Last fall, an obscure company named Erato released some of the first usable wireless earbuds. The Apollo 7 earbuds were tiny, produced decent sound, and had a Bluetooth connection that didn’t cut out all the time — a problem that doomed similar products. The big issue was a pair of Apollo 7s would set you back $299, a price tag that was way too high considering the earbuds had no buttons or extra features.
Now Erato is back with a new pair called the Muse 5. At $179, they are cheaper than their predecessor, but the Muse 5s aren’t overwhelmingly better than their predecessor. The sound has been improved, thanks to some digital processing — it’s roomy and full and impressive for truly wireless earbuds. They’re probably still not worth the price Erato is charging, though (unless you nabbed them on Indiegogo for $79). Here’s why:
- The carrying / charging case has a few problems. It’s too bulky to fit comfortably in a pocket, and the earbuds squeeze and snap awkwardly into place. Worst of all, the case top comes completely off, instead of sliding or flipping open, meaning you have one more piece to worry about losing.
- The button on each earbud is hard to press. You have to push the whole earbud into your ear a bit just to get it to click, which is frustrating and uncomfortable.
- The Muse 5s are basically only good for music — there’s too much of a signal delay to use them for watching videos or playing video games. Like the Motorola VerveOnes ME I reviewed the other day, I struggled getting the Muse 5s to even work with games.
- The delay is worse if you pair the Muse 5s to a computer, so don’t even bother.
- The earbuds are huge. They’re not particularly uncomfortable — a two-part earbud tip system helps create a decent fit and seal — but they stick out of my ear enough that I got my hood caught on them a few times.
If the Muse 5s were under $100, these would be forgivable issues. But the $179 price tag is just too high. They sound pretty good, and I had basically zero problems with the Bluetooth connection. But they’re just not better than something like the Bragi Headphone or AirPods, both of which come with a more compact case, offer more controls and better battery life, and can handle more than just music.