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This article was published on June 19, 2020

The Nuraphone ‘hearing-tuned’ headphones are a lockdown blessing

Thank you for distracting me, friends

The Nuraphone ‘hearing-tuned’ headphones are a lockdown blessing
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.

One of the upsides of lockdown is that I spend pretty much all time at home. Which is good, because I like my house. And — importantly — it’s filled with a large amount of audio equipment, such as the Nuraphone — the flagship headphones from Nura.

To give a short introduction, the Nuraphone are an odd-looking pair of headphones that adapt the sound they produce based on your own hearing. It’s really fucking cool — and if you’re looking for more information on them on that front, I suggest you read this detailed and descriptive review from my colleague, Napier.

This piece is slightly different to that. Instead of a review, it’s about my journey with these strange, weird headphones, and how I’ve come to love them

The Nuraphone and me, a love story in two acts

I first got hold of the Nuraphone headphones in the summer of 2019. I’d heard from friends (and the internet) about the headphones that adapt to your hearing and I was desperate to give them a try.

If you don’t know how they work, the short story is this: you put the headphones on, connect them to an app, and then your hearing is “profiled.” It does this by playing a sound into you earholes, which is then reflected back to the headphones. The Nuraphone then analyze this and create a “sound profile.” In other words, it plays music in a way that’s customized for your own ears.

And it’s magical.

nuraphone sound profile
I don’t know what this says about my ears. I’m gonna say it’s a firm positive.

Songs feel bigger and more energized, richer and fuller — it really is one hell of an experience. Genuinely, I’ve not used a pair of headphones like them.

As great as they were though, life got in the way.

As much as I enjoy listening to music with the Nuraphone, they aren’t the easiest headphones to use as a daily driver. To use features (such as pause or play, or turn noise-canceling on or off), you need to touch these big buttons on the side. These are easy to accidentally brush against while you’re adjusting the cans to fit right — which is an annoyance.

There are also a few other problems I had with the Nuraphone, which I’ll quickly slam into bullet points because we’re not made of time:

  • While the weird combo over- and in-ear headphones makes the music sound good, they can feel a bit uncomfortable if you wear them throughout an entire workday
the nuraphone ear cup
Weird, right?
  • The noise-canceling makes my head feel strange after a couple of hours
  • The transparency mode isn’t as sophisticated as the AirPods Pro, meaning things like riding a bike while wearing them isn’t enjoyable
  • The Nuraphone don’t pack away particularly compactly, meaning the case is pretty big

None of these are huge deal-breakers, but they were enough that I couldn’t use the Nuraphone as my daily headphones — they just weren’t well-rounded enough.

the nuraphone headphones - 3
These have been intimate with my ears and face.

But the lockdown changed everything.

All the negatives were, well, negated. Since I didn’t have to go anywhere and spent the majority of my time in my flat, the Nuraphone headphones became this amazing escape. The way the headphones plugged my ears meant I could be jamming in my front room without a care in the world.

My girlfriend could watch TV or listen to music, and I’d be as happy as Larry, drinking a beer or having a spliff and ~ v i b i n g ~ with the Nuraphone. I’m wearing that at the moment and I didn’t notice that the vacuum cleaner was going. They isolate you that much.

And, genuinely, there’s something exhilarating about the sound these things create. They’re not a pair of reference headphones — there’s no way you’d use them to get a pure or unadulterated sound — but fuck me they’re exciting. When I wear them, I have a constant urge to dance.

Creating your own hearing profile works, and it works well. Songs I’ve listened to hundreds of times sound different: punchier and more fun, something that’s been ideal for the strange, isolated days we’re living through.

So, thank you, the Nuraphone headphones, for giving me another way to savor something I truly love. I’m glad I have you in my life.

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