Whether the iPhone 7 has a headphone jack or not, wireless headphones are the future of consumer audio.
Despite this, the majority of today’s Bluetooth headphones are plagued with compromises, whether they be in audio quality, convenience, or fit/comfort. It’s no question that fully wireless earbuds are about to take off, but what remains in question is: which device will kick-start the revolution? Will it be the earbuds that ship with the iPhone 7? Probably. But that’s not stopping Erato from trying to beat Apple to the punch.
At a cool $249, the Erato Apollo 7 wireless earbuds certainly aren’t cheap, but do they boast the premium quality to match? Yes. Yes they do.
What’s in the box?
When we our Erato headphone review sampled arrived we were taken aback with how “premium” they feel. The golden box snaps shut with the click of two magnets hidden under the cardboard. Once you open the box for the first time you’ll see the headphones’ case wedged in a cushion – the ensemble looks as if it’s about to be presented for exchange in a wedding, not something you’re going to shove into your waxy ears to listen to Metallica.
The earbuds themselves are hidden inside this case, magnetically snapped into place, where they’ll live whenever they’re not in your ears. While the extra bits and pieces were sent to us in a separate box, the final packing will include a wide array of ear tips, both Comply memory foam and standard silicon, a Micro-USB charging cable, and sport wings right inside.
Setting up the Erato earbuds is crazy easy. There’s no need to download an extra app because the earbuds work just like any other Bluetooth headphones. To switch them on, simply hold down the single button located on each bud. Keep pressing one of the buttons down if you need to make them discoverable by your phone, tablet, or computer. It doesn’t really matter which earbud you pair, as they’ll sync with each other regardless.
Setting up the Erato earbuds is stupidly easy … they work just like any other Bluetooth earbuds.
One thing to note about these earbuds is that the portion that goes into your ear is fairly large – those who have trouble using earbuds in general will not find these to be any better. Fit is important, not just for security, but because sound quality depends greatly on how well these earbuds sit and seal in your ear.
Turning on the Apollo 7 isn’t as easy as turning on the Earin, which power on and pair automatically when you take them out of their case, but is still very easy, only requiring you to hold down the button for a second. Plus, if you turn them on when they’re already in your ear, you’ll get to enjoy the sound of a robotic voice saying “power on.”
Battery technology is getting better but still isn’t good enough to make a device this small last for longer than three hours. You’re not going to get a full day of continuous use out of the Apollo 7’s, but if you don’t plan on using them for more than three hours at a time, recharging them in their case should get you through the day. The case offers two additional charges for each earbud, so in total you should get 9 hours of use.
The one thing both the Earin and Bragi Dash got right was sound quality. Both of those competing devices were designed with what are called balanced armature drivers — little rods that produce sound by vibrating back and forth. Known for their speedy response and clean attack, balanced armatures can sound very clean and clear, but they tend to struggle with bass.
By contrast, the Erato Apollo 7 use a micro-sized dynamic driver – like a super tiny version of the driver in your home speakers or full-size headphones – and, therefore, the bass on these bad boys is very impressive. It’s deep and clear, yet not overpowering. No, these aren’t over-ear headphones, and you’re not going to forget that while listening, but there’s plenty of bass to appreciate in the Apollo 7’s.
Midrange response was fairly balanced with the bass and treble, providing clean vocals and just a little bit of meat to string instruments, those at times we felt like there was just a slight dip in there that kept voices from sounding like they were right inside your head.
Related: Hands on: Earin wireless earbuds
Highs were affected greatly by the type of eartip used. With comply foam, the treble was sparkling but never strident or overly sibilant. With silicon tips, we felt like the treble spun out of control a bit. Our bet is that the Apollo 7 were voiced to sound their best with the Comply tips, because the affect they have on sound quality has always been substantial. It’s rare in our experience to find an in-ear headphone that sounds good with both types of tips.
And, again, with the Comply tips you have a better chance of getting a great seal, which will improve bass response dramatically.
What if they fall out and bounce down into the drain?
We’re not going to sugar-coat it: if you don’t stick these in your ears deep enough, it is possible that they’ll fall out. It’s a good idea to get used to the sports wings that come with them, which should help keep them in place.
If the buds do fall out and hit the deck, and you’re a bit of a germaphobe, don’t worry: one of the great things about these earbuds is that they’re water resistant. If they get dirty simply rinse them under the tap and pat them dry. Yes, we did try it, and no they didn’t break. Don’t go swimming with them, but if you get caught in the rain, your wireless earbuds should be just fine.
A life of their own
One issue we ran into periodically was synchronicity between the two earbuds. When we first fired them up, they usually struggled to sync up properly, and while after a few seconds of use they typically found their way, it was a little annoying to only be listening to music in one ear for those few seconds. Rarely, they would momentarily de-sync even after a few minutes of listening, but again they usually got back on track relatively quickly. Not a deal-breaker, to be sure, but something to keep in mind. We should also note that this has been an issue with every totally wireless in-ear we’ve tested so far, so we weren’t at all surprised to have this problem.
Another issue we’ve run into before is a brief balance problem wherein audio tended to sound a little heavier out of one earbud than another. Again, this was a very occasional issue, but if you’re not expecting it, you might worry something is wrong. From our experience, this is an unfortunate bug in the technology that makes wireless earbuds like this possible. We got over it pretty quickly. It’s more of a hiccup than a hindrance.
What the buds lack in stability among themselves, they more than make up for with remarkable wireless range with your device. We were able to hear music from as far as 14 or 15 feet away, so if you forget your phone on your desk you might just make it to the next room with the sound dropping out.
Erato has come out with a great product in the Apollo 7. They’re super convenient, come with enough tips and accessories to suit most ears, and they offer a great sound for everyday listening.
This technology is still new, and, therefore, quirky, but the Apollo 7 manage to do right where their competitors went wrong thanks to remarkably good wireless range and quick Bluetooth syncing with devices.
We’re excited to see how Erato uses technology improvements over the next few years to deliver an even better product, but in the meantime the Apollo 7 earbuds are the best truly wireless earbuds we’ve tested. If you’re an early adopter hungry to be one of the first to snag a pair of truly wireless earbuds, the Apollo 7 are your best bet yet.