True Wireless Earbuds have been gaining hype over the last year with big names like Jabra, Bang & Olufsen, Sony, Bose and many others joining in. While the first generation had many problems like connection and battery issues, later iterations got better and they are becoming a common sight in public.
While having no wires at all does sound inviting, it is perhaps the pricing on these that has stopped many from jumping in. Even the “cheaper” models like Jabra’s Elite 65t are in the SGD $200 range and premium ones like Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E8 are in SGD $400 range.Thus when I came across the Indiegogo page for the ERL Total Wireless Earphones which used words like ‘Ultimate Zero-Compromise”, “Unbreakable Bluetooth Connection” and “Designed by a team of audio and antenna engineers from MIT”, I guessed I wasn’t the only one who got sold and joined in with the crowdfunding. At USD$49, it sounded like the buy of the year… except that it is now a USD$49 paper weight.
Fast forward to finally receiving the set after seeing it go from Hong Kong to Belgium to Singapore (why go to Europe first before coming back to Asia still puzzles me), everything looked promising as I unboxed the set. A set of eartips (S,M,L), charging cable, charging case and the earbuds all nicely packed in a plastic tray with a cupboard box. Nothing fancy about the packaging and the charging case and earbuds are of decent quality. All as specified on the Indiegogo page and sadly that’s why it started going downhill.
Connection was irritating even with the instruction manual and the audio prompts from the earbuds. While it gets better after the first time, it is still a two step process to pair the buds together and pair to your device. Thinking that the worst was over, I went on to launch Spotify to play some music since i am on the premium plan and download music to my Samsung S8+ at max quality which is 320kbps. This should be more than enough as there was no mention of APTX codec for the ERL Total Wireless Earphones which meant the standard SBC.
All I can say is the music quality is decent at best and that is pushing. From Adele to Goo Goo Dolls and James Arthur, the high and mids were almost non existent and overall it sounded like cheap earphones that came with earlier generation of handphones. I may not have golden ears but these make my old faithful Advanced Evo X sound like Heaven. The only saving grace for these earbuds are the bass which might work for exercise when you need the bass for the extra something to help push that one more rep.
Unfortunately I was going to be proven wrong again as these things were far from what I expect when you have engineers from MIT designing the antenna. Instead of bringing these on a short evening jog, I decided to play safe and test the connection with a simple walk to the bus stop across my place. In that 5 min slow walk, the connection dropped 3 times. Thinking that it is due to my Samsung S8+ being in my pocket, I held onto the phone on the walked back and still experienced connection drops. I shudder to think how it would have been during a 20 minute jog or even on a longer train ride to work.
If you ask me to rate the ERL Total Wireless Earphones, I would say I am thankful that I only wasted USD$49. The set now sits on my computer desk as a reminder to do more research into a crowdfunding product that is too cheap to the true. Guess my search for a pair of true wireless earbuds continues.
By Kenneth Wong
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