Erato Muse 5 True Wireless Bluetooth Earbud Review



True wireless earbuds are liberating. Going back to anything with wires will be frustrating especially in the winter when the cables have to wind around layers of clothes.

These Erato Muse 5 exceeded my expectation though my expectations were set pretty low from reading abysmal Amazon reviews for similar devices. Overall these have improved my listening experience though not without a few quirks, some of which may be intolerable for average consumers.

Pros:
  • Decent sound quality
  • Outstanding battery life even without recharging in the case
  • Lightweight and comfortable enough for long sessions
  • Adequate mic pickup
  • Fade-in effect when resuming from dropouts
  • Easy to power on/off
  • Automatically turns off when charging
Cons:
  • Fitseal sleeves didn't fit. Your results may vary
  • Wireless signal needs improvement
  • Physical buttons are uncomfortable to use while wearing
  • Inserting into the charging case takes a little skill
  • Still pretty large and obvious
Specs (From EratoLife.com):
  • 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 (100 mAh each side) + Case (700 mAh)
  • Driver Size: Ø 5.8 mm Micro Driver 
  • Sensitivity (dB@1kHz): 100 
  • Frequency: 20Hz ~20KHz 
  • Impendence: 16 Ohm 
  • Microphone: MEMS Omni Directional -42dB (+/- 2dB) 
  • Water Proof: Nano Coating IPX5 
  • Dimension: 30mm x 25mm x 20mm
  • Weight: 8g x 2, Case: 40g

Background

This review will refer to some earlier devices I've used for comparison.
  • LG HBS730 - My old daily driver. Sets the bar for sound quality, battery life and signal strength/dropout. 
  • Monster iSport - Backup set. I use these when wearing shirts without a collar as the LG looks too dorky.
  • Plantronics Backbeat Go (original) - Poor bass response and battery life but otherwise OK. Replaced by Monster iSport after these wore out.
  • Jaybird Freedom - Tried these as a replacement for the Plantronics but found the high-range to be muffled and unsatisfactory.
  • Sol Republic Shadow - Tried these as a replacement for the LG but the poor sound quality and lack of bud management was a deal-breaker.

Speaker and mic quality

The audio quality on the Erato Muse 5 is average as far as bluetooth buds go. Compared to the LG HBS730 it sounds a little muffled. Highs are transparent but lows struggle so it's not ideal for bassy workout tunes.

One interesting note is that the Muse5 doesn't have independent device-side volume but can control the phone's bluetooth media level. This is ideal since separate controls can conflict. The drawback is that device volume level is fixed and I found the max to be lower than other devices which is not ideal for noisy environments.

The microphone pickup level and quality is on par with the LG in my subjective recordings in a quiet room. Pickup may actually be better than the LG in some situations as the mic on the LG would be tucked under layers of clothing in the winter.

Audio dropout
Tested with Google Pixel XL

Like all BT headsets this one does dropout occasionally due to range or interference. Both the Muse 5 and LG somehow drop when the phone is in my left pocket and head is turned to the far left. I can also reproduce dropout on these consistently by cupping my hand around my ear as in when trying to press the button. 

While dropouts are never good, Erato reduced the annoyance by using fade in and out as opposed to hard cutting. I cannot stress how much this improves the listening experience and reduces fatigue. The fade is only a matter of a few milliseconds so I assume there's a small buffer and the fade occurs when the buffer hits a low threshold.

Update: After a few weeks of use I'm beginning to feel like the dropouts are becoming an issue. Dropouts to the main left pod are roughly 20% higher than with my old LG and the right drops even more as it pairs to the left.  Phone positioning is a major factor as the audio is far more consistent when the phone is in my shirt pocket.

Comfort and usability


The Muse 5 comes with the standard 3 tip sizes but also 3 sizes of "Fitseal" sleeves which sit between the tip and the body of the pod. They are supposed to help provide an additional seal around the outer ear but I found those to be a nuisance. None of the Fitseal sizes seemed to fit well in my outer ear but instead would push against my ear and pulled the tip from the canal creating an uncomfortable vacuum. I gave up and removed the Fitseal sleeves entirely and find it to be perfectly comfortable with neutral pressure in the canal. The only drawback without the sleeve is that there's less support so the buds can tilt a little more in all directions.

The weight is negligible and once the Fitseal was removed I was able to wear these comfortably for most of the day as I walked around the city. Fatigue was slightly higher than with the tiny LG buds on the HBS730 but surprisingly low considering the size of the devices which are only supported by friction and suction. At no point did the devices feel like they were going to pop out.

Each pod has a single physical button where ERATO is printed. Single button interfaces aren't ideal since anything more than a single command requires codes like morse code for volume, prev/next etc. which are not intuitive. Unfortunately it's unavoidable on devices this small since the other options are multiple tiny buttons that are almost unusable or possibly voice commands. Pressing the button is uncomfortable as it pushes the device further into your ear so I found it best to pinch the button by placing a finger between the device and ear. A better solution (IMO) would be to replace the physical button with a capacitive one.

Turning the buds on requires holding buttons on both sides since they're not communicating while they're off but turning off the left (master) also turns off the right as long as they're paired. Audible voice confirmations provide state information. Placing them in the charging case also turns them off. 

On several occasions I nearly dropped these buds as they are small, light, and have a smooth finish. A rubberized finish would be grippier and might also provide greater IPX water and dust resistance.

The oblong, asymmetrical shape makes these a little tricky to get into the case. After some practice I found that starting with the outer side slightly pointed down and twisting up and in feels smooth but they also seem to fit and charge fine if you force them in which I think a lot of people will tend to do.

Battery life

For tiny buds these have impressive battery life.  I was able to squeeze over 4hrs of podcast playback before hearing the low battery alert. Each pod has a 100mAh battery and the case has 700mAh so factoring inefficiencies you might be able to get 3 recharges meaning potentially 16 hours of playback from full charge.

I'm not a wireless signal expert but do know that stronger signals require more power and if Erato could provide a more stable signal at the cost of an hour of battery I would suggest they do.

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