These Aussie-founded studio headphones first entered into the collective consciousness just a year ago with the launch of a Kickstarter campaign. And not just any campaign either, as the Nuraphone turned out to be Australia’s largest funded Kickstarter campaign ever. Quite the accolade indeed.
So what made it so popular? Well, our guess is the premise that the Nuraphone can be tuned to suit the hearing of the listener, creating the most bespoke listening experience delivered by a pair of headphones ever. While the cynics out there would be rather dubious of such a claim, it is a case of hearing is believing.
Such technology isn’t quite ‘plug & play’ as there’s a degree of setup here. Armed with the Nura app (iOS and Android), you are guided through the profiling process, which will require you to be in a silent environment for around a minute.
A signal is fed from the speaker driver and a tiny microphone then measures the shape of your ear canal by calculating the time it takes for the signal to bounce back. Your detailed profile will tell you where you’re hearing is at its most sensitive and the Nuraphones will be tuned to make the most out of your unique signature. It’s all very impressive stuff and no expense has been spared with ultra-sensitive, NASA-grade microphones deployed for the job.
Trying to pit the Nuraphones against its rivals isn’t easy as there isn’t really anything else quite like this on the market. In terms of format, they are both in-ear and over-ear (trademarked as inova), they’re also Bluetooth aptX HD compatible and come with a dizzying array of wiring options, with the trusty old 3.5mm jack and USB-C among those included in the box.
Overall, the Nuraphones are combination of metal and a lot of silicon. The steel band, softened by a silicon pad, grips to the head very well, while the outer driver, or ear cup portion is an aluminium shell, with comfort and isolation provided by yet more silicon. Combined with the inner ear ‘buds’, also decked in silicon, the Nuras provide excellent sound isolation.
Adjustment for the head band is not dissimilar to the Sennheiser Momentum and there is plenty of adjustment for the buds too, with a large degree of movement to suit all ear shapes. The tiny appendages aren’t required to be fully inserted into the ear canal as it is more of a ‘one size fits all’ type affair and while it may feel a little weird at first, you become accustomed to them very quickly.
While we’re on the subject of design, it would be rude of us not to mention the packaging. Cracking open the cardboard box and you’re met with a grey pod, almost like a Kinder Egg and you feel as if you have to crack it open to enjoy the toy inside. The grey packaging is, in fact, made from potato. Within the spud-like enclosure is a hardshell case that is fastened with some strong magnets, so your Nuraphones are easily accessible and away from harm. We must say, for a product and company that is just two years in the making, everything seems to be covered and well considered too.
Profile of a serial listener
Each ear cup features a programmable touch capacitive button, where the logo is located and a wide variety of controls are at your disposal including playback functions, toggling between profiles and activating the immersion functionality. These can be tweaked within the Nura app. Selecting the amount for immersion is also located within the app and stored to your profile.
There’s almost no point us telling you ‘how well they sound’, as they’re going to sound great to you, no matter what. The profiling is voiced in a such a way to sound very pleasing, with a crisp and detailed top-end, slightly scooped mids and haptic drivers that deliver more than enough low-end to offer plenty of depth and immersion. Of course how this is achieved differs with each user, but stacked up against other headphones at a similar price point, they perform admirably.
You may find yourself going back over old mixes and making some tweaks. Even though the Nuraphones fit firmly into the ‘listening’ category of headphones, they do prove useful as an alternative monitoring source in the studio. Perfect for those hasty club mixes if you're missing a sub-woofer in your speaker setup.
Cycle between the un-profiled setting and any other user profile (up to three can be stored on each pair of ‘phones) and you will notice a huge difference in the sound. So much so, that listening to other user profiles just sounds plain wrong. You may find yourself toggling between your hearing profile and the standard setting quite often at the beginning, just to hear the difference, although the novelty does wear off eventually.
There a couple of sticking points to such a feature-rich and technologically advanced pair of headphones. The touch capacitive buttons sometime feel a little slow to react and given their position, can be accidentally triggered when adjusting the headband. Also, they are disabled automatically when using the cables, we would’ve liked this to be optional.
Moving on to the fit and we have a slight issue with the silicon cups and despite Nura’s best efforts, things still get a little heated. Some very ingenious engineering has gone into keeping airflow whilst creating an isolated system. To create a decent flow of air through the headphone they utilised one of Nikola Tesla’s lesser known inventions; the Tesla Valve. It’s essentially a one-way passive valve that will only allow air to flow one way, so with two valves, air can be pumped in and out of the headphone cup using the energy created by the movement of the driver.
While this is one way to retain sound isolation and overcome overheating, we still find the silicon itself to become a bit slimy with extended use, especially in warmer environments. Optional covers for the cups would be great, a soft velour, or even leather may not be as effective for isolation, but perfect for comfort.
The Nuraphones have an automatic power on feature, so they will instantly turn off once removed and you’re greeted with a little message when putting them on. A nice touch, although there can be some delay for the bluetooth to kick in. That said, such an energy saving feature is a welcome one, with Nura claiming a, very respectable, 20 hour battery life.
All the setting up and reliance on the app, maybe a tad annoying, but you will only have to do it once and having the ability to store three profiles is a nice touch and they are stored on the headset itself. Swapping between multiple devices can be a bit sticky as you will have to unpair the headphones from the previous device.
The seemingly invasive in-ear portion to the Nuraphones can be off putting to some, but stick with it and you will be rewarded with a truly immersive listening experience, in combination with the haptic drivers. There’s no snake oil here, hearing really is believing.
Check out the Nuraphones website for more info and how to buy.