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Sound and Vision: The Dyson Zone is a wacky piece of tech I can’t get my head around

OPINION: Dyson announced a pair of headphones, and everyone thought it must have been a pre-April Fools joke, except it’s resolutely not and it has me stumped.

Writing this column on a Friday and I’m still waiting for a post from the company that says, “fooled you”. But no, Dyson really is bringing out a pair of noise cancelling headphones with an air filtration unit attached to it.

Now, I can see the methodology behind it. The past two years have seen people combine headphones with masks, and from my own personal experience, it’s not always been the most comfortable fit. But there’s no getting past how resolutely weird and wacky the Dyson Zone looks. It’s the kind of headphone a quirky audio brand in Japan or Korea would conjure up. In fact, considering Dyson’s major markets are now in Asia, the Zone seems like a headphone that could be popular there.

Some have alluded to it looking like Bane’s mask from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises film. I think it looks like something Apocalypse from the 90s X-Men animation would wear (the colour scheme fits). Reports online have implied it may not be able to stop the spread of Covid particles. It hasn’t been tested with the Covid-19 variant, but it has with other coronaviruses, but nevertheless, that’s a concern.

Dyson Zone air purifying headphones
credit: Matt Alexander/PA wire

What’s also strange is that while the Zone will be giving you protection from unseemly air pollution with its fans that suck in fresh air and disperse it, they will make noise the wearer probably won’t be aware of because of the noise cancellation, but the people around you probably will. It doesn’t sound like its particularly commuter-friendly.

And then there’s the ‘Dyson making headphones’ part of the equation. They’re not Sony, or Bose or Technics, they’re not a brand that’s had – unless I’m mistaken – much experience in crafting an audio product. You can only presume that the lack of experience will result in a sound that’s safe. If that turns out to be the case, that’s another reason not to have these headphones glued to your head.

A few weeks ago, when I wrote about the Sony LinkBuds, I mentioned that headphone brands ought to be looking at more innovative designs to solve problems. The Dyson Zone fits that remit and is not what I’d have expected, but it is innovating and unlike any headphone I can remember seeing.

Some will mock it and it’s certainly ripe for that sort of attention, but it does present a solution to a problem even though a mask and wireless earbud could have achieved a similar effect without making you look like some sort extra from Mad Max: Fury Road.

There’s praise for what Dyson are trying to achieve, but despite all the potential benefits, the Dyson Zone is a headphone I’m not entirely convinced by.

Dyson, you have my curiosity, but will you get my full attention? The proof, it seems, is in the air filtration system. Who would ever have thought that about a pair of headphones?

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