While the idea of untethered listening seems like a natural progression from the wired earbuds that seem to have become ubiquitous in today's world, the execution of a pair of truly wireless headphones is obviously something that's far more difficult to achieve than simply removing the wires.
Bragi - The Dash
The Bragi Dash are one of the first big-name entrants into the field, and after spending some time with them, it's clear that they serve as a good model of both what works about the wireless headphone model so far, but also what future products like Apple's upcoming AirPods can do to improve the experience.
Right off the bat, the Dash are far more complicated to set up out of the box than any other connected Bluetooth device I've ever used with my iPhone. They have their own app for managing the device, and pair to the phone with two separate connections: one for syncing health data, and one for streaming music. That's because Bragi has an ambitious goal for the Dash: Far from just playing music, the company envisions them as a digital computing platform, with fitness tracking and onboard music storage.They're meant to be more than just a pair of headphones.
But when compared to the ease of connecting a pair of AirPods, it's clear there's a lot that can be done to improve the experience. Once you've set up the Dash, though, connecting them is as simple as just sliding them out of their case (which also recharges the battery when not in use), and rolling them into your ears. Considering the amount of technology that has to be crammed into the relatively tiny device (Bluetooth chips, batteries, a second wireless connection to connect the two earbuds, and, of course, actual audio equipment), the Dash is impressively light and comfortable to wear. And despite the lack of a cable, I've had no issues even when walking or even running with them in my ears.
The biggest problem with the Dash is that connectivity is spotty. With something like wireless headphones, a rock solid connection needs to be table stakes if you're hoping to replace wired connections. The Dash can store music on the headphones themselves, which helps as a stopgap for when the connection cuts out — but if they can't be relied on for a steady connection, it's going to be difficult to recommend them over a good pair of wired headphones, no matter how convenient the wireless aspect may be.
Ultimately, as a first effort from the company in a very young field, the Bragi Dash are a good starting point. While the first attempt of the Dash may not be the best truly wireless headphones ever, as a proof of concept, it's clear that once the technical issues get solved, this is going to be the future of headphones.
I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.