Powerful bass depth and solid clarity in the highs. Microphone offers clear audio. Secure in-ear fit. Moisture-resistant earpieces.
Convoluted on-ear control system is very annoying. Poor battery life.
- Bottom Line
The wire-free Erato Verse earphones sound great but fumble when it comes to on-ear controls.
The Erato Verse join the ever-growing number of true wireless earphones on the market. At $149.99, the cable-free earphones are priced like some of our favorite options from JLab and JayBird, and can compete on an audio level, with solid bass depth matched with crisp, bright highs. On the design front, however, there are problems, primarily one of the more convoluted on-ear control systems we've seen—double taps and long holds of the buttons are assigned to controls that don't make sense, and the assignments differ from the left ear to right. While we enjoy the audio, you're better off buying a pair that's easier to control.
Available in black or white models, the Verse's two earpieces are rated IPX5, which means they can withstand low pressure water jets from any direction. In other words, rain and sweat are fine, but don't submerge them. The in-ear fit is lightweight and secure, making the earphones good for exercise.
Pairing the Verse is a simple process—hold down the button on the left earpiece and find the Verse on your mobile device's Bluetooth menu. Once the left earpiece is paired, it will automatically link with the right earpiece, provided they're both powered up.
The on-ear controls are less than graceful. First off, each earpiece has a single button, located on the side, rather than the outside panel, making it difficult to operate. A long press, single press, or double press on each earpiece will accomplish different tasks. In theory, this isn't a bad concept, but in practice, it's just frustrating.
For instance, a double tap is not traditionally assigned to volume control, for obvious reasons—who wants to tap a button twice to raise or lower sound levels one notch? The left earpiece lowers the volume when double tapped, and the right earpiece raises it when double tapped. If you don't space your double taps correctly, attempting to adjust the volume often results in pausing your music. When music is off, a double tap activates your phone's voice control.
Then there other incongruous choices. If a call comes in, a single press answers it (normal), but it's a left ear-only tap to answer (less normal), and you end the call by long pressing the left ear's button and holding it (not normal). Keep in mind, a long press of a single second is how you power up your earphones, and a longer press of three seconds is how you power them down—so don't hold that button down for too long when you hang up the phone, or you'll turn your earphones off.
Oh, and a long press of one second while music is playing skips to the next track (on the right earpiece) or navigates to the previous track (on the left earpiece)…but wait, a single press of a second is also supposed to turn your music off, which is doubly confusing—how can music be turned off and a track skipped at the same time?
It's nice to see Erato include so many control options—we've tested pairs that have far too few, like the Apple AirPods. But this is just about the worst implementation of controls we've seen on a true wireless pair so far. It simply isn't a user-friendly experience.
Controls aside, the earphones ship with three pairs of silicone eartips in small, medium, and large sizes, as well as a USB charging cable that connects to the micro USB port on the outside of the charging case.
For some reason, the charging status LEDs are located only on the inside of the charging case, so you need to flip it open in order to make sure the earphones are charging. Battery life is poor, at just three hours of playback, but the charging case provides a full four charges on the go.
The mic offers better-than-average intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded clearly—there were no added artifacts, which is a rarity for Bluetooth in-ear mics. However, the mic sounds far away (because it is), and audio defaults to left ear-only during phone calls—a typical trait of true wireless earphones that is nevertheless annoying.
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On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones deliver thumping bass response that will appeal to those looking for some added low frequency presence. At unwise top volumes, you still get powerful low frequency response without distortion, and at more moderate levels, the bass is strong, balanced with a crisp high frequency presence.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, however, tells us more about the sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on earphones that boost the bass too intensely. Through the Verse, however, the drums get a pleasantly full, round presence. Callahan's baritone vocals get a smooth richness in the low-mids that is lent some extra contour and clarity by the high-mids and highs. The sculpting in these higher frequencies also pushes the attack of the acoustic guitar strums to the front, and lends some extra brightness to the higher register percussive hits. The Verse delivers a balanced, rich sound signature that matches solid bass depth with clarity in the highs.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence to keep its attack punchy and cut through the layers of the mix, but it's the highs that seem most boosted, pushing the vinyl crackle typically relegated to background status to the forefront. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with laudable depth—they don't sound weak, nor do they overpower the mix. The vocals get a smidge of added sibilance, but are delivered with clarity otherwise. The bass depth here is ideal, and the highs are perhaps boosted and sculpted a bit more than necessary, but you still get a bright, full sound.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get ideal bass depth and high frequency clairty. The lower register instrumentation is given solid presence, but nothing that sounds unnatural—the lows complement the crisp delivery of the higher register brass, strings, and vocals nicely.
Erato does a great job with the Verse's audio performance, which only makes the annoyance of the controls that much more frustrating. It would be one thing if the earphones were cheap, but they aren't, so we have to measure them against similarly priced options, and the JLab Epic Air and Jaybird Run both deliver a better user experience and comparable—if not better—audio. The Bose SoundSport Free earphones are at the top of our list thanks to powerful audio and simple controls, but cost significantly more.
About the Author
Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear.
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