Bragi are known for their incredibly successful $3.4m Kickstarter campaign that launched their original Dash wireless headphones back in 2014. However they are also known for over promising and under delivering with that product.
It looks like they’ve not learned much either judging by the release of their second line, the terribly named ‘The Headphone’. I originally ordered a pair on launch (5th September) for a promised November delivery. This came and went, but Bragi assured pre-order customers that they would have theirs in time for Christmas.
Then on the 19th of December Bragi announced that they would not meet this promised delivery either. The final insult was this crass PDF offered to people waiting to gift them which stated it “…can be printed, enclosed in an envelope and left under the tree”. Hey Bragi, please print the picture below and put it in an envelope. Keep the change.
Anyway, they’re finally here so lets try and put my annoyance with the company aside for now and see if the ‘The Headphone’ is actually any good or not.
What’s in the Box?
The 2 units that make up ‘The Headphone’ (who on earth thought this was a good name) are completely wire free and come in a plastic box that serves as the charger and carry case (more on that in a bit). There’s a Micro USB cable included, but you’ll have to find your own USB charger.
There are 3 sets of tips for different sized ears, 2 silicon and 1 special ‘Comply’ foam set that are meant to mould to your ears best.
I love the idea of tiny in-ear headphones like this and it’s easy to underestimate the freedom that wireless brings. It’s not hard to see a time when they might be so small they’ll become near invisible, almost like implants, where we’ll be able to hear our digital assistants talking to us without anyone else knowing.
The ‘Headphone’ is missing plenty of features from the Dash. All the fitness functionality has gone as is the built in 4GB storage for music plus the gyroscope, accelerometer and other sensors. But all that’s OK. The Dash was trying to be too clever for its own good.
One of the things that’s also missing is more of a wrench though. Unlike a lot of the competition in this sector, the case does not include a built-in battery. You still need to put them in to this ‘charging case’ (they snap onto their contacts nicely with magnets) but you then need to plug the case into a power source. Hopefully Bragi will produce a battery case accessory in the future.
Speaking of charging it takes a bit less than 2 hours to charge the built-in 100 mAh Lithium polymer battery from empty and this gives up to 6 hours in use (standby time 250 hours). The battery level is displayed on the top right of the iPhone when connected.
They support any smartphone, tablets, computer or other device with the A2DP Bluetooth profile (A2DP v1.3, Hands Free Profile v1.6, Headset profile v1.2) and maintains a solid connection with my iPhone. You can only connect to 1 device at a time, although it can memorise the last 4.
Apple EarPods (and therefore AirPods) do not stay in my ears. I seem to be missing the required notch at the bottom of my lugs to hold them in and they just fall out, even when I’m standing still. The Headphone on the other hand do fit me well, stay in place and are pretty comfortable.
If you watch the video at the bottom of this page it shows the user tapping the controls on the right earpiece lightly, but this is misleading. You have to give either of the 3 tiny buttons a good push, meaning you are forcing the headphone into your ear which can be a little uncomfortable.
You use these controls to play/pause (single click of bottom button), switch between tracks (double click the bottom button for next track, triple click for previous) and to take phone calls.
You can also activate the ‘Audio Transparency’ feature which allows you to add in a little ambient noise to the mix to be better aware of your surroundings, especially useful if you are a runner or cyclists perhaps.
On windy days you hear a fair bit of rustling noise though as the air hits the auditory microphones. As well as these left and right external mics there’s an EarBone microphone too and callers say I sound a little ‘different’ but good.
So how do they sound for music?
With Knowles Balanced Armature Speakers (Frequency range:20 – 20.000Hz) A2DP profile, AAC and SBC audio codec, the Headphone delivers a rich, dynamic stereo experience anywhere, anytime.
That sounds great doesn’t it. But when I first listened to EDM and electronic music the Bragi’s bass was very disappointing.
However things got much better for me when I swapped over to those Comply memory foam tips. You can maximise the bass by ensuring they are well into your ears and sealed properly. The foam definitely improved both the bass and the comfort for me.
With these tips fitted they are a bit more finicky about snapping into the charger though and usually require a push to squeeze the foam to allow the contacts to seat properly.
They don’t go as loud as I like and I know from experience that this sort of headphone needs to go much louder when listening to spoken word (like watching a movie) during a flight. Luckily my video playing app of choice Infuse can boost the volume.
Our ‘The Headphone’ cost $119 on a launch special, but now retails for $149. Even at this price they are still pretty much the cheapest in class though. They’re a bit cheaper than Apple AirPods, have better battery life, arguably better controls and perhaps best of all don’t make you look like Dork of Borg. Here’s some of the closest competition…
- Apple AirPods ($159)
- Samsung Gear IconX ($199)
- Motorola VerveOnes+ ($250)
- Jabra Elite Sport ($250)
- Bragi Dash ($299)
Despite the silly name and blundered launch they’re not bad then. I ended up re-writing parts of this review as I almost returned them for a refund before I changed to the Comply tips.
I’d still like more bass and for them to go a bit louder. However I’m already using them enough (often just the right ear in to watch youtube etc) to justify the £100 I paid for them on the launch special so I’m going to keep them.
Perhaps it’s unrealistic to hope that minimalist models like this can ever sound as good as ‘proper’ headphones. After a couple of years I can still highly recommend the similarly priced Jabra Revo Wireless (read my review here) The more headphones I listen to the more I think the Jabras are hands down the biggest wireless bluetooth bargain around.
There are three relatively new bad boys Bluetooth headphones that are making a lot of waves. The Bose QuietComfort 35, the Sennheiser PXC 550 and the Sony MDR-1000X. Maybe it’s time to bite the bullet, raise my budget and try one of them. My hunt for the ultimate wireless headphones continues.