Erato’s lightweight Verse wireless earbuds deliver solid sound at a good price

Erato, one of the first companies to make and sell fully wireless earbuds, has a new product available called the Verse that’s more affordable than its flagship Apollo 7 buds, but with great sound quality, a lighter form factor, and innovative graphene drivers that provide quality audio with fewer compromises. The small, bullet-shaped earbuds are a good alternative for would-be AirPod customers who either don’t have the right ear shape, or are looking for better sound isolation as compared to Apple’s fully wireless buds.

The Verse buds do have one significant flaw compared to other wireless buds – they have an advertised battery life of just three hours of music playback, which is at least an hour less than most of the other options out there. They do come with a battery-packing case that can recharge them on the go, however, and ultimately Erato says that they’ll provide up to 15 hours of playback between case and earbuds on a full charge (though you’ll have to recharge the buds by stowing them every three hours or so).

The case itself is actually very reminiscent of Apple’s AirPods case – it’s a matte black, and a bit bigger, but it has a similar pivoting top, and even makes a sound that’s an awful lot like the AirPods case click when closed. A label on the stainless steel hinge for the case’s top also reads “Designed by Erato in California, Assembled in China” in case you had any doubts about where they were getting their inspiration.

As for the buds themselves, they’re shaped just like the Apollo 7s, which is to say they look like bullets with rubber tips on the end, and with a small button at the wide end of each bud. The earbuds also have a matte black (or white, depending on which model you buy) finish, which makes the plastic feel higher quality. Also, they’re incredibly light – so light they feel like props rather than actual functioning electronic devices.

Despite their lightness, they sound good – and substantial. They have more bass than their Apple equivalents, and in general you’ll enjoy a more full sound, made better because the “spin-fit” silicon tips that Erato includes with the buds are much more likely to provide a stable fit in your ears.

The other improvement Erato has made here is in the case – it’s far better than the one that shipped with the Apollo 7, providing a much more reliable connection with the buds themselves for charging. Its rounded edges and snap shut lid also make it a pretty fantastic fidget object, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Erato’s offering is a strong one in the $150 price range, where it earns the honor of being the best-sounding option currently out there. If battery life was a bit better, they’d be a no brainer, but as it is, you might want to consider other options if that’s your most important buying criteria.

B&O’s Beoplay E8 totally wireless earbuds really are the total package

Bang & Olufsen’s headphones tend to stand out from the crowd, and their new fully wireless mode, the Beoplay E8, is no exception. The E8 is easily the best totally wire-free headphone I’ve used thus far, with comfortable earbuds that should fit your regardless of your ear shape, good battery life of around four hours per charge, and the best sound quality of any true wireless buds I’ve tested – and I’ve tested a lot.

The Beoplay E8 are diminutive and understated, making for a far better in-ear look than Apple’s somewhat ridiculous looking AirPods, and they come with a charging case with a full recharge for the buds built in, making for total unplugged play time of 8 hours before you have to find an outlet. The case itself is head and tails above the competition, too, with a sleek, pebbled leather outer and no fiddling required to get the buds inserted within for a good connection to their charging contacts.

B&O has also done a great job with the companion app for the Beoplay E8, offering easy presets and manually configurable equalizer settings so you can tune the sound based on your preferences or the type of content you’re using them to listen to. The app also uses Bluetooth LE for a super easy out of the box pairing experience, which is only marginally more challenging than Apple’s W1-enabled near-field pairing for the AirPods.

In the box, B&O also crucially includes Comply isolating foam earbud tips for the headsets themselves, which really up the game in terms of audio quality. I generally recommend using Comply tips if you want to be able to focus in on sound quality with any pair of earbuds, but often they’re only available as an aftermarket add-on, so it’s great to have them included right alongside the other tip options here.

Another big benefit here vs. some other options are intuitive, touch-based controls built right into the headset. You don’t have to press a physical button into your ear as a result, and the top controls are easy enough to manage once you follow the in-app instructions to learn how to use them to control playback, volume, transparency modes and more. Speaking of transparency, that’s another standout here: You can tap once on the left bud to enable audio passthrough, ensuring you can go about your business during the day without theoretically ever having to take the earbuds out, while, for instance, shopping or paying for a transit ticket.

The Beoplay E8s come in either a black or a charcoal sand colorway, but I reviewed the black ones and they’re ideal for anyone hoping to get the most out of truly wireless buds while remaining relatively discreet about their use. Either look is good, however, and the matching case is also terrific to look at.

The E8s are also very capable when it comes to using your phone’s virtual assistant, including Siri, and when making calls. People I spoke to reported good sound quality on the other end, using the built-in microphones on the small buds.

B&O’s offering is a bit pricier than some of the other options out there, including AirPods, at $299, but they deliver unmatched sound quality in this category for that price, as well as reliable, rock solid connectivity and great sound customization features. If what you’re after is truly wireless earbuds, and your primary qualification in making a buying decision is that they be the best available all-around, the Beoplay E8 definitely fits the bill.