Despite years of rumours, I was still somehow caught off guard when I was shown the Dyson Supersonic hair dryer at a recent secret meeting. But, it of course makes perfect sense – since moving away from exclusively sucking in air with its vacuum cleaners, Dyson has worked extensively on pushing air out with its Air Multiplier technology, in everything from fans to hand dryers.
The Dyson Supersonic is the logical next move then. And, as you’d expect from Dyson, it’s been meticulously engineered to the very last detail.
A new digital motor, the V9, does most of the work in the Supersonic. Dyson’s smallest and lightest digital motor yet, it spins at an insane 15,000rpm – comparable to a Formula 1 car engine. Using 13 motor impeller blades instead of the standard 11, Dyson's Air Multiplier technology means that 42 litres of airflow are blasted at your head every second. All that power doesn’t mean it’s overly noisy though. A 16 micron gap between blades means that airflow can remain focussed while an axial flow impeller reduces the turbulence that makes some hair dryers so excessively noisy. Dyson’s engineers claim to have pushed one particularly harsh tone produced by hair dryers “beyond the audible range for humans”, while the small size of the motor means it can sit in the handle of the Supersonic, surrounded by acoustic dampeners.
Beyond the power, the Dyson Supersonic looks great and feels comfortable in the hand too. With an open loop design similar to what Dyson’s had in its standing fans before, its weight is found in its handle, letting you direct the high pressure jet of air wherever it’s needed without giving your forearms a workout. Set to be available in pink and grey, and white and silver finishes, it’s been tested by and developed alongside professional hair stylists Atkin and Brooke, each recording RSI problems related to the long term use of other hair dryers.
Despite the sci-fi stylings, it’s intuitive to use. An ambidextrous design, buttons to control four heat settings and three airflow options sit on the handle, as well as buttons for constant cool streams and an ioniser. Three different add-on nozzles will come in the box too, including a smoothing nozzle and diffuser for curls, which satisfyingly attach with a simple magnetic snap. The attachments remain cool to touch even when in use thanks to a design which sees the hot air pushed out through a chamber that’s surrounded by a secondary chamber filled with cold air.
Four years in the making and costing £50 million to develop, Dyson’s engineers built 600 prototypes before the final Supersonic was ready. 1,010 miles of human hair was tested during the development – a length so ridiculous that Dyson claims it was singlehandedly responsible for a global human hair shortage at one point.
But all the research bore fruit – where Dyson claims many of its competitors in the hair drying space don’t even use human hair when developing their products, Dyson’s extensive testing has given it an intimate knowledge of how hair works, and what damage can be caused.
For instance, Dyson’s scientists noted that the important hydrogen bonds in human hair would be irreparably damaged if temperatures approached 150-degrees, heats that competing hair dryers would approach with alarming regularity. This can be harmful to proteins in the hair, which in turn takes the shine off of healthy hair. Dyson's top heat setting on the Supersonic maxes out at 100-degrees, with multiple failsafes bringing the temperature down if things get too toasty, including a glass bead thermistor that communicates with the Supersonic’s microprocessor, measuring heat 20 times a second to control the double-stacked heating element. Dyson’s also been able to note specific differences in the hair of people from different races, building its attachment add-ons to suit different styles, tastes and hair types around the globe.
Launching in June (alongside the opening of Dyson’s first solo retail store in London), prices will start at £299 (with two year guarantee) for the consumer kit, rising for the hair-care professional-focussed Pro kit. That’s not cheap by any standard, but not an incredible premium over the other high-end hair dryers of its rivals, either. It’s set to be a busy year for Dyson, which has teased entrants into four new product categories before the year is out.