Gadgets for humans

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

Thank you for distracting me, friends

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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Published June 19, 2020 — 13:39 UTC