Wireless headphones are not a new invention. It used to be very common to see people walking around with giant earpieces on one side of their head. Those gadgets were primarily for making phone calls, but nowadays we use Bluetooth for listening to music. In the last few years, we’ve seen an influx of wireless audio devices. The bleeding edge of this technology is wireless earbuds. There have been a few pretty good entries recently, but the technology for completely wireless earbuds is still not where it needs to be.
Naturally, Apple and other manufacturers decided now would be a good time to kill the headphone jack. I’m not writing this to bash on that decision (read my thoughts on it here). What’s done is done, and now we have to live with it. I wanted to find out what it’s actually like to live with wireless earbuds as your only option. There are so many questions to be answered.
To conduct my testing, I used the Bragi Dash wireless earbuds. There aren’t many great options for wireless earbuds right now, but Bragi makes one of the best pairs. This isn’t so much a review as it is an observation on what it’s like to rely on wireless earbuds in your daily life. The Dash work similarly to Apple’s AirPods and Samsung’s Gear IconX. They consist of two completely independent earbuds than can be recharged up to five times with the included case. This is the current state of wireless earbuds.
Enough with the build-up. What is it actually like to rely on wireless earbuds in your daily life? Let’s start with all the good things.
Convenience is the thing that everyone points to when they say wireless is better than wired. The idea is pretty simple. Wired headphones tie you to your phone at all times. Wireless allows you to move freely with nothing in the way. For the most part, this is true. It’s nice to not have a wire going from your head to your pocket. You don’t have to worry about it getting caught on something and yanking the buds out of your ear.
The big advantage is when you’re moving around. Wired headphones are fine when you’re sitting on the bus, but they can be annoying when you’re out for a run. I used the Dash while I was riding my bike and it was really nice to not have a wire flopping around. Wired headphones don’t really limit your head movement, but there’s just something about wireless earbuds that makes it feel like you can move more.
If you’re someone that uses headphones a lot in active situations, it’s easy to see why wireless is the way to go. You’re not getting caught on machines at the gym or messing around with a tangled mess of wires in your bag. Just pop ‘em in your ear and go.
Battery life is something that a lot of people point to as a reason against wireless earbuds. I went into my testing expecting the battery life to be a real problem, but I was surprised by the results. I never ran out or even got close to running out of battery. The longest I used the earbuds was around two hours. Bragi claims they can last up to 3 hours. I rarely ever use headphones for that long, so it might be a problem for other people. I thought it would be a constant battle to keep them charged, but the carrying case makes it super easy.
Speaking of the carrying case, it’s important if you want enough battery to make it through a long day, but it also gives you a practical reason to keep them safe. Besides charging, the case also acts as an on/off switch for the earbuds. As soon as you take the buds out of the case they connect to your phone. When you put them back in the case they disconnect and power off. Wireless earbuds are still pretty new, but this is something I think they nailed right off the bat. If you’re relying on wireless headphones as your only headphones, you don’t want to fiddle with Bluetooth every time.
Time for the bad stuff. Let’s start with convenience again. Wireless earbuds are supposed to be more convenient than wired, but in some cases they’re more cumbersome. The easiest example is when they inevitably fall out of your ear. It doesn’t matter if you have headphones that fit perfectly. They will eventually fall out of your ear. There’s nothing preventing wireless earbuds from falling directly on the ground. When that happens, they can break or be lost.
The Dash fit my ears pretty well, but over time they would slowly become loose. I was constantly worried that they would fall out. Especially when I was riding my bike and mowing the lawn. In some places it would be hard to find a tiny earbud if it fell out. You can get clips or hooks to go around your ear to prevent them from falling out, but that’s not something I’ve ever worried about with wired headphones.
We can’t talk about earbuds without talking about audio quality. It’s pretty easy to find a pair of wired earbuds that sound great for less than $30. That’s what wireless earbuds are up against, and right now there is no contest. Pretty much every pair of sub-$20 or OEM included wired headphones I’ve owned sound better than the Dash. From what I’ve read about the Apple AirPods and Samsung IconX, that’s par for the course.
I am not an audiophile. Very far from, actually. The most expensive headphones I’ve ever purchased were $19 from Monoprice. So when I say the audio quality from the Dash was not good, you know it means something. I don’t want to single out the Dash here, though, because I think this is a general problem among wireless earbuds right now. The technology just isn’t good enough for high-def audio quality in such a tiny package.
The main question I wanted to answer with this test was “could I live with wireless headphones as my only headphone?” The short answer to that question is “no,” but it’s not as hard of a “no” as I thought it would be.
I can now see the convenience of wireless earbuds. It’s very cool to be listening to music without a wire coming out of your pocket or a bulky Bluetooth headset. You sort of feel like a secret agent. Free to take down an enemy without wires getting in the way. Or, you know, a quick run around the neighborhood. It’s easy to envision a future where everyone is wearing wireless earbuds.
However, we’re not there yet. My experience with the Dash has only cemented my previous thoughts on removing headphone jacks from phones. You can live with wireless headphones as your only headphones, but it’s actually easier right now to use wired headphones. Not to mention the audio quality is far superior.
Technology is headed in the right direction, but we’re not there yet. In the tech world, we like to say “the future is now.” In this case, the future is, well, in the future.