Last year I reviewed the NuraTrue headphones – an alternative to Apple Airpods that offer a unique “personalized sound” feature that uses patented technology to measure your ears to create a sound profile that matches exactly how you hear.
Now in response to Apple’s introduction of the AirPod Pro, Nura has introduced the NuraTrue Pro, an uprated version of the NuraTrue replete with some additional features and enhanced sound quality. The NuraTrue is still available at £199/US $199, while the new Pros will retail for $329 USD/£299 GBP/€359 EUR/$499 AUD. The NuraTrue Pros are currently available via Kickstarter and will officially ship from October 2022. So, what do you get for your additional 100 notes? Well, quite a lot.
First, the build quality of the headphones and case has been enhanced. The earbuds now have a more premium-looking silver surround, which initially I felt made them harder to remove from the case than the originals – but the trick is to tilt them slightly with your thumb and then prise out with the finger on your other hand. The case is also more solid with the logo now embossed onto the top.
Qi charging capability has been added to the case – so you can just leave it on a Qi charging pad to keep it topped up. When you need to charge the case faster, the USB-C connection will now charge nearly twice as fast as before, which is handy.
CD-Quality Without Wires
The main story of the earbuds is that these are the first wireless headphones of any kind to offer true lossless audio. While all major streaming services have moved to offer CD-quality audio, the only way to enjoy this on headphones was via a cable. However, thanks to the arrival of Qualcomm aptX Lossless technology inside its Qualcomm QCC5171 BT audio SoC, this is now possible.
There are two caveats to this. The first is that you need a device at the other end that also has that chip,(marketed as Snapdragon Sound technology). This will be featured in some upcoming high-end Android handsets, but there aren’t any around at the moment, so these headphones are ahead of the game. If you’re an iPhone user, you’re out of luck. Apple employs the AAC codec rather than aptX, and I imagine it’s more likely that Tim Cook will tap dance at the next Apple event than for it to pay Qualcomm for its technology. As an iPhone user, this meant I couldn’t test the lossless feature.
Note that this doesn’t mean that there is no longer any call for wired headphones. Hi-res audio, as in beyond 16-bit/44Khz, is still beyond the capability of wireless transmission, so there is still room for technological improvement.
Even without lossless support for iPhone the Pros still offer a sonic upgrade thanks to redesigned drivers which are designed to reduce distortion.
You also get an improvement in microphone call quality for phone calls courtesy of four microphones on each side, and the use bone conduction to help boost low frequencies for improved audio. I tested this with the original NuraTrues and the person on the other end said the new Pros were noticeably clearer.
Further improvements come to noise-canceling, which utilizes improve algorithms to offer adaptive noise canceling depending on your environment. Under testing, this was slightly better, so it’s a welcome upgrade, but the bigger Nuraphones were better still.
Spatial audio is the new buzzword in streaming with Apple Music and Amazon Music HD offering surround sound audio, either via Dolby Atmos or via Sony 360 audio. Apple’s AirPod Pro and AirPod Max headphones offer head-tracking, so the music alters as you move your head. To keep up with the times Nura has added a “Spatial audio” feature to the headphones, but it’s designed to work as an upgrade to stereo sources. Nura says that with native surround audio you should toggle the Spatial Audio off in its software. This is not convenient and when you’re listening your content could switch formats between tracks – it’s a shame it cannot auto-detect the content and turn itself on or off automatically. Maybe one for a software update.
The Spatial feature uses Dirac Live to alter how the sound reaches your ears, so instead of the usual headphone experience where each channel is directed directly into each ear, it alters the timing so sounds hit both ears much as they would when you are listening to a stereo speaker. In action, it’s not a mind-blowing effect, but toggling it on and offer repeatedly I settled with leaving it on – it added “space” to recordings that made them sound more natural, without any appreciable ill effects.
The latest Bluetooth 5.3 is used here, which brings a useful feature – multipoint audio. This means that you can have two sources connected to your NureTrue Pro earphones at the same time. This is more than just being able to switch between headphones without having to re-pair them. You can have your phone and your laptop connected and the sound will switch between them. They won’t play music at the same time, but it does mean you can go between phone and computer much more easily. You can be playing music from your phone and if you start to play something on your laptop it will take over. It’s ace.
A word must also be given to Nura’s special sauce – that is its “personalized sound” signature. These are the only headphones on the market that on initial set up via the app will send our signals to your ears and measure how they respond to sound to create a personalized sound profile. The concept behind this is called otoacoustic emissions and it essentially EQs the sounds to cater to the shape of your ear canals. It’s very good and is the primary reason why the NuraTrue’s sounds as good as they do. The NuraTrue Pro’s blurb claims to offer a ProEQ function for manually adjusting the EQ settings but this was not yet in the app for my preview headphones. I do wonder though why it’s needed if the software algorithm is designed to do exactly that?
So how do the NuraTrue Pro’s sound? In a word, excellent. There’s plenty of detail to the sound. The bass is distinctive, the highs are crisp and the mids are balanced. I still preferred the larger sound of the Nuraphones, and other high-end over-ear headphones will do even better, but for wireless earbuds, this is near audiophile-quality in your pocket.
The Nuraphone Pro offers enough variation of earpieces and bud sizes to ensure a tight snug fit – (spend the time to work out the best option for you) and they didn’t budge from my ear even when active and running. That said, I can’t claim they are the most comfortable earbud you’ll ever use. It could be because I have unusually small ear canals, but I could sense the hard plastic underneath the bugs, particularly in my right ear for some reason (I tried both foam and earbud) so I did have to take them off after extended listening and massage my ears a little. That said, I’d rather listen to the NuraTrue’s Pro than any other earbuds I’ve listened to.
If you have a compatible Snapdragon Sound-equipped device you’ll be able to get even more out of these devices, and once the ProEQ arrives you’ll be able to improve (or ruin) the sound further to your heart’s content. If your budget remains £199 the originals are still a great option, but if you can stretch to the NuraTrue Pro, I’d do so.