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Tech and Gaming

nuraphone review: Mini Concert Speakers on your Skull

Words by Gareth Kurt Warren

All right, let’s see what this is all about. The strapline for these new headphones claim that they are the ‘world's only headphone that automatically learns and adapts to your unique hearing.'

You start by downloading the nura app and connect the headphones by following various steps listed on your phone. The walkthrough is in-depth and quite helpful. You then remove the plastic packaging, cables etc. and a series of GIFs on the nura app help you put the headphones on – especially since there is no “L” and “R” marked on the cans – you don’t know which side goes where.

The idea on in-ear buds surrounded by over-ear cans sounded quite weird to me. But it fits quite well and the headphones also block out sound around you even without any music playing. These earphones were made for people who did not want to be disturbed.

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Once you power it on you can then create your profile. A voice talks you through the process. Sure, the review unit we received wasn’t reset, and the headphones welcomed back “Riaz” from GNTECH but that’s OK. I’ll meet him in the gym later on this evening and we’ll compare notes.

Let’s get to the interesting part. Firstly, I reset the unit and deleted every trace of past reviewers (sorry Riaz) and then for down to customising my hearing profile: an option unique to the nuraphone headset.

As soon as you manage to get the fit right, you’ll hear a voice in your head saying, “Take your hands off your nuraphones and sit still, till I run a quick test on your ears.”

“Umm ok,” I mutter.

“Keep still and don’t speak, this will take a minute.”

“Wow nuraphone. Ok, “ I silently think to myself.

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So you’re sitting there quietly, because technology told you to do so…(My wife would be quite proud of the nuraphone as it managed to shut me up – something she’s been trying for years) when suddenly an incredibly creepy tune plays and you start to wonder if this is what an alien abduction feels like. The profiling has been complete.

As it happens you might think its quite gimmicky, but the science behind the tests are amazing. The headphones process a personalised aural profile specific for you.

Here’s the science behind how it works. The nuraphone plays a range of tones into the ear, and then measures a very faint sound that your ear generates in response to these tones called the Otoacoustic Emission (OAE). This tiny signal originates in the cochlea and vibrates the eardrum, turning it into a speaker and playing sound back out of your ear. Yes our ears make sound! This sound is about 10,000 times smaller than the sound that went in.

Encoded in the returning sound wave is information about how well you heard the sound that went in. The nuraphone uses an extremely sensitive microphone to detect this returning sound wave, and a self-learning engine built into the nuraphone to create your profile. No buttons or knobs. It all happens automatically and in about 60 seconds. It is a little bit magic.

Once the nuraphone has created your hearing profile it sonically shapes your music so that it matches your hearing profile. The video below can help explain this a little more:

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the nuraphone's nuraloop

The science

To prove how a personalised aural profile makes a difference, the nuraphones then play music in neutral mode – which sounds quite good – and gives you the option to switch through to your personalised profile.

With your personal profile, you can actually feel the bass – within the ear-tips – vibrate through your ear. While the over-ear drivers provide an immersive symphony, rounding off the entire experience.

The next step is where you choose the level of immersion. You can set a slider between “low” and “front row” to create a feeling of a live performance.

I did disturb colleagues at work – so keep that in mind if you do opt to blast Justin Beiber or Cardi B in a professional work environment.

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Social Mode is the next step: Here you can hear what’s happening around you. Similar to other headphones, this gives you super-hearing to eavesdrop on other conversations. Social Mode does kill about 30% of the aural experience, so yep. My colleagues aren’t that exciting anyway. Social mode off.

“Front row” can get a bit intense. Having reviewed several earphones, on-ear/over-ear headphones I can honestly say that the bass with maximum ‘front row’ does things to your ear canals that you probably have never experienced in your life.

Queens’ Bohemian Rhapsody was an absolute pleasure to experience on the nuraphone. Very few earphones can pick up the guttural “Mama Mia Mama Mia” and that was spot on. They have essentially managed to miniaturise concert speakers, add them to a headband and fit them on your skull.

I’ve kept away from looking at the price of these things till I’ve written down my initial thoughts on the headphones. So let us find out together. The nuraphone retails in the UAE for AED 1,739. Not a bad price for something this intense.

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