It might come as a surprise in today's Bluetooth-heavy technology market that up until recently nobody had successfully developed a pair of in-ear Bluetooth headphones.

Credit for this innovation goes to Etymotic research, a world leader in in-ear technology.

The ety8's on test comprise of two small plastic boxes housing a battery and set of external controls. Attached to each box is the earphone itself, which can be adjusted for optimum fit using one from a range of adaptors.

The first thing you'll notice about this robot bling is that it's not particularly attractive, Star Trek convention attendees aside most people will probably feel a tad self conscious wandering around in public with these things hanging out of your ear.

They are fairly comfortable though once you find the right adaptor, and a strong safety cord sits around your neck offering peace of mind in case they fall out of (or are knocked off) your ears.

As expected the ety8s are compatible with most devices that support Bluetooth 1.1 or higher, including PCs, mobile phones and compatible audio players.

They are clearly oriented towards iPod users though, you'll find an 8-mate adaptor in the box that plugs into your Apple MP3 player and pairs automatically with the headphones to save you going through the process manually.

Using said adaptor we're pleased to report that performance is very good, with clean sound, fairly good bass and a decent range of close to 10 metres before things start to break up. You'll also be able to utilise the built-in volume, play, pause and track skip controls on the right earphone to save having to dig around for your player.

Unfortunately you won't quite find this level of performance with other equipment. We connected successfully using a PC and mobile phone to test these less standardised alternatives out and noticed that sound wasn't as clear, with a faint crackle behind the audio and reduced range from the transmitter.

It also proved extremely tricky to nail down a comprehensive list of supported makes and models of mobile phone, so be sure to check with Etymotic Research to make sure yours is compatible if this is one of your requirements.

Bearing in mind a rather intimidating asking price of £200 for a set of ety8s, you're going to have to really want to lose that single trailing wire to justify the expense. Bearing in mind the degraded audio quality for non iPod use and questionable glances you'll more than likely receive when you wear them out, we'd consider this a very niche market.


Credit has to go to Etymotic Research for successfully developing a product such as this that works as well as it does, but in reality we're probably a year or two away from something that looks, performs and is priced well enough to appeal to more of a mass market.