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Dyson's first ever hair dryer is the chic, industrial Supersonic

Let's hope it doesn't suck

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Dyson has unveiled its first ever hair dryer: the Dyson Supersonic. It's a pricey, lightweight device that's designed to prevent heat damage to users' hair and combines a number of design elements from Dyson's previous gadgets. This includes the "air multiplier" tech from its bladeless fans, and the industrial stylings and digital motors of its handheld vacuum cleaners. The Supersonic is expensive though, with a UK retail price of £299 (around $435), putting it at the higher-end of the beauty market.

Contrary to early rumors, the Supersonic is not silent, but it is pretty quiet. (Dyson points out, fairly, that it's impossible to blow air through channels at high speeds and not make a noise.) The company's engineers tuned the acoustics of the Supersonic's digital motor to minimize the noise, increasing the number of blades on its rotor from 11 to 13, to modulate one of the vibrating tones to a frequency inaudible to human ears. In real life use, you can have a normal conversation while the Supersonic is on its lowest of three airflow settings, but turn it up to full and you'll have to raise your voice to be heard. This is thanks to the Supersonic's V9 motor — the company's lightest and smallest digital motor to date. This pulls in 13 liters of air per second, which the air multiplier tech amps up to 40 liters of output. Dyson claims this airflow is both fast and focused — reaching speeds necessary to dry hair quickly, but with a jet that's focused enough to allow accurate styling at the same time.

Dyson Supersonic hands-on photos
The Supersonic has four heat settings, three airflow settings, and a cold shot option. (Image credit: Tom Warren / The Verge)

The design of the Supersonic is Dyson through and through. Without any attachments the dryer is arrestingly snub-nosed, with the silhouette of a rubber mallet. Turn it head-on and you can see straight through the middle — an engineering party trick borrowed from Dyson's fans. (The ring shape of the dryer's head also resembles a hand-held metal detectors used in an airport — not the most glamorous of comparisons.) Once you clip on one of the Supersonic's three magnetic attachments it assumes a more familiar profile, but the straight lines of its handle and head give it a faintly industrial feel that set it apart from other dryers on the market. It's still comfortable to hold though, and by making the motor small enough to fit inside the Supersonic's handle, Dyson has created a device that is supremely well-balanced.

The problem for Dyson may be that the Supersonic doesn't have that single, key feature to recommend it to consumers. The company invested £50 million ($72 million) on the dryer's development over the last four years, using more than 1,000 miles of real human hair from different nationalities in the process. But one of the main takeaways the company has from the research is that extreme heat damages hair — a fact that has been used to market hair dryers for a while. The temperature regulation in the Supersonic might be superior to its rivals (a glass bead thermistor measures air temperature 20 times per second, ensuring it never goes over 150 degrees Celsius), but it's not a unique selling point. Compare this to Dyson's vacuum cleaners, which were introduced to the world as the first bagless vacuums, drawing attention and sales because of it.

You can argue that Dyson doesn't need this sort of central selling point now (even in a market where the products are all very similar), and that the company's reputation for design is a big enough draw for its products. Unfortunately, Dyson's reputation for making expensive products also holds true with the Supersonic — and the dryer's price tag will certainly put some consumers off. Our final judgement on Dyson's first hair dryer, however, will have to wait until a full review later this year.

Dyson Supersonic hands-on photos