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Hair drying technology hasn’t changed for around 50 years, mainly because of the bulky motors you find inside the dryers.
The same could have been said for vacuum cleaners until James Dyson’s clever cyclone technology did away with dust bags and brought in stylish new designs and superior cleaning (even without mains power). Then Dyson has turned its air flair towards hair care.
The Dyson Supersonic is a big name for a small device, albeit one with a gasp-worthy price tag.
Design & Build
The Supersonic is compact and lightweight (560g without attachments), compared to models that can weigh over 1kg. That said, there are hair dryers out there at around the same weight.
Chris Martin / Foundry
Dyson calls the dryer “engineered for balance”. Conventional dryers can be uncomfortable because they are heavy and require odd postures to reach all the hair. If it takes you more than ten minutes to dry your hair, your arm and wrist are going to take the punishment of such heavy, unwieldy dryers.
Due to the much-reduced size of Dyson’s motor it has been removed from the head of the product to the dryer’s handle itself. For better balance the centre of mass has to be moved as close as possible to the hand or pivot point.
And taking the motor from the head allows the length of the dryer barrel to be reduced, meaning it can get closer to the head while your elbow stays closer to your body rather than having to bring the elbow away.
There’s another benefit, too: instead of sucking air in the back of the dryer, it’s sucked in at the base of the handle. This helps to prevent hair getting sucked in and burned, and we also like that the filter is easily removable to clean.
Another boon is the long power cord, which proved much more convenient to all testers, but they did note that this became a slight disadvantage when storing it.
Intelligent Heat Control
Dyson puts its product advances down to its experience in motor and airflow technology, plus five years of research into “the science of hair”.
We tend to associate healthy hair with shiny hair, and protecting hair from extreme heat will help improve the shine.
When you use any product that goes above 150°C structural changes start to take place in the hair. If hair is heated excessively it can punch holes in the strand, causing light to scatter – with the end result that damaged hair ends up looking dull.
Dyson’s intelligent heat-control system measures the temperature of the airflow, and feeds that information back to the microprocessor 20 times per second. If it starts to get too hot the system will cool down the heating element, which means the airflow will never exceed a certain extreme temperature at the outlet.
So when you put the heat setting at the highest level it will always stay at a constant temperature rather than going too high or too low during the styling. Even the “no heat” option is set as a constant 28°C.
At its highest speed and heat settings the Supersonic is one of the fastest hair dryers available – some testers say that it can dry hair in half the usual time.
Dyson says that the problem with standard hairdryers is that they have conventional motors that are bulky and slow.
The firm’s digital motor, the V9, is at the heart of the hair dryer, spinning at up to 110,000 revolutions per minute with what Dyson calls an “inaudible frequency”. Again this is down to clever design: the motor uses 13 rather than 11 blades, which pushes one tone within the motor to a sound frequency beyond the audible range of humans.
Dyson also uses a rubber mount to reduce the vibration between the handle and the motor.
Maybe Dyson thinks it’s been so long since we associated the word “supersonic” with Concorde (or V9 with racing car engines) that it can use the term for something that’s supposed to be ultra low noise. Actually this Supersonic is really quiet, less than 75dB in our tests. It’s not inaudible but it is noticeably quieter than other dryers.
It’s faster (8x, claims Dyson) and lighter (on average half the weight) than most other dryer motors. Its tiny fan is only 27mm wide.
To dry hair you need a combination of velocity and temperature. Heat on its own would evaporate the water from the hair but it would take a very long time. Velocity helps to strip water off from the surface of the hair.
The V9 motor can create high airflow pressures. It draws in 0.8 cubic metres of airflow per minute, and this is amplified as the air passes through air-multiplier technology to 2.4 cubic metres per minute. That means that the airflow is removing more water so the dryer needs less heat to get the job done.
Attachments & Performance
Hair dryers aren’t just for drying hair. They’re also for styling and sculpting hair.
The Dyson smoothing nozzle gives a more widespread airflow. This means you can style and dry at the same time, reducing the “race” to get the styling done before the hair is dry. That said some of our testers found that even at low heat the Supersonic dried the hair almost too fast to allow styling.
Our testers were impressed with how drying with the Supersonic made their hair straighter and smoother.
One of our testers curses her hair’s “horrible wave and frizz”. Normally she has to dry her hair and then use straighteners. She praised the Dyson for drying her hair without the need for straighteners. It was also less frizzy.
A second tester also came to the same conclusion, saying that her hair was “really smooth – as if straightened – and that it wasn’t at all frizzy or flyaway” after using the Supersonic. She was also impressed that the dryer didn’t get hot, and was safe to put down immediately after using it (with kids around).
Clever design means that the heat is kept away from the nozzle. Dyson calls this Heat Shield technology, which keeps the surfaces of the attachments cool.
The Dyson diffuser disperses air evenly around curls, helping to reduce frizz and improve definition. The Dyson Concentrator creates wider airflow, so should require fewer brush strokes for precise styling. With the concentrator you can shape your hair one section at a time.
The nozzle and other accessories attach magnetically, which received praise from all of our testers. It brings to mind Apple’s MagSafe laptop power connectors.
The most recent attachment for the Supersonic is the Flyaway. Dyson says this is inspired by professional stylists and the idea is to give you a smooth, salon-quality finish.
Directing the airflow around the curve of the attachment and out of a hole, a Coanda effect occurs where your hair sticks like a magnet. Working top to bottom, it improves a straight style while stopping ‘flyaway’, or loose, hair.
It works very well and is easy to apply even at the back by rotating the magnetic attachment to a convenient angle. The result is quite flat, though, so if you prefer more volume, another technique or a combination of attachments may be needed.
Settings & Functions
There are three speed settings (Fast drying, Regular drying and Styling) and four precise heat settings (100°C Fast drying and styling, 80°C Regular drying, 60°C Gentle drying, and 28°C Constant cold), though to change the temperature or speed you need to stop drying, which some might find a bother.
The Supersonic features ionic functionality. The hair is conditioned by negatively charged ions, created by passing air over an electric current.
Pumping out negative ions cancels out the static that builds up when you’re touching, brushing and styling your hair. This can help protect hair (especially at high heat), reduce frizz, improve shine and remove static.
Price & Availability
The Dyson Supersonic costs $399.99 or £299.99, which makes it one of the priciest hair dryers around. It’s available in a range of colours.
If you want an even more luxurious gifting option, there’s the $499.99/ £399.99 23.75 karat gold version. This comes in a striking blue finish with genuine gold leaf, and also includes the protective case – so it’s really only a $50/ £70 premium for the extra gold.
temperature and airflow settings that will help create a wider range of styles.
With the Dyson Supersonic you’re buying not just the cutting edge technology and design, but a statement. Owning a Dyson Supersonic is a bit like owning an Apple product. You get top quality but at a premium price.
But caring for your hair and achieving a great style are serious matters, and with most haircuts and styling costing over £100 a go that £300/$400 investment isn’t as great as it first appears.
However, competitors have followed where Dyson led and for a similar price point, you can now buy the similarly luxe Zuvi Halo, which offers a cooler styling experience. And if you want the Supersonic experience for less, you might want to check out the Laifen Swift, which is under half the price of the Supersonic.
The Dyson Supersonic is a technological wonder (dare we call it “cutting edge”), which promises to be kinder to your precious hair, more comfortable on previously weighed down arms, quiet, and faster at drying and styling.
Our testers were impressed with the Supersonic but initially aghast at the high price tag, although we think that $399/ £299 isn’t that much money when compared to the price of a quality haircut, let alone the care of your precious hair.
You might even save some money by having to use less hair product as well as valuable time. It’s very fast at drying (some may find it a little too fast when drying at low speed), super quiet, simple and comfortable to use, and with some neat design features such as the magnetic attachments.
There are certainly cheaper, high-quality hair dryers available but we think the hair-friendly Dyson Supersonic is smart enough to justify the comparatively high price tag. To have a look at its rivals, check out our round-up of the best hair dryers we’ve tested.
Simon was Editor of Macworld from the dark days of 1995 to the triumphant return of Steve Jobs and the launch of the iPhone. His desk is a test bench for tech accessories, from USB-C and Thunderbolt docks to chargers, batteries, Powerline adaptors and Fitbits.