Quality sound for a low price makes these earphones worth the purchase
For those in the market for a new Bluetooth-enabled set of earphones, Optoma has a number of wireless options available and ones that span the price spectrum. For example, those looking for a premium and true wireless experience can opt for the NuForce Be Free8 earbuds which offer completely wireless audio streaming for around $129. Of course, not everyone has $129 to spend on a new set of earphones and this is where the NuForce BE2 earphones come in. As these are designed to offer a sound quality more reminiscent of the premium tier but without the premium tier price tag attached. These Bluetooth earphones are already available to buy in the US and are priced at $49, although they can currently be picked up for as little as $39.
The NuForce BE2 earphones feature 6 mm dynamic drivers and offer a frequency range of 20Hz — 20KHz along with a sensitivity of 100±3dB. These earphones utilize Bluetooth (v4.1) to establish a connection and therefore are capable of maintaining a connection up to a distance of 33 feet (10 meters) away. Optoma suggests a total of ten hours of power is available when away from a charger and a full recharge can be achieved in two hours. Each earbud weighs 0.49 ounces and the two are connected to each other through a 580 mm (22.8-inch) cable. The NuForce BE2 earphones also feature an IPX5 certification and are available in two color options: Black and White.
In the box
The unboxing experience is a fairly generic one. In addition to the BE2 earphones, buyers can expect to receive three additional sets of ear tips, a short microUSB-to-USB charge cable, and the usual amount of paperwork, including a safety guide and quick start manual.
Hardware & Design
The NuForce BE2 earphones are wireless in the sense they do not require a wire to connect to a playback device. However, these are wired earphones in the sense that each earbud is connected via a cable. Generally speaking, this is a very short cable although one that is not too short to where the length impacts on their usability – something that is an issue with some products at this price point. As a result, the NuForce BE2 earphones are comfortable when worn either behind the neck or in front, with no major issues noted in terms of restriction of movement. The cable itself is a flat cable coated in silicon, while the wire underneath is Kevlar wire resulting in a more durable build quality overall. Optoma does state these are IPX5-certified and this means the earphones are protected against light water encounters. This is best interpreted as full protection against rain and sweat. The cable also does include a small clasp which allows the length of the cable to be adjusted for a tighter or looser fit, as and when needed.
As part of the cable, buyers will find a junction box which acts as the main control point for the earphones. Once again, the box does not seem to be unnecessarily large and therefore was not deemed to be something that impacts the weight or the experience when worn. However, the control panel is fairly basic in its approach and design with just three soft embedded buttons in use. Two of these are ‘up’ and ‘down’ buttons (for controlling the volume or track skipping) while the center button is a main button allowing the user to play or stop audio playback, as well as powering on or off the unit and/or activating the Bluetooth functionality. A small pinpoint microphone can be found on the back to assist in hands-free calling while the side of the panel houses the microUSB port – for charging. The build quality of the control panel does not feel quite as durable as the flat cable, and at times, the buttons do require a little more force than would be ideal, although there were no issues noted with the functionality overall.
Moving to the actual earbuds, it's obvious that these are rather long earbuds. This is both a good and bad thing. On the positive side, these earphones fit in the ear extremely well. As their larger size results in a deeper penetration of the ear and therefore they lock in a position much better and stay securely locked in even during lengthy and more rigorous activities. This is apparently not just due to their larger and more intrusive size, however, but also a result of the company’s patented SpinFit TwinBlade design which, according to Optoma, is specifically designed to ensure a tighter fit and greater stability. Whatever the reason, they do fit very well and stay in position better than a number of similarly priced alternatives. On the downside, due to their deeper insertion in the ear, some users may find these earphones to be a little more uncomfortable than other options. As wearers will certainly feel them when they are being worn.
It is also briefly worth mentioning the earbuds are magnetic in design which means the two buds can be quickly and easily bonded together just by bringing them within a close proximity of each other. The result being a tangle-free experience, with the two buds locked together when not in use, in a bag, or even when worn around the neck. In recent times this has become quite a common feature on earphones that cost less than $100 so while this is not a selling point in its own right for the BE2, it is an additional feature some users will be glad to see as included. Likewise, the quality of the magnetism seems to be very good, with the two sides maintaining a solid grip on each other – again, something that is not always the case with budget-priced earphones.
Overall, the build quality and general design seems to be very good with the BE2 and especially when taking into consideration the price point. Yes, there are some subtle aspects which do highlight their market position (such as the build quality of the control box) but overall, these seem to be well-built earphones and give the impression they will last for a decent amount of time after purchase.
With a set of earphones priced as low as these, and with the company already offering higher-priced (and by association – more premium) options, one would be forgiven for thinking the sound quality on these ‘cheaper’ earphones is going to be lacking. However, that is not the case with the BE2 as these are very good-sounding earphones and even more so when the price is factored into the equation. For example, one of the downsides with the more pricier NuForce Be Free8 earbuds is that they are not quite as loud as other competing and similar-priced products. That is not an issue with the BE2, however, as these earphones produce a very loud sound overall and certainly loud enough for those looking for a greater volume push. Likewise, the actual quality of the sound is very good for the price. These earphones are well-rounded in this respect and many would actually be hard-pushed to point out the difference between the BE2 and higher-priced options, including the Be Free8. Making these a solid all-round option for those looking for a product that is not premium-priced but does offer a premium-like sound quality.
To be clear, these are not the best-sounding earphones out there and there are some compromises that inevitably had to have been made with the sound quality. The bass being the most obvious case in point as these are not bass-focused earphones. Likewise, the mids are not exactly brimming with liveliness either and the combination of this does mean that at times the sound can come across a little duller than wanted. This is best observed when skipping from genre to genre as here you will notice the lack of impact when jumping from a bass-focused track to a top-heavy track – with the different tracks sounding more alike than different. But these are compromises that anyone looking to spend $50 or less on a pair of headphones will be expecting to make and are only relevant when taking an extremely critical view of the BE2. What is far more pertinent and worth noting is how these earphones stack up when compared to other products directly in this price range and in that instance the BE2 are surprisingly very good on the overall sound quality front. For example, in spite of the bass and mids not being as prominent as they could be, the sound output is not one which would be considered to be a more top-heavy — “tinny” — sound either. Which is certainly a prevalent trait on products in this price range. To sum up, while the sound could be better, consumers will be hard-pressed to find a much better sound on a pair of headphones priced anywhere near the price of the NuForce BE2. On a side note, according to Optoma, those using these earphones with Apple products will see an even greater boost in sound quality.
Connectivity & Performance
The NuForce BE2 earphones proved to be an extremely reliable product when it came to connectivity. These are not true wireless earphones and as such there were no issues noted in the balancing of the two earbuds which were always perfectly in sync. Likewise, these earphones make use of Bluetooth version 4.1 which has already more than proved itself in terms of reliability. This is currently one of the most widely used versions of Bluetooth on new products and essentially means the BE2 earphones are able to connect to a smartphone (or any other device) from a distance of up to 33 feet away. In this respect, the BE2 seemed to be largely in line with that expectation with the earphones managing to maintain a connection close to ten meters away before the sound begun to become inconsistent. As a result, there were no issues noted with the general connectivity of these earphones, and if anything, the opposite was far more true - they proved to be highly reliable.
The same can be said for the performance in general. These are not exactly feature-rich earphones and so, in reality, there are not that many aspects that can go wrong or any notable features that could prove to be problematic either at the hardware or the software level. Instead, what the company has brought to market here is a fairly simple, yet reliable set of earphones.
When it comes to battery life, Optoma suggests the BE2 earphones are capable of remaining powered for up to ten hours on the back of a single charge. While this is likely to be the maximum a potential buyer should expect, it does seem to be a fairly realistic measurement. During testing, the BE2 earphones were more than capable of running continuously for at least eight hours when streaming music over Bluetooth. It is worth pointing out this was when the volume on the earphones (and the streaming device) was set to maximum. Therefore, for those who are using these earphones at any volume setting lower than the maximum they should be able to expect the number of hours of usage to increase accordingly. So it would certainly seem to be the case than ten hours of usage on a single charge is not only possible, but highly likely. At the very least, these headphones run very close to that number of hours, and consistently.
When the BE2 earphones do need to be charged, Optoma suggests a two-hour charge is enough to completely replenish the battery, which in turn opens the door for another ten hours of usage. Once again, this proved to be a very reliable marker set out by the company, with the BE2 earphones consistently able to charge from completely empty to full in under two hours.
It is always surprising to see how many wireless headphone options consumers now have below the $50 mark. While this is great from the consumer perspective, it does not automatically mean consumers are getting value for their money. As a number of these ‘cheaper’ headphones are just that – cheap. They are often cheaply made and produce a cheap sound. While this is not necessarily a bad thing as this sub-$50 market specifically caters to those who are more price-conscious than design or sound-focused, it does make it all the more notable when a product like the NuForce BE2 comes through. As for the asking price here, the consumer is getting a very good deal overall. These do not feel like cheap earphones and certainly do not sound like cheap earphones either. The takeaway – if you are looking for a good-sounding pair of headphones and would prefer not to pay what good-sounding headphones typically cost, the NuForce BE 2 headphones are well worth checking out.