When Tom’s Guide took over first look at the Dyson area, it was not hard not to be embarrassed by the amazing combination of wireless overhead headphones and air purifier. The zone looks like props from a cyberpunk-style movie – it won’t look out of place in Blade Runner 2049 or Changed carbon – makes it more like a concept than what Dyson actually released.
At that time we had limited access to the Zone. But thanks to a trip to Dyson headquarters in the peaceful countryside of Wiltshire I had to try the Zone and ask a lot of questions.
I’m short, I’m both impressed and still a little confused. Let me explain.
There is no doubt that the Dyson area is a pretty impressive piece of technology. The proposed levels of filtration mean that you will breathe clean air in all areas except the most polluted.
And although Dyson hasn’t explicitly tested the Covid-19 Filtration Zone, it can stop particles the same size as the virus, so fears that the mask and filtration system will explode with virus-lead air in the face seem overwhelmed. In fact, the Zone doesn’t blow air into the user’s face; rather it creates a bubble – or zone, if you will – of the purified air around the user’s nose and mouth.
Trying it for myself, it was amazingly nice. I felt fresh air, but never felt it overwhelm my respiratory system. My only remark is that the air has this district filtered smell and taste, a bit like the air that is pumped around commercial aircraft; hardly unpleasant, but far from the freshness of the village breeze.
It was interesting how the fastening of the mask / visor could be easily attached or re-attached with magnets. Or how it can be lowered under the chin. It still looks a little weird, but I can’t deny that there’s well-thought-out functionality here.
Speaking of which, the Dyson area feels pretty comfortable to wear – I didn’t wear it for long, so I can’t confirm how good it will feel after a day of use – and it seems to be due to smart technique.
The battery packs needed to power the headset are separated and balanced at the top left and right sides of the rim, while the two motors in each ear used to power the filtration system are the smallest created by Dyson to date. The result is a headset that feels light and balanced enough for something full of technology; I would say the headphones felt relatively comfortable Sony WH-1000XM3 consignment notes.
The sound quality and active noise reduction are also impressive. I would need to listen to my own music before I can make an opinion, but Dyson provides a flat equalizer that it focuses on, with good sound clarity. I would have preferred more acoustic speakers, but that could be with some equalizer adjustments.
The ANC was pretty bright, seemingly blocking most of the chatter and noise in the full briefing room I was in. The use of nine microphones in the headset undoubtedly helps here.
So Dyson’s isolated area is really impressive. But I still don’t understand.
Dyson Zone: for whom?
Asked who would buy it, the Dyson engineer who led the presentation and other communications experts said it would be for people concerned about the impact of pollution on their bodies and people living in crowded urban areas. That’s all well and good, but I’m not sure there are so many people around, at least not in the West.
I live in London, a city almost unknown for its clean air, and I see very few people who wear any facials when they are in areas like Oxford Circus where particulate matter is a problem. And when I’m in New York, where Tom’s Guide is headquartered, I haven’t seen many people take steps to avoid the environmental pollution that coughs up crowded Manhattan, surrounded by skyscrapers.
Even during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, when wearing masks was mandatory in the UK and US, there was still resistance to wearing them. There is no shortage of videos in which Americans argue about wearing a mask when entering a store. And I’ve seen a lot of people who seemed to refuse to wear a mask (or didn’t wear it properly) when they were in the London Underground, despite the messages, signs and announcements that were needed.
So I find it hard to see that many people choose a combination of headset and air filter that looks whimsical at best. Dyson also did not mention prices for the area, but given Sony WH-1000XM5 costs $ 399 / £ 379 and AirPods Max have a price of $ 549 / £ 549 without the extra filter kit, I don’t see the area being smaller.
And I believe that the combination of price and unusual design and concept will not allow us to see that the Zone will be admired by many people. This was the total number of fellow journalists I spoke to, as well as friends and family to whom I showed the headset.
In defense of Dyson’s zone
However, there are a few but. The first was what Dyson repeated several times: The Zone is a first-generation device, and iterative models could see it turn into something more sophisticated and ergonomic.
Second, the Zone can be seen as a form of technological fashion device. I wouldn’t be surprised if a celebrity or so-called influencer took it and others followed them; Dyson eventually makes the court influential. Remember the louver-style sunglasses that Kanye wore? Well, it doesn’t take long for others to buy them, although the trend has since dried up. And in a world where some people are looking for the next big thing to stand out from the crowd, Dyson’s area may just be a ticket.
The emphasis on the environment and pollution is also restored. So I wouldn’t be completely surprised if young people, probably with a decent disposable income, adopted the zone not only for their own health but also as a way to raise awareness of humanity’s impact on the environment.
Finally, I see the Dyson area or a reworked version of it used in commercial and industrial situations where workers want to filter out harmful pollutants and particles but also have the means to easily communicate with others or hear clear instructions in noisy environments thanks to powerful ANC.
Ultimately, I feel that the Dyson area is either ahead of its time, or trying to solve a problem that requires action on a macro scale rather than isolating people from air pollution. I see the Zone coming to market as Dyson seems determined to do so, but in its current form I don’t see it earning a place on our best headphones list or sell in large quantities.
I hope I am wrong in something, because the techniques and technologies used in the Zone are very impressive, and I feel that they should not be ignored. So I’ll keep an eye on the horizon of what Dyson can do next.