(Pocket-lint) - It could be argued that Bragi is the company that started off the whole revolution of completely wire-free earphones. Before Samsung and Apple brought their respective Icon X and AirPods to the table and, with them, a larger audience in the audio market, there was Bragi's Dash.
The Dash promised to not only give you fully untethered stereo sound, but also fitness-tracking. It's an ambitious and fairly expensive product that has some interesting points going for it - but, as we pointed out in our review, has shortcomings.
With The Headphone, Bragi has essentially released a stripped-back, more affordable pair of earphones which, for us, are the better suited pair. Here's why.
Bragi The Headphone review: Design
- Completely wireless design
- Charging case with magnetic docks
If you've seen the Bragi Dash, The Headphone will seem immediately familiar. Bragi has kept many of the same design choices, just without some of the seamlessness, finesse and shine of the more premium set. Oh, and the name isn't exactly thoughtful either.
The body of the earbuds is curved nicely to ensure a comfortably fit in the ear, with the eartip and driver built into the end of a tiny arm that extends out of the main body. It is just a glossy plastic though, there's no grippy finish on top like the Motorola VerveOnes+.
While The Headphone may not look or feel like a premium set of earbuds, each is still comfortable to wear for extended periods. They're light enough that you don't feel like you're working hard to have them in your ears, and fit well, even without any of the provided FitSleeves applied. If you do find them a little loose, you can use different tips/sleeves to make them more snug.
Although The Headphone in-ears aren't specifically designed for sports, we found the earphones did a great job of sticking in our ears - they didn't fall out once during our testing; even a vigorous head-shake couldn't dislodge them.
On the underside you'll find tiny gold contact points and two miniature magnets which match those found inside the plastic carrying case. These, as you would expect, are to ensure the earphones stay secure inside the case, and charge up while they're there. As well as keeping them securely connected while on the go, the magnets also ensure the earphones line up and snap into place when you go to stow them. You don't have to fiddle to get the contacts lined up.
On the outside, the left ear features a slightly raised Bragi logo, while the right features three multi-functional buttons. The volume up and down buttons also switch audio transparency on or off, depending on whether you just press or press-and-hold. The power button also has multiple functions: play/pause, skip track, end call and voice-control activation. Which function it performs depends on whether you press it once, twice or three times, or press-and-hold it for one second or three seconds.
In practical use, the buttons are generally easy to press, and you soon get used to the position of them. However, they are quite fiddly - especially if you want to launch the secondary features.
Once you're done listening, you snap The Headphone earphones back into their carrying case, and then slip over the hard plastic sleeve and - if you want to - hang them around your neck using the built in strap. Unlike the Apple AirPods or Bragi Dash case, however, this one doesn't have any built-in battery, so the earphones will only charge when you plug the case into its Micro-USB cable.
Bragi The Headphone review: Features & performance
- Six hours of playback
- Passive noise isolation
- Audio transparency feature
- Auto play/pause when removed
With The Headphone, Bragi has opted to keep things simpler compared to its Dash product, by not including the multitude of built-in sensors. The Headphone, therefore, stick with being just that - in-ear headphones. There are no sensors for measuring heart rate, no high-end gyroscopic sensors or accelerometers for measuring movement, and no touch sensitive surface.
All of this stripped-back-ness should result in a few positives. Firstly, there's the added bonus of The Headphone only needing one connection, rather than two. Secondly, The Headphone is much cheaper than Bragi's original trendsetter Dash: at €169 it's almost half the price.
Saying that, there are a couple of features that make them more than a bottom rung pair of earphones. Firstly, they pause automatically when you remove the right earbud from your ear, suggesting there is a motion sensor of some kind in the right earbud. Secondly, there are ambient noise mics designed to let in noise from the outside, but it must be said this second feature doesn't work that well, only letting through high pitched noises rather than anything else.
Since The Headphone in-ears don't have a battery-equipped charging case to fall back on, Bragi has blessed its more budget option with batteries that last up to six hours on a single charge. For the most part, they last well - comfortably enough to get you through your daily commutes for a few days. Once drained, they take two hours to refill.
Bragi The Headphone review: Sound Quality
- Knowles Balanced Armature Speakers
- AAC and SBC audio codec
Despite not having the most audiophile-friendly sound profile, The Headphone still provide a pleasant listen. It does require some work to get the best sound, however: we found that we couldn't just stick them in our ears and have brilliant audio. The fit needs to be very snug in order for the bass and middle frequencies to shine. A number of times, before tweaking the position, the music sounded flat and a little lifeless. After adjustment, the balance was pleasant.
Bass levels are fairly high, so clarity is a little lacking overall, but we had no real issues when listening to our favourite albums - especially considering that these cost around the same amount as the Apple AirPods.
While high-end frequencies don't ring, as such, there are much worse sounding earphones, plus we don't like overly sharp in-ears. Over all, The Headphone's audio balance is rather good.
On the whole, it's important to look at the price point of The Headphone before being overly critical about its lack of high-end features versus the more expensive Dash. For the money, there's very little else out there that will match its performance or reliability, at least not in this form factor.
They're comfortable to wear, sound decent and the connection is solid. What's more, you don't need to mess around setting up two different connections to the same pair of earphones like you do with some other more feature-packed earphones.
Alternatives to consider...
Apple AirPods are an easy recommendation for iPhone users, because they're desinged to be super convenient. They come in a tiny case that's barely noticeable in your pocket, and connect more easily to phones thanks to that W1 chip.
Read the full review: Apple Airpods review: Wire-free future or design disaster?
Jabra Elite Sport
They might be bigger, but the performance and sound of the Jabra Elite Sport is probably better than most other earphones in this category as it stands. They're a little uncomfortable to wear, but they're super secure in the ears and have some great fitness tracking features.
Read the full review: Jabra Elite Sport review: These are the AirPods you really want