Today we’re checking out another Bluetooth offering, the NuForce BE6i from Optoma.
Optoma isn’t new to the audiophile world and in 2016 brought to us a slew of competitive high end, balanced armature earphones in the form of their HEM series. The BE6i is a very different product, serving as an updated and enhanced version of their original BE6 Bluetooth earphone. It utilizes simgle, titanium and magnesium coated, 10mm dynamic drivers per side to provide listeners with an accurate and distortion free experience.
With some good specs and impressive earphones elsewhere in the lineup. I have high hopes for the BE6i. Let’s find out why, shall we?
The BE6i was provided by Optoma free of charge for the purposes of a fair and impartial review. Big thanks to Jyri for reaching out to see if I would be interested. There is no financial incentive for writing this. All thoughts within this review are mine and do not represent Optoma or any other entity.
At the time of this review the BE6i was on sale for 79.99 USD. Check them out on Optoma’s website and order them on Amazon;
My Gear and I:
I’m a 30 year old professional working for what is currently the largest luxury hotel chain on the planet. I have a background in Psychology which probably explains my somewhat dry writing style. My entry into the world of portable audio was due primarily to a lack of space for a full-sized stereo system during my university years, and truly began with the venerable JVC HA-FXT90. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established writers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own.
Fast forward a couple years and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to write about products for wonderful companies like HiFiMan, RHA, Accutone, ADVANCED, NarMoo, Mixcder, Brainwavz, Meze, and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because this is my hobby and I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to a product that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
Gear used for testing was a Shanling M1 and an LG G5. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. Lately I’ve been enjoying more mellow and relaxed products with a bass tilt. Two of my favorite in-ears, the Echobox Finder X1[i] with grey filters installed and the Fischer Audio Dubliz Enhanced are good examples of my preferred signatures.
Packaging and Accessories:
The BE6i arrives in a very clean, well designed package with a grey and white color scheme. The front contains a glossy image of the earphones along with some branding while the rear provides some information about the unit and it’s features. The side shows off the contents, of which there are quite a few that you gain access to upon opening the top flap. Doing this reveals a white cardboard box which greets you with the slogan, “Hear More. Feel More.”.
The inner box contains the earphones on display in a dense foam inlay with a carrying case above that which holds the accessories. In all you get a great selection;
– BE6i earphones
– hard-shell carrying case
– microUSB charge cable
– stabilizing ear fins
– removable cable cinch
– wide bore silicone tips (s/m/l)
– small bore silicone tips (s/m/l)
– Comply T500 isolation foam tips (m/l)
Hidden away underneath the foam inlay and carrying case is the safety manual and a basic user guide. You can tell this is a truly global product as the safety manual contains notifications in 25 different languages. Wow.
It’s a solid unboxing experience with a slew of quality accessories. You should be able to find something to personalize the fit of your BE6i.
Build, Comfort, and Isolation:
The BE6i is IPX5 certified and emits a feeling of quality the moment you grasp the smooth, powder-coated aluminum shells. There is a very Sony-eqsue essence to the way they feel in hand, something I can only consider a positive. Fit and finish is stellar with the Nuforce ‘NU’ logo crisply cut into the rear of the housings. Also in the rear of each housing is a powerful magnet which allows them to clip together with authority, should you wish to dangle them around your neck when not in use. The section where the cable enter each housing is a combination of plastic and rubber. These pieces fit together with nary a seam, really only giving away their multi-part nature as a result of the varying textures and reflective qualities.
The flat cable the connect each ear piece was well chosen too. It’s not so broad, stiff, or heavy that your movement causes it to tug and pull the BE6i out of place. It has plenty of flexibility too, with low bend memory to match. I didn’t find myself fighting the cable at any point. In my experience, cable noise is generally more prominent with flat cables but this one isn’t too bad in this regard. The included cinch you can install helps combat this should you find the cable microphonics too intrusive.
The only area of the BE6i that doesn’t give off a premium air is the microphone and remote module. The plastics used just don’t feel up to snuff with the materials found elsewhere. At least the ergonomics are solid with the three buttons being straightforward to locate with lots of space between them. This made it easy to differentiate between them and press what you want to press.
The BLU-200 from Brainwavz is similar in shape and design to the BE6i, cramming all the electronics into the housings. Given their physical similarities, I was worried the BE6i would fall short on providing a stable and comfortable fit. While I would prefer a more low profile housing, Optoma did a good job of making the BE6i’s long, weighty design work, even if they look a touch ungainly sticking out of your ears.
The nozzles are fairly broad which combined with the meaty strain relief protrusions (though I hesitate to call them that) help distribute the weight of each ear piece fairly evenly. Unlike the BLU-200,I never experienced discomfort from the ear pieces tilting down due to the weight. Nor did I have issues with them breaking seal or falling out. The included silicone fins added that extra bit of stability when I opted to use them. Undoubtedly there are improvements that could be made by moving to a more ergonomic, low profile design, but the BE6i works fine just the way it is.
Isolation with silicone tips is not great. I would slot them into the “slightly below average” category. External noise like cars and voices bleed though no problem. Those who listen loud probably won’t be bothered by it, but low volume listeners like myself will likely want to opt for the included Comply tips if strong isolation is needed. On the other hand, the weak isolation will allow you to hear what’s going on around you, a nice quality to have when jogging, exercising in public, or simply out for a casual stroll. Safety first, right?
Connection Quality and Range:
The BE6i is up there at the top in terms of the stability and the quality of connection it creates and maintains with my devices. The connection process is simple and quick, and in a few weeks of use I’ve only experienced a few very brief stutters. I could force a disconnect in only one very specific instance; removing the right ear piece and setting it on my shoulder behind my collarbone, then covering it with my hand. Covering the device or ear piece in their entirety in any other location would do nothing. A somewhat odd, niche way of forcing a connection loss.
It’s range is also pretty absurd at 98ft (30m), much more than the 30ft most sets offer. It shows too. I could set my phone or Shanling M1 anywhere in my apartment without any loss or degradation of connection no matter where I went.
At 8 hours, the BE6i has above average battery life, at least compared to what I’m used to. Likely due to my low volume listening, the BE6i was giving me closer to 8 hours 45 minutes of listening time which is pretty darn impressive, and much better than the equivalently price 2 hours you get with the Accutome Vega. Mind you those are fully wireless and include a charge case to help compensate for their mediocre stamina.
The first time the BE6i needed a charge, it took nearly three hours to complete, longer than the 2.5 hours it should take. Each subsequent charge fell in line with the specs. Considering most of the Bluetooth sets I’ve tried need 2 hours to provide 4-6 hours of play time, 2.5 hours for nearly nine hours is not bad at all.
When Jyri suggested checking out the BE6i, I was initially a little hesitant. What clinched my acceptance was notification that they were tuned with a signature that was more serious, more HiFi focused. Something the Head-fi crowd would appreciate and enjoy. I had no reason the distrust this statement, but it was still something I wanted to test and hear for myself. I’ve enjoyed a number of Bluetooth headphones lately but there hasn’t been a ton of variety in their signatures, so something unique would be a welcome change of pace. After spending a few weeks with the BE6i, it certainly seems like they are targeting the discerning listener more than the average, bass-loving consumer.
My glimpse of this was an even balance between treble, mid-range, and bass. The BE6i isn’t saddled with a typically strong, v-shaped signature. Instead, Optoma has opted (:3) for a more mellow treble and bass presence in line with the mid-range, with just a slice of warmth swen in for good measure. No particular aspect of the BE6i’s sound clearly stands out as taking a lead role. It comes across as a very mild u-shaped signature at most, with slight lower treble and mid-bass humps tha add a bit of energy what could have been a very boring presentation. Given the lack of notable frequency spike, the BE6i was free of vocal and treble sibilance or harshness, even upon raising the volume to levels I wasn’t particularly comfortable with.
Abundant detail retrieval and shocking clarity are not the BE6i’s greatest strengths, though it certainly doesn’t skimp in these areas. The important details are presented clearly, while some of the finer nuances in a track are smoothed over. You’ll still hear the sharp intake of a quick breath across the textured strings of a guitar, it just won’t be rife with the details and texture you’d get from a similarly priced wired earphone like Kinera H3 hybrid or Echobox Finder X1[i], both of which also happen to be significantly brighter (and bassier).
Sound stage and imaging are generally not areas where a Bluetooth set excels, but I can happily say I was more than pleased with what the BE6i was pulling off. There was none of the off-centre vagueness I usually hear. Channel transitions were shockingly smooth and consistent. Wide too. The BE6i can more sounds a good distance around you, and even bring in a respectable sense of height and depth, as experienced while playing Killzone: Mercenary and Wipeout 2048 on my PSVITA. It’s a very dynamic presentation that I have previous experienced to a similar, but lesser, extent only in the ADVANCED Model 3 and SoundPEATS Q16.
Overall I found the BE6i a great sounding Bluetooth set. I would have been entirely content with this performance and balanced signature from a similarly prices wired set. Some extra detail and texture would always be welcome, but I’m not the complaining. As-is the BE6i sounds stellar.
The BE6i stands out as one of the best Bluetooth offerings I have come across to date. They’re well designed, well-built, and unexpectedly comfortable despite fairly long, weighty ear pieces. They aren’t an earphone you will have to baby, as evidenced by their IPX5 water resistance rating, bulletproof materials, and impressive fit and finish. To add to that good battery life at at least 8 hours, a wireless connection quality that is second to none, and some 10mm drivers that output one of the more impressive audio experiences I’ve come across in the wireless world, and you’ve got yourself a very good product.
Normally I would slot in some areas that could be improved upon, but the BE6i is such a complete product, I don’t feel it necessary this time. Optoma knocked it out of the park with this one. Good job!
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Elton John – Yellow Golden Brick Road (Album)
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet)