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Massdrop x NuForce Stride
January 9, 2019
30.5 x 30.5 x 30.5 mm
The Massdrop x NuForce Stride is a fine pair of wireless earbuds. They’re durable, yet light; stylish, yet modest; and functional without relying on gimmicks. Drawbacks are apparent, though, including Bluetooth 4.1 firmware and earbud housings that seem all-too-eager to fall from the ears. Today, we’re breaking down all that the NuForce Stride has to offer.
Who should get the Massdrop x NuForce Stride?
- Daily music listeners will appreciate the simplicity of the Stride earbuds. There aren’t any fancy features offered, which simplifies the listening experience while keeping the cost down. You are provided memory foam ear tips, though, to improve isolation and comfort over the standard silicone ear tips.
- Athletes may want to consider the Massdrop x NuForce Stride for their IPX5 rating, denoting protection from sweat and water sprays. If you do take these to the gym, flip the earbuds and hook them around the ear; otherwise, they have a tendency to fall out during vigorous movement.
- Anyone who likes a subdued aesthetic will like the navy blue paint job that appears nearly black until light is shone on it. The earbuds weigh just 14 grams and can quickly be stowed away when not in use.
What’s it like to use the Massdrop x NuForce Stride?
The Massdrop x NuForce Stride earbuds are nearly identical to the Optoma NuForce BeLive5, including the zippered carrying case. Rather than gold accents, the Stride earbuds are just navy. The stout cylindrical housings are comfortable enough but don’t stay in very well compared to the BeLive5, which include silicone wing tips to combat this. I’m not sure why the Massdrop edition forgoes the added security feature, but it’s a shortsighted omission.
Magnetized aluminum housings make it easy to keep the cables from flailing about when not in use, but be careful when removing a jacket as this can cause the magnets to separate, landing them on the floor. Just like most in-ear picks, the NuForce Stride have angled nozzles that bend with the curve of the ear canal. Another comfortable feature of the earbuds is the flat cable, which lays neatly against your back. There’s a rounded cable cinch mechanism for adjusting the cable length to the size of a listener’s head, but it isn’t the most effective. In just a single workout session, I unwittingly detached the wire from the cinch bead three times.
Speaking of exercising, the earbuds are durable enough to break a sweat in without worrying about voiding the warranty due to water damage. As previously mentioned though, the earbuds don’t stand up to quick movements. If you intend to run or weight-lift with these, make sure to hook the cable around the backs of your ears (wearing the left earbud on the right ear and vice versa): this makes for a much more stable and comfortable athletic fit.
Battery life is bad especially since cheap true wireless earbuds can outlast these standard wireless ones. We recorded just 6 hours, 32 minutes of playback from the Massdrop x NuFroce Stride, which is shorter than the specified 8-hour playtime. To top the earbuds back up, connect them to the supplied microUSB cable for about two hours. That’s right: no quick charging features here, which is another disappointment.
How do you connect the Massdrop x NuForce Stride to your phone?
To connect the Bluetooth earbuds to your phone, press and hold the center multifunction button until the LED indicator alternates between red and blue. At that point, the Stride is in pairing mode and will be visible to other devices. You can then select the Massdrop Stride from your phone’s menu, and it will automatically re-pair with the last used device from then on out.
The Massdrop x NuForce Stride earbuds support both aptX and AAC for high-quality Bluetooth audio.
The earbuds use outdated Bluetooth 4.1 firmware, and this could very well account for the shortened battery life since Bluetooth 5.0 aids with power efficiency. They allow for a 10-meter wireless range, but connection stutters occurred when my phone was less than three meters from the earbuds at the gym. It isn’t all doom and gloom when it comes to battery life and connection quality, though: the earbuds support both aptX and AAC high-quality Bluetooth codecs. This means it doesn’t matter if whether you use an Android or iPhone; you’ll benefit from high-quality streaming regardless.
How do the Massdrop x NuForce Stride sound?
These earbuds have a uniquely neutral-leaning frequency response for their sub-$100 price; it’s similar to the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus which costs $300. Due to the minimal deviation across the frequency band, until transitioning into treble notes, any song you throw at the NuForce Stride will sound true to form. Most cheaper earphones exaggerate bass notes to appeal to a wider market, but this accurate reproduction makes the earphones more versatile.
Sound quality is entirely dependent on your ability to achieve a proper seal with the earbuds, something I had great trouble with maintaining. At the risk of hearkening on a proved point, the provided silicone sleeves don’t create enough friction to stay sealed against the ears when moving about. This subjects your music to auditory masking: when a loud noise (e.g. passing traffic) makes it difficult to perceive a quieter one (e.g. music playback). Although the inclusion of memory foam ear tips is much appreciated, I prefer Comply’s foam texture over these.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Masego and FKJ’s song Tadow, the kickdrum beginning at 0:32 may sound underwhelming to some, but this is a positive effect of the accurate sound signature. Bass notes aren’t overemphasized, which allows midrange frequencies like Masego’s vocals to be heard clearly amidst the soulful instrumental. Every time Masego sings “tadow,” a bit of reverb can be heard through the headset, which is something that the Creative Outlier Air struggle with due to their forceful bass response.
If you listen to vocal-oriented music, you will be thoroughly impressed by the NuForce Stride’s detailed midrange reproduction. By nature of these being in-ears, the representation of three-dimensional space is constrained but instrumental clarity makes up for this.
Related: Best studio headphones
Is the microphone good for phone calls?
It’s passable—but not great—and I wouldn’t recommend the Massdrop x NuForce Stride for conference calls. The integrated microphone does a poor job at isolating your voice from distracting background noise, and even if you happen to be in the privacy of your own home, the graduated low-end attenuation makes speakers sound inaccurate. This effect may be described by the person on the other line as “distant” or “muffled,” either way it’s not good.
Massdrop x NuForce Stride microphone demo:
How does the NuForce Stride compare to other wireless earphones?
The NuForce Stride earbuds standout with their excellent sound quality but are outperformed by wireless and wireless neckband earbuds regarding comfort and features.
Athletes who are looking for a dedicated pair of earbuds will be better off with the Optoma NuForce BeSport4 or Jaybird Tarah, the latter of which retails for a few dollars less than the Massdrop x NuForce Stride and are available through Amazon Prime for expedited shipping. The Tarah have a more effective, reliable cable cinch mechanism, better fit, and control module when it comes to blind operation. If your primary form of exercise is running get the Tarah or true wireless Jaybird Vista. You sacrifice high-quality Bluetooth codec support with these workout earbuds, but it’s unlikely you’re listening for harmonic resonances when exercising.
If you don't need high-quality Bluetooth codec support, get the Jaybird Tarah for a more secure fit.
iPhone users should consider the BeatsX which houses Apple’s W1 chip and supports AAC streaming. These sleek earbuds fit well and stay in while moving about. Plus, the housings are magnetic just like the Stride’s. Android users who take a lot of phone calls should look at the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2: microphone quality is superb as is battery life and sound quality.
Should you buy the Massdrop x NuForce Stride?
If you value sound quality and affordability over all else, yes. The Massdrop x NuForce Stride earbuds are a rare breed and sound excellent. That said, drawbacks like microUSB charging, outdated Bluetooth firmware, and fickle connection strength, may turn you away from the earbuds. If you decidedly don’t want to deal with any sort of cable, there are great true wireless options for less than $100 and some more premium total wireless picks like the Apple AirPods Pro that are worth investigating, too.