There’s a ton of competition when it comes true wireless earbuds, a category that just a couple years ago didn’t even exist. But with big names such as Apple, Samsung and Jabra getting in the game, it takes something special for a pair of wireless earbuds to really stand out. But the Dash Pro by Bragi could do just that, because not only is it one of the best sounding true wireless earbuds on the market, it’s also pushing into new territory by serving as a lightweight wearable computer.
Starting at $329 and available for pre-order now on Bragi.com, the Dash Pro is third generation of Bragi’s wireless earbuds and offers battery life of 5 hours, pass through audio enhancement and active noise canceling. And with the 2,200 mAh battery built into the Dash Pro’s case, Bragi says users can expect up to 30 hours of wireless audio before you need to find a plug.
MORE: Our Favorite Wireless Headphones
In keeping with the idea of being a truly hands-free device, the Dash Pro also supports gesture control that will let you receive calls or skip to the next song with simple head movements like a nod or shake. Bragi’s Dash Pros even have 4GB of built-in storage, so you can leave your phone at home during a run and still listen to music. The Dash Pros are also swimming-friendly and water-resistant up to 3 feet.
But what elevates the Dash Pro to a higher tier is the device’s built-in computing power that enables it to automatically track activities like running, biking or swimming, or serve as a personal translation device.
The first is pretty straightforward. Similar to the Fitbit Charge 2 and some other newer fitness trackers, the Dash Pros will determine what kind of activity you are doing, and keep track of stats such as duration and heart rate automatically.
The translation feature is a bit more finicky. Born through a partnership between Bragi and iTranslate, the Dash Pro can detect languages using its built-in mics, run that audio through iTranslate’s algorithms, and spit it back out in your native tongue, either on the Dash Pro itself, or as text on your smartphone.
At the launch event for the Dash Pro, I got to test the translation feature out for myself. While the device doesn’t quite live up to the company’s claim of being a real-time translation machine—there's often a second or two delay between—it did a decent job of correctly identifying snippets of audio and providing relatively accurate translations. Currently, it’s not the kind of thing that would let you converse fluently with someone from another country, but as a tool to help travelers overcome the many hurdles of a language barrier, it’s surprisingly good.
The feature that I was most impressed with is the Dash Pro’s noise enhancement, which works by taking in ambient sounds and reducing them to a low, but still audible level. It's great for those who like to listen to music while riding a bike, but need to hear important audio cues, such as the honk of a car horn.
The one thing that needs more testing is the stability of the Dash Pro’s Bluetooth connection. Especially in New York City, even the best true wireless earbuds have a hard time maintaining a rock-solid connection. None of the wireless buds we've tested have been able to keep a steady, unbroken link to our smartphones. And while the Dash Pro were pretty stable in small bursts, I’m need more time to get more thorough results.
Bragi also teamed up with one of the leading makers of hearing aids to create the Dash Pro by Starkey. These custom-made versions of the Dash Pro feature earpads made from impressions taken directly from your ears. That means that you’ll get an absolutely perfect fit, so that the Dash Pro can deliver the best possible audio and comfort. However, like all custom-made products, the Dash Pro by Starkey are pricey—$500 in this case—and users will need to visit a Starkey-certified store to get their ear impressions made.
For owners of the standard Dash, Bragi’s new OS3 will upgrade the earlier model with most of the features on the new Dash Pro.
While $329 is a lot to pay for any sort of headphones, the boatload of features packed in the Dash Pro could make the expense worth your while. Bragi is taking pre-orders for the Dash Pro now, before shipments go out in June.
Photo credit: Tom's Guide/Sam Rutherford