NuForce IEMs have always been a love it or hate it experience among music lovers, and today we're going to take a look at their best-known IEMs, the NuForce Dynamic, BE2 and HEM8.
NuForce doesn't really exist anymore as a company, being part of Optoma at this moment, which makes it a little complicated to acquire their products, as well as to get proper warranty and information about their products. From our understanding, NuForce has been acquired by Optoma a while ago, but Optoma isn't an expert in audio products, but rather in imaging products, so NuForce products are generally a niche in this niche hobby, being something of acquired taste.
It should be noted that I have absolutely no affiliation with Nuforce or Optoma, I am not receiving any incentive for this review or to sweeten things out. This review is not sponsored nor has been paid for by Nuforce or Optoma or anyone else. I'd like to thank Nuforce or Optoma for providing the sample for this review. The sample was provided along with Nuforce or Optoma's request for an honest and unbiased review. This review will be as objective as it is humanly possible, and it reflects my personal experience with Nuforce HEM8, Dynamic and BE2. Every opinion expressed is mine and I stand by it, the purpose of this review is to help those interested in Nuforce HEM8, Be2 and Dynamic find their next music companion.
We need to start by saying this, NuForce needs to employ someone else for doing their package. The package for BE2 and Dynamic is complicated to open and quite unsatisfying generally as an unboxing experience. HEM8 has a much simpler package design, and works really well, but for Dynamic and BE2, the way you need to unbox them is really not in line with other audio products.
The package contents, though, are great for all of those IEMs. NuForce includes a good amount of cables and tips with HEM8, Dynamic comes with enough tips to make it last, while Be2 comes with tips, and a USB cable for charging them.
HEM8 comes with a beautiful carrying package that will also protect them during transport, and have enough space to take a smaller DAP inside. This being said, the package is quite large if you're planning to just take HEM8 inside, and they're going to be jumping around, good thing Nuforce also includes a soft material pouch for keeping them safe.
HEM Dynamic also comes with a nice pouch, which offers a nice level of protection.
NuForce also relies heavily on Comply foam tips, which work nicely for comfort, but since their IEMs are generally tuned towards a softer, smoother tuning, Comply doesn't work quite that well with their IEMs, unless you really like smooth presentations.
What to look in when purchasing an entry-level In-Ear Monitor
Starting with the build quality of NuForce IEMs, they are generally build very well, they look gorgeous, they feel safe, and the connectors on HEM8 and HEM Dynamic are solid, click right in place, and they feel trusty. There have been reports of the cables breaking on HEM8, and while we didn't test this, we trust those reports, and we feel that most users would be better of purchasing aftermarket cables for HEM8.
HEM8 is a black, plastic shell, IEM, with a fine texture on them, similar to the texture found on Nikon Cameras. Other highlights include detachable cables based on the 2-Pin connector, over-the-ear wearing style, and 4 BA drivers per ear, for a total of 8 BA drivers in total, thing which also gives them their name.
The comfort is good with HEM8, they isolate really well from the outside noise, and they rely on a thinner bore IEM, specific more to BA IEMs. The other highlights of HEM8 are the fact that it comes with two cables, but we would recommend against using the thinner braided cable, as there have been multiple reports of it breaking quite easily.
There are a large number of tips included with them, including some specific tips with NuForce's logo etched on the rubber. We don't dislike this, but we aren't fans of it either, as it may impose negatively on the comfort, rubber tips being perfect if they are as smooth as possible. HEM8 has a small vent, which helps a lot with them not creating void in the ear, but we feel you need to be careful when plugging them or taking them out.
Left and right earpieces have clear markings on them, in both L and R letters, but also in colors, left being white and right being yellow, a very uncommon color scheme for left and right earpieces.
All in all, HEM8 is fairly well build, comfortable, isolates fairly well, but we recommend looking for a third party cable for best experience.
HEM dynamic is also a gorgeous-looking IEM with a semi-transparent shell, which flaunts their beauty. HEM dynamic relies on a dynamic driver, and this is visible, as they have a large amount of driver flex. It is evident that NuForce's strong point is Balanced Armatures rather than dynamic drivers.
Other than the driver flex, we can't fault HEM Dynamic's build quality, they are well made, well put together, they feel comfortable, and they isolate fairly well from the outside noise. They come with a large number of tips included in the package, and they have detachable cables, once again with a very uncommon color scheme for Left and Right. HEM Dynamic are ridiculously hard to drive, especially for a IEM in this price range. This is shocking, especially given how easy to drive HEM8 is, so please keep in mind that those need a lot more power than you'd expect a IEM to require.
All in all, they are fairly well made, and we can't complain about their build quality.
NuForce BE2 is one of Nuforce's Bluetooth IEMs, part of a large selection of upcoming Bluetooth IEMs. In all honesty, they did a great job with the Bluetooth IEM, and it is our favorite from their current offerings. They don't flaunt a large amount of information about the drivers, or the technology within, but rather about its Bluetooth abilities. This indicates that BE2 is aimed towards a Bluetooth-loving public, and they are meant to be more of a commercial IEM rather than an audiophile one. Ironically, BE2 is the one that sounds best of their offerings, and would appeal to the largest number of music lovers.
BE2 does not have detachable cables, and they rely on their built-in battery to provide their playtime, but it has a large capacity, and we haven't found any issues with it lasting up to 8 hours of usage.
Happily, BE2 also gets loud enough, thing which is important to mention with Bluetooth IEMs, as some of them are underpowered, and may sometimes be too quiet for an enjoyable experience. Although BE2 comes with a rather uncommon tip shape, they are fairly comfortable, and we haven't noticed any issues with them, they aren't uncomfortable, and they sit well in one's ears.
BE2 has a very uncommon voice for its bluetooth tones, with a strong british accent, we like it quite a bit.
All in all, NuForce packages are questionable in design, but they include a good amount of accessories, and NuForce makes a nice overall experience for their customers with the actual build quality, comfort and design of their IEMs. There are some uncommon elements in their design, but this isn't bad, just something they did differently.
We need to start by saying that those 3 IEMs have nothing in common. There's no NuForce or Optoma house sound, all three have a really distinct and different sound.
HEM8 is an IEM based on the midrange. They have everything that stories tell about BA drivers, the speed of the driver is unimaginably fast, the detail and resolution is amazingly profound, the bass is rolled off and so is the treble, making for an interesting, ergo a tad smooth and unexciting experience.
HEM8 is not a IEM you'd want if you like to be impressed and excited, this is a IEM that lets you appreciate the depth and detail of every song, with a speed that is one of the fastest I had the chance to hear to date. Extremely snappy is a great term to describe its bass, and while the bass can be big if called for, it really need to be called for to get big, the bass is usually lower in amount than the midrange, although its textures are incredibly clear and its resolution is much better than one would expect.
The Midrange is incredibly detailed, with layers over layers of textures, the speed of the BA drivers being as good as all the stories about BA drivers have been telling you, but that speed isn't quite what we'd recommend with a glass of wine or Jazz music, unless you'd want to hear every single little detail in every song, and every micro texture expressed there. This being said, the tonality is on the less exciting side, the upper midrange being a little lower in amount than the lower midrange, female vocals and violins lacking a bit of dramatic approach, especially if you're one to prefer a sad song.
The treble is extremely smooth, and if you're one to like smooth treble, with smooth added over smooth with a total roll off after about 11k kHz, then those are a perfect match for you. This means that they won't be bright or exciting, the sound with metal and rock music lacks treble and cymbal sparkle, but it works well for electronic, jazz, classical and music where you'd like a little less treble, including sweet-voiced J-Pop music. In fact, HEM8 works well with almost anything, if you have an acquired taste for this type of sound, and they are fairly dynamic when the song calls for it.
HEM Dynamic is something else entirely, compared to HEM8. The bass and the mid bass is slow this time, really slow compared to the quick and snappy driver of HEM8. This works well if you prefer a slower, more rounded and natural bass, but somewhere in between is where the sweet spot would be. The bass of HEM Dynamic is also fairly explosive and impressive, meaning that those aren't the kind of IEMs you'd use if you'd be planning on listening to quaint music only, as they work really well with electronic, metal, rock and upbeat music.
The midrange is pretty neutral, and once again, doesn't have quite that much drama or emotion in it, instead, being detailed, dynamic and surprisingly good for the price paid. The sound is warm and sweet, like a sunny day at the beach, but it lacks sadness and drama in the upper midrange, so if you prefer listening to sad music, those aren't for you.
The treble, on one hand, is pretty sparkly in the lower treble, which means they are much more exciting than HEM8, making them more versatile, especially with metal and rock, on the other hand, lacking a bit of extension in the upper treble. Even so, they are very enjoyable with any music we've tried them with.
All in all, their sonics are amazing for the price point of HEM Dynamic, and we consider them to be a very interesting offering from NuForce.
BE2 is one of the first Bluetooth IEMs from NuForce, but we've been informed that they're working on a large number of other Bluetoth IEMs, which we hope we'll have the time to cover in the near future.
In a few words, BE2 has the most versatile, most balanced, best suited for a large public sonic signature from NuForce. If they keep working on this kind of sound, they surely are on the right road. Of course, this is a mildly V-shaped IEM, which seems to make the most popular signature for entry-level IEMs.
The bass is neither too slow, nor too fast to be unnaturally fast, like HEM8 and BA bass can be at times. The bass is on the warm side, but the impact is quite excellent, the best from NuForce's offerings, and the resolution of the bass is quite good considering the price BE2 comes at.
The midrange is slightly recessed compared to the bass and the treble, but it has a good amount of emotional impact, as well as a good amount of drama (good upper midrange presence). This makes them less smooth than the other NuForce IEMs, but this also makes them more versatile when it comes to presenting violins, sad songs, and female vocals. Guitars are especially sweet, and crunchy guitars are quite crunchy, with a good amount of textures, without being harsh or too much.
The treble is fun and sparkly, the texture is on the smoother side, without much grain, Be2 having the most natural and versatile treble presentation of Nu Force's line. This treble is quite enjoyable, because it doesn't get very hot either.
The three NuForce IEMs have similar size to their soundstage, along with similar instrument separation and imaging, which is amazing on all 3 of them. The one note we'd like to make about the soundstage, is that it feels extended differently, layered a little better, and with a little more instrument separation on BE2 which leads us to believe that NuForce have employed a DSP effect inside BE2, as we noticed a similar shape and similar separation on a few other Bluetooth IEMs before. To describe it, it is a characteristic way the instruments are well layered, but not presented quite in layers, like Sennheiser IE800 or Ultrasone Signature DXP would, but rather made in a few layers. At any rate, the overall experience is enjoyable and fun, Nuforce passes our Soundstage and Instrument separation with flying colors.
ADSR / PRaT
The ADSR and PRaT (Texturization) is different among the three IEMs.
HEM 8 has a very fast driver, for bass, midrange and the treble. This can be felt in their textures, which feel surgical, precise, detailed, really, an incredible experience that matches, and even outdoes the kings of textures and speed, Etymotic. Of course, HEM8 costs quite a bit more than the most expensive IEM from Etymotic, and HEM8 has 4 BA drivers taking care of their sound, but HEM8 could be described as a really musical, improved everywhere Etymotic ER4XR.
HEM Dynamic is rather slow, especially in the bass, making a very different kind of texture than HEM8. Where HEM8 is really fast, HEM Dynamic is quite slow, being best with slow music, rap, house, things where the bass doesn't need to be quick or snappy. Where HEM8 would do a great job with complex technical death metal percussion drums, HEM Dynamic would be best at speeds of Jazz, House and such. The midrange and treble are natural in speed, making a rather natural experience otherwise.
BE2 is rather strange, as they are actually quicker in speed than HEM Dynamic. In fact, BE2 seems to be the most balanced of the three, neither too slow, nor too quick, being a great one for its asking price. With BE2, Bass, Midrange and Treble all have the same speed, which is rather normal.
The portable usage is excellent, at least for HEM8 and BE2.
All IEMs isolate well from the outside noise, neither doesn't leak very much, and all are comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
This being said, HEM Dynamic is ridiculously hard to drive, making it a less likely IEM to be used portably, as most people don't carry the kind of power necessary to make it go loud enough to be satisfying.
As for the other factors, happily the cables are not microphonic for any of the NuForce IEMs, they generally isolate really well from the outside noise, especially with the help of their deep fit, and the tips are generally good for long hours of usage.
We will try to compare each of those IEMs to something that is close in terms of pricing and performance, so you have an idea how they sound compared to something that could be considered an equal peer to them.
HEM8 vs Etymotic ER4XR - We feel we should make this comparison because HEM8 has a really similar signature to ER4XR, and if you are considering one or the other, you want to know more about how they compare. Starting with the comfort, HEM8 is much more comfortable than ER4XR's deep fit, with a much easier process of placing them in your ears and pulling them out. The build quality is marginally better on ER4XR, but HEM8 is not shabby either. The sound is really really similar. Even so, HEM8 feels like an upgrade in every way possible, compared to ER4XR, with even more detail, an even faster overall sound, and with even more clarity. This could easily be attributed to the larger number of drivers, which are well integrated, and given their really specific tuning and resolution, we're leaning to believe that HEM8 and ER4XR have something in common in their drivers as well, like having the same OEM. It is clear that ER4XR is a great deal at this moment, and that it will be for a long time, but if you really like their signature, and if you're looking for a more comfortable IEM, that is an upgrade over ER4XR, but with the same signature, and if you're not afraid to shell out a larger budget, then HEM8 is a really amazing performer.
HEM Dynamic vs FiiO F9 - We're comparing HEM Dynamic to F9, considering HEM dynamic's launching price, rather than their current price, which is much lower as it is on sale quite a bit lately. Comfort, package contents, isolation, and build quality is really similar between the two. The sound is really different though. F9 is tuned to be much more neutral, much more mature and serious, revealing more detail, and being more tuned towards a closer sound, while HEM Dynamic is warmer, more emotional, having a larger bass, having a more musical sound, and being tilted towards a more friendly overall presentation. If you're looking for a pretty linear and neutral experience, then F9 is still a top choice, and we feel they'll keep being a top choice for a while, while if you're looking for a slower, warmer, more fun sound, HEM Dynamic is a great choice as well.
Nu Force BE2 vs Advanced Model 3 - Model 3 is quite a bit more expensive, but we wanted to compare Be2 to a IEM we reviewed before, and Model 3 is one of the closest in terms of tuning and design, since both are bluetooth IEMs. Now, there are some differences at the level of build quality, Model 3 being clearly better equipped in terms of bluetooth module, as they sport a much much better microphone for phone talks, but otherwise, the two are comparable. The build quality, comfort, fit and isolation are comparable and similar, without any of them standing out too much from the other. Model 3 is an upgraded version of BE2 in terms of sound, but it is also considerably more expensive, and given the difference in price between the two, you may want to consider getting BE2 if you fancy Model3's sonic performance, and tuning, but want to spend a little less, as the two aren't quite that far apart in terms of sound. If phone conversations are important for you though, kindly keep in mind that BE2 has a pretty poor microphone, while Model3's microphone is considerably better, although Model3 costs almost double the price of BE2.
NuForce Be2 doesn't change with its source, being a bluetooth IEM, so we'll skip it from this list. HEM8 is easy to drive and doesn't really change its sound much with the source, although it is sensitive to resolution in the midrange, so its sonic performance improves with a better source, especially those which have a better resolution (high-end sources). HEM Dynamic is a ridiculously hard to drive IEM, being at the level of a hard-to-drive headphone in terms of how much power it eats in practice. We aren't sure how this is possible but this is something we noticed when we played with both.
HEM8 + iBasso DX200 (AMP1) - Here's an interesting one, because DX200 with AMP1 is incredibly detailed in the midrange, and this is the pairing that gives HEM8 one of the most detailed and layered presentations it can have. We are amazed to notice just how many layers and textures HEM8 is able to pull from simple songs, although this isn't quite the most natural presentation of most songs, and texturization may be a little too strong for those faint of heart, especially if you were looking for something a little more typical. The pairing is musical, detailed, clear, vivid, and very quick and punchy. There's very little to complain, and any listener would be immediately amazed, but this one pairing is a little of an acquired taste.
HEM Dynamic + iFi xDSD - This is an interesting and fair pairing, but we ran almost the full volume of xDSD for properly powering HEM Dynamic, and we didn't make it sing quite that loud. This is rather strange, considering that it doesn't feature that large of an impedance, nor it has that low of a sensitivity, but still, the pairing is very musical, detailed, clear and fun to listen to. There is a certain sense of depth and width in music with xDSD powering HEM Dynamic, and we feel it does a great job at being their partner.
NuForce BE2 + Samsung T580 - Here, the sound will be the same from all sources, but one thing we wanted to note is how good the connection with Be2 is. We managed to get a perfect connection, while walking, running, or even dancing, BE2 having what we consider a really great Bluetooth module inside, and being a pleasure to use and listen to. If you're looking for something truly impressive as a bluetooth IEM, look no further, as this one really stays in pace with our forever speeding world.
Value and Conclusion
At the end of our review, you surely have a much clearer image about which NuForce model would be the best fit for you.
This company isn't small by any means, and we may have been a little rough with them. Lately, they've been doing a lot of interesting decisions, although some of them may be a little questionable. One of them would be the really questionable packages they place Be2 and HEM Dynamic in, and the other one would be how reliable their products really are. We know that NuForce has been acquired by Optoma recently, but we can't say what this means for the company. Optoma has been and still is a rather successful company in their own niche, which is home theaters. There, Optoma can be said to be one of the largest titans, and we hope they will also grow as an audio company, as NuForce had and still has loyal fans who really love their sound and even some of our friends are rocking NuForce IEMs and were asking us for a while to do this one review.
Starting with the package, NuForce generally includes a good amount of accessories with their IEMs, each IEM having a good selection of tips, cables, and carrying packages for their respective price points.
The build quality for the IEMs is great for all of them, and although they all have full plastic bodies, they should be okay for a long time, as long as you don't drop them too hard, and as long as you take a little care of them. Dynamic and HEM8 also have detachable cables, and the cables they come with from the factory are pretty good as well.
The comfort is also great, and with the large number of tips included with each, you'll have an easy time finding a sweet spot with either of the NuForce IEMs. Happily, they also went for ergonomic bodies with smooth shapes, so the comfort really isn't an issue in any way with any of those.
As for the sound, we should start by stating as clearly as possible that HEM8 is clearly the most detailed of them, followed by HEM Dynamic, followed by BE2. Even so, BE2 is our favorite in terms of overall music presentation, and we feel they make the most balanced, easy to swallow signature, while HEM dynamic and HEM8 are both more of an acquired taste that is quite specific, and some will really love, while some won't.
HEM8 is the analytic in the NuForce family, with a really detailed, layered, dynamic, and quick / snappy sound. They have a good amount of body, a smooth treble, and if you're looking for something that really pushes the details in the midrange outside of the typical boundaries, HEM8 is great at that. The smooth treble does make them work better with certain kinds of music, especially music that doesn't rely heavily on treble, otherwise, being amazing, if you like a smoother treble presentation.
HEM Dynamic tries its best to showcase a Dynamic Driver sound, and we feel that as much as HEM8 showcases a BA sound, HEM Dynamic manages to show how a Dynamic driver is always told to be by audiophiles, slower than a BA, with a larger bass, more musicality, less detail, less texturization (given by the slower speed), but with a more natural overall presentation. It is still rather smooth, but it is a great IEM for its price, and nothing sits out as a glaring issue, making HEM Dynamic a very nice overall choice.
NuForce BE2 is a great little one with a lot of power, being the most versatile, best tuned IEM of the bunch. It has a quicker bass than HEM Dynamic, it has a great resolution, the presentation feels wider than its brothers in terms of soundstage, and the treble is more energetic, with more sparkle than both its brothers, making it a really easy to recommend IEM. The connection is as stable as you can ever wish a Bluetooth connection to be, and on an overall level, we could say we really like what NuForce has done with BE2.
At the end of the day, we hope you have a clear idea of how each of those IEMs sound, and if you're looking for a really strong analytical sound, with a clear presentation, but with an extremely smooth treble, then HEM8(400USD) really is a good choice at its price point, also being on sale in many places, if you're looking for a more natural sound, with a slower, bigger, more explosive bass, at a much cheaper price point, then HEM Dynamic(100 USD, 62USD while on sale) also makes a great choice, and if you're looking for a very portable, well-designed Bluetooth IEM, then BE2(50 USD, 35USD while on sale) is one of our favorite Bluetooth IEMs from the ones we've tested, making a really compelling choice, considering its price point, and its energetic, explosive, impressive and musical sound.
Playlist used for this review
While we listened to considerably more songs than those named in this playlist, those are excellent for identifying certain aspects of the sound, like PRaT, Texturization, Detail, Resolution, Dynamics, Impact, and overall tonality. We recommend trying most of the songs from this playlist, especially if you're searching for new most, most of them being rather catchy.
Bats - Gamma Ray Burst: Second Date
Eskimo Callboy - Frances
Incubus - Summer Romance
Electric Six - Dager! High Voltage
Kishida Cult - High School Of The Dead
Dimmu Borgir - Dimmu Borgir
Breaking Benjamin - I Will Not Bow
Manafest - Impossible
Thousand Foot Krutch - The Flame In All Of Us
Gorillaz - Feel Good Inc.
Infected Mushroom - Song Pong
Doctor P - Bulletproof
Maximum The Hormone - Rock n Roll Chainsaw
Rob Zombie - Werewolf, Baby!
SOAD - Chop Suey
Ken Ashcorp - Absolute Territory
Machinae Supremacy - Need For Steve
Ozzy Osbourne - I Don't Wanna Stop
Crow'sclaw - Loudness War
Eminem - Rap God
Stromae - Humain À L'eau
Justin Timberlake - Sexy Back
Metallica - Fuel
Veil Of Maya - Unbreakable
Masa Works - Golden Japang
REOL - Luvoratorrrrry
Korn - Word Up!
Papa Roach - ... To be Loved
Fever The Ghost - Source
Fall Out Boy - Immortals
Green Day - Know The Enemy
Mindless Self Indulgence - London Bridge
A static Lullaby - Toxic
Royal Republic - Tommy Gun
Astronautalis - The River, The Woods
Skillet - What I Believe
I hope my review is helpful to you!