Truly wireless earbuds are all the rage in the audio scene these days, as Apple's AirPods have been more widely embraced than anyone expected. Cutting the cord has been a welcome improvement for many AirPod fans — but the buds don't offer much more than an untethered audio experience, leaving the door open for other innovations.
Bragi, a Kickstarter darling that hit the scene in 2014 with its Dash smartbuds, is looking to do just that with the next generation of its wireless audio tech. The company is shooting high and hyping the new buds, the Dash Pro and the Dash Pro tailored by Starkey, as "powerful ear computers."
Bragi says the Dash Pro offers even better battery life and new features like automatic activity tracking via its 27 sensors to carry on the fitness-focused legacy of the original, which offered health monitoring and real-time fitness insights for workouts — but the Starkey partnership might be the more interesting news here. Starkey is one of the biggest players in the hearing health market, with its line of smartphone-connected hearing aids like the Halo 2.
The Dash Pro tailored by Starkey will be personalized to the wearer's ear canal via a fitting with one of 5,000 partner audiologists in the U.S. and Canada, making the headphones more of a personal hearing device than an accessory to listen to your music.
The Dash Pro runs on the company's new Bragi OS 3 (BOS 3), an update to the specialized software for the hearable. One new perk is its real-time language translation powered by iTranslate.
All this computing power and personalization won't come cheap, which will likely keep the Dash Pro from becoming the next AirPods. The standard Dash Pro launches at $329, while the personalized Starkey version will run users $499. The companies claim that's one of the lowest-priced custom-made earphones on the market — but for a casual user, that might be too much to ask.
But Bragi probably isn't looking to knock Apple from the top of the headphone food chain — at least not yet. Instead, the Dash Pro is more likely to be considered something of a hybrid personal health care device, as the line between hearing health and audio tech becomes even more blurred.