Back at CES, I had the chance to chat with Optoma about what we could expect from the NuForce brand this year. I was promised that something good was in the works and that it would be worth the wait. So when the BE Sport4 arrived on my doorstep, some six months after I got home from Vegas, I was pretty excited to see if the wait had, indeed, been worth it.
I was not disappointed, dear reader, nor was I surprised. Optoma has typically done a great job at packing in good features for awesome values. The BE Sport4, however, took things a bit further, offering fantastic sound quality, solid build materials, and nearly ten hours of battery life all for $79. Customization is key here, with plenty of options for you to find the perfect fit to suit your ears.
Bluetooth earphones under $100 have gotten a lot better in recent years, but is the NuForce BE Sport4 the best out there in this price range? I certainly think it's a very strong contender for that title.
|Customization||Finding the perfect fit is easy, since Optoma includes nine pairs of fins, three sets of dome tips, and even some of its recognizable TwinBlades. Odds are you can find a way to make the buds fit perfectly in your ears.|
|Build quality||Made from aluminium and polycarbonate, the BE Sport4 feels solid and durable, yet is incredibly light at the same time.|
|Battery life||Optoma says that the BE Sport4 can go for ten hours. I ended up getting closer to nine, which is still pretty good. Oh, and you also get quick charging, too.|
|Sound||With 6mm graphene-coated drivers, the BE Sport4 sounds great for a pair of Bluetooth earphones. It also supports AAC and aptX for Apple and Android devices, respectively.|
|Value||At $79, it's hard to beat the BE Sport4 for build quality, sound, and overall value.|
|Cable||Even though the remote/battery is very light, it still pulls on the right side of the cord. Turning my head to the right often pulls the left bud out of place.|
|Comfort (twin blade tips)||The twin blade ear tips are great, but they can start to get uncomfortable after a while; they definitely make my ears itch more than I'm used to. I didn't have this issue with the dome tips, but they don't seal as well as the twin blade. There's always a trade-off.|
The BE Sport4 looks a lot like other Optoma NuForce products out there. Even though they're distant cousins, I was immediately reminded of the NuForce BE2 that I reviewed last year, from the subtle curves of the driver housings to the twin blade ear tips. Each bud magnetically clips to the other, making for convenient storage around your neck when you're not wearing them. There's also IPX5 water resistance, so it can withstand sweat and rain.
What I really like about the BE Sport4 is how well they fit me. Optoma includes a massive selection of customization options so that you can make the earphones truly yours. You can choose from the nine pairs of fins (or skip them altogether) and either the normal dome-style tips or the twin blade. I found that the black size 1 fins and twin blades were the perfect fit for me, hardly budging during the course of a workout.
Seeing this level of customization in a pair of Bluetooth earphones is very rare, so I applaud Optoma for going the extra mile, especially since the BE Sport4 costs $79. You also get a soft-sided carrying case that is more than spacious enough to hold the BE Sport4 while also remaining compact for your bag or pocket.
I have only two problems with the comfort overall: 1. the battery pulls on the cord and 2. the twin blade tips can get uncomfortable and make my ears itch like mad. Let's talk about the cable first, shall we?
The weight of the battery is not substantial by any means; it's actually quite light. But it still has enough mass to pull on the right side of the cord, which makes it difficult to then turn your head to the right. This is a problem with neckband-style Bluetooth earphones, so it's an issue that's by no means limited to the BE Sport4, but it's nonetheless present here.
Optoma's SpinFit TwinBlade tips are damn good at staying in your ears and maintaining the sound seal. The only problem I have with them, which carries over to the BE Sport4, is that they start to get uncomfortable after some time. This can be ignored, especially if you're on some good pre-workout, but what is nigh impossible to overlook is how much they make the inside of my ears itch. It's honestly quite maddening, but it could just be a me problem. I don't know. I didn't experience the itching with the regular dome tips, but they don't seal nearly as well as the twin blade ones do, so it's a tradeoff.
As we saw with the BE2, the BE Sport4's remote, which also houses the battery, is thin and light. The charging port is under a snug door and the playback buttons require a moderately firm press, meaning that it's difficult to accidentally push one of them.
The final note I have on the BE Sport4's hardware is that this thing is light. It's hardly noticeable in your hands and even less so in your ears (minus the battery). Optoma says that the housings are made of aluminium and polycarbonate, which is how the BE Sport4 feels so light and durable at the same time.
Sound and battery life
The first time I started up music on the BE Sport4 – specifically "Man Must Explore (Dark Hours Mix)" by Ray Gun Hero – my reaction was simply "wow." This song starts off on a very heavy bass note and I could feel the rumble in my ears. Obviously, I turned down the volume a notch or two (it gets plenty loud), but the effect was nonetheless impressive. Most of you should know by now that I love the lower frequencies (thus why I typically listen to synthwave), and the BE Sport4 certainly delivers a great experience in that regard.
Optoma is very proud of the 6mm graphene-coated drivers, which it claims, in combination with the AAC and aptX support, provide "crystal clear, premium sound." The tonal balance is definitely solid, with the smooth highs well-matched against the strong lows; mids mostly even everything out, usually keeping vocals from both overwhelming and getting overpowered. Although, I noticed that the bass tends to get in the way of normal speaking voices, like in podcasts and audiobooks (which are what I prefer to listen to while doing long bouts of cardio). This causes some muffling and muddling of the speech, especially with lower male voices. It's not bad, per se, and certainly not a deal-breaker, but keep that in mind if you're a heavy podcast listener.
Ten hours is what Optoma promises with the BE Sport4. The battery is compact and relatively light, so I was initially dubious of this claim; the BE2 had a similar assertion and the battery on that was, comparatively, much larger and heavier. However, the BE Sport4 just kept going, ready for some Amon Amarth or Parkway Drive when I got to the gym. And since I didn't have as long as I usually do to test audio hardware, I used these around the house and while I worked, too.
In the end, I'd say that my review unit regularly hit the nine to nine and a half hours mark, give or take a few minutes. While not quite the ten-hour number that Optoma set forth, I'd say that's still very respectable. For most people, that's a couple weeks of workouts — and for me, that's just over a week's worth.
Unfortunately, it's still microUSB here, but the BE Sport4 features quick charging, with Optoma saying that you'll get about two hours of listening from fifteen minutes on the charger. I will say that, anecdotally, this pair of earphones seemed to fill up faster than others, but I have no hard data on that.
With something like this, the battery's size is going to be a problem for weight balance and distribution, so the weirdness here isn't all too surprising. Honestly, I don't have the expertise to offer companies like Optoma a possible solution to this. I got used to pulling the cord back to the left side of my neck if I was going to look right – a process far more annoying when you're wearing these most of the day, might I add – so odds are you will, too.
Should you buy the BE Sport4? If you're looking for a solid, reliable pair of Bluetooth earphones that offer tons of customizability and great sound, then yes. How you spend your money is your business, but these are what I will recommend to anyone looking for wireless earbuds, especially if they're focused on fitness. If that sounds like you, then definitely check this out. It's not a perfect product, no, but for $79, it's hard to beat.