You’ve probably never heard of Erato. They’re one of the many companies that tried to sell people on the idea of truly wireless earbuds before big names like Samsung or Apple jumped into the market. The company’s first foray into hardware, the $300 Apollo 7s, were short on features, but they’re also the first earbuds I’ve tried that don’t constantly drop the Bluetooth connection to my phone. That makes today’s announcement of two new products much more interesting.
Erato is launching two more wireless earbud products with a crowdfunding campaign today. Both of them are still fairly simple — a representative for Erato told me during my briefing that the company is purposely focusing on just audio streaming and not fitness tracking or in-ear computing. Both are water resistant, both ship starting in November, and both are relatively cheap — especially if you consider backing the crowdfunding campaign.
They're very basic, and they'll ship later this year
The first pair is called the Rio 3. These earbuds look like sporty around-the-neck Bluetooth earbuds, only without the around-the-neck part. They hook around your ears for a tight, no-slip fit, and have buttons for playback, triggering voice assistants, and volume control. Instead of devoting all the extra space to accelerometers or a heart rate monitor, Erato instead is promising twice the battery life than the Apollo 7s (eight hours on standby, six hours of playback), and the company put bigger drivers in the Rio 3 earbuds as well. I tried an engineering sample that seemed pretty close to production-ready — the fit was comfortable and the sound was much louder and more clear than what I experienced with the Apollo 7s. The Rio 3 will cost $69 if you back the Indiegogo campaign, and $129 at retail.
The other new product from Erato is called the Muse 5. It’s essentially a much more polished version of the Apollo 7 earbuds, though these are also a little bit bigger. Erato says that extra space allowed for a bigger battery that will give users four hours of playback time. The most novel thing about them is a two-piece rubber tips system. Instead of just earbud endcaps and, say, a shark fin-style piece of rubber to help steady the earbud, the Muse 5 has two pieces that actually fit together — one for your ear canal and one for the outer ear, with multiple sizes of each piece included. The Muse 5 will run $79 on Indiegogo, but they will retail for $179.
I normally hesitate when a young hardware company picks Indiegogo over Kickstarter for its crowdfunding campaign, but Erato was pretty transparent with its previous effort. The company even sent me a prototype unit before the Apollo 7 campaign launched, and the final production version that went out to backers left me impressed.
Of course, we’re still at the very beginning of the wireless earbuds market. Samsung threw its hat in the ring last month with the IconX earbuds, and Apple followed suit last week with AirPods. A little patience while things shake out probably couldn’t hurt if you’re looking to buy. Wireless earbuds are headed toward a commodity tipping point, and Erato is proof.