Cut the Cord: Bragi Dash Wireless Headphone Review

Bragi Dash
The Bragi Dash "smart" wireless earbuds. Bragi

I used to believe that Alexander the Great’s solution to the Gordian Knot was one of the greatest cop outs in history. As a child who loved reading about history, I remember looking forward to reading how the great Greek king solved this particular conundrum only to find out that he cut it in half. It was like the encyclopedia version of clickbait.

Then I started using headphones.

In the grand scheme of things, pulling out the cables of wired headphones from your pockets or bag and being greeted with a tangled mess is the very definition of a First-World problem.

But boy is it annoying. This is especially true for earbud-style earphones, which tend to use skinnier cables that are more prone to getting all knotted up. It’s even more infuriating when you’re rushing to get somewhere and have to take the time to untangle your cords just to use them. After all these years, I finally understand where Alexander the Great was coming from.

It’s no surprise then how headphone makers such as Bragi are constantly trying to solve the wired headphone conundrum with offerings such as the Dash. The arrival of technologies such as Bluetooth has helped usher in a slew of wireless devices, though many admittedly still don’t match the sound quality you get from an honest-to-goodness wired connection. When balancing the pros and cons of convenience vs. pitch-perfect sound, however, sacrificing some audio fidelity is worth it for folks who value a cordless existence.

For its part, the Bragi Dash does a number of things right.

At the top of the list is design. The whole Dash kit just oozes excellent build quality out of the box from its charging dock all the way to its slide-in case. I’ve tested my fair share of headphones and earphones and while I can certainly appreciate cutting costs with materials and design to provide better value, there’s just something about seeing a device that goes all out with a design to take up your gadget experience to another level.

The design extends to the earpieces, which feature extra touches such as lighting that’s worthy of an alien UFO. The device is also waterproof up to a meter, providing swimmers a lighter, less cumbersome in-ear option than alternatives such as the BlueAnt Pump HD. Unlike “wireless” headphones such as the Soul Electronics RunFree Pro or Jabra SPORT Pulse, which still use a wired band to link both earpieces, the Dash pairs with each other as well sans wires, offering a truly wireless experience that’s more comfortable and convenient while serving up a good fit overall. Battery life for the Dash is about three hours, which might not seem like a lot, especially for folks who are out in the great outdoors. To remedy that, the Dash’s charging dock holds enough juice to fully charge the headphones five times. While the magnetic connectors help, you’ll want to make sure that they're properly aligned or the Dash won’t charge properly, which happened to me on my first use.

The attention to detail seen in the hardware extends to the user interface as well. The Dash uses touch controls, which easily could have turned into a hot mess. Unlike some of the more inelegant touch interfaces I’ve seen in my long history of reviewing gadgets, however, Bragi manages to implement its touch functionality in a way that works well, making it another feather in the Dash’s cap.

I especially like being able to swipe forward or backward to adjust the volume. You can also use taps to pause, play or skip tracks, which works with the YouTube app as well. One thing I didn't quite lack with the tapping, however, is the “thump” that gets transferred into your ear, which gets especially annoying when you’re doing multiple taps for skipping tracks. For Siri users, you can call up the iOS assistant via the touch controls as well.

Another addition that’s a plus is Audio Transparency. While the earbuds have some passive noise cancellation, the option to enhance ambient sound is nice at times when you need to hear what’s going on around you.

Rounding out its extra features are its activity tracker, allowing you to monitor things like your heart rate and steps taken.

Of course, the sound quality is a key measure of any headphone. Like other wireless options in the market, it’s one metric where the Dash still doesn’t quite compare to a wired connection. The sound, however, is good for a wireless headphone of its size featuring a clean, balanced sound. It actually has enough of a low-end kick so you don’t end up with the tinny sound you sometimes get from some earbuds that lack bass. Microphone capabilities, meanwhile, are OK but could be better. If you’re the type of person who likes barking voice commands to Siri or some other virtual assistant, for example, the mic hiccups could be frustrating. Accuracy for the fitness tracker also can be hit or miss, though to be honest, I just consider those as extras and shouldn't be prime reasons for getting the Dash.

The biggest Achilles heel of the Dash, however, is its Bluetooth, which can be prone to interruption. It’s usually fine when you’ve got your phone out, though the range is pretty short and starts breaking up at a short distance. Slide your smartphone into your pockets and you can get connectivity issues and interruptions as well. Another potential issue is the $299 price tag, which can be steep for some folks.

Overall, the Bragi Dash is a promising entry in the wireless headphone space thanks to its excellent build and interface. It’s biggest advantage is the freedom it provides users, even when compared to other wireless options out there. Admittedly, it has some kinks that prevent it from achieving wireless perfection, particularly its Bluetooth hiccups. At the same time, it’s still a solid device and represents a step in the right direction for the wireless headphone space.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too. Read more of his audio articles and reviews via the Headphones and Portable Speakers hub.