Nura’s third take on earphones tailored to how you hear, the NuraTrue may well be its best take yet, delivering sound made for you.
There are a lot of earphones in the world and no shortage of choices, but for some reason, Australians do them differently. Even though you could end up with one of the major brands that also makes a bunch of other products, if you look locally, you’ll also find brands doing things differently, even if there’s a common theme.
Specifically there are three of them, with Audeara’s headphones, the Nuheara buds, and possibly the one that started it all and got its name out on social, Nuraphones. They all have products, but Nura has been pretty proactive at building new versions, with both an over-ear and earbud style out in recent years, and now there’s something new.
You’re probably already aware, but the world of truly wireless earphones is all the rage, with nearly every major electronics and sound manufacturer dabbling in this style, releasing a pair of cordless and wireless earphones known more commonly as “truly wireless” or “TWS”.
This is the crowd Australia’s Nura is joining, and now in its third version, we may well be seeing three times the charm for this take on personalised sound and noise cancelling earphones.
Design and features
Nura’s headphones have long offered a rather unique take on design, and a few years on, there’s still nothing quite like the original Nuraphones. Arriving with both a circumaural and intra-aural design, the Nuraphones went around your ears and in them at the same time, delivering one of the more unusual lessons in headphone comfort and design we’d ever experienced. We actually didn’t mind it, but for a long period, it was definitely a little strange.
Last year’s NuraLoop corrected some of that with a corded and tipped earbud style, but one that didn’t always get the right fit. In fact, we found that nailing the right fit for the NuraLoop earphones to work wasn’t always easy.
In the NuraTrue, the approach is pretty much as easy as it gets, with the NuraLoop technology plunged into a truly wireless design. Like most other TWS earphones, you’ll find it in the earphones that lack the cords and wires, a real shift for Nura and a welcome change.
That’s welcome not only because it’s more normalised and standard, but because Nura has previously used proprietary cables for charging its headphones, and this does away with that completely. Rather, the earphones snap into a magnetic charging case, with the back of the case charged from the USB Type C standard. Whereas Nura previously forced you to turn to its own take on a cable — an extra cost if you ever lost one — this time you get standards, and that’s welcome.
Inside the earphones, Nura uses a 10mm driver on each side, as well as the software to make its special sauce hearing technology work, with wireless support for aptX and aptX HD, Bluetooth 5.0, and some microphones for each ear to assist with the active noise cancellation, which is also supported here.
The battery is rated for around 6.5 hours of sound with an extra 18 in the case, resulting in 24 total, and there’s also IPX4 water resistance, which is a smidgen more water resistance we didn’t expect Nura to include on its first pair of truly wireless earphones.
On the outside of the each earphone is a big Nura logo, and each of these is a small touchpad with a small set of controls. Specifically, these are just tap controls, with customisable settings for one or two taps on each side, but nothing else.
It can seem a bit of waste of a touchpad, especially when other earphone touchpads can handle volume by swiping up or track changes by swiping forward and back, while Nura merely offers four controls by tapping and double tapping.
Fortunately, that choice is yours, customisable with the Nura app, whic his more or less a necessity for these earphones.
Grab the app and you’ll need to login or register a profile, and from there, it’s off to test your hearing, using Nura’s otoacoustic emissions test to throw various sounds at your ears and listen to how your inner ear interprets the audio.
The process takes a few minutes and in the end, you’ll have a test to let you hear how the NuraTrue normally hears versus your personalised sound.
From there, you can still provide extra levels of customisation on top of it, tweaking the “Immersion” of the earphones, which essentially boosts the bass levels slightly.
Back in the original Nuraphones, “immersion” meant something different, vibrating the outside of the headphones to make you feel more connected to the sound. The lack of vibration in the much smaller NuraTrue earphones is hardly unexpected, but it’s nice that Nura is attempting to make up for it in other ways.
From there, we just need to test the NuraTrue to see how they sound, though this is a little different from our regular earphone and headphone reviews. Rather, reviewing Nura’s headphones has always been a little different, partly because of how the technology works in comparison to other headphones and earphones.
In most audio gadgets, there’s a specific sound they come with: whether it’s warm, bright, balanced or overly bassy, that’s the style you can match to the gadget. Think of it as each audio product’s signature sound. Every device is different.
With Nura’s products, there’s often a flat signature sound that most people won’t listen to and then a “personalised” sound modified to match the way you hear, providing your ears with a sense of balance as designated by the otoacoustic emissions test the Nura app runs and subsequently tweaks the earphones with.
Essentially, while most earphones have a specific style of sound, Nura’s has a style built to match your ears at whatever the cost. Do you struggle to hear the highs or the lows? The app will tweak the earphones so you can hear as much of the sound as possible by customising the sound for your needs, getting as close to balanced as it can.
Customised sound tailored to how you hear is the idea here: rather than offer a signature sound, Nura is trying to understand your ears to get you as close to “balanced” as possible.
And that means we’re testing the NuraTrue by using the personalised sound as profiled for our ears, which given the nature of lockdown that we’re in, have decided to call it “Lockdown Leigh”. Throughout this review, just like we do in every audio review, we relied on the Pickr Sound Test, which you can always listen to for yourself, though our test was mostly based on a profile recommended for our ears.
That starts with electronic, where we specifically look for balance as well as a pretty obvious bass drop in Tycho’s “Glider”, of which the NuraTrue more than happily provide. The bottom end is definitely there, and there’s solid balance across the highs, mids, and lows, with notably detailed percussion in Daft Punk’s “Contact”.
The sound stays strong and true in pop, with the bottom end delivering solid punch without fuzzing or distortion in Charlie Puth, offering a deep sound that doesn’t feel like overkill, and is much the same through our listenings of Ariana Grande, Mark Ronson, and Maroon 5.
Shifting to rock, we found our personalised profile delivered a punchy bass line and set of drums on Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, with strong details across the mids and highs. The quality was noticeable regardless of which rock track we threw to the NuraTrue, with tremendous detail listening to Bowie and The Beatles, and hard rock fared well, as well.
Essentially, the NuraTrue are balanced, reminiscent in ways of what we’ve experienced from Bose and Apple, but with a little more push in the bass, possibly because we set the immersion level to the midway point in the Nura app.
It was much the same in jazz and classical, where we were treated to an almost spatial sense from Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”, not to mention a live recording of The Ray Brown Trio’s “The Real Blues”, which sounded beautiful, too.
Beyond the balanced sound, the noise cancellation is also decent here, though feels like it offers only two options: on and ambient mode. It’s simple and effective, doing the job, but only allowing you to switch between an acceptable cancellation mode that’s on and hearing the outside world.
When the ambient mode — or “social mode” as Nura puts it — is switched on, you’ll find you can hear the world around you at just the right volume, but that the music actually lowers in volume, too. At that point, social mode basically gives you a background track for your world, letting you hear someone talking to you with less of your tunes. If you want it back, just tap your touchpad to switch social mode off and get stuck right back in. Easy.
Regardless of what you listen to, you’ll find a little over six hours of battery life for the earphones, which tracks to what we were seeing, plus an extra two charges in the cases.
Granted, it’s not the most amazing performance for a pair of truly wireless earphones, but it’s not bad overall.
And at $299, we think Nura has found a pretty solid price point for noise cancelling earphones that sound solid, especially given the competition.
Current price points for noise cancelling earphones start around the $150 mark and can hit as high as just shy of $500, so near the middle of this actually makes a lot of sense. In fact, at $299, Nura is pushing hard against the likes of Oppo, Apple, Samsung, and Sony, all of which price their premium offerings higher in comparison.
With controls that play more nicely across both major mobile operating systems, Nura has Oppo and Apple in its sights, and the hearing test tech adds to the quality, too. Overall, the price tag isn’t bad at all.
What did we love about the NuraTrue?
Beyond the decent price tag, we found ourselves digging the NuraTrue for one basic reason we didn’t expect: they just simply worked.
Nura’s hearing test looks for a pretty solid seal when you run it, as it wants as much isolation as possible to bounce those sounds around your ears. However an isolation that strong isn’t always easy to achieve. During last year’s NuraLoop review, we found we needed to refit the earphones regular to try and hit full isolation for the tests.
However with the NuraTrue, it just fit and worked on the first go. All we needed to do was find the right earphone tip, stick it on, and the seal was right. They worked first go.
Few earphones work this well on the first go we’ve found, and this surprised us greatly, helped by the comfort. They may look large, but the NuraTrue are very comfortable earphones, moreso dare we say it than Sony’s WF-1000XM4 earphones, which fit the crevice of the ears well, but mightn’t be comfortable for longer periods of time due to their larger design.
What needs work?
It’s not all perfect in NuraTown, though.
While we wish the touch controls were a little better, we also want Nura to include a couple of other technologies we’ve seen on earphones of late.
For instance, the charging case may use the Type C USB standard for charging, but it doesn’t support wireless charging, a bit of a sour point since you can find it on wireless noise cancelling earphones at the $249 mark, with Skullcandy’s Indy ANC fitting that bill. At $50 more, wireless charging is missing in action on the NuraTrue.
Likewise, we yearn for support for spatial audio, which doesn’t appear to work here, a shame given the support for surround music and spatial sound is growing across music services.
That last one may change in time — Nura has been known to roll out software updates to its products to add features — but at the time of publishing, spatial audio was missing in action, a shame given it’s supported by earphones from Sony and Apple for over two years.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
The cons of the NuraTrue are small, however, and there’s a really great product here. Clearly Nura’s best effort yet, its third pair of earphones come off strong out of the gate and deliver a performance worthy of your ears.
Nura’s idea has always been a sound catered for your ears and no one else’s, and in its first truly wireless earphones, it really is your personal soundtrack to go. Recommended.