Optoma is a global business with headquarters in several countries around the world including the USA. The company is most popular for the design and manufacture of audiovisual equipment but also produce a range of headphones, DACs, amps, and other home audio equipment. In 2016 Optoma released the NuForce HEM series which includes four premium IEMs or in-ear headphones. Today we’re looking at the NuForce HEM8 which is the flagship and most expensive model in the range. So, how does the relatively unknown NuForce HEM8 stack up against the more premium brands? We’ll find out in this review of the Optoma NuForce HEM8 in-ear headphone.
Optoma NuForce HEM8 Specs
NuForce HEM8 Design and Features
The NuForce HEM8 features a total of four Knowles™ balanced armature drivers per earpiece, two for the low-end and two tweeters. The drivers are housed in a vibration-free Lexan™ to deliver a cleaner sound while promising to deliver reduce listening fatigue. Even with all that going on inside, the earbuds are relatively lightweight and sit comfortably inside the ears. Optoma supplies you with both silicone and Comply™ soft memory foam ear tips depending on your application or preference. Optoma has put some R&D into the shape of the ear tips to maximize the bass response within the ear canal. Has this worked? I’ll let you know when we come to my thoughts on sound quality later in this review.
The NuForce HEM8 comes with two cable options. A standard twisted pair and a second with inline remote and microphone for use with mobile devices. Both of these cables offer a decent amount of tangle resistance which is great for quick plug-and-play as well as long term durability.
The twisted pair is a high-end cable featuring OFC and silver for superior sound quality. Both the twisted pair and inline remote cables connect securely to the earbuds via 2-pin cable connectors comprising of silver and copper with a separate ground return for each channel. This ensures a clean, hi-resolution transfer of data giving you the best possible audio quality. It’s important to note that when connecting the cable to the earbud you must ensure the connector is sitting flush against the earpiece or the headphone won’t operate. It’s a mistake many people have made but it’s good the fit is so tight as it ensures the cable doesn’t disconnect easily when you’re moving around.
The inline remote allows you to control several functions of your mobile device including Play/pause, track skip forward, previous track, and call management such as answer, reject, and end. The built-in microphone performs exceptionally well with excellent call quality.
What Does the NuForce HEM8 Sound Like?
I read a lot of mixed reviews on the NuForce HEM8. It seems people either love or dislike the overall sound quality. I would consider the NuForce HEM8 to be a bass heavy IEM. While it’s a big bass sound, I wouldn’t say it’s very tight or controlled. I wouldn’t say the NuForce HEM8 delivers a woolly bass sound but just not very controlled. Certainly not as out of control as Skullcandy or Beats headphones.
The mid-range is forward and very detailed. Not what you would expect from a bass-heavy headphone. The powerful low-end doesn’t seem to affect the mid-range response negatively, however, the mids can get a little fatiguing when listening to the NuForce HEM8 for extended periods. I would say the mid-range is well balanced to suit multiple genres of music. Vocals and instrumentation sit just right in the mix.
The highs are smooth and do lack a little brilliance, however, this doesn’t take away from the NuForce HEM8 intelligibility or clarity. The headphones still perform great with regards to treble response and don’t add to the fatigue from the mid-range.
The NuForce HEM8 comes with a Hi-Res Certificate from the Consumer Electronics Association (CTA) which means Optoma have met audio quality standards. I believe this endorsement is valid for the NuForce range as the products are built to a high standard and deliver great sound quality for their price point.
The NuForce HEM2, HEM4, and HEM6
The other IEMs in the NuForce range include the HEM2, HEM4, and HEM6. The HEM2 and HEM4 are great entry level IEM options. There is nothing terrible about the audio quality but I wouldn’t purchase these for professional audio or as reference headphones. The HEM6 is where things get interesting because they have much of the HEM8 qualities without the big low-end response. I’ve seen many reviews online where people prefer the HEM6 to the HEM8 and vice versa. I guess this is where things get subjective and you need to give both a listen to see which way you lean.
Each model comes with a large watertight carry case which is great for protecting the IEMs in your back while traveling. A smaller carry pouch is also included which fits easily into your pocket when you’re on the move. A ¼-inch adaptor is provided for use with professional audio equipment and headphone amps.
What’s in the Box?
Included with the Optoma NuForce HEM8:
- 2 x HEM8 earphones
- High-end OFC cable
- Cable with inline remote and microphone
- 6 x silicone tips in various sizes
- 2 x Comply ear tips – T-100 (large and medium)
- Water and air-tight polycarbonate carrying case
- Carrying pouch
- ¼-inch adaptor
- Cleaning tool
If you’re looking for an affordable IEM, then the NuForce HEM8 is definitely one to check out. In my opinion, these IEMs will be good for use for musicians and audio professionals looking for an affordable option. You’re not going to get that incredible Sennheiser clarity and separation but it’s certainly a premium sound and worth the $250 price tag.