Review: ReSound Forte FT861-DRW (Costco) vs. Oticon OPN1

This is a review of Costco-provided ReSound Forte 861 RIC hearing aids (312 battery) vs. Oticon’s OPN 1s. For context, I am upgrading my eight-year-old Oticon Agil Pros and recently finished a two-week demo with the OPN 1s. I decided to purchase the Fortes. The Forte fitting, conducted by a hearing aid specialist in Costco’s Newport News, VA store, included the use of a real ear measurement (REM) system in order to determine whether the aids are delivering the prescription. For more information on real ear measurement and its significance, see Dr. Cliff’s excellent REM video. To see my audiogram, click my user name (Bryan9), above.

To address an ongoing controversy concerning these aids in relation to ReSound’s LINX2 and LINX3D offerings, a ReSound publication settles the matter: the Forte 8 feature list is identical to that of ReSound’s LINX3d 9s, except that the Forte 8s lack the remote adjustment and tinnitus features. Both aids have exactly the same specs. Some claim that the Fortes are based on the previous LINX2 platform, in line with an assumed ReSound policy of sending Costco nothing but previous-generation technologies. So far as the Fortes are concerned, this assertion simply isn’t true. For example, the Fortes include a LINX3D feature that was not available in the LINX2, called Binaural Directionality III. This feature is very important to me. My chief complaint concerning my elderly Oticon Agil Pros is that I could never tell where sounds were coming from, and I could barely hear environmental sounds.

As mentioned above, I demoed a pair of Oticon OPN 1s for a couple of weeks before purchasing the Fortes. (The OPNs were adjusted to my hearing profile, of course.) I quickly learned why they’re considered the industry’s gold standard. I could tell where sounds were coming from, including faint environmental sounds (birds singing, wind in the trees, etc.). During this period, my wife and I kept track of how many times I said “What?” after she spoke to me or failed to comprehend what she was saying. This is a tough test for a hearing aid: my wife often speaks to me when I’m facing away from her or in another room. The improvement was remarkable, but not perfect. There were several “Whats?” per day. On the plus side, the iPhone integration worked as advertised. I took joy in being able to use the telephone comfortably and listening to audiophile-quality music streaming from iPhone sources.

We repeated this test with the Fortes, which outperformed the OPN 1s, to my surprise. The Fortes’ sound localization and spatial sense performance is outstanding and I was able to hear and understand ongoing, nearby conversations in a 360 degree sound field. At home, the aids virtually eliminated the “Whats” and speech comprehension failures, to my wife’s joy.

My major complaint about the Fortes, initially, was poor streaming audio performance with music. It sounded tinny and distorted. However, I discovered that these problems disappeared when I pushed my Power Domes all the way into my ear canal. Suddenly, there was ample bass and the distortion was gone. This does suggest that users of open domes may not be satisfied with the Fortes’ streaming music quality.

I’ve yet to evaluate the Fortes’ performance in noisy restaurants (update: see my comments below). Like many HA users, I’ve developed an aversion to them. Sitting in an acoustically bright room with dozens of people yelling at the top of their lungs is not appealing to me. But I’ll give it a try and post an update.

I’m using my aids with my iPhone 6 Plus. I have little to add to the acclaim for ReSound’s connectivity features; they’re the industry leader. In comparison, the Oticon app is pathetic. To be sure, streaming from the iPhone is automatic and delivers great sound quality. But the app does little more than let you adjust HA volume, and even that is poorly implemented. In comparison, the ReSound Smart 3D App lets you adjust hearing parameters for all of the configured programs as well as custom locations that you create. Although the Fortes lack the LINX 3D’s tinnitus relief features, you can download a nifty ReSound app (called Relief) that provides even broader functionality. As with other MFi hearing aids, Android users will have to put up with reduced performance (e.g., audio in one ear only).

In sum, my experience with the Fortes suggests that they indeed deliver the Resound 3D 9’s binaural directionality and spatial sense capabilities, to a level that equals or exceeds Oticon’s OPN1s. But the Fortes couldn’t match the OPN1s’ streaming music quality unless I pushed my power domes all the way into my ear canal. That wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. I don’t need audiophile-quality sound for phone calls, and I don’t mind pushing my domes all the way in when I want to listen to music. Plus, the Smart 3D app is clearly the industry leader.

Overall, it was pretty much a no-brainer to go with the Fortes ($2500, vs. $7,000 I was quoted for the OPN1s). To be sure, the OPN1 demo aids might have performed better had I asked my audiologist to tweak them a bit, and as a commenter pointed out, I could likely get them for less. But I’d still be paying more for performance I already have with the Fortes.

Be aware that there’s a downside to purchasing HAs from Costco. You have to go back to Costco to get them adjusted or repaired. If you move somewhere where there isn’t a nearby Costco, you could be looking at major time and money expenditures if your aids need adjustment or repair. Also, make sure the hearing aid specialist you’re working with intends to conduct a real ear measurement (REM) during the fitting, in order to determine whether the aids are performing at the prescribed level. Mine did, but it seems that this test isn’t done at some (many?) Costco locations. Ask before buying! I agree with Dr. Cliff that insisting on a REM test is probably the single smartest thing you can do when purchasing hearing aids.

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That’s wonderful that you are happy with your ReSounds. There is no way to get new OPN1s for $2.5K, but in all fairness $7K is WAY more than one needs to pay for new OPN1s, even with all the bundling.

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Great review. Thank you for that! I’m less and less happy with the KS8 after what I think is a faulty firmware upgrade. I have had two Resounds that I have been happy with, the original Resound Future (Alera) and the KS5 (Verso). Maybe I need to take a hard look at these before my return period ends.

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I have some OPN 1 coming to my third audiologist via Hearing Revolution for $3700. I saw the audi on Aug 2 and Hearing Revolution called me on Aug. 3rd for payment. I expect to see the audiologist for fitting in another week.

I will be trialing the ReSound Forte 8 from Costco as well, that appt. in two more days. Then likely two weeks for that fitting.

I have 60 days on the OPN 1 and 180 days on the Forte 8. This will be fun and interesting to see what I find. Thanks for the great review!

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Do share your experience with us! Some things that didn’t matter to me might matter a lot to you!

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Thanks for sharing your review with us.

Did you have a chance to evaluate the OPN in various noisy environments during your 2 week trial of it? If yes, how did it work out for you?

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My test did not include super-noisy environments such as restaurants or classrooms. Because I’m retired, I have the luxury of avoiding them. My review focuses on my main hearing challenge – hearing at home. I did wear the OPNs in a crowded Costco; they performed well. I’ve often heard that the OPN 1s are the go-to choice for people who must deal with noisy environments, but the Resound Forte and LINX3D may be equally good. A nifty feature of the Fortes, which I haven’t evaluated, is the capability to narrow or broaden the forward directional hearing scope using the 3D App. Additionally, the Forte’s Binaural Directionality III algorithm uses a combination of ominidirectional and unidirectional mikes to provide enhanced forward hearing without cutting out side conversations. I am finally going out to a restaurant tonight; I’ll post an update concerning my experience with these Forte features. Addendum: I did post this update as a reply; see below.

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My ReSound LiNX 3D 961’s have handled nearly all of the noisy situations I’ve encountered – conversing in restaurants, in a car on the highway with lots of road noise and nearby trucks, in subway stations and subway cars, on noisy city streets. The notable exception was a bar mitzvah party with big speakers that was helping to turn young teens into the hearing aid customers of the future.

Don’t overlook the “Speech clarity” button on the All-Around program. Counter-intuitively, you’ll hear more noise when you turn it on, because it’s boosting frequencies that are in speech and also in noise. The overall effect is to make speech clearer.

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I just met with my VA audiologist who is recommending “top of the line” Resound Lynx with a PhoneClip to replace my Phonak Audeo V90’s with a ComPilot II. I was not familiar with Resounds and did not know to ask if she was ordering the 961 or 962: I assume the Lynx 3D 961 as I did ask about battery size and she said 312. I believe the 962’s have Volume Control, Telecoil, and Direct Audio Input (DAI). I did mention I did not like telecoil as it triggers an emphasis on speech frequencies which does not work for music listening with other than ceramic headphones. for phone conference calls I preferred to use my ComPilot which routed audio to both ears and emphasized speech. Does the PhoneClip do the same? I also mentioned that I did not like that with the V90’s I had to choose whether the buttons controlled volume or programs, as they couldl not do both. I would like the volume control and program selection both on the BTE piece rather than having to fiddle with a phone app or the PhoneClip. I would also like the longer 13 battery life (even though they are free). And I would like the DAI. Does anyone know if the telecoil can be turned off in the 962’s? I’d like to request the 962’s if the telecoil can be turned off.

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Hey Mr. Tambourine Man, the Lynx 3D 961 and 962 both offer volume and program control. The 961 has only one button per aid, but it distinguishes between short and long presses – for example, short on the right turns the volume up, short on the left turns the volume down. Can anyone address TM’s questions about his senses being stripped (to paraphrase Dylan) by the Telecoil?

I hope Mr. Tambourine Man can forgive me for my references to the Byrds, whom I had the amazing privilege to have seen live in, I think, 1964, and to Bob Dylan, one of my all-time favorite artists.

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As promised, here’s a brief review of my experience with the Forte 8s in a noisy restaurant situation. Using the 3D app on my iPhone, I switched my aids to the default Restaurant mode. This produced some benefit. I next experimented with the Sound Enhancer. I narrowed the speech focus to the Narrow setting and set Noise Reduction to its highest level. I also adjusted the bass/middle/treble controls to emphasize mid-range sounds. The results were spectacular. Even though the 50-75 people in the restaurant were yelling at each other, and there was a constant barrage of plate banging in the background, I was able to converse with my wife and didn’t miss word. When the server appeared and asked a question, I heard everything she said, even though my wife couldn’t!

UPDATE: Went out to dinner tonight at our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, which was VERY loud (including a birthday table with eight screaming kids). Was able to converse with my spouse. The noise suppression reduced the ambient yelling to a tolerable level. I used the narrow beam speech targeting and adjusted the noise suppression to suit the situation. Saved the configuration to profile named for the restaurant; next time we visit, the 3D app will automatically detect that we’re there and kick in the settings I chose.

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I love it when I hear something that my wife, who has better hearing, doesn’t.

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I’ve read a lot about HA’s in recent months, and this is the first time I’ve seen this. Is it still true with current technology?

I’ve had my Resound Forte 8 13/RIC’s for 2 weeks now and I LOVE them. The sound is natural and full., not thin, tinny, and brittle like the Phonak Brio 3’s. The app is FANTASTIC to make minor and major adjustments. I love having the control over different environments.

I have an Android phone, so I bought the Phone Clip+ and it works great. I have the phone call in both ears, and I can adjust the noise, outside hearing, bass, mid, treble, and volume. Usually I just hit the ‘bass boost’ button and I t’s perfect. Callers say they can hear me clearly. I use the lanyard that came with it since It’s easier and more secure when working. The nice thing is, I can be working on network equiptment hands free while on the conference call with the NOC technician. I work in an extremely noisy data center with thousands of fans whirring on routers, switches, and servers. I can mute my side so that the conference call stays quiet while listening to conversation.

I also learned I can use foam hearing protectors over the receivers when the fan noise is bad, and I get a really nice tight phone call with that. It blocks out all the noise on my side and allows me to hear even better in a bad environment. However, when outside, in the car, or at home, it’s not necessary at all. the phone clip works great.

The biggest thing I’m excited about is that I can use these HA’s with ear phones. I’m a musician and record at home, which requires me to use earphones in the studio. My audi had told me this was impossible with HA’s. Well, I’m hear to tell you (see what I did there?) that it works. I can play my guitar and bass late at night with closed back headphones. AWESOME!!

I can’t say enough good things about these HA’s, and I feel better knowing I paid less than half price from the greedy capitalist pigs selling them for $7 Grand.

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Hahaha! Me too! My wife is asking me what happened when we watch TV now.

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Sums up my feelings about my Forte 861 RICs! They’re keepers!

Glad to hear you’re enjoying your ReSounds as much as I enjoy mine. It sounds like the Android app is treating you well. I had serious problems with it, but a new version came out shortly after I switched to iPhone.

Battery life with 312s: 6 days (my first week with the aids, did a ton of audio streaming and 10-12 phone calls to test them well)… really, about the same as my old Oticon Agil Pros (also 312)

I should mention a disincentive to going with the ReSound Fortes vs. the OPN 1s : Evidently, the Costco ReSounds are locked against programming by any party other than Costco (including DIY). Numerous HA users have found that DIY programming enables them to extract the maximum value from their aids. This isn’t an issue for users such as myself who don’t plan to get into DIY. Additionally, the locking would (presumably) lower the value of the ReSounds on the used market, since buyers would have no choice other than to take them back to Costco for reprogramming – and Costco might not agree to this. I’m not sure how much of a disincentive this really is. My old Agil Pros are worth only about $500/pair on eBay. I intend to keep them as backups in case my ReSounds need service.

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If programmability is a requirement then there’s another choice, user-programmable ReSound LiNX 3D 9 for roughly the same price as OPN 1.

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