There’s a huge variety of headphones out there, so any company coming into this saturated market should really have something “different” if they want to stand out.
Indeed, nascent audio company Nura did something different with its Nuraphone headphones. It came out with a pair that are both headphones and earphones. They sure look strange, and they feel even weirder when you first try them on.
But they sound phenomenal. Their supreme sound is also thanks to Nura’s personalised audio tuning, where the headphones tune themselves to the way you hear sound. If it sounds hokey, that’s because you haven’t tried them out yet.
Check out the Nuraphone headphones:
Let’s address the first thing you’re all wondering about.
Yep, those are earbuds inside the headphone cups.
So what’s going on with that unusual design?
Unlike most headphones, the Nuraphone headphones deliver sound via the main headphone cup and the in-ear earbud.
The main headphone cup houses a large bass speaker – or “driver” as they’re often called. That’s where ultra-low bass frequencies will come from.
Meanwhile, the inner earbud delivers some additional bass, mid, and high audio frequencies. And it makes a lot of sense. It’s like having a full sound system in your ears that includes the subwoofer, mid-range speakers, and high-frequency tweeters.
Normal headphones and earphones can deliver all these frequencies with so-called “full range” drivers that deliver bass, mids, and highs. But full-range drivers don’t specialize in any one frequency like those in the Nuraphone do. The thinking behind the Nuraphone’s hybrid design is that huge amount of bass can be delivered without drowning out the mid and high frequencies.
I’ll get to how they sound in a moment, but there’s one more thing you should know about.
The unique design is only part of the Nuraphone experience, and it’s not even the most important aspect.
Before you start listening to music for the first time with the Nuraphone, you need to get them tuned specifically for your hearing using the Nura mobile app.
The Nura app gets you set up to make the most of the Nuraphone. If you don’t use the app, you’re basically wasting your money, as you don’t take advantage of the Nuraphone’s defining feature: Personalised sound.
First, it makes sure you get a good seal with the earbuds and your inner ear. Then, it will play a variety of sounds while it figures out how to best tune audio based on how your ears hear. It will measure how sensitive your ears are to audio frequencies and tones and create a hearing profile based on the results. The whole process takes a couple of minutes.
The Nuraphone headphones then use your hearing profile to adjust the audio that they deliver.
So how does the headphone/earphone hybrid design and personalised audio tuning actually sound?
These things sound really, really good. To be fair, however, most $US400 headphones are going to sound amazing. Yet, the Nuraphone offer something that other $US400 headphones don’t: the confidence that I’m getting the best possible sound they can deliver because they’re tuned to my hearing profile. Thus I get the sense that I’m getting the most out of the $US400 investment. The Nuraphone headphones “get me.”
That confidence is now something I look for in headphones, and it’s lost on a normal pair of headphones where you may not really know whether or not you’re getting the absolute most out of them.
With normal headphones, you’re getting a sound based on the average hearing profile. If you happen to have an average hearing profile, that’s great and you can enjoy pretty much any pair of headphones on the market knowing you’re getting the best sound they can deliver. And an average hearing profile does cover the majority of listeners out there.
But if you have a particular sensitivity – or you’re lacking sensitivity – to certain frequencies, some headphones may over or understimulate your ears, and you may not be getting the most out of those headphones.
Does the personalised tuning actually work?
This is actually hard to gauge. I’ve never had my ears “tuned” before, and I don’t have a reference point to measure the accuracy of the Nuraphone’s personalised audio tuning.
But I know the Nuraphone tuning is doing something right. My wife created her own hearing profile and music sounded very different to my ears compared to my own hearing profile. Her profile actually still sounded good, but not as good as my own hearing profile.
I find it tough going back to normal headphones now. I just don’t get the feeling that normal headphones get me anymore, even if they sound great.
Ever wanted your music to rumble?
You can actually feel the ear cups vibrating around your ears when you play music at higher volumes, which is another unusual – but awesome – sensation. Bass-heavy music like electronic and hip-hop sounded and felt more powerful and exciting than with any other headphones I’ve tried.
This GIF of Lewis Hilsenteger’s face from the Unbox Therapy YouTube channel when he tries the Nuraphone is the best way to describe it:
You can adjust the of level of deep, pounding, droning, and rumbling bass with the Immersion Mode in the Nura app. Still, even at maximum “Immersion,” I found that I had to crank up the volume pretty high for the effect on certain songs and types of music. I sometimes had to raise the volume outside of my comfort zone. And depending on the kind of music you listen to, you may not feel the vibration effect much at all.
Putting them on for the first few times was the weirdest sensation.
When you put on the Nuraphone for the first time, the earbuds feel like they’re locking the headphones into your head. Others at Business Insider describe it like someone is putting their fingers into your ears. It’s a foreign sensation, but you get used to it pretty quickly, and they’re comfortable to wear. They are a little heavy, however, and they start to slide off if I lay my head back or forward.
Nura also recently gave the Nuraphones active noise cancellation via an app update. I’m not aware of any headphones capable of getting a noise cancellation feature post-release.
The outer headphone and inner earbud combination make for great passive noise cancellation. The Nuraphone blocked almost as much sound as the $US350 Bose QC35 II headphones in my tests.
And Nura recently rolled out an update for the Nuraphones that adds active noise cancellation to the headphones. I’ve never seen a pair of headphones get updated with such a significant feature after their original release.
Nura’s active noise cancellation, combined with the passive noice cancellation from the over-ear/in-ear design, makes for incredibly effective noise cancellation that comfortably competes with the Bose QC35 II.
The company also fixed my biggest complaint with the Nuraphones.
When they were first released, the Nuraphone headphones could only connect to one device at a time via Bluetooth, This was somewhat frustrating when I’d arrive at work from my commute and switch from my phone to my laptop.
I’d have to actively disconnect the Nuraphone from my phone’s Bluetooth settings – or turn off Bluetooth altogether – to make the switch. Then, when it’s time to commute home, I’d have to do it again to reconnect them to my phone.
Anyone who’s ever used Bluetooth knows that dealing with Bluetooth isn’t always the easiest or most seamless experience.
After the recent update, Nura gave the Nuraphones the ability to easily switch between Bluetooth devices. For example, you can close your computer for the day and switch the Nuraphones to your smartphone through your phone’s Bluetooth settings.
The Nuraphone headphones are primarily designed for wireless use, but you can go wired if you want.
You can buy different cables for wired connections, like the headphone jack, USB-C, Apple Lightning cable, and even microUSB. Just note that those cables are sold separately for around $US25 each.
Also note that the connection to the headphones themselves is proprietary, which means if you lose or break a cable, you have to buy a new one from the company. It sounds bad at first, but it’s the only way the company can make the headphone compatible with so many different ports.
Should you buy the Nuraphone?
Right off the bat, if you don’t like in-ear earbuds, you’re not going to like the Nuraphone no matter how good they sound. That’s because you’ll get the in-ear earbud feel with these headphones.
But if you’ve made the decision that you’re going to spend around $US400 on a pair of wireless headphones, the Nuraphone should be at the top of the list. Like I said earlier, most headphones above $US350 are going to sounds great. But if you’re going to spend that much on a pair of headphones, you might as well get a pair that tunes music specifically to how you hear. That way, you’ll know you’re getting the best sound they can possible deliver.
And now that they have been updated with active noise cancellation and easy Bluetooth switching, they have become a no-brainer for anyone looking to spend up to $US400 on headphones.
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