As a general rule, sports headphones kind of suck. Sweat-proofing and secure fit for some reason seem to equate with bloated bass and a lack of clarity. That, or you have to spend a couple hundred bucks to get decent audio.
Thankfully the Optoma NuForce BE Sport3 (geez, what a mouthful) don’t fit into this mold.
“This event was off the charts”
Gary Vaynerchuk was so impressed with TNW Conference 2016 he paused mid-talk to applaud us.
You might not be familiar with NuForce – a sub brand of Optoma, a company best known for its projectors – but they have a small following in headphone forums for providing solid audio quality at reasonable prices, and the company’s recent wireless BE6i were met to solid reviews.
I’ve had the chance to run around with the BE Sport3 (obviously aimed at, you know, sports) for a few weeks now, and though they’re not the most feature-rich headphones in the world, they deliver impressive performance at their $79 price tag.
- 10 hour battery life
- Bluetooth 4.1
- 6 mm dynamic drivers
- Up to 10 m range
- Siri and Google Now integration
- IP55 rating for rain, sweat and dust resistance
- AptX and AAC compatibility
Hardware and design
There are multiple tip sizes included. The double-flanged SpinFit tips (which twist around for a better fit) provided the best balance of comfort, sound and stability. I didn’t need the included stabilizing ear guides during my workouts (strength training, and sprints) but your mileage may vary. They provide some of the best isolation I’ve heard too, despite not having any special noise-cancelling circuitry.
The headphones are of the necklace variety – my personal favorite type of Bluetooth headphone – with a thin flat cable and just a three button remote. The metal housings are also magnetic, which is a nice touch for keeping the headphones from tangling in a bag.
Those metal housings also provide solid isolation. You don’t need an active noise cancelling system here; with the right pair of tips, these are among the best isolation headphones I’ve used.
The batteries are housed in the earbuds themselves, which makes them a little larger than average. They might look a little odd if you have small ears – and you’re not going to want to sleep with them on – but for the most part they shouldn’t be too conspicuous.
One caveat though – the nozzles coming out of the earbuds are really thick. If you have very small ear canals you may find the fit a bit uncomfortable. I’d recommend the SpinFits tips in that case, as they have more of a taper for smaller ears.
The headphones aren’t going to win any awards for fancy features, but they get the job done.
Pairing is just a matter of holding down the power button for six seconds, and I had no trouble pairing it to multiple devices (there’s an eight device limit). Being able to use Siri and Google Voice is a nice touch, though it’s not clear how to do this out of the box (you have to tap the power and volume up buttons at the same time).
The headphone comes with a few basic voice prompts for status information such a battery life, but I appreciate that you can turn them off (hold the power and volume down button for two seconds).
Speaking of battery life, I found Optoma’s claim of about 10 hours to be true. I just wish the headphones could be used with a dead battery by connecting them through the microUSB port, as I’ve seen with some other recent products.
Like any self-respecting Bluetooth audio product, the BE Sport3 use AptX technology for CD quality audio that avoids the compression artifacts normally associated with Bluetooth headphones (looking at you Samsung).
And that’s about it. No fancy DSPs or EQs. Thankfully, the headphones sound plenty good on their own.
With the pracrtical matters out of the way, I’m happy to report the BE Sport3 sound really darn good for $79 earbuds – wireless or not.
The overall presentation is refreshingly balanced for headphones aimed at the sports market, with good extension on both ends of the spectrum. Bass reaches low with commanding sub-bass, and there’s no significant midbass hump to be found. It’s fast and surprisingly powerful for a single small dynamic driver.
Mids are ever so slightly recessed, and shine through clearly thanks to the aforementioned lack of a midbass hump. Treble sparkles brightly and extends well into the 20 Khz region.
But my favorite thing about the headphones is their presentation, which is spacious and transparent. There’s a good width to the sound with excellent instrument separation for the price range. If you’re the type of person who listens to epic classical music or movie soundtracks while working out, this is the headphone for you.
My one real qualm about the sound is that they don’t quite get loud enough for my tastes. This is not at all an issue for your average pop hit with dynamics compressed to the range of a metaphorical pancake, but they can sometimes be a bit too soft in classical and jazz tracks where the mean volume is often quite low.
It’s far from bad, mind you, and the excellent isolation almost makes it a moot point, but worth noting if you find the crescendo at the end of your favorite symphony is missing a bit of oomph. But hey, maybe I just don’t listen to enough energetic music while working out.
No frills, but still a steal
If you’re looking for a great set of workout headphones, the BE Sport3 should be a no-brainer candidate. Heck, even if you’re just flat out looking for a good pair of headphones under $100, they’re easy to recommend on sound quality alone, wireless or not.
Add in solid build quality, great isolation, a stable fit, and excellent battery life, and the BE Sport3 become a tremendous deal at $79.