Optoma NuForce BE2: “And find that I am the baby of the bunch”
Today we’re checking out the baby in Nuforce’s Bluetooth lineup, the BE2.
Inexpensive Bluetooth headsets are easy find, but locating one that performs well in a number of measures is a slightly more challenging affair. The BE2 sets itself up to be a great value in this segment with features such as a respectable IPX5 water and sweat resistance rating, AAC support for Apple devices, and durable, polycarbonate shells for the earpieces. 10 hours of battery life is nothing to scoff at either. Like the BE Free8, the BE2 utilizes a compact 6mm micro-driver but in this application it is mounted in the tip of the nozzle, similar to products like the now classic JVC HA-FXD80 and more recent HA-FXH30. This style of earphone brings with it some ergonomic challenges given the nozzle needs to be broader than normal in order to accommodate the driver. With the inclusion of some SpinFit TwinBlade eartips, NuForce will have managed to skirt this issue for many of you out there that typically have issues with broad nozzles.
I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let’s take a step back and run through the BE2 from the beginning to see how it fairs in the real world, and if it is something you should be considering if in the market for an inexpensive wireless earphone.
A big thanks to Jyri at Nuforce for reaching out to see if I would be interested in checking out the BE2. It was sent over free of charge for the purposes of a fair and impartial review. The thoughts within this review are my own and do not represent Optoma, NuForce, or any other entity. There was no financial incentive provided to incite a positive review.
At the time of this writing, the BE2 retailed for 49.00 USD on Amazon.com: https://www.optomausa.com/audioproduct/be2
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 in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, Brainwavz B400, and thinksound On2 offer unique examples of signatures I enjoy.
The BE Free8 was paired an LG G5, Shanling M1, and an ASUS FX53V gaming laptop. Pairing was quick and easy with each device and overall performance across them was consistent.
Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz
Sensitivity: 100±3DB AT 1K HZ
Power supply: Lithium-ion battery
Connector type: Bluetooth Wireless
Cable length: 580 mm
Driver unit: 6 mm dynamic
Impedance: 16 OHM
Connections input: Bluetooth V4.1
Battery life: UP TO 10 HOURS
Supported codecs: HSP 1.2, HFP 1.6, A2DP 1.2, AVRCP 1.4, AAC, SBC
Wireless frequency: 20HZ-20KHZ
Operating range: 33 FEET
Weight: 0lb 0.5oz
Packaging and Accessories:
Aesthetically the BE2’s packaging is very similar to the more costly BE6i’s. The mostly white color scheme is quite trendy and features what looks to be a simulated image of the BE2 on the front.This was a good image choice as it shows off the in-line controller and LED placement, the long, flat cable, and gives you a hint at the unusually large nozzles this earphone is equipped with. The left side shows wire frame images of the few accessories included inside, while on the rear a number of features are highlighted in 5 languages. Opening the package and sliding out the first insert you’re greeted to the BE2 nestled in a foam and cardboard cutout. Below is a small cardboard box on which the pairing instructions are printed. The interior is completely filled with a large hunk of foam with cutouts for the microUSB cable and spare ear tips, both of which are contained in their own separate bags. In all you are provided;
- BE2 earphones
- 1 pair of medium SpinFit TwinBlade tips (pre-installed)
- 3 pairs of single flange silicone tips
- microUSB cable
I was a little disappointed at the lack of accessories given my past experiences with NuForce products. The packaging was certainly large enough to accommodate a small case and when it comes to tip-mounted drivers, including a wide variety of eartips is pretty much a necessity to ensure a good fit. Thankfully, both the medium single-flange and TwinBlade tips worked for me but others might not be so lucky.
Comfort, Build, and Isolation:
Once you’ve found the right tips to match your ears, the BE2 is easy to insert and quite ergonomic. The slight angle of the nozzle lets them rest at a natural angle, supported by the natural curves where the main section of the housing tapers down into the cable insert. That said, while they never fell out even during heavy activity, the BE2 never felt quite as stable as some of the competition like the ADVANCED Evo X or even the BE6i when using the included ear hooks. The lack of accommodation of ear hooks is a bit of a missed opportunity in my opinion.
That said, if they do fall out I have no worry they would break. The polycarbonate shells of the BE2 feel seriously dense and well put together with a mix of glossy surfaces at the front, and a grippy matte surface on the back where you would hold them. These two surfaces line up well with limited gaps, as you would hope given their IPX5 rating.You should be able to drench them in sweat or use them in the rain without worry. I can verify they work fine in the cold and snow. The flat cable is thinner than on the BE6i and as a result is also lighter and more flexible with a handy little cinch/slider to pick up the slack. I really like the inline remote too which seems to be of higher quality than the one used on the more expensive BE6i. The plastics look better and feel more solid. The three buttons are not individual units but laid out under a rubber sheet which should offer effective resistance to liquid intruders. The microUSB charge port is located on the side of the remote, sealed closed by a rubber hatch.
Also sealed closed are your ears once you’re in the midst of using the BE2. How well do they isolate you from the outside world? Well, that depends on the tips you choose. The TwinBlade set offer pretty outstanding isolation, easily drowning out loud noises. The single flange tips are no so effective and let in quite a lot of outside noise. If you’re in a gym, I suggest using the TwinBlades. If you’re out for a jog, go with the single flange set so you can hear nearby traffic.
And while you may have to worry about traffic and nutso drivers, at least you won’t have to worry about battery life since the BE2 offers up a respectable and achievable 10 hours of play time. For the purposes of testing, I left my device at 50% and used the BE2’s in-built volume adjustment to pick the right levels. Out of 15 steps, my listening generally fell between 6 and 9 depending on the track and where I was. At these volumes I routinely exceeded 10 hours of use, but not by much. If you listen loud, I would expect to fall just short of the mark (as would likely be the case with any battery powered device).
Connection quality is pretty average with a standard range of 33 feet, only really achievable in unobstructed areas. It’s good and about on par with the BE Free8, but it’s no BE6i. The only complaint I have is levied at the occasional micro-second in length bursts of static I heard a couple times an hour, increasing in frequency when nearly a fully depleted battery. After a while I could block it out, but given I work in a noisy call centre environment in a customer service position, blocking out annoyances is somewhat second nature. If this is not limited to my review unit, others might find it more obnoxious than I did.
While the BE2 isn’t the best sounding Bluetooth set I’ve heard, it’s also far from the worst. The lack of apt-X support may be partially to blame for this. Like the BE6i, I found the BE2 to have a slightly elevated treble region with comparatively neutral bass and mids.
Treble has a slight metallic edge to it and comes across a touch grainy, but it’s very detailed, well controlled, and not at all splashy. I suspect there is an upward peak to the presence region as there is some sibilance and harshness to cymbals. While I generally enjoy this signature, it can be fatiguing which isn’t necessarily ideal. This treble presentation isn’t forgiving of poor recordings either as evidenced through The Crystal Method’s “Grace (feat LeAnn Rimes)”. This track features a horrendous screeching sound that runs most of the length and is nigh unbearable though many earphones, the BE2 included.
The mid-range is merely okay. It is open and clear presenting lots of detail. It’s not a particularly warm sounding mid-range, however, leading to a more convincing presentation with male vocals. I found the lower mi-range notes lacked some body and weight removing the emotion from some tracks, like Daft Punk’s “Touch”. The lack of mid-range warmth left female vocals sounding somewhat sterile. The mid-range isn’t poorly done, it’s just not particularly engaging.
The BE2’s low end is also quite reserved focusing more on speed and control than depth or impact. I can see these being considered light on bass by many, especially given the early drop off heading into sub-bass regions. That said, texturing is good and there is no bleed into the mid-range affecting vocals. Given the intended purpose of these earphones as an active companion, I would like to see more low end presence as what’s there is likely to be drown out by outside noise.
They’re fairly average too in terms of providing a spacious stage. I found this somewhat surprising given the tip-mounted driver configuration which at the very least should provide a wide but narrow stage. Here, it is consistent in width and depth, but remains firmly in your head. On the side, it images quite well for a Bluetooth set, free of the off-centre dead zones that seem to plague cheaper sets.
ADVANCED Evo X (59.99 USD): The Evo X and BE2 I are both aimed at the active crowd. In terms of build the BE2’s earpieces feel much more dense and solid and like they could take more abuse. The Evo X’s cable is thicker and shorter and I found it more manageable and less intrusive. Comfort and ergonomics goes to the Evo X with it’s “all-in-one” design. It’s lighter and much more stable in the ear, primarily due to the ear hook design in which the cable is housed, following the hooks up and around your ear. If you don’t like that style of earphone, the BE2’s more traditional cable-down design will be right in your wheelhouse.
The BE2’s battery life is twice that of the Evo X at 10 hours vs. five, with both requiring about 2 hours to charge. Do I need to say which is better here? The BE2’s connection quality is slightly more stable as well, though the Evo X doesn’t suffer from random bursts of static.
In terms of sound these two couldn’t vary much more. The Evo X is warmer and bassier with a smoother overall presentation that I found more suitable to outside use. The extra low end meant you were losing all the bass when outside in noisy areas. The BE2 provides a notably more detailed sound, however, and the extra shimmer on the top end I found myself missing when swapping back over to the Evo X.
Nuforce BE6i (79.99 USD): The BE6i was my top Bluetooth earphone of 2017, and for good reason. It has awesome build quality with apt-X support, a great sound signature, and a very strong connection combined with an acceptable 8 hours of battery life.
Like the BE2 it is IPX5 rated, but it’s housings are all metal and it simply feels and looks more premium. They both have strong magnets in the back letting you confidently hang them around your neck when not in use, and when in use the BE6i includes ear hooks to help ensure a more secure fit. That said, the broad housings and stubby nozzles make getting that fit slightly more challenging than the BE2, even with it’s massive nozzles. You can counter this with being able to use pretty much whichever tips you want though. As noted above, the BE6i’s battery life loses out to the BE2, but in my opinion that is warranted by the nigh flawless connection quality and crazy range; 98ft. vs. 33ft.
Where the BE6i really earns it’s stars is in sound quality which in my opinion is a significant step up from the BE2. Even more detail, a smoother, more even presentation, and just enough extra umph in the low end to counter that typical bass loss when out and about. Add to that a larger sound scape and you’ve got yourself a properly good sounding earphone, regardless of whether it’s wired or wireless.
The BE2 is a solid Bluetooth offering with a nice build, good comfort, a decent connection, and a detailed sound signature. It was easy to pair and over the couple months I’ve had them they’ve proven themselves a mostly fuss-free travel companion.
I was slightly bothered by some minor bursts of static experienced a few times every hour, but I ended up becoming accustomed to that. The lack of accessories is also a mild negative, namely due to the broad nozzles. Many people have issues getting a good fit with tip-mounted driver designs, and a greater variety of tip options would go a long way to making the fit on these more universal. That said, the included TwinBlade tips do mitigate this somewhat, but they’re not going to work for everyone. I would love to see NuForce update the BE2 with a hybrid nozzle like that found on the AK Audio Light T2 which still lets you use regular tips.
If you only have 50 USD to spend on a Bluetooth earphone, the BE2 is a safe choice and should last you a long time. Personally, I would spend the extra to get the BE6i. The increase in sound quality, connection quality, and accessories make it well worth the investment, even if you’re losing a couple hours of play time.
Thanks for reading!
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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 (Track)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Track)
Andy Leech – The Hallows (Track)