Erato’s Muse 5 wireless in-ear headphones give AirPods a run for their money

Apple’s AirPods are probably the first really mainstream completely wireless headphones, but Erato has been making these for a while now. The company’s latest is the Muse 5, a set of in-ear buds that are cheaper than their debut Apollo 7 option, but still come with a charging case and very respectable battery life.

The Muse 5’s least impressive feature might be their design – it’s a bit like you’re putting bulky buds you found at the local gas station in your ears, with the plastic construction and contrasting color plastic ring on each unit. But they are completely wireless, and effectively so, which is not something you’ll get at the gas station, obviously. Plus, their design is ergonomic – the two-part ear canal soft silicon tips ensure a snug fit, at least in my experience, without requiring tricks like memory foam to ensure a seal.

The overall look and feel of the Muse 5 contrasts considerably with Erato’s Apollo 7, the wireless buds it released last year. But the Muse 5 gets a bit more battery life than its predecessor, with four hours of music playback per full charge instead of just three, and the case packs enough backup charge to get you up to 12 hours of playback without having to connect to a plug-in power source.

Muse 5 is also more unobtrusive than the Apollo 7, which stick some distance out of your ears. They’re also more subtle than Apple’s own AirPods, provided you get the black version, and they’re more likely to sit comfortably and securely in your ears if you happen to have ear shapes that don’t work with Apple’s native wireless buds.

Sound quality is good on the Muse 5, better than you might expect given the build quality and materials used. They sound as good as wired earbuds in this price range, and have better sound isolation than Apple’s AirPods, and potentially better sound depending on how you like your tunes. The built-in microphone also works well, despite not having any special beam forming magic, although you wont’ want to use it for more than issuing Siri commands and making quick calls.

After trying a number of different sets of completely wireless buds, the Muse 5 strike a good balance in terms of price tag, features, sound quality and design (though they’re lacking the most in this last area). I did experience very occasional dropouts, but that’s par for the course with even teh best among these devices. For $180, the Muse 5 is a good alternative to the AirPods that stand a much better chance of working with your ears, and with sound that won’t leave you wishing you’d waited for something better.