Dyson’s Air-Purifying Headphones may be the worst tech product in 2022

Jake Dyson unveils the new Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones, Photo credit: Matt Alexander/PA wire

I have and love my Dyson handstick vacuum cleaner, but their latest product, Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones, is Dyson’s first step into wearable technology. While I’m generally supportive of tech companies trying new products, this one looks ridiculous and I see no way this is successful.

With the backdrop of Covid and poor air quality as a result of global emissions, I understand the need or desire to create a mobile, wearable air purifying device has some value. We’ve seen Razer attempt this with the Zephyr and that sold out quickly, but what Dyson attempts to do is merge this with a set of headphones.

Generally creating device convergence is something we embrace, but when the resulting product makes you look weird when you wear it, any advantage of convergence is lost.

The Dyson Zone is a set of noise-cancelling, high fidelity over-ear headphones which simultaneously deliver immersive sound to the ears, and purified airflow to the nose and mouth.

“Air pollution is a global problem – it affects us everywhere we go. In our homes, at school, at work and as we travel, whether on foot, on a bike or by public or private transport. The Dyson Zone™ purifies the air you breathe on the move. And unlike face masks, it delivers a plume of fresh air without touching your face, using high-performance filters and two miniaturised air pumps. After six years in development, we’re excited to deliver pure air and pure audio, anywhere.”

Jake Dyson, Chief Engineer

6 years & 500 prototypes

This is not something Dyson dreamed up overnight, apparently, the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones took more than 500 prototypes before reaching the final design. This makes the final choice of design even harder to swallow.

To filter the air, Dyson is well-positioned, leaning on their 30 years of expertise in airflow, filtration and motors technologies and deep understanding of indoor and outdoor air quality. The compressors in each earcup draw air through the dual-layer filters and project two streams of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth, channelled through the non-contact visor.

Sculpted returns on the visor ensure purified airflow is kept near to the nose and mouth and diluted as little as possible by external crosswinds. The Dyson Zone delivers rich, immersive audio and relief from unwanted city noise thanks to advanced active noise cancelling (ANC), low distortion and a neutral frequency response, to faithfully replicate music or audio as the creator intended.

Originally a snorkel-like clean air mouthpiece paired with a backpack to hold the motor and inner workings, the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones evolved dramatically over its six years in development.

More than 500 prototypes saw one motor initially placed at the nape become two compressors, one in each ear-cup and the evolution of the snorkel mouthpiece into an effective, contact-free visor that delivers clean air without full-face contact – a brand-new clean air delivery mechanism. Developing a non-contact solution was a must for Dyson engineers, to avoid the discomfort and irritation often associated with full-contact alternatives.

The visor, therefore, was a critical element.

The airflow pathways and visor design are central to delivering pure air. The geometries of the visor and the visor returns, alongside the central mesh that diffuses the two jets of airflow, ensure that the purified air exiting the filters is effectively delivered to the nose and mouth in crosswinds, and for the wearer’s specific facial shape. Going beyond existing testing methods, Dyson engineers use a breathing manikin fitted with medical-grade mechanical lungs and sensing equipment, which ‘inhales’ pollution replicating human breathing patterns in a controlled chamber.

They then measure the pollution level within the nose and throat to determine the filtration efficacy of those particles which would otherwise end up in Frank’s artificial lung. Precision-engineered compressors within the earcups draw air through the dual-layer filters, intelligently designed to fit within the considerable space constraints of a headphone.

The negatively charged electrostatic filter media captures ultrafine particles such as allergens, and particles from sources such as brake dust, industry combustion and construction whilst a potassium-enriched carbon layer captures city gas pollutants like NO2 and SO2. The compressor channels the purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth via the contact-free visor, formed with flexible returns that to channel the flow of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth.

A scientific approach

A first foray into the world of audio, Dyson engineers took a scientific approach, choosing not to rely on a ‘golden listener’ approach that many others do. Dyson’s team of audio engineers and acousticians sought to engineer excellent audio led by metrics, backed up with extensive listening trials. The result: pure, rich audio and advanced noise cancellation.

Despite the space constraints inherent with a wearable device, Dyson engineers developed a high performing neodymium electroacoustic system within each earcup. A wide frequency response, precise left-right balance and distortion significantly below what can be detected by the human ear, offer a faithful reproduction as the musicians or creators intended.

Through solving a problem of Dyson’s own creation, the engineers have developed an advanced noise cancellation system. Together, the device’s passive attenuation and the ANC, with its unique array of microphones, reduce unwanted environmental noise and motor tones to provide advanced noise cancellation at home, at work and on-the-go. Large, angled ear cushions mould around the listener’s ear, with a foam density and headband clamp force engineered specifically for both comfort and optimal noise reduction.

Jake Dyson unveils the new Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones, Photo credit: Matt Alexander/PA wire

Engineered for comfort

Every head on the planet is unique. As Dyson’s first wearable, Dyson engineers had to think about comfort in a new way. Detailed research into head and face geometries meant engineers could measure how the Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones would sit on and perform on different heads– informing the clamp force of the headband, the geometry and materials of the visor, the adjustability of the machine and much more.

Taking inspiration from the shape and design of a horse’s saddle, the Dyson Zone is engineered to distribute weight over the sides of the head, rather than on the top. A saddle typically curves over the horse’s spine distributing the load through contact with the areas left and right of the backbone – a format used for the central cushion on the headband.

The development of the ear cushions is important for three reasons: comfort, on-head stability and passive attenuation. Foam is an obvious choice for ear cushions but Dyson engineers dug deep into the make-up of different foams to choose the most suitable material based on density, rate of compression and spring-back rate – all of which change the way pressure translates onto the head.

When choosing the optimal foam for the ear and headband cushions, it was important to balance the comfort it provides, its stability when moulded to the ear, but critically the acoustic benefit it provides.

Moulding around the ear increases the size of the contact points providing better sealing – and inhibiting additional urban noise entering the ear. The cushion is purposefully flatter than conventional ear cushions for both attenuation and comfort, and the cushions are angled in line with the angle of the ear on the head for optimal comfort.

The Dyson Zone air-purifying headphones full product specification and further details on local availability will be announced in the coming months.

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Jason Cartwright
Jason Cartwrighthttp://techau.com.au/author/jason/
Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

1 COMMENT

  1. I guess that if I was commuting on the London Underground daily I’d very seriously consider these. (Numerous tests have shown the air quality in the underground is absolutely terrible, thanks to friction brakes on the electric trains, with often extreme levels of pm 2.5 particles, including plenty of asbestos.)

    However I do NOT commute on a train in the underground, so it won’t be on my shopping list.

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