Review

I’ve got a computer in my ear, and I love it

By Oliver Smith 7 August 2017
Summary

It feels like living in the future.

Apple’s AirPods are the best wireless earbuds on the market, by a long shot.

They’ve great battery life, a rock-solid bluetooth connection, and have good audio quality in a small form-factor.

But they’re just not very smart.

Bragi is trying to do something different. As CEO Nikolaj Hviid told The Memo earlier this year:

“In essence, we’re making an operating system for your ear.”

And the Dash Pro is his latest attempt.

Read more: How your ear just became the most exciting place in technology

Dashing around

Pushing the Dash Pro earbuds (€349) into your ears is a taste of the future.

They’ll immediate wake-up and tell you: “I am now connected”.

From there, yes you can use them as regular bluetooth headphones, but being a computer for your ear the Dash Pro has a few unique tricks.

It’s 4D menu – ridiculous name aside – can be quickly accessed with a nod, from there you can play/pause, activate Siri or start tracking an activity just by turning your head.

I was able to listen to Spotify, change tracks, even send a text via Siri all without pulling my iPhone out my pocket.

The Dash Pro will also automatically detect if you’re running, cycling or swimming, using the dozens of sensors inside it, and record your exercise as well as your heart rate, all from your ear.

Lastly, the Dash has some smart audio transparency modes that’ll help you stay aware of your surroundings, even whilst playing music.

It’s pretty smart stuff, and far beyond what any other wireless earbud on the market can do right now.

But it’s not perfect.

Apple's AirPods are still better than the Dash Pro in a few key areas. Image: Getty/AJ_Watt.

Warts and all

Bragi boasts that the Dash Pro can also do live translation – a bit like what some other ‘hearable’ makers have been promising.

It’s a bold claim.

In reality, this is a bit of a hack. The Dash connects to the popular iTranslate smartphone app – which can already do live audio dictation, translation and text-to-speech on your phone – and the Dash essentially becomes a speaker for the app, so you hear the app’s translations directly in your ear.

The hack part is that you’ll still need to take your smartphone out and have the person you’re talking to speak into its microphone, and they’ll then use your smartphone to read or hear your replies.

More disappointingly is the Dash Pro’s bluetooth connection, which is flakey at best.

The crux of the issue with wireless earbuds, in general, is that there’s just a lot of bluetooth magic that goes into sending audio from your phone and then between two earbuds.

Apple’s AirPods have nailed this trick, Bragi’s Dash Pro has not.

Some reviews said audio would cut out around 10% of the time, in my experience that’s generous, I’d place it nearer 20%.

Despite those two bugbears, I’ve loved walking around London with a computer in my ear, nodding and scrolling through options, recording activities, all just with a twist of my head.

It feels like the future and I’ll happily live in it, warts and all.