The BE Free6 happens to be Optoma’s third true wireless earbud, while most others are either on their first or second cracks at it. So despite the company shifting focus on the lower-priced segment, we expect coming into it that it has a clear step-up in refinement compared to most in its class.
There are plentiful general impressions/reviews out there for the BE Free6, so our focus here is on getting to the point of this purchase option. This synopsis fires through key particularities and criticism that are likely to go unaddressed. Let’s get right to it….
> The Free6 is the successor to Optoma’s affordable true wireless earbud offering, the Free5. It seems that Optoma has given up on the higher end as it has yet to update its Free8 model from a couple years ago.
> So as the numbering succession implies, the Free6 is very closely related to the Free5’s design. The compact, matte, sandstone-feeling battery case that we adore makes a return, as well as the basically-shaped, one-button earpieces.
> At $99, it’s a given that it’s hard plastic all-around, but this is one of the most solid, refined implementations we’ve seen around. Practically nothing has that cheap, glossy plastic feeling like commonly utilized in the market, save for the button caps of the earpieces, which have an underlining metallic surface that add some eye-candy (but catch fingerprint smudges a bit too easily). You get the sense that this isn’t Optoma’s first foray into this kind of device, which says a lot in the midst of a market saturated with cheaply made, Chi-Fi options.
> It amazes us sometimes how manufacturers of a cheaper device can have more of a clue than harder-hitting ones. Case in point, the battery level indicator is front and center on the Free6’s case, and functions simply (on/off when you open and close the lid). Several top-end options today (i.e. Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless or Sony WF-1000XM3) that can cost 3x more are missing something so no-brainer to implement.
> The usability mechanisms work well here. The lid of the case has a nice, suitably firm magnetic snap to close, as well as the earpieces when dropped into their charging silos. When seated, the earpieces have an unflattering wiggle (the magnetic pull or seating could be tighter) but fortunately they stay in place and don’t fall out or anything of the sort that could cause annoyance to the user.
> The Free6’s case has a slick shape and is nicely compact. But like our criticism for the Sennheiser MTW, it is too thick in every dimension to be able to put in the pocket. This capsule shape does not work for pocket-ability (that is, it can technically be put in the pocket but bulges too much).
> Likewise for the earpieces, they’re a bit too girthy. We understand that there may be no way around the girth (especially with a price-aggressive device), but then extra special care needs to be put in the shape and fit in the ear, which we don’t feel like Optoma put enough of in this case. The fit of the Free6 is a bit contrived, leaving us doing more fiddling with it in our ear to get it situated right rather than just popping them in and sinking into our music. Fortunately, this isn’t to say that they say feel uncomfortable or fall out. Usability is fine, just could use tightening up/refining that Optoma should have learned with the Free5.
> We also wish that Optoma refined the one-button usability from the Free5. Firstly, accidental presses are abound, especially when seating them in your ears. Secondly, having to press them in your ear aggravates the seal, and just doesn’t feel refined.
> Additionally, the Optoma’s stock tips don’t give the the tightest fit/seal in the ear canal (which also means just average sound isolation). Just like our criticism with the Sennheiser MTW, girthy earpieces means you must have longer nozzles and/or tips.
> We do however like how both earpiece buttons have the same functions, so you can pick which one your want to control playback – a freedom that’s too often restricted with other true wireless earbuds.
> The sound quality of the Free6 is, plainly said, great. We’re inclined to say this is the best sounding option in the $99 class (maybe even $150), with the most notable aspects being the sense of space and frequency response balance.
> To elaborate, where most earbuds’ sound feel “confined” and “in the head”, Optoma has managed to push on that boundary. The Free6’s sound is notably open and airy. So vocals have room to breathe, so to speak, and despite a relatively average soundstage width, different elements of the sound have detectable placement (to a surprisingly clear/easy degree). Bass notes, in particular, sound large and encompassing.
> Clarity, however, is the Achilles’ heel of the Free6’s output. We’re not talking about detail, which is notable considering the lack of a higher fidelity wireless codec like aptX. There’s a muddle/screen to the sound across the board (evenly and not really a particular frequency range).
> There’s a slight emphasis on bass – just right in our opinion. It’s enough to grab attention but not to creep into the midrange (except for a slight bloat in the mid-bass that can at times overwhelm in this transition range). We really praise Optoma’s tuning and the Free6’s ability to present sounds among all frequency ranges so evenly. Nothing is particularly recessed, like commonly recessed mids in a V-shaped tuning or laid-back treble of most headphones.
- Great aesthetic and build for being affordable
- Easy usability and battery level indicator
- Earpiece independent Bluetooth stream and reliable connection
- 6 hour battery life (4x charges from the case) and IPX5 water resistance
- Top sound quality for its class
- One-button, physical controls have to go
- Unit not very pocket-friendly
- Fit needs work
- Poor to average sound isolation
- AptX codec is missing, sound could be clearer
Straight to the point, the BE Free6 is no doubt worth the price with one cautious caveat – that the fit works for your ears. We wish that Optoma worked on the earpiece or nozzle shape coming from the BE Free5. There are great advantages to this device compared to other true wireless earbuds at the $99 range, such as independent earpiece function and solid Bluetooth connection, 6 hour life on one charge, IPX5 protection, and a slick, unique feeling case. Sound quality is also refined despite the lack of aptX. It’s a shame that the shape of the earpieces (and case) weren’t thought out more. Fit is one of those make-it-or-break-it factors with earbuds.