Review: Optima NuForce HEM Dynamic In-Ear Headphones | iLounge

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Review: Optima NuForce HEM Dynamic In-Ear Headphones

C
Average

Company: Optoma

Model: NuForce HEM Dynamic

Price: $99

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Guido Gabriele

Optoma is a company we first became aware of years ago for their home theater projectors. In more recent years, they've become popular in the headphone community for their line of IEMS, DACs, and headphone amplifiers, which sport the NuForce brand. Foremost among these are the NuForce HEM, or "Hi-Res Ear Monitor" IEMs. This week we're testing the HEM Dynamic, the entry-level model in the lineup. We find that although the HEM Dynamic sounds good, it has one fatal flaw that soured the experience.

Compared to some of the higher-end IEMs that we’ve tested, the HEM Dynamic feels entry-level. Its cable is detachable (favored by audiophiles), but it’s thin and prone to tangling. Only an Android-style control pod is included, but its single button is clicky and works as it should. The cable has over-ear guides that are not moldable, but do retain their shape after bending. In the box are three sizes of silicone tips, two sizes of Comply soft foam tips, a shirt clip, and a nice zippered storage case. Though its plastic construction feels a little cheap, the HEM Dynamic looks good, with a clear outer housing that shows off some of its internal components. The HEM Dynamic is light and comfortable enough that it virtually disappears while being worn.

The HEM Dynamic uses a 6mm dynamic driver that is Hi-Res Certified; this means that it can produce frequencies from 20 hz to 40,000 hz — well beyond the range of human hearing. At just 16 ohms impedance, they’re easy enough to drive straight from Apple’s Lightning adapter. Though they may have a wide frequency response, with the right seal we heard a pretty substantial bass boost in the HEM Dynamic. This headphone is definitely a fun pairing for electronic, pop, and rap music, though its low-end emphasis dulled rock and metal tracks beyond our preference. It’s a warm sound signature that can be downright boomy on the wrong track — we know this is exactly what many listeners are looking for, even if we might prefer a more balanced sound.

There was, unfortunately, one aspect of the HEM Dynamic’s design that we found very problematic. The nozzles that focus sound into the ear are made of the same slick, high-gloss plastic as the rest of the HEM Dynamic’s housings. They’re narrow and slick, with no notches to hold the ear tips in place. As a result, when we removed the HEM Dynamic from our ears, the tips would separated from the driver housing, left behind in our ear canal. Needless to say, this was not a pleasant experience. We tried to be careful when removing the HEM Dynamic from our ears, and even cleaned the nozzles to ensure that there was no skin oil causing this problem, but neither helped. The Compy Foam tips did not exhibit this problem, but they appeared to attenuate the treble slightly, so in this instance we preferred silicone tips. We think this problem is due to the combination of the stiffness of the silicone ear tips and the slickness of the nozzles, not any external factors. We’re sure that many will be able to use the HEM Dynamic without having this problem, but after a few incidents of having to fish silicone tips out of our ear canals, we’re hesitant to risk it happening again. 

The Optoma NuForce HEM Dynamic is very close to being good. Its materials are entry-level, but so is its price. It looks good, and even has some features beyond its price range. It’s a shame that we couldn’t solve our problem with the ear tips — a simple notch in the sound tube would have made it possible for us to give the HEM Dynamic a higher recommendation.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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