Making its debut in wearable tech, Dyson has created noise-cancelling headphones that double up as an anti-pollution mask. Rose Dykins reports

British vacuum cleaner and fan manufacturer Dyson has unveiled its first wearable piece of wearable technology – the Dyson Zone – a set of headphones that simultaneously tackle air and noise pollution.

The result of more than ten years’ research and development, the Dyson Zone air-purifying, noise-cancelling, over-ear headphones deliver sound to the ears, and also deliver purified airflow to the nose and mouth – capturing city pollution including gas, allergens and particles.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nine in ten people globally breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline pollutant limits. While nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution in cities decreased during the pandemic, levels have quickly returned to normal, or exceeded pre-2020 levels across many global cities.

Dyson Zone headphones © DysonWhat’s more, it is estimated that more than 100 million people – and around 20 per cent of Europe’s population – are exposed to long-term noise exposure above WHO guidance.

Jake Dyson, chief engineer at Dyson, says: “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.”

Borne out of Dyson’s expertise in airflow, filtration and motors technologies, and the company’s understanding of indoor and outdoor quality, the Dyson Zone features a compressor inside each earcup.

These compressors draw air through dual-layer filters, and project two streams of purified air to the wearer’s nose and mouth, channelled through the non-contact visor.

Meanwhile, sculpted returns on the Dyson Zone’s visor keep the purified airflow near to the nose and mouth, and ensure it is diluted as little as possible by external crosswinds.

The headset delivers rich-quality, immersive audio, and relief from unwanted city noise thanks to its advanced active noise cancelling (ANC), low distortion and a neutral frequency response.

Dyson engineers want to create a non-contact product to maximise its comfort. The shape of the visor and the visor returns ensures purified air exiting the filters is delivered to the nose and mouth in crosswinds, and for the wearer’s specific facial shape.

Taking inspiration from the shape and design of a horse’s saddle, the Dyson Zone distributes weight over the sides of the head, rather than on the top.

Dyson Zone headphones © DysonTo test out the Dyson Zone, engineers used a breathing mannequin fitted with medical-grade mechanical lungs and sensing equipment.

The mannequin “inhaled”  pollution, replicating human breathing patterns in a controlled chamber. Engineers then measured the pollution level within the nose and throat to determine the effectiveness of the filtration system.

The negatively charged electrostatic filter media captures ultra-fine particles such as allergens, and particles from sources such as brake dust, industry combustion and construction. Meanwhile, a potassium-enriched carbon layer captures city gas pollutants like NO2 and sulfur dioxide (SO2.)

The Dyson Zone is the company’s first foray into audio. Dyson’s team of audio engineers and acousticians aimed to engineer top-quality audio led by metrics, backed up with extensive listening trials.

They developed a high-performing neodymium electroacoustic system within each earcup. The Dyson Zone’s wide frequency response and precise left-right balance and distortion – significantly below what can be detected by the human ear – makes audio sound just as musicians or creators intended.

The device’s advanced noise cancellation system – with its unique array of microphones – reduces unwanted environmental noise and  motor tones.

Meanwhile, large, angled ear cushions mould around the listener’s ear, with a medium foam density and headband clamp force engineered specifically for both comfort and optimal noise reduction.

The headphones have been tested in extreme temperature-controlled chambers, to assess how they fare in warmer climates and high humidity compared to UK-based testing.

The Dyson Zone will be available online and in-store at Dyson Demo Stores and at from autumn 2022.