As I write this, the Onkyo W800BT have been out for a while. Since their release, we’ve seen a new wave of true wireless earphones.
Nevertheless, they show that good sound quality doesn’t age, but also that the Onkyo aren’t the most beautiful earphones available.
The W800BT take some of their style cues from Onkyo’s full-size headphones. There’s a ring of aluminium around the back of each earpiece, for example, that isn’t unlike the old Onkyo ES-HF300.
The earphones are also deliberately chunky, with squared-off sides. The Onkyo W800BT protrude from your ears a little, and are less subtle than earphones sporting a curvier design such as the Jam Ultra. However, visually I’d pick these over the Apple AirPods in a heartbeat.
Comfort-wise, I wasn’t initially convinced, but they do bed in reasonably well. The Onkyo W800BT use a still silicone hook, which slots in behind your antihelix, to keep them in place.
I’ve used the Onkyo W800BT on the treadmill without issue. But they don’t stick in your ears as resolutely as some sports earphones. Of course, part of the point of true wireless earphones is there’s nothing on which they can become caught. The fit is also less invasive than some; the part you feel most being the tip. They’re not true ear-fillers.
Having lived with the Onkyo W800BT for a while now, I’m perfectly happy with most of the design. However, the charging case isn’t very handy.
True wireless earphones offer universally poor battery life. Like many similar devices, the W800BT last for around three hours between charges.
The case will recharge them up to five times before needing a requiring to be charged itself. The problem is, Onkyo’s design is more like a presentation box than something that can fit in a coat pocket. It seems needlessly large, and the charging mechanism is fiddly too.
Many such devices use little metal contacts that just slip into place when the earpieces are put in the case. The W800BT has little cylindrical sockets that jam up into the earpieces. This works, but requires more of a concerted effort – and those 2mm-wide plugs feel a bit too breakable.
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Onkyo W800BT – Wireless
Contrary to what you might expect, the Onkyo W800BT don’t provide any control over music playback or volume. Each earpiece has a button on the back, but it’s used just to turn them on/off and to take calls. You can’t even play/pause.
Wireless performance isn’t perfect, either. Some of the latest models on the market offer flawless performance, but I’ve experienced some drop-outs with the Onkyo W800BT. It varies a little between phones, and whether I’ve been using a wearable at the same time. Nevertheless, overall performance is clearly worse than units such as the Apple AirPods or Sony WF-1000X.
Onkyo W800BT – Sound quality
So while these aren’t the perfect true wireless earphones in some technical respects then, they do sound pleasant. Their combination of balance, detail and easy-going clarity makes them some of the best-sounding true wireless earphones around.
They display excellent mid-range detail among their peers, which helps bring out the texture of vocals, guitars and other stringed instruments particularly well. Good separation between the various parts of mixes, and the different frequency registers, is proof of the W800BT’s expert tuning – and that these aren’t simply any old 40mm dynamic drivers strung together with wireless.
I wouldn’t be speaking so glowingly about earphones at this price if they were lacking true wireless capabilities, of course. They compete with up to £100 earphones, not £200 ones. However, the sound is worthy of the Onkyo name.
The Onkyo W800BT sound won’t blow everyone away, however. While bass depth is decent, the sound signature isn’t of immense power or weight. Like carbonated water, it’s clear, clean and refreshing. But some will want something a little richer and more powerful.
Should I buy the Onkyo W800BT?
The W800BT are a very good first attempt at true wireless earphones by Onkyo. They sound and look better than the Apple AirPods.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement in a few areas. Wireless performance could be better; and the charging case is large and fiddly.
Earphones such as the Sony WF-1000X and Jabra Elite Sport are a more satisfying package all-round, with better wireless, greater number of features and more powerful sound. However, if you find a good deal for the Onkyo W800BT and are willing to live with the odd Bluetooth blip, they’re worth picking up.
Other pairs offer more features and better wireless, but the W800BT still sound good.