Update: Our Editor-in-Chief Daniel will be meeting with Bragi’s Founder & CEO Nikolaj Hviid and VP Partners & Solutions Darko Dragicevic during the upcoming Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. If you would like to ask a question, please submit a comment and we will publish the full interview here in a few weeks time.
THE Bragi Dash have been the “next big thing” since the record Kickstarter campaign that raised more than 1000% of the project’s target amount back in 2014. And now, 2 years since the initial release date, we have our hands on the earbuds and can be able to tell whether our two-year anticipation has been wasted or the thingies are actually what the founder made us believe they would be.
Of interest, Bragi (the German manufacturer) released their product just as the 2016 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) was looming. They described it as the first smart wireless headphones, and yes, they truly are. They are also as small as the blurb portrayed them. The bugs in the 2015 prototype also seem to have been revised, and the casing edges smoothed, to mention but a few.
So before I get to the pros and cons, and maybe why you need to ditch your old earphones and get yourself a pair of these German headphones, let me first clarify the whole “first wireless headphones” thing. The main difference between the Bragi Dash and the other Bluetooth headphones you’ve come across before is that the right and left earbuds in the Dash are not connected by a cord; they are completely wireless, and sync with each other using Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI). And talking of NFMI, this is a new technology, stronger than Bluetooth, which can allow uncut communication between the two headphones – with your head in between.
So Bluetooth got ditched for this, but it still facilitates the wireless connection between the gadget in your pocket and the earbuds in your ears. Earins use Bluetooth to connect the two headphones, and if you’ve had the chance to use them, you know how frustrating the sound cut outs can be sometimes.
I’m not that much of a work out enthusiast (not like I don’t care for my body, but I rarely use gadgets to track my progress), and so before I gauged the Dash’s reliability as a heart rate monitor and fitness tracker, I had to look at the sound quality (the only reason they were designed as earphones, not wristbands).
While my short experience with them may be unreasonable to go by, for now I’d say that they are just as good the finest of mainstream brands. There is no that insanely throbbing bass even at full volume, for one, and the syncing between the right and left earbuds is seamless. To highlight on convenience, you can switch off one of the earphones with a single tap and keep up with both your playlist and the person next to you.
Furthermore, the earbuds have the Master Volume and Audio Transparency feature which automatically controls the music volume and lets you vividly hear voices around you and engage in conversations without necessarily having to remove the headphones from your ears. You can also answer phone calls by simply tapping on one of the earbuds, and the ear bone microphone will filter your voice even in the noisiest of surroundings.
As small as they are, the Bragi Dash earbuds are fitted with every single sensor a fitness tracker would require. There are 23 of them inside each of the buds, to be specific, and right from within your ears, facilitate step counting and heart rate monitoring without missing a beat (no pun intended).
I first tried my pair in a windy morning jog the day after obtaining them, and wasn’t surprised at just how well they stuck to my skull with all that bouncing and springing; its heart rate monitoring was also spot on, judging against my previous fitness trackers. At regular activity intensity, I recorded around four or five more beats per minute than with my latest review product, the Jawbone Up 4, and could not put the slight heart rate difference down to anything but the sheer excitement of discovering another function of my ear pinnae. The number of steps recorded was within a range I’m familiar with, and their efficiency was generally satisfying.
My biggest problem with the tiny doodads so far is the frustrating three-hour battery life. Now, surely, three hours can’t be enough for a pro athlete who is out for a daylong workout session, or even a music lover trying to wind up a boring Saturday afternoon down at the municipal gardens. It almost seems like the manufacturers focused too much on making hearables to fit all shapes and sizes of ears (which they’ve done perfectly), and forgot about why in the first place one needs those thingies in their ears. But hey, before we start judging, it might not be that bad after all.
The only thing you may have to deal with is the fact that you will need to unplug them from your slug-holes after three hours of continuous use and connect them to the case, which also functions as a portable charger. A fully charged case can charge the earbuds five times before getting completely drained, which means that you can still have your units juiced up without a wall socket near you. But how about during those charging periods? Does it mean that activity tracking and music playing also have to come to a halt? Perfectly true! And this is where I get to justify my frustration.
The Bragi Dash cannot be relied on for continuous entertainment or activity tracking. But I have a trick here, in case you want to borrow some brain. You can wear one headphone at a time and let the other one charge, then do a swap once the one in your ear is drained. I tried the cycle; it worked perfectly well, but I wasn’t contented at all, apparently; I simply need both of my earbuds in my ears. So, I’ll go with this cycle: three hours – unplug – charge – plug back in – unplug again – charge … until oh! It’s evening again! It just feels like I found myself a new job.
Here comes a facet where Bragi almost failed its patient customers. The connection (especially between the earbuds) doesn’t seem as seamless as we all expected. I’ve had my left headphone losing connection in more than one occasion (less than five times in three hours) and automatically reconnecting after a few seconds. It’s not that much of a flaw, especially if you’re wearing the earbuds to monitor your heart rate or count your steps (because one can function when the other one gives up the ghost) but can be a concern if you’re listening to music.
The Earnin earbuds, which came out earlier, utilize Bluetooth connection even between the earbuds, and have been shown to be less reliable. Their connection is more regularly broken and they take longer to recover. What I’m basically saying is that the NFMI technology is more steadfast than Bluetooth, and that we should at least give some credit to Bragi for letting us deal with a less severe problem.
Between the phone and the headphones, connection seems to be an issue, especially when you’re moving and/or there is a lot of body between your gadget and the right earbud. It’s thus advisable that you avoid keeping your phone in the left pocket because all that belly and bones in the way may well block the connection completely. In the main, the shortcoming hasn’t been much of a bother to me, and we’re lucky that both earbuds hardly go on the blink at the same time. And, just for the record, Bragi are aware of this, and have promised to soon come up with a software that will fix the issue.
That said, you can enjoy smooth entertainment by listening to music stored directly in the Dash. The problem only comes in when you have to stream or have a playlist that is more than the 4GB memory that comes with the earbuds.
Still on the downsides, I happen to be very uncomfortable with the bright red light that flashes from the earbuds when the battery is low. It brings about a super-geeky feel, and sometimes you could feel like an alien, in a dark room. Why they had to include those things is still a mystery to me, and it’s the one thing I’d strongly request they get rid of the next time they have a hardware upgrade.
If you’ve been following, you can remember that sometime back in November, Bragi posted a “drop-test” video on their Facebook page, where the earbuds were dropped from approximately six feet above a hard floor and still came out intact and in one piece. I tried it with my pair too and, yes, they were right in the video. With the fact that the Dash are wireless and can easily fall off your ears and get stepped on, their housing has been designed to endure light to mild shock magnitudes. Apart from that deliberate drop, though, which in fact I haven’t had the cheek to repeat, my headphones haven’t gone down inadvertently so far. If that day comes, I’ll update this article. I’ll hinge on my initial test, for now, and refrain from pushing my luck.
On a similar note, the Bragi Dash headphones are safe from water damage. And by this I mean they are 100 percent watertight. So, if you feel the laziness to reach for your ears and take off the wireless headphones before getting into the shower, or the rain takes you by surprise while returning home from a jog, don’t remove or cover them from the rain; they are “adapted”!
Bragi Dash’s closest rivals as wireless Bluetooth in ear headphones are the Earin earbuds. These were released back in 2015, and are believed to be the tiniest of their kind on the market. Their starting price, just like the Dash, is a whopping $299 per unit (irrationally high for either if you asked me), and, unlike the Dash, are devised more as earphones than fitness trackers. I’ve not had my hands on Earins yet but I wouldn’t say they are any better than the Dash, from the little knowledge I have. Firstly, the connection utilized in these tiny thingies is all-Bluetooth; this kind of connection doesn’t work well whenever there is a “watery” body (your head, in this case) in between connecting gadgets.
With the Near Field Magnetic Induction technology, the Dash easily edges over the Earin earbuds as the best truly wireless headphones in the game. Additionally, the Earins are not waterproof, and can thus not be worn into the swimming pool. They have also been shown to have a flimsy bodywork and can barely sit out the extremes that the Dash can handle.
In comparison with conventional fitness trackers (those worn around the wrist), the Bragi Dash wireless headphones would rank among the average. Most of them are way sophisticated and comprehensive that the Dash can’t seem to measure up. But then again, they won’t store and play music or receive calls for you without you reaching for your phone. In a word, I would straight off choose another pair of the Bragi Dash over an activity tracking wristband, free with a new pair of workout sneakers and a first aid kit. My little toys are simply exciting!
Absolutely! The initial prototype and the final consumer product are completely different, and not a single amendment seems to have worked to the negative. The framework is all refined and splendid, the sound system better and the case airtightness worked up to perfection. Perhaps what made the wait even worthier was the swapping of Bluetooth connectivity between the headphones for the Near Field Magnetic Induction technology. We have seen the former fail terribly in the Earins, and we wouldn’t really stand for a worse performance in a product that scooped more than 3 million dollars worth of funding.
Of course it has its downsides, and that includes a less-than-perfect connectivity (between phone and headphones) and a frustratingly dwindled period between charges, but there is no way we would forget that the Bragi Dash is among the first product of its kind to grace the fast-growing market. The young German company had no one to pattern itself after, and with that account in mind, we can rest assured that the future of wireless in ear headphones is bright!