Will 2017 be the year of the ‘hearable’? No, that’s not a misspelling of the word ‘wearable’ – hearables get their name from a combination of wearable (as in wearable tech) and hearing (or headphone, depending on who you ask).
So hearables are headphones that will let you do more than just listen to music. Recently we’ve started to see more headphones with extra features, such as the Apple Airpods. These allow you to control your iPhone without getting it out of your pocket. In this blog post we’ll pit two of the most popular products in the fledgling hearable market against each other, one of which we’ve tested fully and one we haven’t.
In the blue corner: the Samsung Gear IconX. Marketed as a fitness tracker combined with a pair of wireless headphones, it will track your activity and give you updates on your data as you run. And in the red corner, it’s the Bragi Dash. Bragi is a relatively new company specialising in hearables, and its Dash product will do a similar job to the Samsung.
Headphone reviews – see how the Samsung Gear IconX compares
Design and comfort
Both the Dash (about £260) and the Gear IconX (£159) come supplied in their own charging cases. This is a sensible design decision – both sets of ear buds are small, and don’t have space for large batteries. You’d want a case to keep them in anyway, so it may as well double as a battery.
Both cases are relatively small and sleek, especially the Samsung one, although this is reflected in their battery capacities. The Bragi case has 2,200mAh of charge, while the Samsung has just 315mAh.
Both sets come with a range of different-sized ear tips to fit your ears. However, the Samsung model is actually sold in three different sizes, so you can really get a snug fit. On first impressions, the Samsung set is more comfortable than the Bragi – the ear buds feel slightly lighter and more secure in your ears. Oddly, the Bragi headphones don’t have the ‘L’ and ‘R’ markers to tell you which ear they go in.
Both sets of ear buds have the interesting feature of being able to pipe in sound from your surroundings. The idea behind this is to improve safety and allow you to interact with the world around you. However, we tried this feature on both pairs of headphones, and it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference to the amount of outside noise you can hear.
In terms of sound quality, many in-ear models struggle to deal with bass well, and the Samsung seems to do better than the Bragi in this regard. But how pleasing is the sound on the Gear IconX? Read our full review to find out.
It’s interesting to note the differences in the way these two products are marketed. Bragi is keen to make the Dash sound as technologically advanced as possible. It trumpets details such as the type of processor chip it uses, and the number of gyroscopic sensors in each ear bud.
Samsung, on the other hand, keeps things a bit more simple, instead focusing on the things the Gear IconX can do. In reality, the specs are pretty similar. Both pairs are wireless Bluetooth ear buds that you control by touch-sensitive pads. They also both have 4GB of on-board storage for your music, so you don’t even have to have your phone with you while you’re out for a run.
The Dash does have a couple of extra cards up its sleeve, though. It’s fully waterproof, so you can use it to track your swimming activity, whereas the Samsung is only splashproof – suitable for a jog in the rain, but not for a dip in the pool. Bragi claims the Dash can measure how fast you’re pedalling when you’re out for a bike ride, but we didn’t try this feature.
The concept of fitness-tracking headphones is an interesting one. Lots of people want fitness trackers, and many of those will listen to music while they exercise, so it makes sense to combine two products into one. Throw in the Bluetooth connection to your smartphone, and you have the makings of a useful product, which is perhaps why hearables are starting to cause a buzz in the tech world.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the Bragi Dash to see if it catches on, but you can already read our full review of the Samsung Gear IconX to help decide whether you should take the plunge into the world of hearables.