True wireless earbuds have quickly become a thing. The launch of Apple AirPods helped give this market a boost, and there are numerous options available now. The Optoma NuForce BE Free8 earbuds are a serious purchase at £199.99 (inc. VAT, RRP) or around £150 (online) at the time of writing -- considerably more than the £89 Avanca Minim True Wireless Earbuds I looked at before Christmas.
The earbuds come with a charging case that's nicely shaped and has a solid lid that should stay closed when rattling around in a bag. I'm not too sure about the shiny plastic of the case, though: it's smooth to the touch, but looks as though it could become scuffed fairly quickly.
The buds are charged through the case, with a trio of white LEDs indicating the case's charge level and a pair of LEDs showing the buds' charge status. Battery life is rated at 16 hours of listening, although you'll need to carry the charge case to get near that: the buds themselves are rated for four hours between charges, while the case will deliver three full charges. I found this estimate to be about right.
Pairing couldn't be easier. As per convention, one bud -- the 'master' -- pairs with a handset. Just hit the one button on the left bud and a pairing light on the bevels of the bud's flat back flashes till the it's paired. There is a button on the right bud too, whose only function is to turn that bud on and connect to the left 'master' bud. Playback control is via the left bud only, with single and multiple presses to do things like pause, play, and skip.
The buttons are easy to locate by touch alone. The design team clearly didn't want the shiny, grille-like front surface of the buds to be spoilt by buttons, but their location on the rim is ergonomically fine as it's a spot that sits proud of the ear. The buttons themselves are rubbery and raised. I had no problem at all finding them by touch. My only gripe is the mechanical noise they make when pressed. Quieter would have been better.
The buds are relatively large. I don't mind the size, and they certainly don't feel awkward in the ear. Quite the opposite, in fact: I found them very comfortable to wear for extended periods. Four different sizes of silicone cup are provided to help you find the right in-ear fit. For those who like a little music while they work out, these buds are IPX5-rated, so they should be OK during a workout, if not in the shower!
Sound quality is pretty good, and I didn't spot any audio lag between the left and right buds. Sound quality was fine for listening while using public transport, walking around, watching catch-up TV, and streaming movies -- all the kinds of things, in fact, that I use earphones for in addition to hands-free calling. There's no leakage, so I could listen to audio without disturbing others -- always a good thing.
The Optoma NuForce BE Free8 true wireless earbuds tick a lot of boxes. They're comfortable to wear, easy to use and offer plenty of battery life (if you keep the charge case topped up), with no noticeable audio lag between the buds, and good sound quality.
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