Before we start the review, the first question to ask is what is the Nuraphone and what makes it special? Well, the Nuraphone is a set of wireless headphones quite unlike anything you’ve seen before: they’re both headphones and earphones. And they analyse your hearing to tailor the sound to your ears.

They might appear to be the sort of throwaway gadget you’d see advertised in the back of a magazine, but they’re actually some of the best-sounding headphones you’ll find for their price.

Design and comfort

At first glance, the Nuraphone look like any other headphones. Metal over-ear cups and a black finish aren’t made to stand out. 

Turn them around though, and you’ll see silicone tips that poke out of each cup. The units are lightly spring-loaded too, in order to fit different ear and head shapes. This is apt for a set of headphones whose philosophy is based on the customised experience tailored for you. 

The fit and feel is unusual, and will take some getting used to. I wear in-ear-monitors most of the time and as invasive as they come, the sensation fades after a while as they settle in. 

Here, things are different. The Nuraphone’s tips are pushed lightly into your ears, similar to the way a set of headphone earcups are pushed into your head by the headband. The tips are rooted to the cups, not your ears. The result is a feeling that is harder to ignore, perhaps because as you walk around, the earpieces are actually moving ever so slightly. 

They’re not uncomfortable, but I’m certain that it’s a sensation that needs some time to get accustomed to. It’s a shame then that there’s no way to test drive them, given you have to buy them directly from Nura. 

Elsewhere, the Nuraphone’s design is much less contentious. They have silicone outer pads – another bizarre choice, but one that works. The silicone is soft and doesn’t cause any excess sweating because only a thin band of it actually touches your skin. In addition, the cups use a clever venting system to keep air flowing. 

Do not mistake these for open-back headphones though. The Nuraphone have some of the best sound isolation I’ve heard from a full-size pair of headphones. 

Great ANC headphones, such as the Bose QuietComfort 35, are better at eliminating low-frequency sound, but the Nuraphone perform well across the whole frequency spectrum. It isn’t magic, just good design. How it works is that there are two separate silicone barriers between your ear canals and the outside. 

Build quality is very good too. The headband is made of steel and the cups are anodised aluminium. Compared to other headphones, the Nuraphone appear to be the higher-end of the quality spectrum. The bevelling of the cups inner ring is a particularly nice touch, revealing the silvery aluminium beneath.

Wireless and sound customisation

The Nuraphone are Bluetooth headphones, but it is possible to attach a wire. Since the one socket on the headphones is used for both audio and power, Nura uses a proprietary plug. In the custom-designed box, you’ll discover plugs for various purposes: Lightning, USB-C, micro-USB and 3.5mm, alongside a separate USB-A cable for charging. The Lightning cable also has a three-button remote. 

Although the headphones are quite comprehensive, there are few features lacking. There’s no way to determine the battery level – not even an LED to let you know the Nuraphone are on. 

Put them on and you’ll hear a slightly odd ‘welcome back, Dave’ (where ‘Dave’ is your name) message through the earpieces. This is how you know they’re not dead. I’d prefer something more traditional.

The Nuraphone’s controls are unusual too. Each metal disc that joins the cups to the headband also doubles as a capacitive ‘button’, which can be programmed to switch between bass modes, turn the custom profile on or off, or play/pause. 

There’s haptic feedback when you tap too, which feels like a motionless click. This control style earns points for ‘cool’ factor, but none for practicality. You can’t alter the volume or select tracks, and if it starts raining, these controls stop working. 

Wireless performance is very good though, and the Nuraphone support aptX HD. This gets you near-lossless sound quality when attached to an Android 8.0 phone. 

The most important part of the Nuraphone is their sound customisation.  To get started, Nura’s setup app pipes through a series of test tones. Microphones in the earpieces then receive your ears’ reactions to these tones. The process only takes a couple of minutes. Nura says it’s similar to the automated otoacoustic emissions test performed on babies to check their hearing. 

The result is an individualised sound profile, complete with a neat digital representation of your hearing, which looks like a little piece of artwork. It’s rather pretty, but bears no obvious relation to how well you hear. The app then lets you switch between your profile and a generic one. Unfortunately, since the generic one sounds worse than any pair of headphones I’ve ever used, it isn’t really a useful comparison. 

I convinced a colleague to have their ears profiled and, sure enough, the resulting sound signature was distinctly different to mine. Theirs had less prominent treble and an altered mid-range curve. They preferred their profile; I preferred mine. The Nuraphone’s sound customisation is the real deal. 

The app also lets you turn on a feature called Immersion, which is effectively a bass enhancer. These headphones combine drivers in the earpieces for the highs, with larger, subwoofer-style drivers in the cups. The Immersion effect is applied by the over-ear drivers. 

You can choose the level of this effect. At maximum settings it’s painfully pronounced and quite an assault on the ears. It reminded me of the Skullcandy Crusher, but with better bass quality. The Immersion effect might suit bassheads or movie-watchers, but you’ll get the most balanced sound with it set on very low – or turned off. 

At 15-20 hours, battery life is fair but only half that of the longest-lasting Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones.

Lifestyle features galore

The headline feature is the addition of noise cancellation. The Nuraphone promises to help eliminate low frequencies. This isn’t hugely effective, but that’s not really a criticism, since the Nuraphone’s passive noise insulation was already very good. Still, every little helps. 

There is also a ‘social’ mode, which offers ambient passthrough so you can listen to the outside world without removing your headphones. It’s a feature I first encountered on the Samsung Galaxy Buds recently, and it’s good to see more headphones adopting it.

Sound Quality

As a result of the sound customisation, your experience may vary from mine. However, the sound signature that the Nuraphone aims for is perfection. 

I’ve compared these headphones with around 10 rivals’ pairs, and the tailored tuning smoothes and emphasises parts of the mids and treble in a way that’s immediately appealing. My profile sounds most similar to the Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7, but with the uncompromising hardness in the high mids and treble softened, so the sound isn’t tiring. 

In my profile, there’s greater bite to the treble than the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0. I’m often a fan of slightly brighter-sounding headphones, something the profiling process appears to have identified. 

Your ears do bed into slight variances in tuning fairly quickly though. What separates the very good from the best at this level are elements such as dynamics, separation and soundstage scale. The Nuraphone are great at all three. With a large driver and an in-ear driver working as a team, these headphones offer a sound width that’s on the level of full-size headphones, not earphones. Plus, unless you use the Immersion mode at a high setting, there’s no sense of dislocation between the two drivers. 

Unplugging the in-ear part, you can listen to what the outer driver actually does. It deals solely with bass and lower mids, leaving the treble to the driver that sits in your ear canal. 

The Bass is rich and luxurious, without any boominess or scene-stealing. It’s also the bass that appears to change the least between profiles, perhaps because it’s the mids and treble that have a greater impact on the character of the sound. I wouldn’t call these studio mastering-level headphones, since they aim for a mainstream sound signature with slightly elevated bass presence. However, among street headphones they’re very tasteful indeed. 

I haven’t found anything that I dislike about the Nuraphone’s sound. They’re a delight, the combo of an in-ear driver and outer bass driver also has an impact on the presentation of the central channel, which invariably features a lot of content that falls within the in-ear driver’s remit. Vocals end up more centralised, and a little smaller-sounding than when delivered through the best conventional over-ear headphones.

However, thanks to the great integration of the drivers, this can actually help to improve the perception of the scale of the overall soundstage.

Final Verdict

The Nuraphone isa bold set of headphones, which go beyond simply capitalising on current trends in the market. Their tech sounds like the stuff of fantasy – but it’s real, and it works. 

Aside from the bizarre in-ear/over-ear setup and the exposed capacitive controls just aren’t a good idea in a country where it regularly rains, the Nuraphone is some of the best-sounding street headphones you’ll find. 

This product is a winner of the Asia Tech Awards for the Best Wireless Headphones Award. Find out more about this award on our official website!

Stuff says... 

Asia Tech Award Winner: Nuraphone review

The Nuraphone feature sci-fi tech, tuning the sound to suit your ears.
Good Stuff 
Ear-charming sound
Truly advanced EQ tech
Excellent isolation
Good wireless performance
Bad Stuff 
Wearing it takes a bit of getting used to
Controls have a learning curve