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Nuraphone Review

PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
  • $399
Kickstarter projects can often end up being vapourware, never seeing the light of day, but that's not the case with Nura. These innovative new headphones are now on sale and make some big claims about unique features. Here's our Nuraphone review.


A lot of tech products make big claims about what they can do, especially it seems, with ones looking for crowdfunding. We've seen countless products over the years that fall short of those claims so we're normally pretty dubious.
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. 

Update: The Nura G2 software update has been released including improvements and new features. We've updated our review to reflect what they are like after the update.

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 grab the Nuraphones at a discount price thanks to Amazon Prime Day. They're just £261 saving you 25 percent.

Included in the box is a handy carry case that uses magnets instead of an awkward zip, a USB charging cable. The box itself is a rather neat biodegradable box made from potato starch.

This can be used plugged into a PC but you might also want to choose another cable, depending which device you're going to use them with primarily. They range from £14.95-34.95.

The issue at the moment, if you want to buy some, is that all 2017 stock is sold out so you'll be waiting until at least February 2018 to get some.
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 function of each. We did find the haptic feedback too loud but it was due to a pre-production model.

Now with the G2 app update, you can customise with double-taps giving much more control. The buttons are still very sensitive so are easily triggered when making an adjustment to the headband.

Another is that Bluetooth was added and the Nuraphones use Qualcomm's excellent aptX HD codec which provides great wireless performance. Otherwise those aforementioned optional cables are there.

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

FEATURES AND 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.

A small issue is that the Immersion Mode suddenly jumps when you move the slider past a certain point. We've even found this with a final production unit.

The Nura G2 update brings along a number of new features including small but useful things like an offline mode so you can make adjustments without having a data connection, spoken battery level (also for charging), improved voice calls and Bluetooth QuickSwtich so you can connect to multiple devices.
However, the main new addition is noise cancelling - something many consumers are looking for in a pair of headphones. It's 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.

As part of the noise cancelling system, there's a Social Mode, which can be toggled. This lets in some of the sound around you so you can have a conversation or make sure you don't miss an announcement.

It works well most of the time and is a quick way to hear what's happening around you if you set one of the buttons to toggle it. The music volume is dropped 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 hugely reliable.

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.

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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