In its most basic functionality, the $299 Bragi Dash promises to be the world’s first truly wireless earphones, meaning there’s no wire tethering the left earbud to the right. However, that’s a simplistic view of the Dash, and the wireless in-ear monitors (IEM) aim to do a lot more for its wearer.
Bragi dubbed the Dash as a ‘hearable’ given its ability to quantify your life, and CEO Nikolaj Hviid said that the ears offer a much more precise location to measure health data than the wrists.
With its 23 embedded sensors, Dash offers a hopeful glimpse at a smarter wearable future. Much like a wrist-worn wearable, Bragi paints the promise of a fitness coach, a health aid and a connected digital assistant all in one device.
Over time, as Dash gets smarter and gains better battery life so that it can continuously record health data, we can expect it to help us train for marathons, call for assistance when we fall and even become a real-time translator with its built-in microphone and transparency mode.
With the growing interest in hearables – from Samsung Gear IconX to LifeBEAM’s Vi – Bragi seems to have a headstart creating and launching the wireless smart earbuds early on. But are these the hearables you should get?Read on to find out.
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|[easyazon_link identifier=”B01BLGH1P8″ locale=”US” tag=”affiliandseoo-20″]Bragi The Dash, App Enabled Headphones, White (B1000-0002)[/easyazon_link]||[easyazon_image align=”none” height=”89″ identifier=”B01BLGH1P8″ locale=”US” src=”http://wearables4u.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/31U5f78aUkL.SL160.jpg” tag=”affiliandseoo-20″ width=”160″]|
|[easyazon_image align=”none” height=”89″ identifier=”B01CHZ29M2″ locale=”US” src=”http://wearables4u.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/3143W6yHkML.SL160.jpg” tag=”affiliandseoo-20″ width=”160″]||[easyazon_link identifier=”B01CHZ29M2″ locale=”US” tag=”affiliandseoo-20″]Bragi The Leash, App Enabled Clips Arm & Wristbands (A1000)[/easyazon_link]|
|[easyazon_link identifier=”B01CIFI02E” locale=”US” tag=”affiliandseoo-20″]Bragi The Dash – Truly Wireless Smart Earphones with Leash (White)[/easyazon_link]||[easyazon_link identifier=”B01CIFI02E” locale=”US” tag=”affiliandseoo-20″]Bragi The Dash – Truly Wireless Smart Earphones with Leash (White)[/easyazon_link]|
Bragi Dash: Design, build and comfort
Dash comes with an attractive – albeit bulbous – teardrop design, making the earbuds less discrete than smaller, more advanced hearing aids. Given the size, I expected Dash to quickly fall out of my ears, but fortunately that wasn’t the case since the eartips provide a secure and comfortable fit. The Dash comes pre-installed with an extra-small eartip, and the box contains three additional sizes of silicone tips for the best fit.
To secure the earbuds, you’ll need to insert Dash into your ear canal and rotate the earbuds to lock them in place. Earlier this year, Hviid announced a partnership between Bragi and hearing aid manufacturer Starkey, which will result in custom molded ear tips for Dash in the future.
Even without the custom molding, Dash stayed on during my bumpy train commute and the buds didn’t fall out when I went jogging. I didn’t, however, get a chance to test out Dash’s fit while swimming, given that the device is advertised as waterproof.
Bragi Dash: Bluetooth pairing
Like a Fitbit, the earbuds can be paired with an iPhone or Android smartphone, but Bragi’s ambitious goal is to someday turn Dash into a standalone computer. Today, Dash ships with 4GB of storage so you can listen to music stored on your earbuds without having to carry your phone on a run.
The right and left earbuds communicate with each other using near-field magnetic induction, a technology that’s borrowed from hearing aids like those made by partner Starkey. This eliminates latency and allows both earbuds to pipe out synchronous audio. To communicate with your phone, Dash relies on Bluetooth.
When paired to your phone, the companion app allows you to tweak Dash’s settings and monitor your workouts and health data.
Bragi Dash: It’s all in the touch
Once you remove Dash from its packaging and place them in your ears, the earbuds will automatically power on. Getting started with Dash can be intimidating given that there are no buttons on the earbuds, nor is there a touchscreen like on a smartwatch. A touch sensitive surface is located on the top of each earbud, allowing you to interact with Dash like a touchpad on a laptop through a series of swipes, taps and presses.
This makes interacting with Dash seem more like sending morse code than tapping on a touchscreen. It’s a bit complicated at first, especially since there are different touch commands for the left and right earbuds.
For activity tracking and fitness monitoring, you’ll want to touch on the left Dash, while the right Dash is used to control music playback. Once you get used to the taps, it’s an unobtrusive way of commanding the device. Still, I would love to see Bragi add voice command to Dash in the future to make Dash more competitive with artificial intelligent assistants, like Siri and Google Now. Asking Dash to tell me my heart rate with my voice while on a run is far easier than trying to remember how many taps are needed to call up this information.
To acknowledge that your swipes and taps are registered, Dash will confirm with a voice or audio beep. If you’re not wearing Dash, the earbuds are smart enough to power down to save battery.
There are a few minor quibbles I had with the Dash. First, only part of the surface of Dash is touch sensitive. If you’re not touching the right area, you won’t get a response. Second, if you’re fumbling with Dash in an attempt to get the earbuds in your ears, chances are high that you’ll inadvertently touch Dash’s touch area and activate a command.
Configuration of the earbud is done through the companion smartphone app called Bragi. On the iPhone, after you program Dash, you’ll have to ‘eject’ the earbuds before the settings take effect. Failing to do so will place the earbuds in a state of limbo, but you can quickly reset the buds to working order by placing them in the portable aluminum charging case.
Bragi Dash: Fitness tracking
On their own, the earbuds will last approximately a few hours on a charge. Unless you’re training for a marathon, this will be plenty of time to get a workout in. Dash is waterproof for up to a meter of water submersion, so you can swim with the earbuds. The smart hearable is capable of tracking running, cycling and swimming, which is perfect for triathletes.
To start your workout, you’ll long press on the left earbud. Voice prompts will help you navigate between the three different activities for tracking, and you can tap to begin tracking your workout. During your training, you can get your heart rate information read to you by double tapping on the Dash.
Bragi Dash: Wireless music experience
With Dash in, I was pleasantly surprised by the audio quality. Dash delivered a wide soundstage and a good amount of bass on the low end. Listening to music with Dash isn’t as good as high-end IEMs, but considering how much technology Bragi managed to cram into the earbuds’ compact footprint, the sound quality is pleasing and well-rounded.
The same cannot be said with Dash’s glitchy Bluetooth radio. I found that Dash managed to maintain a more reliable connection to Android phones, like Samsung’s Galaxy S6 or LG’s V10 for music streaming, compared to the likes of Apple’s iPhone.
Fortunately, if you don’t want to deal with Bluetooth woes while streaming music, you can store music on Dash’s built-in flash drive. Bluetooth range was also an issue during my testing. On the iPhone, music streaming from my iPhone 6s Plus cut out intermittently if I moved my head. Even moving the iPhone from my left to my right pocket could cause crackling or make the audio cut out.
Bragi Dash: Transparency mode and call quality
In addition to music listening, you can use Dash to take calls. The earbuds come with a bone conduction microphone. To answer a call, you simply nod your head. And if you’re in the middle of a jam session, you can shake your head to send your caller straight to voicemail.
Call quality was a mixed bag, and I found the microphone cutting in and out during my calls. I wasn’t sure if the microphone didn’t make proper contact for bone conduction to work properly, or if Dash wasn’t able to isolate my voice from the wind or background noise when using Dash as a wireless headset out on the busy streets of San Francisco. On a few occasions, I noticed that if a call came through while I was listening to music, playback didn’t resume automatically after the call completed.
Even if you don’t make a lot of calls on your phone, the microphone also serves another function. True to the company’s goal in helping keep its users ‘present’ without being distracted by screens, buttons or a complicated UI, in ‘transparency mode’ Dash keeps you immersed in your environment. The function of transparency mode is to allow the ambient background noise to come through your music experience – and you can control how much background noise to let through.
This allows you to be conscious of where you are. I found this helpful during my morning runs, as I like to listen to music but hate that I can barely hear if a car is coming up behind me with my headphones on. With Dash, the experience is similar to playing music out of a speaker – you get to enjoy your jam without losing track of your surroundings.
Even though Bragi claims that transparency mode allows you to be more ‘present’ in your environment than being face down swiping through a smartwatch on your wrist, I am not sure that the device has overcome preset societal norms. With my Dash in, friends would assume I was disengaged from conversation.
Bragi Dash: Battery life
If you’re looking for long music listening sessions, the charging cradle comes equipped with its own battery, so you can drop the buds in to replenish. The cradle is capable of delivering full charges to Dash, allowing the device to be used all day.
Even though the cradle helps give Dash all-day power, the downside with this implementation is that it can’t continuously record health data throughout the day. For fitness junkies, this could limit the device’s appeal when compared to Fitbit’s and Garmin’s wrist-worn wearables, both of which could last for at least a few days on a single charge.
The battery design also means, like your smartphone, Dash requires nightly recharging. In its current form, Dash won’t be able to help you keep track of your sleep. In order for the earbuds to become more useful, Bragi will have to overcome the design challenge of packing so many sensors and circuitry, along with a battery, into the compact design.