The Nuraphone: Gimmick or Gamechanger? (Review and Giveaway!)
Fully personalized sound, premium build quality, and loaded with cutting edge technology the Nuraphone may change the way you see audio.
What do you get when you cross an electrical engineer, a medical doctor, a kangaroo, and a huge passion for music? Aside from the setup for a terrible joke, you get yourself a unique pair of headphones. In an already over-saturated market does Australian company Nura have what it takes to pull away from the crowd? Join us as we take a closer look at the Nuraphone.
- Design: Closed-back
- Inner Driver: 15mm
- Outer Driver: 40mm
- Headband Material: Stainless Steel
- Ear Pad Material: Aluminum / Silicone ear pads
- Frequency range: 20Hz–20,000 Hz
- Supported Cables (Proprietary): USB-C / MicroUSB / Lightning / Analogue
- Bluetooth Codec: aptX-HD / AAC (iOS)
- Bluetooth Range:~10m
- Total Harmonic Distortion: <1%
- Signal to Noise Ration: >125 dB
- Battery Life: 15-20 Hours
The unboxing experience is quite special. What looks like polystyrene is actually recycled potato skins making the packaging super eco-friendly! For your hard earned American Pesos, you get a premium feeling magnetic carrying case, which can be operated single-handedly. There’s a magnetic silicone cable holder, which holds two cables and something other manufacturers should really think about including.
The newer packaging (seen above) actually includes different size ear tips, a USB-A charge cable, and the device itself. The headband is made from steel, with the cups constructed from aluminum and soft, smooth, silicone. There’s also more soft silicone padding which sits between the headband and your head to ensure you’re getting maximum comfort.
The cans feel premium and exceptionally well built. The headband was very comfortable and the cups can slide up and down to help you get the perfect fit. The first thing that will immediately stand out to you is the unusual design inside the ear cups. Are they in-ear or over-ear? Well, both actually.
Nuraphone actually has two sets of drivers which Nura are calling Inova. This might be the world’s first set of cans that combines in and over-ear headphones. The inner drivers deliver mid and high frequencies and the outer drivers are responsible for the bass. If don’t frequently use in-ear earphones, this might take some getting used to.
The silicone on the earcups is very soft and is easy on the skin. Lastly, the logo on each earcup houses a touch-sensitive button. These buttons can be fully customized in the partner app which we’ll cover a little later.
The Nuraphone Difference
Headphones are one of the most difficult things to shop for. Not just because of the sheer amount of options but because of how subjective hearing can be. Think about a pair of glasses. Glasses have a specific prescription for a person and probably won’t work as well, if not at all, for someone else.
It’s similar for your hearing. My ears are not as sensitive to bass or lower frequencies compared to treble or higher frequencies. When setting an equalizer I almost always add some bass to make the audio better sounding for my ears. Other people don’t quite like my preference as they feel the treble is drowned out and they will gravitate towards turning up the highs and lowering the bass.
Nura understands this. Instead of creating a one size fits all device, Nuraphone is able to learn how your ears respond to certain sounds. Using this information it can then tailor audio to your own personal hearing preference. But how on earth does a pair of headphones learn anything?
How Does it Work
The dark arts used by the Nuraphone comes from measuring otoacoustic emissions (OAE) which actually originate in the cochlea of your ear. When you hear a sound, your inner hair cells actually make a sound back. These inner hair cells are like analog to digital converters which translate sound waves into electrical signals that go to your brain.
The sound they make in response is around 10,000 smaller than the sound that went in; which Nuraphone captures using a highly sensitive microphone. If that wasn’t cool enough, NASA will be using the same microphones in the mars 2020 mission. According to Dragan Petrovic, one of the company’s founders, are the most expensive piece of tech in the Nuraphone.
OAE tests aren’t something new, they are commonly used for checking inner ear problems with newborns. Nuraphone however, uses this information to create a custom profile according to your hearing.
It’s time to start the calibration! To get the best results, find yourself a quiet space where you’ll be able to sit still for the next three minutes. Remove and headwear and glasses and put the Nuraphone on. I found it best to put them on from the back of your ear moving forward so that the inner piece sits nicely inside your ear.
The handy voice prompt will prompt you to connect your Nuraphone to Bluetooth followed by launching the partner app which is available on both iOS and Android. There’s also a helpful video in the app which helps you through every step of the way. The voice prompts continue to guide you through the setup process and makes things super easy!
The first bit involves getting a perfect fit for the Nuraphons to run through the calibration. The aim is to get two stable tick boxes on each ear cup. So you may have to slide the cups up or down, and or move the cups slightly backward or forward. The app is updated in real time so you know exactly if your adjustments are good or bad.
Once that’s done it’s time to begin the test. The Nuraphone will now play a series of tones, which sounds like R2D2 having a bit of a moment, but there’s a lot going on at this point. As we’ve mentioned, the Nuraphone uses your ear’s responses of the tones to learn and create your personal hearing profile. Once that’s done, you will get your first chance to see if all of this even works. Spoiler alert, it absolutely does.
The Personal Touch
You will now hear a sample track and have two options. Either listen to the Nuraphone with a neutral profile, or toggle personalized mode and proceed to pick up your jaw off the floor. The effect is astounding. It may as well be a different song altogether.
Just when you thought it was all over, the next screen allows you to set the immersion mode. Immersion mode basically sets the level of bass that the outer tactile driver delivers. No, you read correctly, tactile. This isn’t just bass you can hear but bass you can feel. I’ve never heard, or felt for that matter, any other set of headphones with the bass that Nuraphone deliver.
You will find yourself going back through your library and revisiting your old tracks in your library. Audio just comes alive and it will almost feel like there was a gaping hole that you’ve had all along has been filled. The sound feels personal and delicate sounds that you may have missed are allowed to shine through. It almost feels as if you were sat next to the person who was playing the instrument.
I set up one of my friends with a profile and tried listening using their profile. The results were as expected. It didn’t agree with me at all. Fortunately, the app is just used to set up the Nuraphone and you can store up to three profiles on the headphones.
If you’re a movie lover or a gamer, you’re going to find a level of immersion you didn’t know existed. Details which you would have otherwise altogether missed are presented gracefully to your ears. Probably the biggest reaction I’ve seen is with people who either compose or mix music.
The Nuraphones are completely packed with technology. Aside from the special microphones used for creating your profile, there are other microphones used for both noise cancellation as well as voice calls.
There’s also a social mode which uses the microphones to allow some ambient noise in. This allows you to hear things happening on the outside, and in the even someone speaks to you, you won’t be shouting mindlessly at them. Social mode can also be toggled using one of the touch controls and comes in really handy as you don’t have to remove the headphones if someone comes to speak to you.
Over-ear headphones can sometimes get a little warm but Nura seems to have an answer for that too. Using Tesla valves, which are essentially one-way valves, cool air is pulled in and warm air is pushed out. The active noise cancellation is as good as it comes and compliments the near perfect sound isolation so well.
The Nuraphone doesn’t have a power button; instead it switches on when you put them on and turn off a little while after you take them off. This would’ve been a little finicky had the voice prompts not been so fantastic. There are tones for charging as well as spoken battery levels, not to mention the personalized welcome message when you put the headphones on.
The Nuraphone is also the only pair of headphones that can be bricked remotely. This means that if your headphones are stolen, you can contact their support team and they will be able to turn your headphones into expensive paperweights.
Before you take the plunge there are some things that you need to be aware of. While the build quality is exceptional, it does make the Nuraphone a little less portable compared to something like the Bose QC 35 IIs which have a largely plastic construction.
During the Kickstarter campaign, different people wanted different cables which led to the Nuraphone being able to connect to almost any device. However, this means that there is a proprietary connector on one end. Fortunately, the brilliant magnetic cable case houses two cables easily which allows me to keep the cables I need with me at all times.
I personally have In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) attached to myself all day, but if you’re not used to wearing IEMs, these may take some getting used to. I also heard a faint beeping noise when there was no audio playing. The only way to remedy this was turning off the active noise cancellation. Hopefully, this gets fixed in an upcoming software update.
Nuraphone now also ships with different size ear tips. If you haven’t received any you can contact Nura support and they will send some to you at no cost. Ear tips are crucial not just for getting a good fit for extended listening, but they can help get more accurate results in the test.
If I can exercise some pedantry, the touch controls are a tad on the sensitive side. They are tactile which is great as you know once you’ve pressed them, but I found that I have accidentally touched them and accidentally switched on social mode or changed the volume.
These are some of the considerations and may or may not be deal breakers for you. None of these were major issues for me personally, but this may vary depending on your use case.
At the price point that the Nuraphone is landing at, there is some fierce competition. Some of the competition has been in this bracket for many years and have had a chance to perfect their offerings.
Nuraphone have come in and completely disrupted not just its bracket but many of the ones above it. Full of cutting-edge technology, sound that is crystal clear, and unparalleled build quality, the Nuraphone is one of the best headphones, nay, products I’ve set my hands on.
From the website to the unboxing, right down to the carrying case and the amazing sound quality, the Nuraphone impresses at every level. Everything feels extremely well thought out and the passion that Nura have poured into their product is as evident as the light of day.
If you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones Nura offer a 30 day no excuses money back guarantee for you to try them out. You can also pop down to Best Buy in the US, or Selfridges in the UK, and try out one of the ones on display.
While I own a few pairs of headphones, I have constantly found myself reaching for the Nuraphone over the others. They look beautiful, they feel exception, and nothing else provides quite the audio experience.