True wireless earbuds (aka, fully wireless, super-duper wireless earbuds, etc.) are all the rage these days, thanks to their succinct profiles and ultra-cool form factor. They’re still pretty pricey, however, especially when it comes to performance for your dollars — leaving a large market for the still-loaded field of tethered wireless earbuds. Called the Stride, the latest pair of tethered buds to come across our desk was spawned from a partnership between NuForce and the electronics dealmakers at Massdrop.
Priced nicely at $75, the Stride are essentially just an iteration of NuForce’s BE Live5 headphones. They pack a stylish design with a metallic purple casing, along with plenty of features and a fabric-covered hard case that makes it easy to take them along for the ride. We’ve given the headphones a test run and we’re happy to say that, especially at their $75 price point, the Stride are a convenient and value-packed way to get your wireless tunes.
The Stride arrive (rhyming) in pretty basic cardboard packaging, unraveling from their foam home to reveal slick housings of aluminum and polycarbonate connected by a sturdy rubber tether for a sporty look and feel, with a bit of business thrown in.
The buds offer a solid selection of eartips to customize your fit, but oddly, they don’t offer the sports fins you’ll get with the Be Live5 (even though they’re shown in the manual). This may be a cost-cutter, but frankly, it seems like a fairly miserly one. That said, the sound tubes protruding from the rounded housings are set at an angle, making it easy to insert the 8mm drivers for a relatively tight fit. They’re far from the sturdiest fit we’ve experienced, and we worry a bit about the right side falling out during long runs due to the relatively weighty control/mic piece, but the buds should stay put for basic workouts and tomfoolery as long as you select the right eartips.
As teased above, the Stride come with an attractive, fabric-covered case that fits easily in your pocket, along with a teensy USB-to-Micro USB charging cable. Points off for the latter — we really wish all headphones would just move on to USB-C connection already — but we still have plenty of extra Micro USB cables hanging around, so at least they’re good for something. Speaking of charging, the earbuds charge in about 1.5 hours, according to NuForce, with a solid 8 hours of playback — they can’t get you to the moon and back, but we’ll take a solid day of tunes at this price.
An IPX-5 rating means the Stride can withstand a sweaty workout (and a solid spray of low-pressure water), so they’ll work in just about any environment. An easy-access control piece dangling below the right earbud, which is pretty standard, offers pause/play/calling from the center button and volume controls above and below (which also default as song skip keys by holding down the button). Another cool feature we’re seeing from NuForce and other wireless earbud makers is the inclusion of magnets at the backs of the housings, making it easy to keep the buds together when you package them up to hit the road.
As we’ve come to expect from NuForce, the Stride offer a clear and balanced sound signature, with some nice weight in the low end and solid detail in the midrange and treble. The word “accessible” gets thrown around a lot for price-conscious headphones, but it’s always nice to find earbuds that don’t try to make a statement by ratcheting up the treble to scream or (much more commonly) blasting you with bulbous bass.
Adding codecs like aptX and AAC gives the Stride a sonic leg up on a lot of earbuds around the $50 to $75 price point, and while we did hear a bit of Bluetooth connection noise, it’s nothing most folks will hear once the music is rolling. The treble can sound just a tad synthetic — we could use a bit more cream in the coffee there, but overall the Stride offer smooth and well-balanced sound that should please a wide variety of listeners.
If you’re interested in picking up the Stride, you can check out the Massdrop link to select them for pre-order, but be aware that — as with all Massdrop deals — this is a limited offer that ends at the end of January and may or may not be available again down the line.