Dyson’s Zone is a love letter to over-engineering

And I love it for that reason

When I first learned about Dyson’s Zone earphones/air purifier, I wasn’t sold on the wacky concept. However, after spending time with an engineer at CES 2023 who worked on the headphones/air purifier, I began to really like the precision this weird device offers.

The first thing that struck me when I sat down to learn about the new headset was the row of prototypes staged along the wall. You can see where Dyson started with air filtration and how it slowly started adding its own audio solutions to the process. It’s cool to look at how the design process for a complicated product like this evolves with sometimes not-so-subtle iterations.

The next thing that really took me aback was how flexible the face shield is. I expected hard plastic, but it’s more rubbery than I anticipated. It sounds implausible, but I swear you can fold it up and jam it into a pocket if you want. The shield is also magnetized to the headset, so you can easily remove it. For a quick chat, it also features hinges that allow you to drop the mask for a quick conversation. When you do this, the headphones’ noise-cancelling disables so you can hear the person you’re talking to.

Dyson appears to have thought of everything from cleaning the headset to making it fit with multiple face shapes, while still allowing you to get gulps of fresh air with ease.

Moving back over to the headphone/air filtration aspect, the company has paid significant attention to this portion of the device. When you strip off parts, you can see where Dyson has milled out little plastic holes to ensure that the earcups’ fans don’t wobble and stay as quiet as possible. It’s an incredibly small attention to detail, but it’s also what you’d expect from a product with a $949 USD (roughly $1,269 CAD) cost.

Other notable features are the plush earcups that pull double duty as strong sound dampening to help improve the noise-cancelling. Still, even with these earcups, the headphones are comfortable, and the foam lining inside the over-head arc is plush and soft. Compared to the rigid metal bars of my AirPods Max, for example, Dyson’s Zone felt like wearing a cloud.

A view of the milled holes used to balance the fan.

However, as lux and detailed oriented as this headphone system is, I worry about it being a tough sell to consumers. It’s not certified to be used in factories, it’s too expensive and bulky to compete against regular headphones, and the most significant use cases for the mask seem to be people with long public transit commutes.

There’s likely a small niche that care about good-sounding headphones and breathing clean air that also have over $1,000 CAD to spend on a device like this, but for most of us, the ZOne feels like a concept detached from reality.