Wireless earbud challenge – Crazybaby’s Air vs Bragi’s Dash Pro
Apple may have set the ball rolling with its Airpods, but reviewers were unimpressed with their appearance and lack of features. We test two alternatives for sound quality, design and extras
Though truly untethered wireless earbuds have existed since 2015 – the idea first planted by German start-up Bragi – it wasn’t until Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack and launch its own set of wireless buds named AirPods that things got going.
But Apple’s AirPods haven’t been particularly well received. Most tech reviewers consider them lacking in features, and dislike those elongated legs. This year, floods of Chinese companies have released wireless earbuds, with Shenzhen-based Crazybaby’s Air being the most popular and technologically impressive.
Bragi, too, has released an updated (and much improved) version of its flagship earbuds, named Dash Pro. So we decided to pit the two big AirPods alternatives head to head.
Design and hardware
Both sets of earbuds come stored inside a metal charging case. Personally, I find the Crazybaby’s oblong case with pull-out tray a bit more stylish and easier to open, but the Bragi’s shelf-like case has a larger battery, giving its earbuds an additional five charges (to Crazybaby’s four).
Moving to the buds, both are crafted out of plastic and relatively light, but the Air is significantly smaller than the Dash Pro and not as noticeable when worn. It isn’t fair, of course, to knock the Dash Pro’s larger size, since it has 4GB of internal storage built in, as well a host of other sensors, which I’ll cover later in the “additional features” section.
The Dash Pro has no physical buttons (it’s touch and swipe sensitive) while the Air has clickable buttons.
Fit and connection
Both sets of earbuds come with extra rubber tips in various sizes to fit almost all ear types. The Dash Pro’s tips are a bit more invasive, which makes them less comfortable over long sessions, but in return, you get a better seal around the ear canal and they fit more securely. Still, neither earbuds fell out once during multiple gym sessions.
Connecting to a smartphone/tablet/laptop is a breeze for the Air – simply turn on Bluetooth and pair. With the Dash Pro, if you want access to all the features, you have to download the Bragi app and then pair by inputting a randomly generated numeric code. Fortunately, you only have to do this once. After that, the Dash Pro turns on and connects automatically as soon as you put them in your ear.
One of the main reasons true wireless earbuds were so slow to take off is due to connectivity issues. Unlike wireless headphones or even older wireless earbuds that have a cord connecting the two earpieces, there’s significantly less room to store receivers, making for a weaker connection than bulkier headphones.
But advancement in Bluetooth tech and, in Bragi’s case, plenty of trial and error, has resulted in a connection that’s almost flawless indoors (where signals have the benefits of bouncing off walls) and acceptable outdoors.
In my testing, both the Dash Pro and Air remained connected to my smartphone in one room even as I stepped into another room and closed the door. The connections were impressive when I took them out for a walk on the streets too, with a very low audio hiccup rate of maybe 1 per cent to 2 per cent.
Neither the Air nor the Dash Pro are going to blow you away with audio quality – if you’re comparing to a nice set of wired headphones. But compared to other earbuds (even wired ones), both pump out impressive sound.
I prefer the sound of the Air due to its fuller, deeper bass and louder overall volume, but the Dash Pro produces very clear acoustics and a more balanced sound. So if you’re someone who prefers Bob Dylan or Jack Johnson to hip hop or techno, the Dash Pro may be preferable.
This is where the Dash Pro outshines not just the Air, but every other set of earbuds on the market. Bragi’s founder Nikolaj Hviid envisioned his device to be a “computer for your ear”. To that end, Bragi has packed it with plenty of features.
It has sensors that track heart rate; step count; and even laps in the swimming pool (yes, the Dash Pro buds are completely waterproof, while the Air buds are merely splash-proof).
The Dash Pro also has a feature dubbed “4D Menu” that allows the user to navigate within the OS with a series of head nods and neck tilts. It was a bit awkward to attempt in public (I got plenty of stares), but I was indeed able to activate Google Assistant on my Android phone without once touching the Dash Pro. From there, the built-in mic can pick up voice commands. Both devices made voice calls fine, though the party on the other end said my voice was more audible on the Dash Pro.
The Dash Pro gave me about four-and-a-half hours of battery life, while the Crazybaby Air almost reached six hours before shutting down.
While the Bragi Dash Pro can do a lot more than the Crazybaby Air, the former is also significantly pricier (HK$2,560 vs HK$1,499), so it really depends on what you’re looking for.
If you just need audio playback, Crazybaby’s Air has a slightly fuller sound and better battery life. But if you want the additional features (and have the additional cash), the Dash Pro is the most futuristic “hearable” right now.