When you hear the word “verse,” what do you think of? Beautiful music? Softly spoken prose, perhaps? That’s what Erato is hoping by naming its newest set of fully wireless earbuds the Verse. Liker Erato’s flagship Apollo earbuds, the Verse are lightweight, featuring a slick, bullet-inspired design, and they’re just $150, putting them squarely in competition with popular choices like Apple’s AirPods and Bragi’s oddly-named The Headphone.
So, do the Erato Verse offer sweet, musical poetry for your ears? Well, kind of. They’re decent earbuds that actually sound pretty great, but are they convenient and comfortable enough to hang with the big dogs?
The Verse don’t offer much in the way of peripherals. Inside the (small) packaging are the earbuds themselves — tucked neatly into their charging case, which is shaped like an oversized pack of dental floss — along with a Micro USB charging cable, some paperwork, and two sizes of silicone eartips. The case should comfortably fit in most pants pockets, and it has a neat LED array to tell you how much juice is left.
Open the case, and a little lightning bolt LED on the left tells you whether the case is fully charged (blue) or still charging (red). On the right, a battery-shaped LED will give you an idea if battery is above or below 25 percent. Each earbud also has an LED indicator; while the earbuds are charging, these will glow blue (then turn off once finished). It would be nice, though, to have some sort of indicators on the outside of the case, so you don’t have to open it to check battery life. The earbuds do attach to the case magnetically, but they don’t snap in quite as quickly as the AirPods.
Getting started is quick and painless; thankfully, you don’t need to download a separate Erato app or any such nonsense. Just press and hold on the left earbud’s external button for a few seconds (there’s one on each earbud) until the LED flashes red and blue, then pair in your phone’s Bluetooth menu. Generally speaking, the earbuds’ connection held well, though the right “slave” bud did drop out from time to time. Sadly, the Verse (unlike the Apollo 7) do not support AptX for higher quality streaming resolution from supported devices.
A rough fit
The Verse are built with SpinFit technology, which ostensibly means they’re more comfortable and should fit in any ear canal without issue. We did not find this to be the case. Erato advertises “360-degree rotation,” but the tips hardly feel any more pliable or flexible than garden-variety options, and (as mentioned) Erato doesn’t ship the Verse with ear wings or foam tips to improve fit. The earbuds are extremely light, but they’re just not very comfortable, thanks to some questionable design decisions. The earbuds feature a slick finish, which looks nice, but often prevents the Verse from finding purchase in the ear.
The Verse offer three hours of listening per charge, which may be their biggest weakness.
Further, the LED indicators — present on both sides of each earbud — don’t fit flush inside their little alcoves, which inevitably meant they rubbed up against our ears, chafing annoyingly. Because of the slippery finish, the buds were jiggling around regularly, causing friction and discomfort. This never became too painful, but it was frustrating enough to make us go music-free on the train once or twice. Another small complaint: Due to their shape, the Verse stick a fair way out from your ear, which means wearing winter caps is uncomfortable.
Controlling the Verse takes a while to get used to, as the limitation of just two buttons equates to a lot of double taps or long taps to control things like volume or song skipping. They work well once you get the hang of them, though, and the controls aren’t so sensitive that you’d accidentally skip a song. The Verse don’t offer any of the AirPods’ cool tricks — like automatically pausing when you take one out, for example — or fitness tracking like Jabra’s Elite Sport or the Bragi Dash Pro (though both of those options are significantly pricier), but they work well for their primary tasks: Taking phone calls and playing tunes.
The Verse offer three hours of listening per charge, which may be their biggest weakness. Apple’s AirPods offer a full five hours per charge and 24 hours total with the charging case. That said, the Verse’s case holds up to four full charges (meaning you’ll get 15 hours total), so as long as you’re not a power user they should suffice for most situations. Like all Erato earphones, the Verse are IPX5 rated to resist water and sweat.
We’ve ragged on the Verse a bit due to some questionable design choices, but when it comes to actual audio, they perform admirably. Compared to the AirPods and Bragi’s Headphone, the Verse offer a more even sound signature, with well-rounded mids and enough bass to fuel your workout. You’re probably never going to have a “Wow” moment while listening to these — frankly, most true wireless earbuds don’t sound that good in general, and the Verse aren’t even Erato’s top-line option — but you’re also never going to have an “Ew, gross” moment, either.
The Verse handle dynamics surprisingly well; slower cuts like Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek don’t reveal any annoying DSP hiss, and you can crank the volume up to max without causing distortion (except on really intense stuff, like heavy metal or dubstep). The bassline in J. Ralph’s Kansas City Shuffle is acceptably funky, and you can hear separation in lower notes well enough. The balance in Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up is impeccable; Mayfield’s breathy falsetto doesn’t drown out the track’s triumphant horns, subtle guitar riffs, or bongo drum sequences.
The Verse’s design is far from ideal, with a few annoying quirks that ate away at us over time. However, fit is a very personal thing, and not everyone has ears like ours. The Verse sound very good for their class, trumping most competitors (save perhaps Bragi’s The Headphone, which don’t come with a charging pod) at that $150 price point. If audio quality is your Alpha and Omega for true wireless earbuds, and you’re looking to keep the budget in check, you may want to give the Verse a shot.
DT Editors’ Rating: 3/5
Published at Tue, 23 Jan 2018 00:55:36 +0000