stonks, and the Zone definitely lived up to expectations here. On RSD’s Kingfisher and Knife Party’s Boss Mode, bass was hard-hitting while still remaining accurate. 

The mids are accurate and pleasant, with a subtle richness that plays nicely with acoustic songs. Vocals in this range also get a slight touch of warmth, with Ed Sheeran’s voice and guitar strums coming across beautifully in Shivers (Acoustic Version). Higher frequencies are handled well, with cymbals and string instruments sounding crisp and well-defined. There’s also plenty of energy in this range with a nice airiness. I was stunned by the emotions and clarity of Kelly Clarkson’s vocals in Because of You (Live), and I could audibly hear the strain in Jordan Dreyer’s voice in La Dispute’s Andria.

The Zone’s most impressive facet, however, is stereo imaging. I always enjoy using Girls Aloud’s Sound of the Underground for the parts of the song where you can hear the guitar twangs go from left to right. This pair of headphones handles it perfectly with a decently-sized soundstage that’s slightly deeper than it is wide. 

THE VERDICT

I am still not sure about the Dyson Zone. It’s definitely a good first attempt, and I applaud how well the company has done with no prior experience in making headphones. The audio quality is surprisingly good, but the air purification system isn’t ideal, let’s say – not least because it imparts an audible hum. Additionally, because of the weight, this pair of headphones isn’t particularly suited to mobile use; there’s definitely wearing fatigue after a couple of hours. 

Most importantly, the target audience for this product is a little too specific. You have to be living in a city with bad air pollution to want the air purifying feature; those with access to clean air don’t need the Zone’s main attraction. Most buyers would simply do better with something like Focal’s Bathys, which offers even better audio quality. All the same, there’s no denying that Dyson has created a highly interesting new design.

For more information visit Dyson

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    Cheryl Tan's avatar

    Cheryl Tan

    After diving down the custom IEMs rabbit hole since she was 18, Cheryl has embarked on a long journey trying out as many audio products as possible ever since. She’s still waiting for the day a company can create a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound just as good as wired earphones.

    Posted in:Headphones Noise Cancelling Over / On Ear Bluetooth / Wireless Headphones Lifestyle Technology
    Tags: dyson 

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