I never run with headphones. And it’s because I hate that godforsaken rubber cord that connects my headphones to my phone. I’ve tried different cords, tried routing the cord under my shirt, tried shorter cords, tried taping the cord to my chest — if you can conceive of a way to alleviate the hardship of running with corded headphones, I’ve attempted it. I’ve even gone the lightweight Bluetooth speaker route — much to my neighbors’ annoyance at 6:00 a.m. And I hated every option. I’d rather run quiet.
But when the NuForce BE6i’s came across my desk, freed from the confines of an incessant rubber tether and billed at an IPX5 water resistance rating (read: sweat-resistant), my skepticism met with a tinge of hope that maybe, just maybe, a solution had arrived for my tether hatred.
Optoma, a Taiwan-based corporation, is known mostly for their digital projectors. They make a handful of other products, mostly DACs and amps, and recently they launched into the headphone market. Last year, they introduced the BE6, and the BE6i is the updated version, adding improved sound and the IPX5 water resistance rating.
The draw of wireless headphones, in general, is the ability to leave your streaming device or cell phone in your pocket or bag, and not have to worry about having your headphones connected by a cord. This allows a greater range of motion while listening to music, and also helps avoid having traumatized ear canals when the cord inevitably gets caught on a door handle, tree branch or stranger. Wireless earbuds can amp up the wireless convenience even further: not only are they free of tangle-prone wires, but they’re also low profile and lightweight.
Optoma NuForce BE6i
Water Resistance Rating: IPX5
Battery Life: 8 hours
The drawback of most wireless earbuds however, is poor sound quality, limited battery life and unreliable connections. Crackling and connection hiccups are common woes. And with little space to cram in a battery, most wireless earbuds have battery times that hover around 4.5 hours. The BE6i’s smash the power problem with a continuous runtime of 8 hours. They also offer a deep, rich sound quality thanks to a 10mm driver — designed to eliminate unwanted reverberations — leading to better sound quality when one cranks up the volume. Compared to Jaybird’s Freedom wireless buds, the BE6i’s are bulkier, but they offer comparable sound quality and more than double the runtime (at a fraction of the cost).
I tested them on runs, workouts, and even on my daily commute. The battery life and sound driver quality add up to a listening experience that accomplishes what it set out to do: provide high-quality sound in an active, capable package at a relatively affordable price point. Not only did I find my annoyances of running with corded headphones alleviated, I actually found pleasure in using the BE6i’s. The buds stayed in my ears without too much hassle, and a clip managed the small cord that connects the two buds. The battery lasted as promised, and the audio quality was up there with some of the best wireless buds I’ve tested. In other words, I was satisfied. An active life that can be lived cord free? It’s reality, and it’s music to my ears.