We can pretty much guarantee that Nura’s Nuraphone is the weirdest pair of over-ear headphones you’ve seen or worn. That is because these unique over-ear headphones are also in-ear headphones. They’re truly one of a kind and they don’t just look and feel different, they sound different too. They may be the most immersive-sounding pair of headphones we’ve ever worn. Nura’s innovations don’t just stop there, the company also offers a subscription and an upgrade plan if you don’t want to make such a steep upfront investment.
Yes, these are in-ear headphones inside of over-ear headphones. Inside the ear cups are a pair of interchangeable silicon ear tips that guide naturally into your ear. The rest of the ear cup is wrapped in a similar hypoallergenic silicon and fits comfortably around your ear. We won’t lie — even after some weeks of use we still get the chills putting these on. It feels weird and unexpected to have something go both in and around your ears at the same time. After that initial shock they actually feel really normal and comfortable. Our usual issue with earbuds is that they don’t stay securely in-ear, but these are quite the opposite. The earbuds have nowhere to go and stay perfectly in-ear.
The design is very sharp, but other than the inside of the earcups they look fairly typical. We really dig the matte black finishes and mixture of stainless steel, aluminum, and rubber. For a metal headband, it’s still light with a lot of flex. Unfortunately, the earcups don’t swivel and the headphones don’t collapse or fold for portability. They do come with a soft travel case, but we’d rather have collapsibility.
In the spirit of clean and futuristic design, there are no buttons. The headphones use sensors to turn on when you put them on, and you’ll even be greeted by name. We’d prefer an actual on/off switch, but okay. There’s a touch button on the outside of each ear cup. We usually hate touch buttons but these at least come with an artificial click that gives you the instant feedback to know if you pressed it. Each button has a configurable tap and double-tap functions that allow you to control volume, tracks, play/pause, “immersion”, and “social mode”. There’s no way (as of writing this) to activate your voice assistant. We’d like a little more out of these controls as four total options is limiting, but at least it’s configurable.
Nura’s flagship feature isn’t just the unique design, it’s the immersion technology. There are two speakers in each earphone and a super-sensitive microphone. When you set up the headphones they test your ears’ reaction to sound and builds you a personalized sound signature. We’ve reviewed a few headphones that claim to do something like this, but these are the first we can hear a true noticeable difference. Your personalized tuning comes with a beautiful visual representation of your ears’ customization. When personalization is enabled, you can control the level of “immersion”.
We really have to hand it to Nura, these headphones sound outstanding. The immersion technology, while a bit gimmicky sounding, really delivers. Music is clear and vibrant, and when you turn up immersion it packs a real punch. With immersion turned down it sounds more like regular over-ears, and a bit light on bass. Cranking up immersion doesn’t just bump the bass it turns up the oomph and let’s you feel the music. It’s sort of like listening to music on a good pair of speakers versus hearing it played live. Listening to NuraPhone is more of an experience than most any over-ear. It’s really something worth trying as a written description won’t do it justice.
Despite the highly enjoyable sound quality, there are a few shortcomings worth mentioning. You can turn on your personalized setting and adjust immersion strength, but there are no custom tuning options. We’d love to hear what these headphones are really capable of from an equalizer perspective. There’s no clear way to do this, but maybe soon with an app update. We’ve made little mention of the included Active Noise Cancellation thus far and that’s because it does very little. The passive noise isolation is pretty good and turning ANC cuts out very little additional noise. The built-in microphone is pretty average for making and taking phone calls. We found it to be fairly clear but picks up a normal amount of background noise.
The battery on these headphones lasts 20 hours. It sadly charges with a proprietary USB cable which is one of the biggest kickers for us. There’s no wireless charging either so if the battery dies and you don’t have the included charging cable or the included proprietary 3.5mm headphone plug then you’re out of luck.
Nuraphone review verdict
NuraPhone is one of the most conflicting and unique pairs of headphones we’ve ever tested. They’re up there as our favorite over-ear to listen to and experience, but there’s a lot working against them too. They’re less practical as everyday on-the-go headphones since they don’t use a standard charger, aren’t foldable, and have weak ANC. Some other gripes are that you can’t custom tune them, the touch buttons are limiting, easy to accidentally press, and don’t give you a way to shut off the headphones. You have to wait for the headphones to go to sleep and/or shut your phone’s Bluetooth. And then there’s the price tag…
Nuraphone retails for $399 which is certainly pricey. If we hadn’t seen the price prior to reviewing we’d guess they’d cost about $300, give or take. The interesting silver lining is that you can lease them for $12/month with $49 down. You can cancel after 3 months or “refresh” to a new pair after 24 months. We like this in concept but after 24 months you’ll have paid $337 and it’s unclear what Nura headphones will be available by then. NuraPhone is currently available from Amazon for $399 or as a subscription from NuraPhone.com. If you like the idea of Nura’s personalized immersion technology, they also sell a pair of $149 noise-canceling Bluetooth earbuds.