"We take a look at two in demand Truly Wireless earphones, both of which I feel will satisfy their respective markets really well. "
Bragi is a German technology company based in Munich. They are the pioneers of the truly wireless earphone market, i.e. earphones that are not connected to each other by a cable, and their first product, The Dash, was wildly successful. Now the Dash was a highly advanced piece of tech with some next level features, but that also added to the cost and not everyone could afford it and it being their first product also had some room for improvement as a lot of the early units often had connectivity issues. So to address some of the issues, Bragi decided to make a trimmed down version of The Dash, making production less complicated and ending up with a cheaper product for the masses, The Headphone. I decided to check out The Headphone and let you know what I think about it. The Headphone comes in a cute little box which is about the same dimensions as a white board duster and you know that it’s packed to the brim as it has some weight to it. The lid opens like that of a pack of cigarettes and there’s fabric pull out tab that you use to slide out the inner drawer. Once you slide it out, the inner contents are revealed with the earphones in their case/cradle and below it the accessories, being the Micro USB charging cable and the additional tips of varying sizes. The product literature including warranty information can be found behind the cradle and they also include Bragi stickers (which is awesome :D). The case itself is solid matte black, with an outer protective shell with the earphones cradled in the inner shell, magnetically attached, so as to enable inductive charging. Keep in mind that this case is for charging only and does not have an internal battery for recharging on the go. There is a Micro USB port for charging on one end and a lanyard on the other. I found their inclusion of a lanyard rather peculiar, it reminds of the days when we as kids used to carry our water bottles around our necks. Even though it’s nowhere close to as big as those water bottles, you’re still not getting any style points for it. Moving on, the earphones, or rather The Headphone, is reminiscent of the original Dash with a few changes on the face. They still maintain the egg shaped faceplates, with the LED indicators at the bottom. What they have changed is that now most of the face is now a rubberized material with physical controls instead of the gloss plastic with touch controls. There are three buttons on the right earpiece for Power/Pairing and Volume Up and Down. The shape of the earpieces themselves are still the same and have interchangeable tips with the option of Comply (which is included in the box). Putting them on, they feel rather snug and solid and don’t make me feel like they will be falling off anytime unless they’re physically yanked out of my ear. They are also pretty light, so after having them on for a while, I often forgot I had them on, which is ideal. A good fit is rather necessary with these truly wireless earphones as you do not want one of them to fall out while running and then potentially damaging it or losing it forever. This makes it an ideal pair for working out with, also keeping in mind that these can easily handle some sweat and even some minor splashes of water to some extent. Overall, the build on The Headphone is super solid and confidence inducing. They are comfortable for long uses and never feel like they are protruding out of your ears like an outgrowth. I do have one minor qualm with the controls though. Being physical rubber buttons, you may sometimes have to press hard, indirectly pressing into your inner ears. However you do get used applying the right amount of pressure and the buttons do soften up over a couple days of use, so it’s not a deal breaker, just something to keep in mind if you get one of these.
THE HEADPHONE GOES FOR A SPORTY DESIGN WHILE THE WF-1000X IS MORE BUSINESSLIKE
After the relatively successful lifetime of the MDR-1000X, Sony got a good feel for the Wireless Audio market. With a new generation of wireless audio products, due to every other smartphone maker ditching the headphone jack, Sony also released a new range of wireless products. The new products being the WH-1000X Mk2 Headphone (Successor to MDR-1000X), The WI-1000X (wireless neckbuds) and the WF-1000X being the truly wireless version, being the competitor to the Apple Airpods. The WF-1000X is what we are looking at today and comparing it with another product of the same form factor. Unpacking the unit, the box is square and the outer cover slides out and the inner contents are protected by a translucent lid with the Sony logo. Opening it reveals the inner contents. The earphones are set on top, the charging/carry case below that and a row of additional tips at the bottom. The foam setting comes out and there you have more accessories with the charging cable and additional tips at the top and product literature(a whole bunch of it) at the bottom. Going back to the earphones, the buds look like those old school mono headsets that brokers of some kind used to wear, just a lot shorter. There’s a silicone arch on the inside to keep them secure in your ear by pressing up against the inner walls of your ears and the inner half of the housing is a rubberized plastic which is pretty comfortable, the tips can also be changed as per your convenience. They even include wing-tips that provide extra support for workouts. The outer shell is a metallic finish of a champagne colour(the other option being dark blue) with the mic cutouts and transparent curve on each earpiece that reveals the antenna and indicators. There is one button on the top of either earpieces that have various functions that can be toggled by clicking the button a specific number of times to activate or deactivate anything. You can toggle Active Noise Cancellation (Full Cancellation or with Ambient Noise Pass Through), Play/Pause, Call Functions, activate Google Assistant or even Siri, though it cannot adjust volume, you’ll have to do it on the device. The earphones themselves feel like regular earphones and don’t have any significant bulk to them despite all the tech packed into each earpiece. It sits very securely as well with no amount of running or jumping around dislodging the earpieces, though at times with heavy use, you do feel like taking them out for a minute or two and let your ears breathe. The forward arch does somewhat feel like a headset, but be assured, it doesn’t look like it. The charging case included is rather nice, even though it’s slightly more than twice as wide as the AirPod case, I’d rather have this as it feels like a premium case rather than a glorified dental floss case. It’s flat on the top and bottom, with a Micro USB port for charging at the back. Also if you turn it over, at the bottom you can see the NFC logo, indicating the NFC Chip for easy and rapid pairing. I am rather pleased with the design and build of the Sony WF-1000X, it looks and feels like a premium pair. It even wears comfortably. It could have benefitted with a good IPX rating, but it’s sweat resistant enough to be worn at the gym. Overall, you simply can’t go wrong with them, unless you want to wear them for a swim, in which case there’s no other truly wireless earphone in this range that can handle complete submersion.
Bragi has made the use of high quality Balanced Armature Drivers made by Knowles, who are known for making high quality audio drivers for professional and medical use. They even supply drivers to other High End IEM manufacturers like Noble Audio. Bragi make it known on their website, their packaging and on their marketing material. We can assume that Bragi have taken some effort to make sure their products actually sound good. Even without listening to it, just knowing that gives me a sigh of relief as normally I expect such feature focused earphones to sound horrible, maybe mediocre at best. So I was glad when my assumption turned out to be true as not only do they not sound bad, but they sound pretty good considering the price and all the features they offer. On the first listen, I was pretty impressed with how they did not have a mainstream V-Shape tuning and the bass wasn’t slammed to the wall, but they actually sounded balanced. They seem to be well rounded across the frequency range and seem to have a sense of definition and a good amount of resolution. The Bass is that of a well implemented Balanced Armature driver, i.e it extends well and has a nice and accurate thump rather than the muddy pounding of a poorly made dynamic driver earphone. At no point does it feel that the bass is overpowering the rest of the frequencies, as they normally do on a lot of mainstream earphones and headphones. Going on, the Bass transitions super smoothly into the Mid-Bass and the Lower Mids. The mids, like the bass feels super natural and of a natural timbre. Male Vocals sound pretty clear and energetic and female vocals have adequate sharpness. Guitar strings have a natural tone to them, such that you know there’s sound coming from an actual wooden instrument and not a digital recreation of it. The Headphone excels with the Bass and the Mid range frequencies, however, the treble region is where these falter. Usually the issue with most earphones in terms of treble is that they’re too sharp or bright or sibilant, however The Headphone has the opposite problem, it’s not sharp enough. The treble frequencies feel rather blunt and muted, which doesn’t necessarily make it sound bad, but it limits it from sounding Brilliant. Due to the somewhat blunt treble region, it feels like it’s missing some sparkle up top making it sound a little less airy at times. However, on songs that aren’t really treble heavy and more focused on vocals or beats, you don’t really miss it that much. Listening to some well produced vocal centric music, I often forgot I was listening to a set of truly wireless earphones, sometimes forgot I even had them on as they’re so light and comfortable. At the end of the day, despite its flaws, listening to The Headphone was an enjoyable experience, something that I can’t say for some other Wireless Earphones of the same price. So they have my seal of approval, if it means anything, as a great sounding set of Truly Wireless earphone.
WHILE THE BRAGI MAINTAINS A NATURAL TONALITY, SONY SOMEWHAT OVERDOES IT.
The WF-1000X has three modes of listening, being Walking Mode, Staying Mode and Transport Mode. These modes are a part of the Adaptive Sound Control Feature, which judges your environment and adjusts the level of noise cancellation. So you may notice a change in sound, but that’s not the quality of the sound improving or declining, but rather a change in the level of noise cancellation as it does take about 20-30 seconds to calculate and adjust. I did most of my listening at work, so the majority of my listening was using the Staying Mode which allows voices to pass through so that you aren’t totally disconnected. The Walking Mode allows noises coming from close sources to pass through and the Transport Mode is for total noise cancellation. The Noise Cancellation on these is not as good as that on the WH-1000X mk2, but it’s excellent for something of this form factor and the price. Moving on to the actual sound, the first thing I noticed when I put them in and started playing some of my favourite music, was the clarity and the texture on these earphones. You can hear and feel the crunch of the guitar strings and the weight of the ivory keys of an old piano. It’s instantly something that makes you forget that you’re using a wireless set of earphones. It feels like a very well detailed earphone and has an overall balanced sound with no singular region of the audible frequencies dominating over the others. The imaging and soundstage is decent, it’s good for a pair of compact In-Ears(considering all the tech packed in, the drive chamber is pretty compact), but it’s nothing to gush over. It’s a great set of earphones, the noise-cancellation, even though it needs up to half a minute to acclimate, is great and it sounds great as well. These earphones sound great and most of the people will find this to be an amazing pair, however there was something that bothered me, which I feel is the reason some other people won’t find it to be the “Perfect Pair”. Remember I said these earphones have an amazing texture and clarity, sometimes on some tracks it can feel a little bit exaggerated and unnatural. I didn’t realise this until I kept listening for some time. So it seems like, well recorded and well mastered tracks sound a little bit too textured, to the point of nearing an artificial sound. This is not the first time a high-end Sony earphone has had the issue, but it’s definitely not the worst one. The majority of the people listening to mainstream music won’t even notice it and will be extremely happy with them and they should be, as they are still a highly impressive pair of earphones.
One of the major issues with the original Dash, was the connection reliability, or lack of it. There were regular signal drops, interrupting music and calls and it was thus the biggest criticism of the product. I was glad to learn that Bragi learned from the Dash and have drastically improved the Wireless Connection on The Headphone. I had no connection issues as long as the paired device was present in the same room or in clear view. However, there is one quirk to it, normally when you pull it one of the earbuds to listen to someone talk, the earphones automatically pause the music, but in case of The Headphone, when you remove one, the music mutes on the earpiece that’s on but continues to play on the other one, which is odd. It’s not that much of an issue, it’s just odd. Moving on, one of the best features of The Headphone, is the 6 Hour battery life, which is pretty amazing for an earphone of this form factor. You get the full 6 Hours as claimed by Bragi, considering you don’t listen at full volume the entire time. My one gripe with it is that the charging case doesn’t come with a battery built in for additional charges on the go, which is almost standard with every other truly wireless earphones. They do somewhat make up for it with the excellent battery life, but it’s something that I would have preferred to see as standard.
BOTH HAVE COMPROMISES, WHICH ARE YOU WILLING TO MAKE.
A truly wireless pair of earphones is completely useless if it does not have reliable connectivity. What would be the use of one if it didn’t even work? So I was glad that after all my time listening to these earphones, I didn’t have any connectivity issues at all. The connection with my phone was stable and I did not have any drops in signal under normal use. The one gripe I had, which was hugely frustrating, was pairing the earphones on non-NFC devices. You have to perform an entire ritual where you take out only the left earpiece, turn it on, start pairing, connect with your phone and only then take out the right unit. There’s an entire different ritual for connecting paired units. Thankfully I have a phone with NFC, so I could pair with literally one touch. My biggest issue with these earphones is the battery life, it’s one of the worst in the category. The earpieces themselves are claimed to have three hours of battery, which they do. My guess would be it’s so low because of the Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation, which is also fair because it’s also the only product in the category to have noise cancellation. The charging case holds an additional 6 hours of charge, which is again, not great. If the case itself could hold additional 8-10 hours of battery life, I would have had no issue recommending these earphones, but these only come in at a total of 9 hours including the charge in the earpieces and the charging case. If the battery life really matters to you, I can’t recommend these earphones, but if you’re willing to look over the battery life, it’s a great set of earphones I can easily recommend.
At the end of the day, the best option between the two is really down to your use. The Headphone by Bragi offers great comfort and sound for uninterrupted use and even has the battery life for it. The WF-1000X is also a great sounding option, better suited for a heavy commuter or someone who actively travels by train or plane, as long as the journey is under 3 hours of course, as I doubt you'd wanna recharge during a flight.
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