Optoma has made some cracking headphones over the years and we’ve tried out a fair few of them, but when I saw that they had a set of truly wireless earbuds coming out, I had to reach out and ask for a review sample. So how do the Optoma Be Free8’s do? Awesome, utterly awesome.
Disclaimer: These earbuds have been used for about a Month for review, due to health issues and unreliable hearing, this review took longer than usual. Optoma has no control over the outcome of this review, and the only people looking at it before it goes live are other MTT editors. No one has been compensated for this review and these are my own thoughts.
Since dislocating my jaw, one of my biggest gripes has been the way the structure of my inner ear has changed, making most in-ear earbuds incredibly painful to use, the Be Free8’s aren’t, which is actually one of the reasons that I was even more excited to review these.
Bluetooth 4.1 connection
Wireless range of 10m
4 Hour Battery non-stop
16 hour battery when placed in the charging case
5.8mm dynamic drivers
Battery Charging Case with MicroUSB
Check out the full datasheet from Optoma Themselves.
The hardware on the Be Free8’s is simple, they’re all plastic, like most earbuds are, and are pretty lightweight, so that once they’re in your ears in their entirely, they don’t feel like they’re trying to fight to stay in. Weighing in at 11g each, the Be Free8’s often fall into the category of “I forgot I was even wearing them” the long thin stem that actually goes into your ear canal has removable tips that range from minuscule and barely the size of the plastic stem, to almost comically large, and all the ones in between. After losing one of the original, smallest ones (I took them off to clean them) I begrudgingly moved the slightly larger set, which works perfectly fine and seal a bit better, but with my ear canal now slightly deformed, it takes a while for them to feel as comfortable.
Each bud has a single button, this is for waking and sleeping as well as an action button, this button also denotes which ear the bud is meant to go in. Looking on the inside of the bud there are 2 pogo-pin connectors, there are what the earbuds use to charge their batteries, and it is really quite simple and clean design, I have to give Optoma props where they are due, and the design of these are pretty damn great. Are they perfect? No, I’m not the biggest fan of the glossy plastic as it picks up fingerprints a bit too easily, but otherwise, I’m finding little to dislike on the earbuds themselves.
The Charging Case is also pretty neat. Just like the majority of earbuds that have no wire connecting them (and even some that do) the Be Free8’s use the case to charge, and the case was clearly inspired by the Apple AirPod case, but it is a little taller and wider, but it is more tapered and shapely, I quite like it to be honest. Open up the lid and there are two crevices, one for each bud and they only go in one way, so not to worry, once they go in the case to store them, they charge them. Inside these channels are the actual pin part of the Pogo-Pins. Closing the lid, there are two “hidden” LEDs flash illuminate when the buds are in place to show the connection is established and it is charging, a pretty great system actually, though I do feel like they flash a few times too many, not an issue in usability, but seems a bit odd. Further down the case, on the bottom curve is the 3 battery status LEDs and the MicroUSB charger, that’s right, MicroUSB. If I’m having a go at phone makers for MicroUSB, I’ve got to complain at peripheral makers too, especially at the price that the Be Free8’s come in at. Lastly on the back is a flat spot to lay them flat on the table, and also all of the regulatory signatures.
When I reviewed the NuForce BE6i’s from Optoma nearly a year ago I stated that the audio quality was out of this world and that I’d never known wireless audio like that, the Be Free8’s take that experience and goes further as there isn’t a cable to get trapped between my neck and top, or my top and my hoodie.
The earbuds sound amazing with AptX HD support, and if your phone can support it like my Huawei Mate 10 Pro can, you get some absolutely ridiculous sound out of these minuscule buds. One of my favourite tests to do on earbuds is to listen to one of my favourite albums of all time, Dark Side of the Moon, by Pink Floyd, and oh my, oh my, The Be Free8’s sound stunning, whether it be my own copy of the album in FLAC or the copy of the album on Google Play Music, I’m transported, tranquil and encapsulated.
The soundstage of such small earbuds is obviously not as great as larger open-backed over-ear headphones, but I’m shocked at how much spatial separation there is between vocals and instruments, as well as each other. I may not be as versed in audio terms as our resident audio expert Mark, but I am honestly blown away by the sound that comes out of these.
Not just music though, I used the Be Free8’s on a recent trip to London for a press meeting and listened to a podcast on the way there and an audiobook on the way back (Audible FTW) and everything sounded great especially when the podcast has the audio channels mixed properly, it’s kind of trippy. Talking about trippy, I went on Youtube and tried some binaural audio tests and closed my eyes, and I was very surprised at the depth of the effect.
For the most part, the connection for the Be Free8’s is pretty great, the NFMI (Near Field Magnetic Induction) connection between the buds is, for the most part, flawless, and the Bluetooth 4.1 connection between the main bud (the left one) and the device is fine. Would I have prefered Bluetooth 5.0? By far, the new Anker Zolo Liberty Plus’ have them and I think that the more expensive Be Free8’s should have them too. The main bud being the left bud bodes well for me as I leave my phone in my left pocket, and even through Denim jeans and a jacket, the Be Free 8’s work really well, I do feel like the stated 10m range is a little optimistic, but as long as I can get it from my ear to my front pocket without interference, I’m usually ok.
The connection between the earbuds, however, was a little bit of a shock to me. Initially, I thought that is used Bluetooth to connect each bud together, but the speed at which they connected and the quality of the audio between the two sounded too good to be Bluetooth, and it turns out I was right. NFMI is something Optoma is touting and I can see why. Magnetic induction between the two buds starts the connection and audio transfer and it is awesome. The seemingly only downside to NFMI is the limited range. The first time I took the left earbud out of my ear the music stopped playing in the right bud almost immediately. I thought this was a feature similar to what Apple has on the AirPods, but nope, because the left bud is the main bud, the connection to the right one was lost, but Audio was still playing on the left bud in my hand. The connection seems to be limited to sub 30cm, but unless your head is wider than that, you really shouldn’t have any issues.
Lastly is the pairing process, it’s fine, it is a set of standard Bluetooth earbuds, you fire up the main bud into pairing mode (hold down the button until it says it is in pairing mode) go to your Bluetooth settings and connect to the Be Free8 device, once it is paired, you can turn on the second bud and wait about 2 seconds and it’s done. I do wish they had the new “Fast Pair” tech from Google, I think that would have really helped them out. Also, the right bud doesn’t make any noise or indication that it has successfully connected, so It is a bit annoying when you think it is on and it isn’t. These are things that I believe that Optoma could add in a firmware update, if these are able to update their firmware easily that is, at the very least, a little beep to let you know that the slave earbud is connected to the master bud would be useful.
So should you buy these? If you’re still asking that question I feel like you haven’t actually read the review. If you can afford these, the Optoma nuForce Be Free8’s are stunningly good, outrageously great for Bluetooth buds. They sound ridiculous, the battery life is impeccable (I’ve literally only charged the case once in the entire time I’ve been testing these) and the connection between the buds, a pain point for most truly wireless earbuds, doesn’t seem to be an issue here.
Price is something you need to factor in though, £200 isn’t cheap. Anker’s Zolo Liberty+’s with Bluetooth 5.0 is £50 cheaper. Apple’s AirPods are also about £50 cheaper and they have the W1 chip for ridiculously easy pairing. Neither sound as great as the Be Free8’s but they do cost significantly less. I would pay the extra money personally because I am genuinely shocked at the fidelity of the audio out of these, but I understand that some people will find it hard to justify wireless earbuds that might cost more or as much as their phone.
Optoma NuForce Be Free8£199.99
- Obnoxiously good sound
- Small size and weight
- Convenient carry case keeps them charger
- Unobtrusive design
- Great intra-bud connection
- Bluetooth 4.1 instead of 5.0
- MicroUSB on the charge case instead of USB-C
- Glossy Plastic picks up fingerprints
- More expensive than competitors