Aussies design a headphone that adapts to your hearing

Some headphones are about bringing the music “the way the artist intended”, but a new Australian headphone concept is about matching your ears to the music.

It started as a basic idea, when visiting PhD student at the University of California at Berkeley realised that the perfect headphones just didn’t exist. Just like a song popping into your head that you can’t get out, Kyle Slater realised there must be a solution to the problem that we all hear differently.

“Finding a pair of headphones that matches your hearing is hard – and sometimes impossible,” said Slater.

Matching an individual’s hearing is practically impossible because we all have varying hearing ranges and our ears have all undergone different treatments over the years.

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The 10 year old you likely has a different hearing range to the 25 year old you and the 40 year old you, and depending on the sort of trauma you’ve accidentally or inadvertently pushed onto the cells in your ear, the hearing may be vastly different from where you think it should be.

As such, getting earphones that positively return a comfortable audio stream that can be interpreted by the brain isn’t an easy task. All of our headphone reviews are subjective — as are most reviews — but products where your hearing is totally unique demonstrates this better than most other fields, and while we can tell you that one pair sounds great and another shallow, your ears and your experience may dictate otherwise.

But Slater came to a solution for this, and after meeting another engineer — Luke Campbell — the two devised a solution: what if you could put a hearing measurement machine inside a pair of headphones and get the headphones to subsequently match themselves to the person’s hearing?

The idea was born, and the “Nura” headphones came to life.

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“Nura is all about providing the richest experience of the music you love. Because we all hear very differently [and] it’s important our headphones match our hearing,” said Slater, CEO of Nura.

“We’ve made the first headphones that automatically work out your sensitivity to various frequencies of sound and fill in your musical black spots so you hear all the nuance and detail of the original recording.”

Sound measurement in the Nura relates back to your ears, and once the measurement has been made, your profile is stored on the headphones, allowing you to take them to another device, making the Nura a pair of headphones that need an app to setup, but are able to be used without one regardless.

Image courtesy of the University of Melbourne

Image courtesy of the University of Melbourne

When used with an app, Nura will measure and adapt to your hearing every 30 seconds, attaching to the theory that you’re always listening to the music the way your ears think you’re hearing things, which is also the way your brain is hearing things.

But it’s not just about a measurement gadget inside the headphones, because there are devices that get close to this. In fact, HTC’s recent “10” smartphone included the ability to track and measure hearing to better match what you were listening to.

Nura has also provided a different design for the headphones, and one that may actually throw some people a bit of a curve.

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In these headphones, you’ll find both an in-ear phone for you to push into your ear and a circumaural casing to slip around your ears, and this doesn’t just provide isolation, but also a separation of sound.

“The in-ear delivers sound,” Slater told GadgetGuy, while “the outer ear delivers the beat. You can really feel it.”

But even though you can feel it, the people around you can’t hear it, with Nura able to cut down on excess noise thanks to the bulk of the music going through the in-earphone.

Slater told GadgetGuy that Nura offers “isolation that goes both ways”, with “double the passive isolation so you don’t hear noise”.

“Even when you take them off they are very quiet,” he said.

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In its present stage, Nura has been pushed through the University of Melbourne’s Accelerator Program or “MAP” for short, with the director of the program calling the Nura “revolutionary”.

“Throughout MAP15, Nura was able to develop its first prototypes and gain a far better understanding of their market,” said Rohan Workman, Director for the Melbourne Accelerator Program.

“Although Kyle and Luke are experts in hearing science they still had a lot to learn about business which they picked up like fish to water. By the end of MAP, Nura had a working prototype, had contact with numerous interested investors (including Dolby Digital who they met during our Silicon Valley trip) and were strongly placed to enter the Hax Accelerator which they’ve done.”

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And now, the team finds the Nura project in crowdfunding, with Kickstarter the place you can go to find the Nura headphones ahead of release next year.

Only a few days into the Kickstarter campaign, Nura has already surpassed its funding need, beating the $100,000 minimum with almost two months left until the campaign is finished.

The aforementioned pricing can be found here, with $249 USD netting early buyers a Nura headphone ahead of the expected $399 pricing when the headphones are ready this time next year.

As for local pricing, Slater only talked in US dollars, continually pointing us to the $399 USD expected recommended retail price, suggesting to GadgetGuy that a local release would see the Nura reach closer to $500 or $600, much like Parrot’s Zik headphones.

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But will it be worth it?

“Nura knows who you are, and how you hear,” said Slater. “They sonically mould to become your perfect headphones.”

If that’s the style of sound you’re after, we’d say so.