Bragi was one of the pioneers of true wireless earphones. Its first product, The Dash, debuted through crowdfunding in 2014 and was finally available in late 2015. An entry-level model, The Headphone, was introduced in 2016. Then in mid 2017, The Dash Pro was announced.
When The Dash was launched, it was one of the very few true wireless earbuds, and naturally warranted a steep price point. Even so, the number of features make it worth it. The latest Dash Pro retails in Singapore at S$528, at a higher price than the initial retail price of The Dash.
Most Intelligent True Wireless Earphones
It’s not marketing talk. The Dash Pro is hands-on the most advanced multi-functional true wireless earbuds in the market. But don’t mistake that for being the best. Just check out the list of capabilities:
You can wear it to swim, to shower. No other true wireless earbuds does that. The Dash Pro is rated IPX7, 1 metre underwater for 30 minutes. The closest is Sony WS623. To lock the touch panels during swimming, press and hold both earbuds at the same time.
Heart Rate Monitor
Carried over from the first generation The Dash, the other true wireless earbuds with HRM is Jabra Elite Sport.
There is no noise cancelling, but you can turn on ambient sounds by flicking the left earbud touch panel. The transparency volume is synced with the music playback volume.
Activity Tracker and Coach
The earbuds can auto-detect workouts on running, swimming, cycling, and start the tracking of your heartrate, pace, distance, steps, calories. Data is stored in the Bragi app and able to sync to Google Fit.
4GB Internal Storage
Enjoy music even if the earbuds are not connected to the phone, the other true wireless earbuds with storage is Samsung Gear IconX. Plug the USB cable to the computer and you will see the Bragi storage appearing on the File Explorer. Just copy over like any external drive.
The Dash Pro provides the same instant translation process as Google Pixel Buds. Speak to iTranslate app on the phone, and the translated message will be fed to The Dash. If the other party also has The Dash, then the translation will be read directly in each other’s earbuds. Paid subscription is required to continue using after the first month trial (code is included in every new box). At time of publishing, this feature is available only to iPhone users, while Android version will be launched later.
This is where Bragi gets ahead of the competition. Just like the first Dash, The Dash Pro allows the wearer to gesture with the head to trigger actions like pause playback, reject calls. You can also double-tap near the ear to trigger another set of actions, but I found that I get false triggers during running.
With the latest OS update, you can operate a virtual 4D menu, activated by first tilting the head down and level up, and when you hear a soft tone, it means The Dash Pro understands this gesture, then you proceed to complete the sequence by tilting the head up and level back. The voice prompt will indicate “4D Menu” then you can turn you head from left to right to look for the item you want, then nod the head to select. To cancel the 4D menu, just shake your head.
Bragi makes sure that for every different gesture type triggered, there is a different audible tone so that you know what function is being activated. For instance, when you tap the right ear bud trice to go to previous track, the tone goes higher with each tap. If you do not hear it, that means the touch is not registered and you just keep tapping, unlike other earbuds where you had to tap quickly in sequence then wait for the audible response to see if the action is being recognised correctly.
The Dash Pro delivers 5 hours of continuous listening enjoyment, while the charging case can further charge another 5 times. I did not do battery test, and always place the buds back to the case after use, so the buds always maintain full charge.
Ease of Set Up
The Dash Pro seems to be easier in setting up. First, pair the headset to the smartphone just like any Bluetooth device. Then from the Bragi app, connect the sensor protocol so that the app can communicate to the earbud. The second part is only required if you want to sync The Dash Pro to configure the earbud, activate heart-rate and workout sessions, etc.
After working well on the LG V30+ for a week, the Dash Pro app suddenly could not reconnect, but the Bluetooth audio still works. I had to continue reviewing with another smartphone, BlackBerry KEYone. I reckon because I am testing several review products that uses Bluetooth (another earbuds, a smartwatch), it might have caused some conflicts.
Wear Comfort and Interaction
The Dash Pro achieves good comfort thanks to its deep ear canal design with a small proprietary FitTips (available in both silicone and foam). The retail package includes FitSleeves of various sizes to wrap the earbuds and make them less slip-prone if your ears sweat a lot. For me, I do not need to fit them over and the earbuds never fall off during my runs.
The touch panels seem to work reliably and I never face any problems like what I did previously. However, I am always skeptical about the longevity of touch control systems, and given The Dash Pro is built for the elements – for running, for swimming – only time can tell if these buds are built to last. The other small challenge for touch panels is that during fitting, accidental touches or adjustments might trigger some actions.
The Bluetooth connectivity appears to be slightly improved, but I still encounter streaming disruptions while running and when the smartphone is at the left side of the body. I am also not a fan of the 2-piece casing, which is cumbersome to handle when on-the-go. I had to remove the case and hold the outer cover while attempting to remove the buds from the dock which is pretty tight thanks to strong magnet. A few times I almost slipped the buds because of the struggle to detach them.
Compared to the first-generation The Dash, this second-generation Pro edition achieves improved audio clarity and balance. What I like is the improved treble response which now sounds slightly clearer, while the bass is fuller and more extended. The mids remain somewhat questionable in details, which contributes to the impression of a lack in high fidelity. When listening to my usual reference tracks, percussion instruments lack the crisp and sparkle, while modern EDM tracks sound relatively comfortable at loud volumes. The Dash Pro is not designed for critical listening, but I certainly enjoy listening to them more than the predecessors.
When transparency mode is activated without audio, the ambient sound is not accurate in the directional mapping. The sound source seems to come from the extreme sides instead of in front, causing a bit of mental confusion. For instance, when someone is talking at 10 o’clock direction, on The Dash Pro it sounded like he is at 8 o’clock direction.
Given my previous experience with The Dash, the latest Pro offers marked improvements in user experience, reliability and audio quality. The retail price of S$528 is something you have to get past, but if you find all the features essential – heart-rate monitor, activity tracking, swimming, hands-free head gesture interactions – then it is a worthy price to pay for true wireless innovation.
Thanks to Bragi Singapore for providing the loan unit for this review.