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This article was published on November 2, 2021

Should you get earbuds with ‘personalized’ sound?

Pitting the nuratrue vs. the Apple AirPods 3

Should you get earbuds with ‘personalized’ sound?
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

The days of arguing about whether you should have a pair of wireless earbuds are over. The results are in: you need some.

Over the past few years, the quality of true wireless earbuds has skyrocketed and you’re spoilt for choice. I mean, just think of the quality of things like Apple’s AirPods Pro, Sony’s WF-1000XM4, and Google’s Pixel Buds.

These are miraculous bits of technology that, despite their ubiquity, still feel kinda magical. But… we can do more.

If you’re wanting to go beyond the standard features you get with most true wireless earbuds, you have an option: personalized sound.

What the hell is personalized sound?

To put it another way, these are headphones that are tuned to your hearing.

It works as such: sounds are blasted into your ear canals, these are analyzed when they bound back, and then the headphones’ output is tailored to these results. (If you’d like more info on how it works, go here).

This is different to adaptive EQ — which is now quite common. This feature is to make your music sound the same no matter where you are (think of inside a bathroom and outdoors). Personalized sound is about creating a profile that’s specific to your hearing.

The company most famous for producing this sort of gear is called nura — you can look at our previous coverage of the over-ear nuraphone and the in-ear nuraloop.

What’s this article about?

Well, I want to have a closer look at whether getting a pair of earbuds with personalized sound is worth it. To do so, I’m going to look at two specific types of earbuds to give this piece some structure:

  • The nuratrue, which retail for $200
  • The AirPods 3 (AKA third generation AirPods), which retail for $180

The reason for this is to compare the nuratrue to a more conventional type of earbuds, especially ones that are popular and have just been released.

How will it be structured?

In my mind, you can split the discussion over personalized audio into two points:

  • Sound
  • Functionality

The reason for this will become clear as the piece progresses. So, let’s begin with the first point:

Is sound the most important thing to you when choosing earbuds?

This is the big meaty one.

I’ll put it simply. If you’re going to be using your earbuds predominately for listening to music, a pair of personalized earbuds like the nuratrue are a great shout.

One of the arguments against personalized sound is that you’re not getting accurate sound reproduction. What you’re hearing has been fiddled with so a sense of subtlety has been lost.

This is true, but I believe this isn’t such a big problem with true wireless earbuds. Generally, you’re not using this type of headphone if you’re after accurate audio. Instead, you want them to be exciting: and that’s what the nuratrue achieve.

This isn’t to say the AirPods 3 sound bad (they’re always surprisingly good), but they don’t sparkle as much as the nuratrue. (Side note: I really wish they’d introduced tips for the AirPods 3, as the lack of isolation hinders their sound.)

To sum this up: if you’re solely in the earbuds game for music listening, then a pair of personalized earbuds like the nuratrue are something you should try.

the nuratrue true wireless earbuds
Here are a picture of the nuratrue for your enjoyment.

Is functionality what you value most from your earbuds?

Then, friends, I’d have to suggest going with a pair of earbuds that match your phone.

One of the reasons people keep coming back to the AirPods (myself includeD) is how seamlessly they link up into the Apple ecosystem — and the third generation are no exception.

The same is true with many other headphones created by phone manufacturers, such as the Google Pixel Buds. Unfortunately, as good as the nuratrue are, they just simply aren’t as integrated as something like the AirPods.

This doesn’t mean they don’t function switching between devices and such, just that if you want your earbuds to be a seamless business tool, there are better options.

apple airpods 3 case
And this damn third generation AirPods always fall out of my ears.

Rounding this all up

Over the years, I’ve become a big fan of personalized audio — these headphones deliver an audio experience that’s truly exciting.

Yet, I’ve found that I tend to use my earbuds almost as a business tool, switching between different devices throughout the day, rather than just jamming to music.

But you know what the best thing to do is if you can’t decide? Get both types of earbuds.

Yes, you could choose to either side with hardware like the nuratrue and have glittering sound, or go for something more ecosystem embedded with the Apple AirPods 3, but why choose one or the other?

Well, money of course.

Whatever your decision, hopefully this little guide illuminated your selection decision.

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