It’s always interesting trying out new technology here. Whether it’s some new framework, media system, server software or device, the continued development in the technological world is exciting and there’s always something new to play with. Like the Virtual Reality stuff we’ve been messing with here, it’s a fascinating world we live in. This time we’re talking earbuds though, wireless ones. Truly wireless ones. They’re “smart” too. So let’s get going.
About 3 years ago I invested some money into a Kickstarter campaign that claimed to be able to make wireless earbuds that were smart. These things would play music (obviously), check your heart rate, measure your steps, let ambient noise through if you wanted and most importantly you could connect to your phone or any bluetooth sending unit for music. The convenience of loading some songs onto the buds is handy, but for control it’s not.
This campaign claimed they’d get it done in 2014, I received mine just last month. So.. they were a bit behind. It was all a very ambitious project and obviously far too ambitious that had quite a few people angry and some requesting a refund. The fact of the matter was that they had the opportunity to be first out of the gate but took so long that some people just went with the competition. I should note that I have no experience with any of the competition, this is my first set of wireless earbuds.
Arriving at the door and opening the delivery box, I found the packaging to be impressive but overly big for what is inside. Inside is an aluminum case with the earbuds in place, a USB wire and instructions with different size earbud sleeves. I was really looking forward to trying these out but you have to first check the firmware and charge them up. Turns out that they put the latest on mine and they were mostly charged.
The case itself is a battery and when you put the buds inside they click in nicely on a couple of magnets and charge up between usage. All in all it is a very slick design. The buds themselves aren’t overly big or oddly sized in any way and when I went to put them in my ears they went in easily and sat well. I think I’m one of the lucky ones as I’ve seen many people complain that they don’t sit right, fall out and are uncomfortable. The one thing I haven’t seen people write that I experienced is that they sort of tickle the inside of my ears. After about 20 or 30 mins of use I find I have to scratch the inside of my ear. Weird.. but it tends to go away after getting used to using them.
The sound is good, not great and I agree with other reviewers when they say these things lack clarity. The bass is good and mids are ok. The only thing I find irritating is that when they fit just right, the sound is optimal, if you yawn or lean over or do things that adjust your jaw and in turn your ear, they pop out a bit and now you have one ear sounding better than the other. Constant adjustment is required sometimes as the airtight fit they need for that optimal sound is tenuous sometimes.
Putting music on is overly simple, just open up finder or explorer and copy the song into one of four folders. Each folder is a playlist. Cycling through these playlists is done through touch on the right earbud. It’s tedious if you have lots of songs and of course you never know what you’re going to get next as I don’t understand how they are ordered and there is no way to order them. This is where the earbuds have a much better option, bluetooth connectivity to a phone.
I happen to have a spare iPhone 5s hanging around that is mostly just dedicated to music. Hooking it up is as simple as all bluetooth accessories and I had music going very quickly on the buds and all was well. Then I put it in my pocket and there was silence…
The biggest complaint that is heard about these earbuds, and I have experienced acutely, is the extremely poor reception of the bluetooth. While you can get used to the idea that you have to have the phone no further than 3 to 5 feet away in the open, or 2 feet if you put it behind a piece of cloth (like in your pocket), it’s still hit and miss if you simply turn your head. To state that the performance of the bluetooth is abysmal, would almost be generous. Very disappointing to say the least.
That said, I’ve never had an issue between earbuds like others have, they sync up fast and stay that way all the time.
Communicating with the earbuds can be done through the app they put out, which is much more basic and underwhelming than they claimed it would be, or by touch. The touch controls on the earbuds works but it takes getting used to. I find that having to tap hard on the right earbud to change songs is sometimes quite jarring as it’s loud to tap on something directly connected to your ear canal. Changing volume is a swipe forward or backward for up and down respectively and that mostly works well. The left earbud controls activities and the very convenient pass through functionality of environment audio. Essentially the earbuds work like earplugs when off and when on they work as environment sound enhancers. I truly hope they get the algorithm a bit better as wind sounds horrible and at times if you are doing something that is suddenly loud, or just listening to water fall, it can be clippy and uncomfortable.
Finally, the coolest feature of these things is that you can talk to people with them on your phone. Connecting up to my phone I made a call to a friend and chatted away. A couple of minutes in I asked if there were any issues hearing me and he said no. Which is amazing as there is certainly no microphone coming off these things to my mouth. The seamless communication was really neat. One weird thing though that I didn’t like was that I wanted to play music that was stored on the earbuds while staying connected to my phone for further phone calls, but you can’t. I don’t carry music on my phone so that’s inconvenient to not be able to choose as all I had was some weird tune that I think is used as one of the ringers on the phone. A firmware update can fix that I think.
All in all the earbuds are a success in my opinion, for me. I absolutely hate wires and the way they get tangled, wrap around things, get stuck, fall around arms and get caught on things. They bounce around, get irritating and I’ve been waiting a while to see if anybody could create anything that also didn’t have a tether going from one ear to the other. Bragi has definitely succeeded in this arena and it’s impressive. I’m really hoping future firmware updates will improve all the rest and I would imagine version 2 of these things will be that much better. If you hate wires as much as I do then these are recommended.