Here in the middle of the brand orgy that is CES, it's sometimes easy to forget that the words "consumer electronics" account for 66 percent of that acronym. That's why I'm excited to find that a few companies are following through on a promise from last year's show by showcasing working versions of truly wireless earbuds.
Some of those companies are Altec Lansing, which brought the ugly "Freedom" buds,, Bragi and its Dash earbuds, and Onkyo with the W800BTs, which I was able to try today.
The W800BT earbuds are sort of hidden in one of the many rows of products inside the massive Gibson Guitars tent right near our trailer. But once I found them, I fought my better judgement and gave the floor models for a spin. The room was noisy thanks to a house band that was sloppily attempting a Stevie Ray Vaughan cover in the corner, but from what I could hear, they sounded pretty great. (If anything they sounded a little flat, but you're not going to get extreme bass performance this early in the wireless earbud game anyway.)
What attracted me to the Onkyo earbuds more than anything is that they appear to be the basic wireless earbuds I found myself wanting after reviewing the Earin buds last fall. In some spots, it appears they're even an improvement.
At first glance, Onkyo's earbuds solve a lot of Earin's problems
Onkyo's earbuds are much like Earin's in that they are basically single purpose. There's no health tracking or personal assistant — they're just Bluetooth earbuds, made for listening to music or podcasts. But with Onkyo's earbuds, you can accept phone calls with the tap of a button, and an embedded microphone makes the right one act as a Bluetooth headset. This was one of the biggest problem with Earin's earbuds. I don't get many phone calls, but I need to answer them when they arrive.
Another problem I had with Earin's wireless earbuds is that the battery life was short (a little under three hours) and that the charging case did a poor job of telling you how much juice it had. Onkyo wins again here: it has a set of LEDs on the face of the charging case that tell you how much charge it has left, and the W800BTs supposedly last around 12 hours (and 30 hours on standby).
I wasn't about to sit in the Gibson tent for 12 hours — after all, one can only listen to so much poorly imitated Stevie Ray. It will take a lot more time with the Onkyo earbuds to make a more earnest judgement call, especially considering that some of my other issues with Earin's buds didn't crop up until I had spent a few weeks with them. And while Onkyo made these very light, they're also not as low-profile as I'd like, especially at a price of £220. We'll hopefully get a closer look at all of this if and when the W800BT earbuds are released in the United States.