Bluetooth headphones have come a long way in the last 10 years from my first pair that hurt my ears and died after half an hour of use. The slow improvement was noticeable if you listen to music while exercising or if you just hate cables but they’ve never quite managed to get to the mainstream. Then as so often seems to happen Apple made a decision. The new iPhone was rumoured (and confirmed) to have no 3.5mm headphone jack and suddenly everyone wants a Bluetooth headset.
Optoma have been making projectors since the early 2000’s but acquired US audio maker NuForce in 2014. NuForce have been making high-quality headphones, DACs and amps for a long time and 2015 saw the first Bluetooth headset the BE6 which got good reviews but had battery life issues. Come up to date and the BE6 has been updated to the BE6i and the Optoma BE Sport3 is launched.
When I read the battery life and looked at the design of the BE Sport3’s I was sceptical. There didn’t seem to be enough space in the headset and controls to fit enough battery mass to get the 10 hours claimed – so we tested it. Streaming a combination of music and spoken word we got within half an hour of 10 hours (over and under) on every real-world test. Charging time from completely empty was between two and three hours going from empty to full. In other words, forget just using them for exercise the BE Sport3’s have enough power to make it through most people’s day.
So how do they sound? I’ve got a confession. For the first couple of days, I had the Sport3’s I wasn’t impressed. No matter which ear-tips I used I couldn’t get them properly seated and the sound was weak and a bit tinny. Then I had a revelation and realized I was wearing them backwards. It made an unsurprising world of difference.
With the right fit the headphones became comfortable and the sound improved to an impressive level. They have a decent and full-bodied sound that had surprisingly good bass. They miss a little of the low-level detail that quality wired headsets can reproduce but make the best possible use of the Bluetooth spec.
I did have a one minor issue. The first play of a song after the headphones were switched on had consistent interference. Stop and restart the playback and it goes away until the next time that the headphones are connected. I tried with multiple Bluetooth sources and had the same issue. It’s an annoying quirk but hopefully one unique to my unit.
Price: ± £ 80
Optoma is a multinational that specializes in projectors and the audio accompaniments for business, educational, professional and home system. Most of their systems use DLP technology licensed from Texas Instruments which is resistant to degradation over time.
They have a number of environmental policies, including recyclability of the products, packaging and perhaps most importantly energy efficiency.
The Sport3’s come in a beautifully designed box with what seems like a huge number of small parts. It includes the headset itself with built-in cord tightener, 14 different sizes (and shape) silicon in-ear tips, 12 Spinfit ear wings, a microUSB charge cable and a neoprene fur-lined pouch with a built-in carabiner.
Getting yourself setup for the first time takes a few minutes and after a lot of experimentation, I learnt a few things. Firstly that if you don’t want to use the Spinfit ear wings. They do make for a much tighter fit and better sound isolation but if you’re not exercising they’re not needed to keep the headphones secure. The ear tips are in pairs that are interchangeable to the ear but the ear wing pairs are moulded for each ear – in other words, they have a left and a right!
- Target age: Teens, Adults, Older adults. The smallest size eartips require at least a teenager size ear.
- Target Gender: Gender neutral design with orange, yellow and black tips and grey or rose gold body
- Indoor and outdoor use, with IP55 making them rain and sweat proof
- Requires a firm grip and a little patience to get the ear wings and tips seated correctly but it’s a one-time problem.
At £80 the Sport3’s are priced over the cheapest available Bluetooth headphones available but are so wildly better specced than those headphones they’re not really comparable. Looking directly at other headsets with similar specifications and build quality and the Sport3’s are priced more economically than most of their rivals. In particular, I wasn’t able to find any with a comparable battery life and form factor for anywhere near the same price.
Cable Length 56cm
Item Weight with in ear tips: 14.1grams
Impedance: 16 ohm
Controls: Inline, right ear
Colour: Rose Gold or Grey
Battery life: Up to 10 hours claimed and similar in testing
Bluetooth: Version 4.1
Codecs: HSP 1.2, HFP 1.6, A2DP 1.2 AVRCP 1.4 aptX
Materials: Aluminum and polycarbonate
Warranty: 30 day no quibble return
Optoma has been kind enough to lend me these earphones for the last couple of weeks and they’re due to go back on Monday. I try out a lot of hardware and it’s a measure of how good these are that the chances are that I’ll be putting in an order for my own pair as these go back.
If you want a comfortable, high-quality pair of Bluetooth headphones at a good price these are a great choice and the best sub hundred pound pair of headphones I’ve ever used. Highly recommended.
The review is based on the Gunmetal Grey Optoma NuForce BE Sport3 Headphones kindly provided by Optoma. This article was first published on the 18th of November 2016.