Nuraphone hands-on review

Do you hear what I hear? Nope. And these headphones adapt for that

The Nuraphones probe your ears to customize their sound, and the results are remarkable.
The Nuraphones probe your ears to customize their sound, and the results are remarkable.
The Nuraphones probe your ears to customize their sound, and the results are remarkable.

Highs

  • Machine learning personalizes sound quality
  • App is easy to use
  • Excellent audio quality

Lows

  • Finding a comfortable fit can be difficult

No matter how good a pair of headphones is, and no matter how much care goes into the engineering and design, the simple truth is your own hearing capabilities play a huge role in your experience with them. Nura’s Nuraphone headphones have been crafted with the aim of adapting audio playback to your own hearing, incorporating novel technology and a hybrid in-ear-meets-over-ear design for better sound.

Performance

The big draw here is the ability to adjust the sound equalization to your hearing. The Nuraphone use otoacoustics emissions (OAE), a phenomenon produced within the cochlea — the organ located in the inner ear that changes waves entering the ear into the signals sent to the brain — to “learn” and adjust to your hearing ability. The brand claims the headphones then sonically “mold” the sound signature for the best possible sound quality.

The process is interesting: The Nuraphone’s drivers play a range of different tones, sending sound to the cochlea, wherein three tiny bones vibrate and convert the sound into signals that are sent to the brain. But the vibration also reverberates back through the ear canal to the eardrum, which acts as a “speaker,” emitting those tiny OAEs. The Nuraphones pick up those OAEs, and then an app adjusts the playback EQ (the app will be available for both iOS and Android devices). This information is then saved on the app, which can store up to three separate profiles. Once that data is stored, the headphones are said to able to automatically recognize who is wearing the headphones.

While the process sounds technical, in practice it couldn’t be simpler. All that you need to do is put on the Nuraphones, connect them to your device, and download the app. After a couple simple on-screen prompts, the sonic molding process begins. In total, it lasted about one minute. Once complete, the app begins playing a song, and gives you to option of swapping between the “normal” unchanged sound, and the personalized EQ.

Their big selling point – the ability to re-tune the headphones to your hearing – works impeccably.

The change is remarkable. Out of the box, the Nuraphones sound decent enough, though a little gutless. Once the EQ had been modified to suit our hearing, the true quality of the Nuraphones revealed itself. The bass is wonderfully detailed, and the overall mix felt rounded and comfortable. For our ears, it was a massive upgrade, and the difference was noticeable not just between the Nuraphone’s own playback modes, but when compared to other headphones, too.

On the connection side of things, users have a few options: The Nuraphones can handle both wired and wireless connections, supporting Bluetooth with AptX and AptX HD for Android users, and features a 20-hour battery life when used wirelessly.

Wired connectivity includes standard 3.5mm connection as well as Apple Lightning, USB-A, USB-C, and micro-USB connection.

We used the Nuraphones almost exclusively over Bluetooth, and never experienced any interruptions, distortion, or drop outs.

A USB-A cord is included in the retail package, while other cables can be purchased optionally. In addition to the Nuraphone and USB-A cable, the Nuraphone also ships with a magnetically sealed carrying case.

A software update since the headphones initially launched has enabled the Nuraphones to have ambient awareness and active noise-canceling modes, in addition to enabling buyers to set-up multi-press commands on the two touch buttons. We updated a pair of Nuraphones to the new software and were impressed with the new features. Though we wouldn’t put the noise reduction of the headphones on par with similarly priced noise-canceling options from Bose or Sony, they still noticiably reduced background noise in our busy open-air office.

Comfort and design

Performance isn’t the only noteworthy aspect of the Nuraphones. The headphones are designed as a hybrid between in-ear and over-ear headphones. According to Nura, this design channels midrange and treble frequencies to the inner-ear portion of the headphones, while the over-ear section delivers bass via physical vibration through your skin, which the company says prevents any one part of the mix overpowering another, and allows users to adjust the sound isolation through the app.

Nuraphone review lifestyle from back angle

From our time with them, we found the sound isolation to be nearly complete. However, the hybrid in- and over-ear design took some getting used to. The in-ear pieces are held in place with hard plastic that can be uncomfortable if not angled correctly. Unfortunately, we never found the perfect fit for us, but your mileage may vary – just like hearing, everyone’s ears and heads are shaped differently, so comfort is subjective. That said, we’d take a slightly more finicky fit with excellent sound over a comfortable yet-placid pair of headphones any day.

Conclusion

The Nuraphone’s big selling point – the ability to re-tune the headphones to your hearing – works impeccably. It’s simple, fast, and makes a surprising difference. They might not be the first headphones to do this, and we have some misgivings about the comfort, we can’t help but recommend checking them out. At $400, they are peeking into the more expensive end of headphones (though there are audiophile-grade models that are easily multiple times that price) but from our time with the Nuraphones, we have to say they definitely seem worth the asking price.

You can learn more about the Nuraphones at Nura’s official website.

Update: The company has enabled active noise cancelation and ambient awareness via a software update. By Parker Hall.

Music

Rapper Mac Miller has died at age 26

Rapper Mac Miller has died at age 26 of an apparent drug overdose, following a longtime struggle with substance abuse throughout his 20s. Miller was scheduled to begin a nationwide tour in October.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

Set your ears free with the best completely wireless earbuds

If you can't stand the tangle of cords, or you're just excited about completely wireless earbuds, you're going to need some help separating the wheat from the chaff. Our list serves up the best wireless earbuds around.
Home Theater

Don't wake the baby! How to connect headphones to a TV

Do you need to connect a pair of headphones to your TV? Our handy guide will show you how to hook up your headphones in a variety of ways, whether you're using wired headphones, wireless headphones, or gaming headsets.
Home Theater

Get the most boom for your buck with the best headphones under $100

Everybody wants a bargain, and this list has a bunch. For those looking for a solid set of headphones without spending a big stack of cash, this list is is your starting point. Check out our picks for the best headphones under $100.
Music

Here are the best internet radio stations for your listening pleasure

Even in the streaming era, radio stations get some of the best exclusives and curate some of the finest handpicked playlists around. Here are the best internet radio stations, for your listening pleasure.
Apple

OPINION: Apple’s new iPhones show off its best tech, and also its greed

We’re just as enamored by the new iPhones as the next person, but with fast charging an extra cost and the removal of the headphone dongle it feels like Apple is gouging us on accessories.
Music

A wealth of rich tunes: Cash in with the best songs about money

There may not be as many songs about money as there are songs about love, but it's a close second. If you're looking for a skrilla-inspired playlist, check out our picks for the best songs about money.
Music

Apple Music vs. Spotify: Which service is the streaming king?

Apple Music is giving Spotify a run for its money, but which service is best for you? In our Apple Music vs. Spotify showdown, we compare and contrast all we know about the two streaming music services.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.
Mobile

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Music

The best new music this week: Aphex Twin, Noname, and more

Are you looking for the best new music? Each week, we scour the internet to find the most compelling new releases. On tap this week: Fresh sounds from Aphex Twin, Noname, Black Belt Eagle Scout, The Goon Sax, and Slothrust.
Mobile

Google’s improvements to Sound Search will help it recognize songs better

Google has made some key improvements to how Sound Search works. By increasing the capacity of its machine learning algorithms, the company has made Sound Search faster and more accurate, especially in regards to more obscure songs.
Computing

Don't spend hundreds on Pro Tools or Logic. Try one of these free alternatives

Believe it or not, Pro Tools isn't the only digital audio workstation worth your time. Check out our picks for the best free recording software, whether you're looking for a lightweight app or a full-blown audio workstation. Updated meta…