Completely wireless in-ear headphones seem to be the holy grail for music fans on the move. Commonly found in science fiction films, but frustratingly just out of reach in reality. There have been a few recent efforts to change this, most notably with high-profile Kickstarter campaigns, but Onkyo might gazump everyone with the W800BT. Dubbed TrueWireless, it’s the first set of fully wireless in-ears we’ve actually been able to try on.
Whereas most Bluetooth in-ear headphones are connected together with a short cable, the W800BTs are completely self-contained, with each piece holding its own drivers and circuitry. Each ear piece also has its own internal battery, meaning there’s nothing running down your neck and nothing to tangle when you’re done listening. Small wing tips on each ear piece kept the whole unit securely in place, and even though it was impossible to take them for a proper run, some rigorous jogging on the spot couldn’t shake them loose. They barely weigh anything, despite the tech inside, and if it wasn’t for the rather large ear tips on the demo model it would be easy to pop a pair in and forget you’re wearing them.
If you’ve got large ears, the W800BTs don’t protrude too far outwards, but they’re cetainly larger than the sci-fi invisible in-ears everyone has been eagerly waiting for. The black and silver colour choices aren’t exactly subtle either, but thankfully the red and blue Bluetooth activity LEDs don’t stay illuminated while you’re listening so you aren’t also giving people a light show. Also on the plus side, the size means you won’t lose them very easily.
They sounded very good, even as a non-final production sample, with the 8.6mm neodymium drivers delivering more than enough range for dance tracks and surprisingly powerful bass. There’s also a microphone in the right ear for making or receiving voice calls, but it wasn’t possible to test call quality during the hands-on session.
Onkyo expects the internal batteries to last for around 12 hours of listening, or 30 hours on standby. Most of the wireless earbuds doing the rounds on Kickstarter are quoting 4-5 hours on a single charge, so this is an excellent figure – and one that justifies the larger physical size, in order to make room for battery cells. Once you’ve drained them, the carry case also acts as a charger. It has tiny pins in the base that connect to the buds and a USB charging cable built into the lid, so you should always be able to recharge as long as you can find a PC or power outlet.
They might not be the smallest, but with November penciled in for official availability, the W800BT looks set to be the first pair of truly wireless in-ear headphones people will actually be able to buy. You have to pay for pioneering technology, however; Onkyo expects a set to set you back €300 when they eventually arrive. If you seriously hate cables though, this is one of the only ways to completely cut the cord and stick with in-ear headphones rather than on-ear cans.