When Bragi launched the Dash three years ago, it not only introduced the world to a completely wireless audio experience, but the device also propelled the term hearable into the world of wearables. Equipped with a plethora of sensors to help monitor workouts, Bragi CEO and founder Nikolaj Hviid positioned the Dash as a computer for your ears. And unlike wrist-worn wearables, joggers who already run with their music won’t have to integrate yet another device into their workout routines—the Dash comes with its own storage, or it could play music streamed from your phone on top of being a fitness coach.
But the drawback is that Dash’s technology priced it at a premium, and that kept it out of the reach of casual music listeners who may appreciate the cord-free experience. This is where The Headphone, Bragi’s second take at the wire-free audio market, comes in. Priced at $149, it sheds its bigger brother’s more expensive fitness tracking components in favor of a simpler experience that’s focused solely on audio enjoyment.
In many ways, by going back to basics, The Headphone is what Bragi should have debuted with. Its pricing and features make it competitive against newer entries in this space, including Apple’s $159 AirPods and Samsung’s Gear Icon X, and the omission of health and fitness tracking features make it less intimidating to those who aren’t as concerned with quantifying their health.
Encased in black and gray plastic, The Headphone resembles its older and more premiumly priced brother with its understated good looks. Essentially, these wireless earphones look like their wired counterparts, but Bluetooth substituted for the wires. And unlike earlier Bluetooth earphones from a few years ago, The Headphone is a completely wire-free experience, meaning that there isn’t a single wire that connects the left and right earbuds.
And unlike Apple’s take on the wireless earbud model, The Headphone doesn’t come with dangling stems that resemble earrings hanging from your ears when worn. This means that The Headphone is more discrete, and Bragi’s option is a nice alternative for those who don’t prefer Apple’s white aesthetics.
Like the Dash, The Headphone ships in a simple charging case. It’s like a matchbox where the inner tray that houses The Headphone slides out from the outer case. A lanyard is attached to the top of the case, allowing you to wear the case around your neck for easy portability.
Unlike the Dash and a few similar wireless headphones on the market today, the case is solely used for charging and stowing the earbuds—it doesn’t come with its own internal battery to easily recharge The Headphone on the go. Bragi promises up to six hours of listening time on The Headphone’s 100mAh internal battery before you’ll need to drop earbuds back into the case and plug the package into the wall, and I got just over that during my testing. Battery life will likely vary with the type of music you listen to and your volume levels.
By comparison, Apple promises five hours on a single charge with the AirPods, but drop the headphones into the case for a quick battery boost and you get up to 24 hours of use before you need to plug the entire package into an outlet for recharging. Bragi’s newest product, the Dash Pro, comes with an internal battery rated for five hours of use, but you’ll get a combined total of 30 hours with the battery integrated in the charging case before you’ll need to plug the device into the wall for recharging.
The Headphone offers much more simplified music controls than the Dash. While the latter offers capacitive touch surfaces to control music playback and manage fitness tracking, the former comes with three small hardware buttons on the right earbuds. These buttons are small, and I found them difficult to press. And unlike the capacitive interaction on the Dash, pushing buttons means that the earbud will get pushed into your ear, which could be uncomfortable.
There is a single multifunction button that serves as your playback control and to accept and end phone calls. The button can be pressed multiple times to skip between tracks. There are also two volume control buttons. When you hold one of the volume buttons down, it turns on The Headphone’s microphone to activate a feature called audio transparency. With audio transparency turned on, you can hear the background noise around you.
Audio transparency is a particularly useful feature if you’re jogging in urban environments or walking in a city as it keeps you aware of your surroundings. I really appreciated this feature when I go on my outdoor runs, as I like to know if a car or bicycle may be approaching me from behind.
For a comfortable fit, The Headphone comes with two sets of gel eartips—for small and medium ear canals—and a single pair of foam eartips. I found that the medium gel eartips fit me best, and with a good fit, I was never concerned that The Headphone would fall out from my ears while walking or exercising. If you’re not a fan of the gel tips, the foam tips offer a better seal, which provided great passive noise isolation to help block out background noise. While I found the gel eartips to be more comfortable for longer use, the foam eartips provided better audio fidelity with richer bass response.
The Headphone also comes with sensors that senses if you’re wearing the earbuds. If you remove the right earbud, for example, your music will mute until you replace The Headphone in your ears.
The Headphone is tuned with a more neutral sound profile. With the foam eartips, the bass was there, but it wasn’t overly punchy and the highs were pulled back and not quite as forward. While I generally prefer the tuning of Bragi’s Dash more, The Headphone’s more restrained tuning compared to other wired and wireless headphones on the market make for a comfortable listening experience over longer durations.
The Headphone uses Knowles Balanced Armature Speakers and could support output in the 20 – 20,000Hz range. A2DP profile as well as AAC and SBC audio codecs are supported. Additionally, The Headphone also has three microphones embedded inside the earbud design. A single mic is found inside each of the left and right earbud, and there is also an EarBone microphone.
Given the device’s small size and the need to prolong battery life—and the fact that The Headphone’s charging case doesn’t come with an integrated battery—the more neutral sound profile produced by The Headphone may help to maximize battery life. While there wasn’t a lack of bass or treble when listening with The Headphone, I do wish the lows and highs are punchier. Since I listen to a lot of vocals and acoustics, a brighter profile on the high end would have made the experience more vibrant.
And while I had problems with static and audio cutting in and out with the Dash, I never encountered any of those problems with The Headphone. In general, I keep my phone on my body, moving it between pockets when I take it out to respond to a message, choose a new track to play or check my notifications. With The Headphone, I never encountered any connection problems. For those who stay within Apple’s ecosystem, The Headphone doesn’t offer the same seamless Bluetooth pairing between Apple devices like the AirPods with its W1 chip. This makes it more cumbersome than Apple’s experience, but the pairing process is fairly straightforward.
And while the microphone does its job, it’s somewhat tinny when used for phone calls. That said, the microphone had no problems with audio recording when I used them to record short voice memos. During calls, the mic also does a good job at reducing background noise.
For active wearers, The Headphone isn’t waterproof, like the Dash, so you won’t be able to take it on a swim. However, being water resistant, you should be able to workout and get sweaty with The Headphone without any problems.
Unless you’ve tried on a pair of truly wireless earphones, you really don’t know how freeing the experience can be. The unchained melody experience delivered by Bragi’s The Headphone is liberating. And with The Headphone, you’re not sacrificing much in terms of audio fidelity, unless you’re looking at more premium monitors priced in the $250 range upwards.
At less than half the cost of Bragi’s new $349 Dash Pro original Dash has been discontinued in favor of an updated Dash Pro at the premium end of Bragi’s lineup. The Headphone represents a great value for those who don’t need the frills of fitness tracking and a wearable computer for your ears. With The Headphone, you’re still getting some advanced features, like audio transparency that keeps you aware of your surroundings while you’re walking about with your music playing, that aren’t available on many of Bragi’s competitors.
The Headphone delivers a solid Bluetooth listening experience without the messiness of wires at an even more affordable price in an attractive, albeit understated, package that fits snuggly in your ears. In essence, The Headphone is the modern “hearing aid” for music listeners, delivering a great audio experience that keeps you in tune to the world around you.