Meet the Dash by Bragi, the sickest and most technologically advanced wireless in-ear headphones in the wireless game. These aren't just one of the most sophisticated earbuds available right now, they're also truly and honestly wireless...no strings attached. One part activity tracker and heart rate monitor, one part wireless headphones – the Dash can replace your smartphone with their on-board music storage when you're out getting your daily workouts on. So how do these expensive and truly wireless in-ear headphones fare when it comes to the four most important categories: audio quality, battery life, fit, and wireless connectivity? There's a good reason why we've been using and testing Bragi's little pieces of wireless wonder for the past month. Our full review complete with an in-depth comparison of the Samsung Gear Icon X awaits!
The Dash have one of the nicest and most impressive packaging we've seen in a very long time. This card-style informational flip-book guides you through the various features of the Dash as you unbox it, saving you the hassle of reading through a quick user guide pamphlet buried somewhere in the box.
Inside you'll find a short micro-USB charging cable and three sets of silicone sleeves in various sizes. These are Bragi's FitSleeve ear tips and they vary by thickness to fit your ear canal just right and help the Dash make full contact with your ear shape to minimize movement and provide stable sensor readings, as well as optimal sound quality.
Bragi has essentially adapted the Bluetooth headset concept by including a small, portable charging case that is capable of charging the Dash while also protecting the earbuds whilst they’re not being used. The case also doubles as a backup power source that can provide up to five additional full charges without having to be plugged into a USB power source thanks to having its own built-in battery pack that acts as a portable charger whenever you put away your Dash. In the past month that I have been using the Dash, I have been averaging around 2 hours of use before one of the earbuds decides it needs to be recharged. That's an hour shy of Bragi's 3-hour battery life claims, but if you listen to loud music, you won't be reaching Bragi's figures. While not an impressive result, we have yet to see any truly wireless earbuds that can outperform the Dash as far as battery life is concerned.
Bragi has coined this new term for its wireless earbuds as the world's first "hearable", suggesting that the Dash are a wireless wearable headphone device that can also provide real-time activity tracking like a wearable such as the Apple Watch or a Fitbit would. And that's all true. The Dash really are a new type of wearable that can replace many of the commonly used features found in most smart activity wearables, but only with the added benefit of serving a very attractive purpose, which is a completely wire-free music experience. The Dash aslo feature a completely button-free design using a combination of motion gentures and capacitive touch controls on both sides of the earbuds.
There are a lot of things the Dash are, but being cheap isn't one of them. You'll be parting ways with $300 of your hard earned cash for a pair, which may sound like a lot, but really isn't if you don't already own a standalone fitness tracker and a traditional "wireless" headset. The Dash have everything built in, including 4GB of storage that you can use to store and transfer music so that you can leave your phone behind when you go out or take a plunge. Yes you heard correctly, you can actually take these on a swim as they are fully waterproof and designed to even track your swimming activity while you listen to your favorite tunes.
Unlike the Apple Watch, Bragi's Dash is capable of providing live audible feedback in your ears while tracking more than just your heartrate, calories burned, duration, steps, and distance – but also your cycling speed, pool lengths, breaths and cadence. You can either use the app to start different types of activities, or by using touch controls on the Dash itself. And in case you forget how, the app features a list of all the available options for controlling your music streaming, built-in music player, tracking, call handling, as well as an audio transparency feature that mutes or amplifies sound from your ambient environment (which works really well).
The Bragi app for iOS and Android is really well designed and offers a user-friendly interface where you can learn more about how to use the many touch gestures controls of each side of the Dash, change a few settings, update firmware, and of course track your activity.
When it comes down to the build quality, I really cannot say a single negative thing about the Dash. Despite being made out of a mixture of matter rubberized and glossy hard plastics, the Dash feel really polished all the way through and don’t have this cheap quality to them that can be felt in some other alternatives such as the Earin and Motorola VerveOnes+. These actually have that high-end earpiece feel that some expensive hearing devices have. That said, the Dash aren’t the most durable wireless in-ear headphones we’ve tested. They’re really expensive, have a svelte and sleek design, but you still need to be careful with them like you would with your bare glass and metal smartphone you care so much for.
Even the charging case is solidly made, not to mention the protective and beautifully refined aluminum cover that slides over the charging cradle.
And if you feel the need to add some additional protection to your Dash, as they are somewhat fragile if dropped directly onto a hard floor from a considerable height, you can actually slip on one of the included silicone tip sleeves which will provide an additional layer around the earbuds giving them extra grip and some bump protection. I won't lie though, I do wish these had a rubberized or matte textured finish all over. That said, the glossy black finish makes these that more futuristic looking. And if black bores you, there's an all-white Dash too; complete with a color-matched white charging case and USB cable.
When you look at other truly wireless in-ear headphones they all pale in comparison to the Dash when it purely comes to aesthetics. Nothing even comes close to this extraordinarily sleek and futuristically designed earpiece that glows like RoboCop's helmet. Samsung's Gear Icon X are a close second though.
The Dash have this amazing custom-like fit and look to them that makes them incredibly secure and comfortable to wear in the ear. They are by far and away the most freeing, the most secure, and the most comfortable wireless in-ear headphones that I have ever used. I've been using these during intensive exercises and not once have they fallen out of my ears or have come close to it. They're incredibly light and blend into your ears. The included FitSleeves ensure you find the right fit for your ear while also providing extra grip for when you get them wet.
So how does a $300 wireless pair of smart earbuds sound in reality? Better than expected. The Dash surprisingly sound very warm, rich and full considering these are using balanced armature drivers by Knowles. There's plenty of bass when and if you get a tight seal inside your ears to satisfy any one of your music genre craving, and vocals are decently clear and forward-sounding. But there's a problem when you start to compare Bragi's Dash against other wireless in-ear headphones. That's when you notice that the Dash really lack definition and detail throughout the frequency range.
Don't get me wrong the Dash sound decent, and better than any truly wireless earbuds available right now such as the Earin and VerveOnes (save for latest truly wireless earbuds, the Icon X), however, they unfortunately fail to impress when compared to less expensive wireless in-ear headphones. The Dash are comparable in sound to budget-level wireless earbuds, not ones that cost as much as $300. Granted there's an insane amount of advanced features and technology stuffed into this very attractive package, but if the most important feature of a product – which in this case is sound quality - isn't up to par, then you've got a significant compromise not a whole lot of people will be willing to swallow.
As much as I love my Jaybird X2, I'd much rather use the Bragi Dash instead when working out having gotten used to the flawless wire-free fit that makes using such wireless headphones so much more comfortable and hassle-free.
The only other noteworthy adversary to Bragi’s Dash are the recently released Samsung Gear Icon X truly wireless earbuds. Like the Dash, the Icon X are essentially Samsung’s own version of Bragi’s Dash, virtually offering the exact same set of features including an aluminum portable charging case, touch controls, fitness tracking capabilities, heart rate monitoring, 4GB on board music storage, and a relatively similar small form factor. Now the biggest difference between the two is the price. You’ll be paying less for Samsung’s Icon X and you’ll still be getting the same bang for your buck as you do with the Dash. While the Dash are still arguably better looking, the Icon X are far more durable as they are fully protected by a more resilient plastic and rubber layer. Battery life is very similar to the Dash, however, we were able to get around an additional 30-40 minutes of use out of the Dash compared to the Icon X when purely listening to audio at high volume.
It's worth noting that while the two earbuds share a somewhat similar size, the Gear Icon X have a much more compact, pill-shaped charging case that's more convenient and easier to carry inside your pocket.
We have initially experienced some left and right audio volume syncing issues with the Icon X whereas with the Dash is has been a really smooth wireless audio experience. Samsung is actively trying to fix these issues with firmware updates though. That being said, Samsung's Icon X are the better sounding alternative to the Dash with far greater detail and clarity while providing the same level of exceedingly comfortable and secure fit. However, we did notice that the Icon X lack a clean Bluetooth streaming quality compared to the Dash and other wireless in-ears such as the Jaybird X2 for some reason using the latest firmware when paired to either an Android or iOS device. It might not be a Bluetooth issue, but at higher volumes there's a slight hint of background noise. On top of it all, highs on the Icon X begin to distort pretty badly at very high volumes. While this can potentially be fixed with more updates, we're a bit disappointed in the fact as the Icon X are really good sounding.
Bragi is upfront in claiming its Dash features a not-too-impressive 3-hour battery life, however, Samsung makes no battery performance claims. We can clearly see why that is after spending just an hour with the Icon X. Battery life is absolutely horrendous. I've been averaging less than an hour or so with the volume near high, which is most likely where most people will have theirs set at. And that's without activating any tracking features. Samsung does specify that when playing music directly from the built-in music player, the Icon X can last up to three hours compared to wirelessly streaming audio from your device. Also, the charging case only provides up to two additional full charges on a single charge. It seems as though the issue here is size. The Icon X have a smaller charging case and are slightly smaller than Bragi's Dash system, which is one of the reasons why we're seeing such poor battery performance overall.
Bragi's Dash is what wireless music streaming and independent activity tracking is all about. There's no doubt that this is where the audio industry is heading, and it'll only get better with time as more and more hearables get introduced. After using the Dash for a full month, I started to appreciate the benefit of having a truly wireless pair of in-ear headphones that also fit very securely and enabled me to focus on my workouts. For that reason alone, the Dash's incredibly design and wireless performance have actually outweighed their not-so-amazing audio quality and battery life. You just need to ask yourself if these are things you're willing to sacrifice in return for a specific form of convenience. The Dash's unique ability to track activities under all conditions thanks to having a fully waterproof design can be a huge deciding factor to those who are considering jumping on the truly wire-free earbud wagon.
While not the best sounding, the Dash are one of the best wireless headphones for running and exercising...until you look over and see Samsung's Gear Icon X. These are a cheaper alternative with an even more inferior battery life, but they sound better, fit just as securely, and look great. But as much as we love the sound quality, size and build quality of Samsung's less expensive Gear Icon X, they are severely impacted by poor battery performance that can barely last a full hour. So if you don't plan on constantly having to put your earbuds back inside the charging case, we cannot recommend the Icon X over the Dash. But if an hour is all you need to finish your business and you're an Android user looking to ditch your standalone fitness tracker, you should definitely consider the Gear Icon X as your truly wireless in-ear headphones. Had only the battery life been better, we would have easily picked the Icon X over the Dash.