We’ll admit: it was a little bit surprising when we got a pair of sports earbuds from Optoma. It may have even been a bit of a “Wait, what?” moment. Optoma? The really good but slightly square company who make projectors, DACs, professional-grade in-ear monitors and audiophile amps? That Optoma? They’re the ones responsible for this explosion of neon-yellow and hot-pink rubber ear tips all over our desk? Imagine if Beats By Dre decided to market a do-it-yourself home tube amp kit. That was the level of eyebrow-raise we had. In this review, we break down the BE Sport3s’ sound, design, comfort and fit, packaging and accessories, specs and more. If you'd like some more interesting options, see the best earbuds.
Bluetooth Audio and Battery Life
We were worried about this one. Bluetooth buds, and exercise buds in particular, don’t have a very good rep for sound quality. Partly it’s to do with the fact that Bluetooth transmission isn’t always optimal, but also because by their very nature, they have to be light, which means they can’t always deliver intense, satisfying bass. Fortunately, Optoma know what they’re doing. And the Optoma NuForce BE Sport3 succeed because they get the basics right. These might not be the best sports earbuds on the market, but they’ve become one of our favorites.
While the audio quality of the BE Sport3 isn’t going to be unseating classy numbers like the MEE audio Pinnacle P1s (full review here) any time soon, it more than holds its own. Optoma focused on getting the aptX Bluetooth codec right, and they’ve done a fantastic job. We were also impressed by the battery life. While we didn’t squeeze the advertised ten hours out of these while operating at a reasonable volume, we did get to eight and a half in our tests, which is more than enough. That length of time is comparable with the best in the field.
It was the bass that really surprised us. Although it felt compact, it didn’t feel like it had lost any detail or power. Kick drums still had genuine weight to them, and synth basslines were satisfyingly gritty. In-ears often provide better bass than some over-ears - even cheaper high-end ones, like the Grado SR80es. Those are only about $30 more expensive than the $65 Optomas, but the latter provide much tighter low-end, even if they don’t have as much detail.
High-End (Treble) and Stereo Spread
While the stereo spread could probably stand to be widened a little more, it was still a pleasant surprise to hear just how accomplished the rest of the frequency spectrum was. The mids and highs were full of life and texture, and the increased audio quality made our workouts a pleasure. They definitely hold their own against their competitors in this area. Perfect example are the much-pricier Jaybird X3s - they cost $30 more than the Optomas, and are equally happy in the gym. Their sound is slightly better, but only slightly, and if you want to save some cash you’ll be perfectly happy with the BE Sport3s.
Looks and Build Quality
The housings themselves are phenomenal: smooth and weighty, with a pleasing heft to them that is nonetheless light when worn in the ear. They also have at least one truly brilliant feature: the outer part is magnetized, so you can snap them together. Once you’ve got them hanging round your neck, snapped together and stuck in place, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. It’s the perfect example of the company getting the basics absolutely right, and it meant continued hassle-free use for us. It’s something the company does across its range, including their non-workout buds, the Optoma NuForce BE2 (full review here). Those are only $39, if you’re interested, around $20 less than the buds under review here - a perfect choice if you don’t want to take yours to the gym.
It’s worth noting, again, but the color choices for the tips are particularly garish. We’re not big fans. It’s a minor enough point, but what, you couldn’t give us a tasteful blue? Perhaps a soothing gunmetal grey? Just because we are actually getting off our backsides and going to the gym doesn’t mean we want to burn our eyeballs out.
The earbuds are rated at IP55, which means that while they aren’t completely waterproof, they can more than withstand a bit of sweat and dirt. We put this to the test ourselves, using the buds over multiple sessions in our local gym: sessions which included heavy cardio, weight lifting, and suspension training. No matter what we did, or how we moved, they stayed in place. After two hours, they began to feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s a long time to wear any pair of buds for, so we forgave them. They certainly didn’t make us feel hot or itchy, which is a problem we’ve had with other models in the past. And their waterproof rating is very solid indeed, especially for the price. Compare that to the bestselling Beats by Dre Powerbeats3 Wireless – despite being used by thousands and thousands of gym goers, they do not have an official IPX rating, or at least not one that is disclosed by the company. That’s not usually a good sign, and although we haven’t heard any reports of the Powerbeats failing, you definitely know where you are with the BE Sport3s. The Powerbeats, for reference, costs nearly $100 more than the Optomas, at $134. Yeesh.
The in-line controls are dead simple. Although the call quality was probably a smidgen less good than we normally expect, the actual controls themselves were easy-to-use. There are two volume buttons, and a single central button to handle all functions, which worked just like we expected it to. Pairing it with our phone took almost no effort: a prolonged press of the button, a couple of taps on screen, and we were done. It was also reassuring that we encountered zero signal dropouts. Charging is straightforward, done via USB and connected to a port on the controls hidden away by a tiny flap.
Tips and Isolation
Optoma obviously understand the importance of getting a good fit when you’re using earbuds in a workout situation, which explains the cornucopia of rubber gizmos they pack into the BE Sport3’s plush carrier bag. Not only do you get a collection of standard tips in various sizes, but you also get a pair of grey ‘Twinblade’ tips, for an enhanced fit. On top of that, you’ve got multiple sizes of spiked rubber wedges, designed to go between the tip and the housing, for a more secure fit. Although it took us a few minutes to find the best fit, this was mostly down to the sheer number of options on offer. It’s quite conceivable that once you’ve got a setup that makes sense for you, you can store the rest of the tips out of sight – or even throw them away, if you’re particularly confident.
The packaging is unremarkable, and can be disposed of more or less instantly. Inside, you’ll find the BE Sport3s in a small, soft case, edged in bright yellow and with its own carabiner clip. Like the buds themselves, it’s simple, effective, and gets the job done. We particularly liked how the case was tiny, but felt spacious enough for the buds as well as a couple of extra tips. And by the way, be warned: make sure you open the packets containing the tips over a bowl. There are absolutely huge numbers of them, and they go everywhere. You’ll probably end up using a couple of different ones, and you needn’t worry about keeping the rest (although please remember to recycle). If you do somehow have problems with it, you should think about investing in a set of Comply memory foam ear tips, which are the best available – and cheap, at $20 for multiple sizes.
What We Like:
- The Optoma BE Sport3s are excellent, affordable pair of workout buds that do very well in the gym or a jog.
- They are relatively waterproof and sweat proof, so you are unlikely to damage them.
- The sound is good, if unspectacular, and holds up well against its competitors.
What We Don’t:
- The eyeball-searing colors are not for the fainthearted.
- There are arguably better quality-buds available, for not a huge amount more.
- The Optoma BE Sport3s are quite old now, and we’d like to see a further price drop.
|Optoma Nuforce BE Sport3||$64||0.5oz||6mm||Yes||IP55||8.5 Hours|
|Jaybird X3||$100||0.5oz||6mm||Yes||Unkown||8 Hours|
|Beats Powerbeats3 Wireless||$200||Unknown||Unknown||Yes||Unknown||12 Hours|
|Sol Republic Relays||$22||0.8oz||Unknown||Yes||Unknown||N/A|
|Optoma NuForce BE2||$39||0.5oz||6mm||Yes||IPX5||10 Hours|
Your first port of call for this should be the Jaybird X3. They are the leading workout earbuds, and we think they are currently the best you can buy. While there may be more expensive than the BE Sport3s, at $100 to the latter’s $64, they are far more stylish, and offer sound quality that has just a little bit of an edge. The differences are minor, but we think the Jaybirds edge it – and they are much, much cooler than the staid Optoma.
And despite our misgivings about their missing waterproof rating earlier, and our general antipathy towards Beats By Dre in general, we are going to recommend the Beats by Dre Powerbeats3 Wireless. While they are seriously overpriced, at $200, they also do a very decent job. You will of course get sound that is the polar opposite of neutral, with overextended bass, but you also get some decent build quality, and a pair of buds that are unlikely to slip out during a heavy workout.
A cheaper alternative would be the Sol Republic Relays, which offer a basic setup coupled with surprisingly robust sound. We prefer the BE Sport3s to these use in the gym, but they’re worth looking at. That goes double when you hear their price: $22, at the time of writing. That’s almost criminally low, a third of the price of the Optomas, and with decent sound to boot.
Optoma make plenty of other earbuds. While they don’t do many workout models, they do offer more sedentary ones, including the aforementioned Optoma NuForce BE2. It’s an elegant, slim earbud, cheaper than the BE Sport3s, at $39, and with surprisingly refined sound. From our review: “They are almost everything we want from a pair of budget earbuds. While our tastes will always run to the slightly more audiophile end of things, we were curious to see what Optoma NuForce would do here. What they did was create something that was far better than it had any right to be. A thumbs up from us.”