Optoma NuForce HEM8 Quad Driver IEM Review
2, 4, 6, 8 – who do we appreciate? Optoma NuForce, which has a new range of sleek balanced armature-driven IEMs with varying amounts of drivers. The HEM2 has a single driver per capsule, there are two in each HEM4 capsule, three in those of the HEM6 and four in each HEM8 capsule.
These models incorporate a ‘three-way phase-coherent crossover that achieves linear phase performance’, so now we know. In English, it amounts to a nice perceived width, fast attacks and faithful reproduction of music.
Accessories are plentiful with all models in this range, with six pairs of silicone tips and two pairs of Comply tips included. There’s a sturdy transparent Pelican-type case for travelling, and also a rigid zip-up case for the pocket. There are two cables as well, one plain stereo version and another for use with phones with a single button remote/mic.
- Good amount of eartips
- Two cases included, and two cables
- Capsules are relatively small, no issues with fit
- Good isolation
- Not so forgiving with poor quality recordings
Design and Appearance
On the outside, the capsules themselves are very compact (even the HEM8 with its four drivers), and light. The standard cable is a braided affair, which is very supple and gives no problems when worn. The jack is of a right-angle design which should not offer any trouble other than possibly when used with headphone sockets which are recessed. It just about fits into the Chord Hugo’s headphone socket; this may not affect many users but we need to mention drawbacks whenever we get the chance; there are not many with these earphones!
Durability and Build Quality
As mentioned above, the NuForce HEM8 standard cable is very light and limber but due to its braided nature it’s hard to imagine it getting strained with normal use. Strain reliefs are not uniform and are different depending on which part of the cable they are on; the jack has the usual ‘accordion’ type strain relief and elsewhere it looks as if heat-shrink tubing is present; at the Y-split and where the cable goes over the backs of the ears. There’s also a simple slider on the cable to keep things in place, once in use.
The mic/remote cable is a fairly standard one which is not braided, but again seems strong enough to put up with a typical amount of use and abuse when out and about. Also at the point where the cable meets the capsules, there is no undue strain placed on the connection as a rigid plastic sheath holds the two-pin connectors in position.
No problems here, the relatively small size of the capsules means that the HEM Series will fit most if not all ears, and the shrink tubing at the capsule end of the braided cable acts as a pretty effective cable guide to keep the cable in position.
Isolation is pretty good; certainly better than average with the correct tips. As ever, a bit of experimentation may be required but the standard silicone tips do a good job of keeping out exterior noise. The Comply tips will naturally enhance this further.
Testing with a Chord Hugo DAC.
Overall the sound is clear and crisp with no obvious peaks; detail is very good and with plenty going on in the music, there’s no hint of congestion.
Down low, sub bass is not there in quantities we might expect from models such as the Shure SE846 for example, but it’s there nonetheless and considering the relatively diminutive size of the capsules, it’s impressive. Mid and upper bass is generally very well controlled with plenty of impact, however some bass instruments such as the double bass can tend to take over a bit. Midrange is not affected though..
Here, everything hangs loose and natural; there’s heaps of space and harmonics are nicely cohesive with the bass frequencies. The multiple drivers and crossovers work together really well. It’s not recessed at all, but not pushy either. There’s a nice balance between the two which makes for a versatile earphone model.
The crisp treble is natural sounding and is well tuned to sit well with the rest of the presentation; however the flip side is that the HEM8 may be relatively unforgiving with poorly mastered and low-bitrate encoded recordings, or old recordings. Fatigue may be an issue for those with more sensitive ears, depending on the source and the quality of music played.
- Soundstage and Separation
Soundstage is impressive with again a lot of room there; individual instruments have plenty of space and it amounts to a very immersive experience.
Music genres good for and why
The HEM8 is a great earphone for everything which is well produced; from hiphop to jazz, classical to hard rock.
The HEM8 is a winner for those who want a clean well balanced sound, and who have a collection of well-produced music. The wealth of accessories included makes the NuForce HEM8 a very competent and well thought out product.