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A Bluetooth IEM that’ll keep you company day in and day out at the gym, in the office, and on trips and commutes.

  • A Bluetooth IEM that’ll keep you company day in and day out at the gym, in the office, and on trips and commutes. Done in a custom midnight blue, the anodized aluminum housings are lightweight and durable. The IPX5 water-resistance rating makes them great for workouts, while the smaller size and angled nozzles ensure a secure, comfortable fit. With 8 hours of music playback per charge, the Stride is made for long listening sessions. And we’ve tuned the sound signature to match: with the right amounts of treble and bass to be engaging, it’s the kind you can listen to all day long.


    Specs
    • Massdrop x NuForce
    • Housing: Aluminum and polycarbonate
    • Water-resistance rating: IPX5
    • Driver type: 8mm dynamic
    • Bluetooth type: V4.1
    • Bluetooth profiles: A2DP V1.2 (AAC, aptX, SBC), HFP V1.6, AVRCP V1.4, HSP V1.2
    • Frequency response: 20 Hz–20 kHz
    • Impedance: 16 ohms
    • Sensitivity: 95 dB +/- 3 dB at 1 kHz
    • Inline microphone sensitivity: -42 dB +/- 3 dB
    • Bluetooth range: Up to 33 ft (10 m)
    • Weight: 0.49 oz (14 g)
    Included
    • 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
    • 3 pairs of foam ear tips (S, M, L)
    • Hard carrying case
    • Micro USB charging cable

Recent Reviews

  1. ejong7
    The First Step : Massdrop x NuForce Stride
    Written by ejong7
    Published Feb 16, 2019
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Good buld quality. Strong bass with smooth mids. Comprehensive set of accessories.
    Cons - Poor isolation. Over-emphasized treble. Average battery life.
    DISCLAIMER

    The Massdrop x NuForce Stride was sent to me Christian and Thomas from Massdrop in exchange for an honest review.



    INTRODUCTION

    For any audiophile or avid personal audio equipment fanatic who has been actively involved in the market for the greater part of the past decade, Massdrop (MD), a company that focuses on ‘community-driven commerce’, requires no further introduction. Having played a major part in the industry since 2012. MD continues to provide great products for compelling prices, either from partnering companies or from their direct collaborations with them.

    Products stemming from their various collaborations, collectively known as “Massdrop Made” products, have been the rave of town for the past few years, with products such as the Massdrop x Noble X, Massdrop Plus and the Massdrop x NuForced EDC (or EDC 3) well known for their performance that pushes the boundary set by their own, relatively lower price range.

    Fast forward to 2019, MD is launching another landmark release, pushing out the first ever MD Made Bluetooth IEM with perennial collaborator NuForce in the form of the Massdrop x NuForce Stride. Will they be able to make a large (pun-intended) stride into the growing pool of Bluetooth IEMs? Let’s delve deeper and find out.



    CLARIFICATION

    Eagle eye readers who’ve done some deeper research may notice that the Stride is similar to another NuForce made product - their own Be Live5. In fact, when I first saw images and the spec sheet for Be Live5, I was a little confused and wondered: Was this product collaboration was done in the exact same makeup as the Massdrop x Sennheiser 6XX? Is the IEM a like for like replica in the sound design and tuning, with modifications made on both the aesthetic and functional quality?

    Upon discussion with the folks at MD, it is confirmed that the Stride is a completely different product for the most part, with a few major changes implemented to Stride, including:

    · Complete redesign of the music tuning (fine-tuned to MD’s preference).

    · Changes to the voice control scheme (to reduce unwanted activation).

    · Removal of several phone controls (to simplify control scheme).

    · Colourway change for its shell (to better fit with MD’s product line).

    · Most sounds replaced to Massdrop made sounds (because why not).

    · Price change, or specifically, price reduction (because that always make things better).

    I do not have a Be Live5 with me (or anywhere nearby) to attempt a side by side comparison though judging with MD’s track record for their MDD Made line of products, I strongly believe they would have successfully implemented said changes. So, I would implore you to look at the Stride as a completely different product from the Be Live5, just made by the same company.



    INFO + SPECIFICATIONS

    The Stride delivers its music through the use of a single 8mm dynamic driver, one with a frequency response between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. The numbers will not jump out like its other wired (or rather, directly wired) counterparts yet it encompasses the hearing range of any regular person. Stride’s sensitivity is rated at 95 dB, give or take 3 dB, at 1 kHz, with an impedance rating of 16 ohms. I’ve had found no issues powering it to my regular listening levels with lots of room to spare, even when using my lower powered sources (e.g. my cell phone).

    It weighs at 14g (0.49 oz) including its mic control plus the short cable connecting both sides of the IEM. The mic utilized has an inline microphone sensitivity of -42dB (+/- 3dB), and is ready for use with most if not all Bluetooth capable player or mobile phone for calls, music and engaging voice assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant. Based on my experience so far, I’ve been able to propagate my voice clearly through the mic with no trouble on my regular daily usage (or at least that’s what I gathered from my relatively small sample size).

    (I have to come clean before I move on to the next paragraph – I’m a complete novice in terms of Bluetooth related performance specification. I’m acquainted with the current but am clueless on the nitty gritty such as the Bluetooth profiles listed below. Please forgive me if I am not able to better decipher the specifications to other readers who have similar level of understanding to the Bluetooth world. Thanks.)

    Perhaps the missed opportunity for the IEMs lies on its Bluetooth type, where the Stride uses Bluetooth V4.1 compared to more modern standards such as V4.2 and the latest update in V5.0. Bluetooth profiles include A2DP V1.2 (AAC, aptX, SBC), HFP V1.6, AVRCP V1.4, HSP V1.2, where a Bluetooth layman (like me) would notice the exclusion of notable formats such LDAC and aptX-HD, likely a calculated measure to keep costs down. The Bluetooth range is rated up to 10m (or 33 ft), which by my estimation is pretty accurate.

    Further research into the IEM design shows the depth from which MD and NuForce in developing the unit. Compared to other Bluetooth IEMs, the Stride uses a shorter and wider battery shape which helps reduce its size, allowing room for a wider driver. The extra room is also partly designed to allow for acoustic tuning like a speaker enclosure rather than rely on traditional methods such as digital signal processing (DSP). Two reflex ports used to create airflow for better bass performance rounds off the extensive effort put in for its design.

    This IEM will be sold exclusively on MD at $74.99 (with free US shipping) however the first drop has since been shut with no indication on any future releases. Regardless, I will not be surprised if the Stride is easier to obtain in the future as many MD Made items have eventually become readily available for immediate shipping on MD’s site.



    ACCESSORIES & OPTIONS

    The unit I received is a pre-production sample, with the IEMs likely to be very close if not the actual end product. Some cosmetic changes may apply on the accessories given and packaging used for the production run Stride

    20190109_231736.jpg

    20190109_231751.jpg
    These are the front and back of the product packaging for Stride, with a quick breakdown on the product design and specifications shown on the back.

    20190109_231921.jpg

    20190109_232013.jpg

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    Opening the box reveals two compartments: one which holds the IEMs while the other is stored with all the provided accessories. The compartment holding the IEMs is still labelled as “Be Live5” though my unit is a pre-production unit.


    jPbzP2OwTCGbSq7rFbd1_AI7B1810-copy.jpg
    Here is a breakdown of the content one would receive when the Stride purchased: The Stride unit itself, a short micro USB charging cable, several tip options and a carrying case. Picture credits to the Massdrop team.


    In lieu with other Massdrop Made products I’ve received for review over the past few years, the Stride retains a similar packaging in which the unit is housed inside a thin cardboard-based box wrapped with a layer of plastic. Two separate compartments, one holding the IEMs while the other holds the accessories, are revealed once the outer packaging is removed.

    Several accessories are included with the Stride, including 3 pairs each of both silicone and foam tips in S, M, L sizes, a micro USB charging cable plus a hard-carrying case. The carrying case is of decent quality, and is my preferred one compared to the other NuForce offerings. No extra cables are provided, nor are they needed due to the design of the Stride.

    The accessories package, relatively sparse compared to other Massdrop Made products, but fits in what is necessary for the job, and is as comprehensive if not more than what I know from other competitors.



    BUILD QUALITY + COMFORT + ISOLATION

    Rj7D7RuRZ3c9SG7bjQoQ_AI7B2008-copy-page-nw.jpg
    D9qf2MxVQNueB7u2SsQ4_AI7B1924-copy-page-new.jpg
    Here are some spectacular shots of the Stride taken by the Massdrop team.

    20190109_232053.jpg
    20190109_232156.jpg
    Here are the less spectacular shots of the Stride taken by my unskilled hands.

    The Stride’s housing is built using a combination of aluminium and the familiar polycarbonate material used for the EDC line of IEMs. It is finished in a smoky blue/gray colourway that has been a trademark of the Massdrop Made products.

    With the usage of both materials, the IEMs managed to achieve a pretty sturdy built while maintaining a form of lightness to it. I’ve yet to be able to get any scratches on my unit (I was not intentionally trying to do so) so I would say it should be scratch resistant as well.

    The unit is water resistant, with its water resistance rated at IPX5, i.e. it should withstand any water jet of projection onto it. While it’s certainly not suitable for use during a swim, theoretically it could be fine even when used in light rain (but I still don’t recommend it for safety reasons) and absolutely fit for exercise use.

    Isolation on the Stride, while not amazing, is on par with most IEMs I tried. It manages to perform reasonably in my favourite train test, as quite a bit of the train’s travelling noise was isolated away. Achieving that in a highly comfortable fit, no doubt helped on by its small form factor, is no mean feat so kudos to both MD and NuForce teams.



    USERABILITY

    True to its design goal, I found the Stride easy to use despite a lack of instructions for my unit. I was able to complete simple functions such as play, pause, skip tracks and change volume with little to no lag. However, I do think that the unit would benefit from having an instruction manual ready for those who have yet to use any form of Bluetooth IEMs previously.

    (I do not wish to elaborate too much on individual functions and button inputs for them so I’ll skip them for now. I will check back with Massdrop on whether a manual will be included in the final product. If there will be no manual, I will try my best to provide as many of the inputs possible.)

    I found it easy to pair with any of my Bluetooth sources as all my tested pairings were done fairly quickly. So far, I had only one connectivity problem which was to my HiBy R3, where cut-offs were experienced from time to time. I was not able to replicate the same connectivity drop off with my other sources so I would put it on my player rather than the IEMs. Other than that, I had no drop offs during my music listening sessions or during my calls.

    Speaking of calls, I was able to pick up, conduct and end my calls through the unit seamlessly. Call quality was great, with all the voices coming through clearly but don’t expect it to make the caller sound like an angel. The mic functioned well too, as the feedback I gathered from people on the opposite side of calls to either be acceptable or better defined.

    The IEMs are rated to have 8-hour long battery life on normal operation through a charge time of one and a half hours. In my experience this for the most part has been accurate, with its battery life easily covering 7-8 hours of my daily usage after charging it for one and a half to two hours. The battery life feels pretty average for me, and with the increasing amount of Bluetooth IEMs that had longer battery life I wished that the Stride had more to cover my entire working day.



    SOUND QUALITY

    Evaluation Process

    The Stride was burned in for at least 100 hours prior to any critical evaluations made on the unit. The tracks used for my listening sessions are files that are either FLAC/ALAC from a wide variety of genres except metal. The following is a list of source gear that I used during the review:

    · iBasso DX150

    · HiBy R3

    · Samsung Galaxy S8

    My impressions were made using the Stride with silicone tips. I found tip rolling mainly affecting its comfort and isolation. Sound changes, minimal (to me) as it may be, conforms to normal standards, in which the foam tips lend a warmer/darker sound. The silicone tips will likely provide a sharper/crisper sound however this is down to individual ear shape and perception. I chose silicone tips purely for my preferred comfort factor as that is my most important factor for any IEMs.

    Sound Signature

    The overall sound signature for Stride resembles a V-shaped sound - an ‘all-rounder’ type sound that will appeal to most if not all consumers. Specifically, the Stride’s V-shape sound does not necessarily involve very recessed mids, instead focusing more on enhanced bass and treble regions, leading to a V-shaped perception rather than a U-shaped one.

    Arguably the highlight of the Stride’s sound, its lows are strongly elevated to provide some extra kick for all your bass notes especially in the mid bass region (similar to most IEMs of the same target response). The rich and full bass, albeit borderline thick for some ears, is punchy but full of grip, with enough rumble and extension to satisfy even the most demanding bassheads (though ultra-uber-super bassheads should look away this instant).

    It’s mids is a peculiar region, as, to my surprise, I thought it was as close to linear as I’ve seen on a V-shape IEM. In actuality, the mids are pulled back ever so slightly, yet retains its smoothness and a sense of clarity. While I wouldn’t necessarily term it as lush, the mids have ample richness to perform well in both vocal and instrumentation reproduction, particularly evident in its full-bodied lower mids.

    Treble to me was perhaps the only region which did not meet my expectations. Despite my treble heavy sound preference, I found the increase in treble energy to be a touch too far, showing itself as a little sibilant if anything, with some roll off near my highest audible range. The highs, while crisply executed, was actually a little too bright in certain regions for me, turning crisp execution into strident at times. This leads to the treble often eclipsing the performance of other regions, losing much needed balance in its overall presentation.

    Stride does not intend on shocking you with gobs upon gobs of detail throughout all 3 regions, yet there is sufficient amount of detail that allows for a sound that is always clear and maintains a level of transparency. The soundstage has a great sense of openness but is average in terms of width and depth.



    COMPARISONS

    Having no other Bluetooth IEMs, I did not make any head to head comparisons to better relate the Stride’s overall performance against other competitors. However, what I will try to do is make comparisons with other wired IEMs to provide perspective on its sound signature. So, the comparisons will mainly revolve around their build quality and sound but not the functionality or anything not commonly related.

    Massdrop x NuForce EDC (EDC)

    The EDC was among the first few Massdrop Made audiophile products to be launched, with the IEM targeted towards consumers that yearned for a solid, everyday carry performer. Selling at $59.99, it is slightly cheaper than the Stride, and is highly competitive in its own price bracket among other wired IEMs.

    Both units utilized polycarbonate as the material of choice for their housing. Stride has a slightly more premium feel due to its usage of aluminium, otherwise they both prove to be similar in terms of build quality. The replaceable, braided cable attached to EDC perhaps felt and look better yet I can understand the usage of flat cables on Stride for ergonomic and functionality purposes.

    Both units sound pretty close to each other, with the two units focusing on a V-shaped sound signature. There were some minor differences, however I was not able to confirm if its due to Stride’s usage of Bluetooth as a medium compared to conventional, wired ways.

    The bass emphasis on Stride was just a tad stronger, but I felt that I experience a little more detail and extension on the EDC. Comparing both, the EDC had better overall control of its bass presentation, with the Stride preferring to show its strength by hitting harder on the low end.

    Both share relaxed presentations for the midrange, with the EDC pulled back a little further in comparison. Details and smoothness are better delivered by the EDC, with the EDC showing a touch more lushness to bring the best of your vocal tracks. For me, it’s down to preference, with the Stride’s midrange positioning akin to sitting closer towards the singer with, in my opinion, less refinement. On the flip side, the EDC is sat slightly further away, though there’s a slight bump in clarity and fluidity.

    Treble presentation was better implemented by the EDC. While Stride had more treble energy between the two, EDC’s highs are definitely better defined, with more detail and extension that was executed more crisply. The EDC’s treble is airier despite less treble attenuation in its tuning. Soundstage is pretty similar, with EDC having a bit more depth whereas soundstage width can be called as a wash.


    Periodic Audio Mg

    The Mg, the cheapest and (arguably) strongest in terms of price to performance ratio among the launching line of products for Periodic Audio, one of the newer names that has risen up the audiophile industry in the past few years. The Mg can be obtained at a retail price of $99, and is another strong contender within the sub-$100 price bracket market.

    Similar to Stride, Mg uses polycarbonate in a matte black finish for its housing, with its end cap made using metal injection moulding using stainless steel, hence in terms of both unit’s body build quality they should be on par with each other. In terms of their respective cables, I preferred the one on Stride, with its cable more convincing in terms of build and potential longevity.

    Different approaches were taken for their respective sound signatures, with the Stride having a V-shape sound signature while the Mg having a more inverted L-shape sound that focused on a prominent treble, presenting an overall brighter sound.

    In terms of bass, the Stride’s elevated bass will appeal to more consumers compared to the neutral-leaning bass that the Mg has. The Stride’s bass hits harder and stronger especially in the sub bass spectrum. Regardless, those who prefer a little more detail and extension in their bass and are willing to sacrifice some bass energy for it will appreciate the Mg’s lows better.

    Both have similarly relaxed mids that I felt were positioned closed to each other. The Mg’s presented its mids with more detail and smoothness, yet comparably its mids were a little colder compared to the Stride’s. Stride’s mids, while not the lushest I’ve heard, is noticeably richer than Mg when compared side by side.

    The Mg and Stride has ample energy in the treble region, however the Mg had better and control and had more extension on this end. While some may have felt that the Mg’s treble is closing on the harsh side, I personally felt it was crisp and sharp enough for my liking, while the Stride’s highs left more to be desired as it often comes out a little strident. Soundstage is wider on Mg, and they are relatively close in terms of depth.



    CONCLUSION

    The Massdrop x NuForce Stride is yet another strong performer in the growing line of MD Made products. For Massdrop to produce such a compelling Bluetooth IEM on its first try is no mean feat, and surely puts it as a top option for those who are looking to get their feet wet with Bluetooth IEMs, or Bluetooth personal audio equipment in general.


    The Stride is certainly worth every penny of its price, with the IEM’s well built to withstand everyday use, supported by a thoughtfully picked range of accessories. The IEM is easy to use even without its manual. It’s sound is on par if not better than many offerings around its price range regardless of type, with rich and strong bass that will carry through your beat while its relaxed yet smooth midrange will ensure you’re lost in your favorite vocals.


    What I would try to improve upon is its treble presentation, where I would have toned down the treble energy so that I can improve the clarity of that particular spectrum. I would also attempt to improve on its battery life, which while is standard across most IEMs would not be allow me to complete my day listening to it without recharging. The isolation also could be better for use in noisier areas.


    Now that MD has opened the pandora’s box known as the Bluetooth audio market, I’m interested to see how MD will continue to innovate and surprise. The market is growing rapidly with increasing demand for quality audio in a wireless form factor. The Stride is a great first step, and with its proven track record of producing quality products for attractive prices, I’m sure MD will be delivering even more great products that will maintain to their highest of standards.


    What’s next? A MD made Bluetooth headphone? Only time will tell. Until then, I’ll quietly bid my time as I’m listening to my Stride.
      B9Scrambler likes this.
    1. B9Scrambler
      That was an enjoyable read. Seems like a nice product :)
      B9Scrambler, Feb 16, 2019
      ejong7 likes this.
    2. ejong7
      Thank you for the kind comment!
      ejong7, Feb 17, 2019
      B9Scrambler likes this.

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