Nuraphone Review: Impressive Personalised Sound

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Kickstarter projects can often end up being vapourware, never seeing the light of day, but that wasn’t the case with Nura. Following a successful $1.8m Kickstarter campaign, the innovative new Nuraphone headphones launched back in 2017. But despite being three years old, the headphones are constantly changing, with one notable update bringing Active Noise Cancellation to the headphones – the first time an audio company has pushed out ANC functionality via software update.

There’s also the accessories available for the headphones – you can get cables that make the high-end cans compatible with just about every port imaginable, and accessories like the Gaming Mic further extend the functionality of a pair of headphones that already tailor the sound to your own hearing with incredible results.

This was somewhat the case with the Nuraphones, as they claim to be able to personalise the sound to your exact hearing. We’ll explain how it works and whether it’s any good.

Nuraphone: Design & Build

At this price, you’d expect excellent build quality and we’re impressed with the product on offer here. The Nuraphones have a stealthy black style – only one colour option here – and is well-made.

The stainless steel headband seamlessly meets the silicone which provides padding on top of your head and the same is true on the aluminium earcups that leave one edge without anodising for a flash of silver.

Although the Nuraphones look great, they’re not the most comfortable headphones around.

You might have noticed the usual design so these are both over- and in-ear headphones. We’ll explain why later but the result is a rather odd sensation. Putting the headphones over your ears while locating the in-ear part is tricky but something you get used to. Sadly, the I’m-being-probed feeling rarely goes away.

The bigger problem is getting them to be in the right position to provide the right seal for both sound (this is very important with the tech involved here) and comfort. There’s a combination of things relating to this issue.

Cleverly, the in-ear part sits on a cone that loosens up when pushed into the main earcup, but the tip is one-size-fits-all and you might find it simply won’t fit your ear canal. It’s possible to get them in the right place after some tweaking but the ear cups move on the headband rail too easily and the weight means they often pull down on the in-ear part – and that’s sitting still at a desk, let alone walking along the street.

We’ve also found the Nuraphones a little hot after a while despite tiny tesla valves aiming to move air through the ear cup. There’s a 30-day money back guarantee so it’s worth trying them out for yourself.

Over the development of the Nuraphones, the company has added various features – mostly asked for by backers.

This includes touch-sensitive controls on the outside of the earcup where you see the Nura logo. They’re capacitive so don’t work well in the rain.

When they’re working – not when connected via cable which is a shame – they’re pretty handy and you can customise the tap and double-tap shortcuts via the Nura app. Each tap provides a slight but noticeable thud, so you know when your taps are registered. They are very sensitive, which is great for control, but not when you need to adjust the fit of the earcups – there have been plenty of mispresses when making minor fit adjustments.

Nura has developed a proprietary connection for charging and wired connectivity, and while this might seem a pain, it’s what enables the headphones to support all kinds of (optional) cables including USB-C and Lightning. This way no device or platform is favoured.

Nuraphone: Sound quality

The Nuraphones are much more than a standard pair of headphones. They contain technology that means the sound can be tuned for your hearing – typically headphones have a set profile that can’t be changed.

Like eyesight, we all have different hearing so the same sound will be received differently to two different people. This is down to various things like the shape of your ears or whether you’ve spent a bit too long raving next to speakers without earplugs.

Your personal profile is created when you first use the headphones and the app will take you through the process. In a nutshell the Nuraphones play a range of tones and listen to the response so it knows what frequencies you’re more or less sensitive to.

From there onwards you have your own sound profile, like the audio version of getting a tailored suit. You get an image to represent it which is the frequency range rolled into a circle. We got a few slightly different results when recalibrating but it hasn’t made a huge difference to the sound.

It’s easy to be sceptical about this kind of thing – we haven’t been overly impressed with HTC’s USonic headphones which do a similar thing – but the Nuraphones are nothing short of a revelation. Bear in mind that the generic profile can’t be compared to headphones of a similar price.

The Nuraphones sound ridiculously good, providing an expansive and detailed sound across all frequencies. The on- and in-ear design also means there are two seals from the outside world, and therefore isolation is brilliant.

That dual design is also responsible for the way these headphones sound. While the in-ear section provides a large chunk of what you hear, they don’t handle the low-end. Instead, bass is handled by larger drivers in the ear cups. The small in-ear drivers can concentrate on doing less well, rather than trying to do everything.

Since your ear is sealed off from the earbud, the bass drivers provide a unique sensation. It’s like having subwoofers strapped to your head so you feel, rather than hear a lot of the bass frequencies. Drums sound tangible and bass in electronic music is simply another level.

With Immersion Mode, you can even adjust how much the bass drivers are doing in the app, all the way up to ‘front row’ which is really just for demonstrating what the Nuraphones can do. Find your setting and leave it is the suggestion and you won’t be disappointed.

The combination of in-ear and bass drivers results in a sound that at first is likely to make you smile or even laugh because it’s that impressive. Music sounds more real and live compared to other headphones.

There’s also active noise cancellation on offer – something many consumers are looking for in a pair of headphones. Its active noise cancelling (ANC) so can block out what’s happening around you using microphones on the outside.

The Nuraphone design has good passive noise isolation but ANC is a welcome addition and it works pretty well. It’s not quite to the level of Bose, though, and you need to head into the settings menu of the app to switch it off unless you customise the tap controls to toggle it manually.

As part of the noise-cancelling system, there’s also a Social Mode (more commonly known as passthrough or environmental noise mode) that, with a quick toggle, lets in some of the sound around you so you can have a conversation or make sure you don’t miss an announcement at the airport.

It works well most of the time and is a quick way to hear what’s happening around you, especially if you set one of the tap controls to toggle it. The music volume drops and you’ll hear a somewhat exaggerated version of the world around you. If you’re listening at higher volume, you might just want to take the headphones off, especially if you want to have a conversation with someone.

Back to sound quality and the difference between the basic profile and your personalised one is night and day. And if you’re still dubious, set them up for a friend and listen to their profile – unless they have very similar hearing to you, you’ll prefer your own and even be able to pick it out in a blind test.

There’s also a feature where the Nuraphones can recognise who is wearing them. It’s pretty cool but doesn’t always work, in which case it will revert to the last-known user. This feature can be switched off in the app if you don’t like it.

The sensor also means it knows when you take them off, automatically pausing your music like the Bowers & Wilkins PX. However, we haven’t found it as reliable as the competition.

There’s also a bunch of small but useful features like an offline mode so you can make adjustments without having a data connection, spoken battery level (also for charging), impressive voice call quality and Bluetooth QuickSwitch so you can connect to multiple devices at once.

Battery life is very impressive. You’ll get up to 20 hours from a charge depending how much you’re using Immersion Mode. Even with that set reasonably high, we haven’t found the headphones running out of power very often. They will go into a low-power mode automatically when taken off.

Nuraphone: The ultimate gaming headset?

The audio prowess, and particularly the powerful bass effects, lends itself well to gaming – after all, gamers need powerful bass and detailed soundscapes to create an immersive gaming experience, whether you’re wandering through the post-apocalyptic streets of Seattle in The Last of Us Part II or running from a barrage of bullets in Call of Duty Warzone.

You have always been able to use Nuraphone for single-player gaming, thanks to the 3.5mm cable, but the built-in mics aren’t quite of a high enough quality for use in multiplayer gaming, especially at a competitive level where you need to communicate clearly with your teammates. That’s where the new Gaming Mic accessory comes in.

The accessory is a simple one; it’s a 3.5mm cable with an integrated boom mic that sits just below the connection port on the right earcup, and there’s in-line controls for volume (providing granular volume control) and a quick way to mute your mic – perfect for when you want to moan about that one person on your team that dies within seconds of the game starting.

The mic itself is positioned on an adjustable arm, allowing you to find the sweet spot for your individual setup, and crucially, it’s crisp and clear. It’s more than enough for multiplayer gameplay, with no complaints from teammates when using the Nuraphone and Gaming Mic combo to chat via Discord and say hello to fellow travellers in No Man’s Sky.  

The combination of the impressive personalised audio performance and a great-sounding boom mic is most welcome, and although it’s more than most people would like to spend on a gaming headset, it is an incredible experience.

Plus, you’ll still get to use Nuraphone as a standard pair of high-end cans when not gaming, and how many gaming headsets can you say that about?

Nuraphone: Price

At £349/$399 for a pair, the Nuraphones sit in the high-end of the headphone market (before you start getting into audiophile sets). They’re expensive but there are plenty of similar headphones that cost around this much or more.

You can buy them directly from Nura and Amazon. Included in the box is a handy soft-touch carry case, different size eartips to find the right fit, a USB charging cable and a USB-to-3.5mm cable too.

If you want to go for the Nuraphone with Gaming Mic combo, that’ll set you back £369.99/$419.99 for both the headphones and microphone – offering a £30/$30 discount compared to buying separately – but if you’ve already got Nuraphone headphones, you can pick up the Gaming Mic accessory for £49.99/$49.99. It’s available exclusively via Nura – for now, anyway.

NuraNow

Nura also has a subscription option for those wanting the latest tech when it arrives. NuraNow costs from £9.99, US$9.99, or AUS$10 per month and gets you more than just a pair of Nuraphone headphones. You also get an Analog cable, a warranty and other membership perks like offers and event invites.

There is an upfront payment on the cheapest plan of £80 but it’s still the most affordable over a two-year period. There are two other options though, one with a higher monthly cost but a lower upfront and one with no upfront cost at all.

More importantly, NuraNow members will get “a hardware refresh or an option to acquire the latest and greatest product offering from Nura every 24-months.” You don’t even have to give back the products you have unless you cancel your membership.

Over two years, the cheapest plan will cost you £319 vs the £349 one-off price. Find out more here.

Check out the best headphones you can buy in our ranked chart.

Verdict

We were a bit suspicious about the claims made by Nura and its technology but the Nuraphone offer incredible personal sound that has to be heard to be believed. Not only that, but the dual-driver setup means bass is out of this world and – crucially – controllable to your liking.

Handy touch buttons, good battery life, aptX HD and support for a range of connections all add to the appeal. The downside is that they’re not that comfortable over longer periods of use, which detracts from the overall experience.

Handy features like cable switching, and accessories like the Gaming Mic, making these headphones an even better buy, as does the NuraNow subscription option.

Specs
Nuraphone: Specs

Dual over-in & in-ear design
Personalised sound
Active noise cancelling
Touch senstive buttons
Bluetooth aptX HD
Universal Wired (Lightning, USB-C, micro-USB, analog
Up to 20 hours battery
190x170x88mm
329g



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