It appears that true wireless earbuds are flooding the audio market. This new product, now available in Singapore, is Apollo 7 by Erato Life. Like many tech startups, Erato began with a kickstarter project to create a tech wonder.
The concept is simple: true wire-free earphones.
Now in 2016, this concept is no longer a concept. Many other companies have commercialised such products, like Earin (review), Samsung Gear IconX (review), Bragi The Dash (review), Apple AirPods, and upcoming Jabra Elite.
Fortunately for Erato, the Apollo 7 has several features up its sleeve that are unique, which might help them drive some sales, before another major brand undercuts and dominates the market.
The design concept of the Apollo 7 is similar to the Earin, where the back of the earbuds have charge connectors to charge in the case. The Apollo 7 earbud design are more appealing, with metallic colour options like silver, gold, pink, and black.
While the Earin charging case is slimmer and longer, I find it easier to insert the earbuds into the Apollo 7 charging case, which is built of unibody aluminium with plastic interior. The 2 white LEDs on the Apollo 7 charging case tells me whether the earbuds are being charged or the charging case is being charged. When battery is low, the LED turns dim.
The earbuds are nano-coated to give the user some assurance of water protection, so you can wear it in the rain or for sweaty workouts. To keep it secure, there are ear stabilizer fins that can be attached when required. The fins do not fit in the case, so they have to be removed and stored separately.
Each earbud on the Apollo 7 has a multi-function button which is more useful than Earin where there are none. You can choose which earbud you want to pair with the Bluetooth device, by press-and-hold that one until the LED on the earbud starts to blink. You will also see the earbud name on the Bluetooth device, e.g. Apollo 7-R or Apollo 7-L. Once pairing is successful, you can turn on the other earbud, which will automatically detect and connect with the primary earbud. So smart.
This form of pairing is more conventional than the Earin and the Samsung Gear IconX, where the earbuds must be placed into the case and then removed to initiate pairing.
The purpose of choosing the primary earbud is that the earbud will be the one to answer and play during voice calls, while the other earbud will be silent, unlike conventional wireless headsets where both earbuds will play.
With one button on each earbud, the Apollo 7 is programmed to use 2 buttons together. To play or pause the music, you can press either button. To change next track, hold the right earbud button, while the left button restarts or previous track. To change volume, double click the right earbud to increase and the left earbud to reduce.
How to turn off the earbuds? First you have to stop the music playback, then hold either button to turn off. Music has to stop or else the earbud would think you want to change track. The smart thing about the Apollo 7 is that when you power down one earbud, the other earbud will also power down automatically!
If only one earbud is on, the music will play as mono, and the button will not be able to work except to play-pause the music.
One minor drawback of the button is that during handling, there is a tendency to press it accidentally. The good thing is that I can orientate the button in any direction, facing up or down or sideways, as the earbuds are symmetrical.
Among the true wireless earbuds that I have reviewed so far, the Erato Apollo 7 is my favourite. The audio balance is skewed towards the treble clarity without sounding metallic and uncomfortable. There is good control of sibilance, detailed articulation of instruments and aftertones.
Similarly, the bass delivers good response and I can hear the lower frequencies but at a softer volume, without the heavy booms. Stereo imaging offers adequate spatial feel between the listener and the music. One issue with these earbuds is that there is a audio sync lag when watching videos.
On the whole, the Apollo 7 is excellent for instrumental audio tracks, while heavy modern genres might sound too clinical.
How Useful is True Wireless?
Think of all the situations where you find your current wireless headsets inconvenient. Like one earbuds tend to tug the other when you leave it around the neck. Like the rubbing of cables behind your neck when doing workouts. Like tangled wires when you put it in your bag.
For true wireless earbuds like Erato Apollo 7, there are no wires. You pop both earbuds to each ear, with nothing between them. Your neck feels free. It feels liberating when you are sitting down working and you only want to wear one earbud to listen to music or talk on the phone. You can leave the other earbud on the desk instead of hanging around your neck.
Using a true wireless earbuds has their moments of inconvenience. You can’t just throw them around unlike normal wireless. These 2 little pills will easily get lost in the bag. If you need to strike a conversation, you have to remove them from your ears and hold it in your hands, instead of hanging around your neck. And you now have 2 pieces of audioware to charge the battery instead of just one for normal wireless headset.
Nevertheless, I have not experienced any unusual dropouts and disconnection between the 2 earbuds throughout my review, leaving me thoroughly impressed.
The Erato Apollo 7 earbuds is rated with 3 hours play time, and I’m pleased to find that it meets the specs. There will be low battery voice prompt on the earbud that is low on battery, and once that earbud is flat, the other earbud will also power down automatically. Charging on the charging case takes about 1 hour. I can charge the earbuds from flat to full for 2 times, and a little bit on the third. Charging the case takes about 3 hours. Throughout the usage on the ears, the Apollo 7 earbuds do not get warm.
Depending on your smartphone model, some will have a battery indicator next to the Bluetooth icon on the status bar. That would be useful to give a gauge of remaining battery life. But if you always place the buds back to the charging case after every use, it may not be so critical.
The Apollo 7 may have become just another true wireless earbuds in the market, but I am impressed with the audio quality and the user experience. It does not look utilitarian and sporty like Samsung Gear IconX and Jabra Elite. And there are no other features to distract you from enjoying your favourite audiophile music.
Being an innovative product that uses new technology, the price is expected to be steep. The Apollo 7 retails for S$499 and is available at TC Acoustic online store.
If you just want to get the best bang for your buck, the Samsung Gear IconX is the most affordable with the most features packed, but wireless connectivity may not work well with non-Samsung devices. If you want a trusted brand for your intensive workouts, the Jabra Elite is a better bet. If you put audio quality above everything else, the Erato Apollo 7 is the one.
Bluetooth Specification: BT Version 4.1
Bluetooth Profile: A2DP 1.2, AVRCP 1.4, HFP 1.6, HSP 1.2
Audio Codec: aptX / AAC / SBC
Wireless Range: 30 Feet
Battery Capacity: Earphone (50 mAh) Charging Case (300 mAh)
Driver Size: Ø 5.8 mm Micro Driver
Sensitivity (dB/mW): 100
Frequency: 20Hz – 20KHz
Impendence (Ohm) @ 1kHz: 16
Microphone: MEMS Omni Directional -42dB (+/- 2dB)
Water Proof: Nano Coating
Dimensions: Earphone: 4g x 2 / Charger: 52g
Package includes: Silicon Earpieces (S, M, L), Comply T600 tips (S, M, L), Stabilizer Pairs (S, M, L), Portable Charging Case (Built-In battery), Micro USB Charging Cable, Quick Start Guide
Official Product Website: http://eratolife.com/apollo-7