This Is Your Captain Speaking

If you happened to be at cruising altitude last Monday, your pilot probably got on the comms and made an unexpected announcement. Effective immediately, the mask mandate had been vacated. What??? Oh no!!! Fortunately, you were wearing your Dyson headphone.

The passengers on the plane probably had exactly polar-opposite reactions. Some of them tore off their masks and ran up and down the aisle, cheering and embracing one another. Others ran down the aisle and locked themselves in the lavatories for the remainder of the flight, all available paper towels wetted and wrapped around their heads. For the same reason why I rarely stick my hand in the blender while making smoothies, I rarely offer an opinion on political (or medical) issues. However, we must discuss the Dyson Zone headphone.

Dyson's vacuum cleaners, as well as its fans, are as highly regarded as they are highly priced. Unique, quirky, and engineered to the nth degree, they transform the most mundane of appliances (a vacuum cleaner, really?) into techno-fantasies. If there was a highly popular website called “Vacuhub” it would have lots of videos of Dyson vacuum cleaners. Actually, somewhere out there on the internet, there probably is a website with lots of videos of Dyson vacuum cleaners.

However, the new Dyson Zone headphone might not inspire fantasies. Rather, it is said to improve respiration fantastically. Specifically, in this, um — unique-looking — headphone, a small battery-powered fan blows filtered air at the wearer's mouth and nose. The visor, mask-like, covers the front of the wearer's face. It is removable in the event that you ever find yourself in an environment where breathing the air will not cause immediate death.

The visor has four filtration modes named “low,” “medium,” “high,” and “auto.” The latter uses a signal from an accelerometer to choose the most suitable filtration mode; for example, jogging might kick you up to the “high” mode. Further, there is a small air filtration system in the ear cups; this is said to further protect the wearer from air pollution.

The headphone also offers active noise cancellation (ANC), a once mind-blowing feature (thank you, Bose) but now a feature that is almost ubiquitous. There are three ANC modes: As the names imply, “Isolation” provides the maximum isolation; “Conversation” turns off the fan when you pull down the visor to allow better conversing; and “Transparency” lets in some ambient noise for better situational awareness.

The interesting thing is this: until recently, if you wore this headphone, you would have gotten more stares than — well, a person wearing a face mask. Now that masking is considered nominal, you could wear the Zone stare-free. And even if you're not concerned about a certain virus of unknown origin, I suppose this headphone could be helpful for allergy and hay-fever sufferers. Interestingly, Dyson asserts that this beauty was in development long before the virus first surfaced, with some six years of development and 500 prototypes. When I said Dyson products were engineered to the nth degree, I wasn't exaggerating.

To my knowledge, Dyson makes no claims about efficacy with regard to Covid-19. However, the headphone also sports a “community face covering attachment” for FFP2 face-mask filtration. I absolutely refuse to open the obvious can of worms and ask about the efficacy of cloth masks with regard to Covid-19 but, yes, you can wear a mask while wearing the Zone.

Clamoring to buy the Zone? Pricing is TBD. Availability is sometime later this year. In the meantime, if you are boarding an aircraft any time soon, I will simply say this: If you like your mask, you can keep your mask.