Price (RRP): $499
I started hearing about the Nuraphone Bluetooth headphones from several sources weeks before I was asked to review them. I confess I was sceptical as to their claims. But it turns out that these Australian-designed headphones deliver a superb musical performance. And do quite a bit more besides.
Now let’s jump straight into the most obvious visual difference between the Nuraphone headphones and all others. They are over-ear headphones, but also in-ear earphones. They suspend silicone tips on a kind of soft diaphragm inside the cups of the headphones. You put the cups over your ears; the tips press gently into your ear openings. You don’t – can’t – jam them in as you do with many earbuds. They just rest there. But they are soft enough, and shaped just so, that they tend to provide a reasonable acoustic seal. A secondary seal, that is, because the cups around the ears provide another acoustic seal.
In each earpiece are two drivers. The earbud part uses a 15mm driver, while the outer part uses a 40mm driver. The earcups have a closed back design.
Another visual difference: no lights, no apparent controls. There’s a (seemingly proprietary) socket on the right earcup for the included USB charge cable. It turns out that there are two touch-sensitive controls, one on each cup. Through the app you can assign one or two functions to each. They respond with haptic feedback, like the home key on an iPhone.
Also available, at extra cost, are four optional cables: analogue audio, Lightning, Micro-B USB and USB Type-C. The last three are for feeding a wired digital signal to the headphones. Each is available for $29.95, except for the Lightning cable which is $49.95. That one has inline controls.
To provide the highest quality Bluetooth connection with at least some phones, it supports the aptX HD codec. That’s also backwards compatible with aptX. Both provide higher quality audio than Bluetooth’s standard SBC codec. Does your phone support either version of aptX? Check here.
Apple iOS devices use AAC for higher than SBC quality audio, not aptX. The Nuraphone headphones support that as well, for the best that an iPhone can deliver.
The headphones come in a substantial and robust case with a magnetic clasp. Nura says that a charge of their battery is good for twenty hours. I’m prepared to accept their word for it because I’m still waiting. After many hours of use, the Nuraphones are still reporting a 60% charge.
(An update. I wrote that a couple of days ago. Since then I’ve listened for at least another four hours, and they now report a 50% charge.)
Now, here’s where things get very tricky. The headphones adjust their sound so that it sounds right for you. I confess that I was very leery of this. It seemed a little like black magic. Nura says that it uses otoacoustic emissions to determine your hearing. This is an actual thing. It is used to test the hearing of infants who, of course, can’t respond to questions.
Sound is sent into your ears where it excites the various moving parts; most importantly, the cilia. Those are the tiny hairs in your ears which vibrate in sympathy with sound. That’s how you hear. But back in 1948, a scientist predicted that they’d make a tiny noise in response. This was confirmed thirty years later. The Nuraphone headphones make a test signal and then measure those otoacoustic emissions. They can determine from them the characteristics of your hearing and adjust the frequency output of the headphones to take that into account.