/ Technology

Would you wear air-purifying headphones?

Dyson has applied for a patent for headphones with a built-in air purifier. Is this a beneficial combination of tech or another gimmick no one really needs?

There’s often a logical benefit when two devices are joined up into one. 

Portable MP3 players and mobile phones, for example, were both devices people were carrying around separately for a long time. 

But the dawn of the iPhone and Android smartphone age has made it much easier for devices like these to merge together. 

It’s easy to see the benefit with that example – two gadgets upgraded into one, and a step up for both.

But is that benefit still there if it’s not a device you’d normally carry around every day? I’ve not seen anyone with a portable air purifier on the train just yet….

Take a look at all our air purifier reviews

Music to clear the air

At a quick glance, I’d say there is a bit of logic to the design:

🎧 People wear headphones when commuting (in case you hadn’t noticed)

🎧 The air on trains, roadways and other heavily trafficked areas tends to be less clean, so…

🎧 People would potentially benefit from a device that both entertains and cleans the air

But I do have some questions…

You may already be aware that some air purifiers aren’t the quietest of devices; would you really want to put something which generates a lot of noise that close to your ears?

Would the air that it clears make a difference in an already-polluted space?  

And, most importantly perhaps, is there a need for this sort of thing? When Dyson released its Pure Cool Me air purifying fan last year it had us asking if it was the brand’s most pointless product yet!

Would you wear air-purifying headphones?
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Odd couples

I’d be keen to hear from you; what other odd couple products have you encountered?

Which products have surprised you in how useful they actually worked out to be? 

Which products surprised you in that they were even considered being made in the first place?

Let me know in the comments!


The idea that it does two things at once sounds great! But the fact they’re noisy would maybe put me off.

Stuff that you spray or shake on and vacuum off surprises me. Not something I would buy. Car air fresheners that dangle from the rear view mirror would irritate beyond measure and distract. The heated steering wheel, on the other hand, was seen as a gimmick and I now appreciate using it on a cold morning. I wouldn’t object to wind down windows, but they went out with the ark. I never saw the point of putting a motor in the door.
With regard to the air purified sound, I thought that one had to breath air not listen to it. If it doesn’t cover the nose it’s not going to work. It will probably annoy anyone near by if it makes a noise while operating.
Steam mops have been more useful than I thought they would be, steam cleaners less so. I didn’t get the same results as they did on the television and mine broke within months of getting it. Some people like having robot vacuum cleaners, I don’t see the point in having one or making them.
Cleaning up after my fruit juicer is messy and time consuming. The giant blender -similar to the Vitamix – is a wonder gadget that I bought on a whim and love. That cleans in seconds. Designer kettles with designer price tags seem an expensive way of boiling water for a cup of tea. The matching and equally expensive toasters still burn the toast on the wrong setting. The boiling water tap machine is expensive to buy, install and to run. It might look good in a designer kitchen but I can manage without one.
Waterless wash and wax car products have been a revelation. I get amazing results every time – in half the time. Rain beading windscreen products have also been effective. I wouldn’t be without my Tipp -Ex or equivalent and my magnetic music stand pencil holder is a real brain wave from someone.

I’m not sure what I think about this. I get the potential benefits but not sure headphones are going to make that much impact. Surely it would be better for Dyson to be looking at bigger scale projects that have wider benefits?

A lot of patents filed are done so with the intention of NOT exploiting the product. This:

1) Stifles competition from other rival or potential rival manufacturers, who cannot get a toe-hold in the market or develop similar, competing products.

2) May provide a potential bonus win, if another manufacturer can be shown to have accidentally violated a dormant patent, or wishes to bring a similar product to market and finds it has already been protected. Either the patent holder can claim damages, license the “rights”, or sell the patent. Money for nothing, basically.

Not really money for nothing, Em. Filing a patent is not a cheap process particularly if you decide to protect yourself in countries outside the EU (where a common system applies).

However, many patents can be got round by using a different method from that patented to get the required result. You cannot just patent an idea; it has to be detailed.

My first two patents were done with no intention of exploiting them but for the reasons Em has explained.

Agreed, patents are not cheap. But if you have no intention or the capacity to bring the product to market, then secrecy costs you nothing and there is no reason to patent it, other than to exploit the system.

“Patent trolling” is now big business in the US and runs counter to the principles for which patents were first introduced by Venice in the 1470s. Basically, the State grants a monopoly for a fixed term, to safely disclose and exploit an invention, which should be novel, non-obvious and useful. The principle is that the disclosure of ideas protected by patents is more beneficial to society, than for the inventor to keep their ideas secret and possibly die with them.

I’m not sure any of these principles would apply to the air-purifying headphone.

Dyson better spend its research budget on trains that don’t suck. Pun intended. 😉

After all it would be better to prevent the air pollution rather than cure it. Not to mention that the production and transport of air filters, deposition of used filters, etc, only contribute to pollution problem.

They abandoned their environmentally friendly electric vehicle project.

Any high-end product that integrates two or more distinct functions is generally going to be a financial disaster. You pay for the headphones. You pay for the air purifier. In this case, you will also pay for the innovative, clever design, which the patent is designed to protect. So you will literally be “paying through the nose” for one of these devices.

Headphones are inherently unreliable. The ear pads rot and need replacing. The integrated lithium batteries wear out. Cables (or Bluetooth) break. Being portable, they are very prone to accidental damage.

Air purifiers have motors that are, or become, noisy as the bearings wear out. Bespoke carbon and HEPA filters cost way more than the cost of the air purifier over the life of the product.

At some point, one or other of these functions will cease to operate, or become uneconomical to repair or maintain. Would you wear headphones with a non-working air purifier, or vice versa? Of course not, so yet more WEEE waste to dispose of and another novelty product bites the dust.

Never mind the odd couple. My favourite ménage à trois – or is it quatre, or even cinq – would be the teasmade. These were most closely associated in the minds of the consumer with Goblin, a brand name owned by the British Vacuum Cleaner and Engineering Co. Ltd. They presumably forgot to patent the idea, as Swan and others made equivalent products.

At the most basic level, it coupled a small kettle with an alarm clock. At a set time, the kettle would dispense boiling water into a teapot and you could enjoy a hot cup of tea before rising from your warm bed. More elaborate versions incorporated a bedside light, a radio, and a small fridge to keep the milk cold. (OK, I made that last bit up.)

This was a device that was in its heyday between the era when middle class homes could no longer afford a housekeeper to bring the tea and light the fires, and more recent times when they could afford central heating and Nespresso® machines to make their own coffee.

I never had a teasmade, because the idea of having to clean it, fill it with water and tea leaves the night before, and somehow keeping a small jug of milk clean and fresh (hence the fridge), just seemed like too much effort.

The other problem I could see was the MTBF of all these elements (including the one in the kettle). One of the worst disasters that could befall any proud teasmade owner was to break the china teapot.

I did have a Teasmade for a while. It had a mains electric clock that whirred and groaned quietly to itself. It wasn’t that accurate. The kettle was on a sprung sea-saw platform. The alarm turned the kettle on. One gradually became aware of the boiling activity going on, though the element was feeble and took a long time to do anything. It was supposed to warm the pot, but it didn’t. When eventually the water boiled the steam, drove the water through the spout and into the teapot. This was quite noisy and it ended by the kettle being lighter than the spring on the sea-saw which pivoted upwards. This shut off the kettle to avoid overheating the element and triggered the actual alarm which was noisy but not entirely unexpected with all the palaver going on before. Above the clock was an inefficient reading light and somewhere up there were the controls for the alarm and the clock at the back. Leaving the kettle empty meant that the alarm would go off at the set time without any tea. It was kept as a bedside clock for some while before the clock stopped and it was cast out. The necessity to visit the loo, meant that milk came up on the way back to bed. Of course it only made tea at weekends. I believe some had matching china, but mine just had the teapot -good for two cups. Happy memories.

Ah! So that’s how you manage the milk, but I still don’t see the point of a Teasmade.

I just put the kettle on the kitchen fire to boil before wandering down to the privy. The kettle had quite a loud whistle, so it can even tell me the time if I leave the back door open. The neighbours inevitably call out: “Who’s making all that b***** racket at four o’clock in the morning?”

Of course, my ability to rely on such helpful members of the community has recently been tempered by a number of ASBOs and noise abatement orders, so I may need to reconsider. Is there a WiFi kettle that works with my Samsung S10?

I did buy my mother a tea-making machine, maybe Kenwood, but no Teasmades or Goblins were involved. After a demonstration by me I think she used it a couple of times. What was appreciated was the bedside light and the illuminated clock.

My parents had a Teasmade for a short period – inherited from a relative I believe.

In those days there was no need for any apparatus to keep the milk cold during the night; it was a common experience to wake up in the morning to a layer of ice on the inside of the bedroom windows.

Portable MP3 players and mobile phones, for example, were both devices people were carrying around separately for a long time … .

Do you still carry a separate camera, map and guide book when you go on holiday?

I don’t take pictures any more and don’t use guide books so I just have the map nowadays.

Where I go on holiday, separate maps and cameras are still a thing.

I use guidebooks related to my interests when on holiday and usually have a map of the area. I use both a compact camera and the phone to take photos. Tapping on the screen of a phone to take a photo is not as convenient as pressing a button on the top of a camera.