Three fully wireless Bluetooth headphones - March 2017, Josh Moyer

Update: In May Bragi released The Dash Pro, which significantly improves the Bluetooth connectivity, battery life and fit options. Initial feedback has been good. Must have.

I got my start with Bluetooth headphones (A2DP and AVRCP, specifically) in 2007 with a Sony DR-BT30Q. I was using it with the legendary Windows CE Bluetooth stack on a T-Mobile Wing (HTC Herald) and, later, an HTC HD7. The performance was very good, generally – including the quality of the Bluetooth connection. When the connection did break, what I thought was an unusual behavior would occur: the playback speed of the song would be changed so as to catch up with the time that was lost during the break in the transmission. This would cause a corresponding change in the pitch of the music, which I found to be only merely bearable.

Recently, I went on a buying spree, as my Sony’s only lasted about 8 years. I bought Apple’s AirPods, Bragi’s The Dash and Bragi’s The Headphone, which seemed to be the leading devices in the market. All three are in-ear, fully wireless stereo Bluetooth headphones. I figured that I could evaluate each, keeping the ones that I want and eating the restocking fees on the returns – although I have decided to resell the extras, instead (see below.)

The buzz around the AirPods is well known. Lesser known is the buzz around Bragi’s successful Kickstarter campaign. Their initial product – The Dash, which I have been using very heavily for about a month – is mostly great with BragiOS 2.2 and works well with my iPhone 6. There’s great Bragi (Knowles) sound! It’s tight and comes from in the ear. Produces powerful and very clear boom boom sound when properly fitted. With the included FitSleeves I was able to find my PerfectFit. The EarTouch and kinetic interfaces are great, as is the sophisticated menu system! But it requires practice to get good at hitting the right parts of the EarTouch sensing surface with the right amounts of force and timing. The pulse oximeter is neat, as are the bevy of other sensors, LEDs and that magnetic carrier interlock, too. I do regret to say that the Bluetooth stack is not as solid as any of the other three headphones mentioned here, however, which is disappointing (dare I say "sad", as it would otherwise be a must have product.)

The Headphone, on the other hand, has a rock-solid Bluetooth connection. It has the same great sound, but fewer fit options, more modest packaging and no portable charger – although they do come with a carrying case. (You can buy The Dash’s FitSleeves in a combo pack at the Bragi store and I would recommend this.) The interface is simpler, consisting of three tiny buttons on the right Headphone that are best and easily pressed with even a shortly trimmed finger-nail. The sound and the Bluetooth performance are both excellent. The connection was almost perfect even from my left, back pocket when covered with my laptop bag (the Bluetooth antenna is in the right The Headphone and The Dash.) Also, they doubled the battery life from The Dash’s 3 hours.

As for the AirPods, they are an excellently executed product that also feature a rock sold Bluetooth connection. And the NFC one-tap pairing process is very slick. However, as we all know, they get mixed reviews on their appearance. Also, the sound is not as good as the Bragi’s -- in my opinion. The controls are much simpler than either of the Bragi products, too, offering only play/pause or start Siri. (Even The Headphone allows you to skip tracks and adjust the volume.)

In the end, I decided to stick with both the Bragis, both for the sound, style and enhanced controls. If you are interested in a good deal ($100) on a barely used pair of AirPods, contact me. In the meantime, I’m going to go stick some Bragis in my ears.