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anyone heard of this
Just stumbled on this: https://www.macrumors.com/2017/10/03/nuraphone-better-quality-audio/
And wondered if there was a thread here on it, and well... this is it?
Yes, I would be very interested too in more details. The review on techradar seems quite promising.
It's hard for me to believe it's a serious product when they're not pushing it to the bellwethers at Head-Fi and the like.
Just heard about it today. Very promising I think. Price seems right. Anybody some 1st hand experience on these headphones?
There are some interesting first impressions videos on YouTube videos: I watched a couple this morning. Both praised the build quality, comfort and passive noise isolation, but both seemed ambivalent on the all-important sound quality. In one case the reviewer said that his colleague had preferred someone else's sound signature to her own, which seems worrying. So, although there is anatomical calibration going on, the effect may be rather similar to an EQ filter ... and if that's the case, shouldn't the final test of EQ be whether one prefers the sound rather than whether it's uniquely tailored to your ears?
What's clear from these new, self-calibrating projects is that there's a drive to challenge the orthodoxy that a headphone should be 'tuned' in a house style. Most of us on this forum subscribe to the idea that headphones (& speakers) are themselves 'musical instruments' whise physical properties enhance the audio chain. The new technology implicitly argues that any colouration introduced by the headphone is wrong and we should be using the digital domain to accomplish every desirable change required between the original media and the ear drum. The endpoint of this journey is presumably an app that at the press of a button can emulate any other headphone.
Early Bird backer checking in. Let me bore you with a story:
This Christmas I bought my dad some $350 Enchroma glasses, which help people with red/green color confusion to see those colors more distinctly. The cones in our eyes have evolved to pick up specific wavelengths for each color, and those with typical red/green color confusion have red cones and green cones tuned to too similar a wavelength, producing a sort of muddy yellow-gray brightness. Enchroma glasses have diffraction gratings which bend the normal red or green spectra into ranges more perceptible to 'mutated' eyes, and after the brain begins to understand how to parse this new information, the effect is revelatory.
Driving home from the restaurant where I gave the glasses to him, we reached an intersection and he said, "Now I understand why they use red as the color to stop!"
A day later, I called him around 5:30 in the afternoon to say that it would be worth stepping outside with the glasses on. "OK. I'll call you back," he said, and then a few minutes later: "I watched the sunset. I... it was a thousand percent better than any other sunset I've seen."
To have never before known the roses and peaches and purples and oranges and magentas of a good sunset... Like I said, the effect is revelatory.
And wouldn't it be awesome if the next thing I said was that this is what the nuraphone is like? I think that would be awesome. Let me bore you some more:
Credentials, if they're worth anything: I've been a member, albeit a quiet one, of head-fi for a decade. In my 30s, an audiologist commended me for still having the hearing of someone in their 20s. Granting that I've never stepped up to the highest of the high end, and have been comfortably mid-fi for a while with a Sony MA-900 and geekOut, I'll admit that I'm reluctant to step up to the higher end because I want to be able to keep slumming it with lossy youtube and spotify and my 20 years of MP3s from all over the place, rather than have to contort my tastes to Chesky Records et al, demanding lossless everything. I love being able to bounce around from an orchestral game music cover to club music that I heard in a YouTube Red show to sweetly shimmering solo mostly-acoustic work to music from Saharan cell phones, and on and on. For whatever reason or reasons, I haven't been able to pass Tidal's lossless vs lossy test on any hardware that I own (MA-900, HE-4XX, humble VE Monk+ [edit: and now TH-X00 PH and Kannon]), but that doesn't seem to stop me from being able to feel like music is playing through me. I fsck with that ASMR shiz, that Frisson shiz, that synesthesia shiz. Hit me right, and I sparkle.
Alright? I bring that up just so you have an idea of how picky I am, what I'm getting out of this whole music thing, and where I am in the summit-fi journey (~if you want to listen to your music through your hardware, turn to page 42; if you want to listen to your hardware through your music, turn to page 86~ etc).
On to the nuraphone:
I love this company. They're so earnest and committed. As a startup, they've gone to lengths to ensure that no corners were cut, snapped, or bent out of shape along the way. Despite having to drag out their final shipping date by like a whole year or whatever, the truth is that this happens routinely to Kickstarter projects, so I can't even get miffed about that. Their support staff have been friendly and reasonably prompt, albeit a touch rushed or ESL-seeming at least once.
The case is neat, though I assume that its matte texture will accumulate scuffs and scratches if I were to really put it through some paces. The cables feel nice, and are a proper length. The headphones feel nice in the hand, and although they're reasonably heavy, they don't really feel heavy on my head. And everything sincerely looks good, in my opinion.
The inside of each headphone cup has a little nubby protrusion, meant to rest against your ear canal. Within the nibs are the innermost driver, which will handle all of the highs while the outermost drivers handle most lows. The nibs also help channel the otoacoustic emission detector, which is how they measure your personal hearing curve, sorta. I guess. Or try to, at least. Let it be said that some people find the nibs unoffensive, and some people are perpetually bothered by them. Customer service will cheerfully tell you that the soft silicone will warm up and mold to the shape of your ear in time, even if it never really does. In my case, my left ear is fine but my right ear is bothered enough to start hurting after a while.
You put the headphones on, and a text-to-speech voice says "Welcome back, [your name]." The novelty of that wore off within a couple of wearings. And when I had someone else try them on, it welcomed her back with my name. Oops?
You pair the 'phones via bluetooth, and try to access them with the nuraphone app. It asks for a code which you get by signing up online, then it puts you through the paces of calibrating your 'Personalized Sound'. Starts with ensuring that there is an adequate seal around your head, which it's somehow able to measure and show to you with an illustration of the headphone cups growing darker (better seal) or lighter (weaker seal). Then runs through some ~beedly-boop diddly-doop, beedly-boop diddly-doop~ cascading microtones as the otoacoustic emission sensor susses out the nuances of your inner ear.
When it's done, it tries to impress you by making much ado about switching from the 'Generic' un-EQ'd mode to your 'Personalized Sound'. There's hardly any way to speed through this process, so if you ever do it more than once, you have to patiently listen to the text-to-speech bot talk you through what you already know. I found a way to skip a screen, but it seemed less like a pro-strat and more like something that QA overlooked.
Golly I haven't started talking about the sound quality, have I. Over 1000 words so far, on a forum about quality sound, and I haven't told you much about the sound quality. Ha. Ha ha. Surely that's not a bad sign, right?
Let me try to give you some informed commentary on this really cool video that they uploaded a little while ago:
17s: "Okay. So now, I press this?" O_O "Wow. Whoa. Holy ****!"
24s: O,O "Oh! Haha!"
27s: "Oh, ****. That is huge."
Translation: The touch-sensitive buttons can be set to do things like on/off, or turn 'Immersion' on/off. They're probably being wowed by the 'Immersion' mode, which uses the outermost driver to produce... a type of bass that's bigger (bigger; please note that I did not say better) than most headphones, and certainly more than any headphone those people have ever experienced.
50s "The physical aspect is just completely unique. Like never, never with headphones have I had that sensation. It's really amazing."
Translation: The bass driver really can move enough to transduce some kinetic energy into your head, albeit while distorting the quality of the lower audio spectra. Maybe you want to feel 80Hz, but in my experience this also seems to mean that you're going to get a big bump of audible 80Hz as well. Will that start to interfere with your enjoyment of the music? It did for me, and I presumptuously presume that that sound engineer would agree after spending some critical listening time with it. And my bet is that if he tried a pair of Kannons, he'd rescind his "completely unique" endorsement along the way.
1:05 "When you listen to really amazing― you know, in a recording studio you're listening to a huge sound made by very expensive monitors... That's the only thing I can compare that to, really."
Translation: It's a closed headphone, thus lacking a broad soundstage, so 'huge' in this case mostly means 'putting your head too close to a speaker'. When you crank the "immersion" slider, it gets clippy and overbearing just like being too close to a big speaker. While the visceral impact is neat, you can't get that visceral impact without distorting the rest of the audible bass along with it.
1:20 "That's just amazing, switching from 'Generic', which I guess is 'headphones', to, uh, 'Personalized'..."
Translation: Please don't be suckered by this. 'Generic' mode is just their regular poorly-measuring meh drivers, which are not comparable to real head-fi quality headphones in the same price range. They sound like junk if they aren't EQ'd ("Personalised"), regardless of whether they're EQ'd ("Personalised") to your ears. It is as much a parlor trick as its being able to say "Welcome back, [your name]." (Is THIS your card? No? Oh...)
1:44 "I've been sitting in the middle of the orchestra. It sounds the same."
Never having sat in the middle of an orchestra, I don't actually feel comfortable claiming or disclaiming much about that assertion. At most I can say that at CES one year, in the High End Audio rooms, I heard a system that made it sound like there was a man playing a guitar right there in front of me, even though there was a wall in front of me. He was there, clear as day, no matter how impossible that was. The nuraphones never ever evoked that in me.
1:51 "The brass, it's all, you know, super clear. Persussion... You can hear the timpani but it's not, sort-of, it's not distorted. Um. Yeah."
Does this timpani sound distorted to you? It doesn't to me. So ~Um. Yeah.~ indeed. Maybe I'm too mid-fi or she's never listened to decent headphones in her life.
2:00 "You know what we were talking about before, with film music and eliciting physiological responses? How powerful that is? You're actually doing that with this set of headphones."
As a guy who just watched the last Star Wars in a "4D" theater with super cool motion chairs, but still thought, "This would've sounded better on the Tempe IMAX's sound system..." multiple times throughout the movie, I don't just know what he's talking about, I'm getting picky between various high-end theater sound systems. And I feel conflicted, because if you're talking about the rumbly bass compared to regular headphones then the answer is sure-I-guess-better-than-regular-headphones. But not much else about the sound feels very engaging to me.
2:18 "Fffffffunky in the front row! ****!"
3:08 "I am just coming, coming down from that, which was quite intense, actually. It was a display of speaker power, on my head."
AGAIN, sliding the 'Immersion' slider to the max just produces a really distorted and messy sound. You almost certainly won't want to listen to songs that way, whether critically or for enjoyment, and even movies will get obnoxious quickly. You'll want the physical rumble but not the distorted sound that comes with it.
3:22 "Wow, the bottom end is unreal. It's like standing in front of a Funktion 1 PA."
As I said before: "'huge' in this case mostly means 'putting your head too close to a speaker'. When you crank the "immersion" slider, it gets clippy and overbearing just like being too close to a big speaker."
3:38 "Probably are the best headphones anyone's gonna hear. So far."
Would that it were so.
Sparkly treble? No.
Spaciousness akin to an open-back? No.
Clean bass? No.
Delicate articulation? No
Evenness across all bands? No.
It's not a total hate-fest, I promise! They have a pretty nice attack in the higher frequencies, which can make drum snaps and clicky ASMR sounds stand out in the scene nicely. And when the visceral bass part works well, it is memorably better than most other headphones. And the isolation is remarkably good! Plus they're bluetooth and have a built-in microphone, neither of which I was expecting when I joined the Kickstarter.
I'm... digging for more positive things to say about their sound. But coming up snake-eyes.
Sadly, the nicest thing I can say is that I hope they weren't able to calibrate to my hearing correctly, and that I hope some other longtime head-fi'er, one with oodles of experience and more normally-shaped ears, comes along and says "I don't know what you're talking about! These are aktually the most clearest n sparkliest, most engagingestester headphones I've ever done heard! And somehow they don't sound closed even thogh they are! And the tactile bass doesn't really cause that audible bass to become distracting at all!" I could believe that they miscalibrated to my right ear, because it sincerely hurts due to improperly fitting ― but that doesn't explain why they feel so disengaging in general, even from the properly-fitting left ear. What it DOES explain is why the sound is lopsided. I didn't mention that, did I. The otoacoustic emission sensor measures near the eardrum but doesn't account for any of the outer ear. So even though it completes the calibration process, it keeps miscalibrating on me to be kinda 60/40 lopsided.
When I asked them if there was a way to adjust the EQ for each channel to manually correct for this, they said "We have worked very hard to develop a headphone that creates your Personalised Sound for you, and don't want the nuraphone to be subject to interference. EQ adjustment could potentially compromise the sound quality." Cool, thanks. So there's that, I guess. In myriad ways, I'm not their typical user.
Oh, almost forgot: In the present firmware they have a weird way of sliding their volume down to silence and then sliding it back up. If I skip ahead in a youtube video, or open a video on my harddrive, the sound doesn't just START, it quickly fades up from silence. Which is a small irritation, but worth noting.
So. Verdict on nuraphone:
Try before you buy, and be very critical of the parlor tricks.
My inner-ears don't need much correcting, but maybe yours do.
One of my outer ears doesn't play super well with their silicone nibs, but maybe yours do.
If I had to choose between the nuraphone and the $5 VE Monk+, I'd choose the Monk. (Ouch.)
The company is still really neat, and I feel disappointed that I can't be their ~NUMBA ONE FAN~ on head-fi.
I still want some closed-back headphones to complement and counterpoint my various open-backs, so now I'm on the Kannon waiting list.
Edit, several months later:
I have since upgraded my daily-wear gear to a Fostex TH-X00 Purple Heart and a Taction Kannon. The Kannon's tactile feedback feels so much better, more nuanced, and more controlled to me than nura's 'immersion', and these days I feel sad at the idea of trying to watch movies or play video games without them. The PH on the other hand is the most musically fun, engaging, and pretty-darned-forgiving pair of headphones that I've tried yet; I did not realize that I could experience frisson so readily until I got my Purple Hearts.
Back in the realm of nuraphone: They have recently upgraded to "G2", or the second generation of nuraphone firmware and software. The software is prettier and offers more features ("factory reset" was impossible before, for example). Firmware has made the nura capable of using its built-in mics to generate Active Noise Cancellation on top of the already pretty amazing isolation that it previously provided, and now they have a 'Social Mode' which lets you hear ambient sounds without having to peel one of the 'phones off.
Doesn't seem to do anything to resolve my other issues, though. So my final verdict now is almost exactly the same as before, except that "I still want some closed-back headphones to complement and counterpoint my various open-backs, so now I'm on the Kannon waiting list." is done and dusted.
I really wanted to love you, nura. We just can't be together.
Great review, Psiga. Of course, I like it mainly because it 'validates' my negative confirmation bias, but you seem really fair to these headphones (more balanced than your custom signature, at least!) and I'm sure that it will help others to be able to read the good and the bad.
Pretty much exactly what I expected even after watching Unbox Therapy’s video, @Psiga.
Still seems compelling enough to try at least once. I’m not going to spend $399 and deal with a RMA process if they’re just a premium Skullcandy Crusher with a fancy app. Would try a demo unit or test at Best Buy then decide from there. Seems highly subjective.
Hallo I am new here. I am a nuraphone customer and want to share my experience with those headphones. First of all I read a lot of reviews, tests and articles about them before I decided to buy one pair. What I really did not like about the buying process was that you don’t know what you get. There is no chance of trying them beforehand. At least around here in Germany it seems like no one knows about them. Well at least only a few people that I did not know.
Unboxing and all the personalizing process was just as described and very impressive. All very high quality built and awesome appearance when you hold them in your hands. The nuraphone is very comfortable to wear. At least for me as a tall male. My wife did not like it too much, she’s tiny. The sound was very good but not as mind blowing as I expected. The immersion mode was way too much bass for me. I set this one to zero and it’s still a lot of bass in there.
I did the personalization a couple of times maybe 4 times until I had my best sound. The noise cancelling is the best I ever heard. You hear nothing (or just a little) from the outside. Also other people sitting next to you won’t recognize you are listening to loud rock music. BUT I experienced something that no one seems to describe so far. Right after the use of the nuras after around 30 minutes music on moderate volume I took off the nuras. What I was feeling was a deep sound humming in my inner ear. Around 50Hz-60hz I would say. It came in waves every 3-4 seconds and lasted for around 1 minute. This was very very unexpected and definitely had something to do with the nuras and the bass immersion. So it came after I took them off my head. I tried it later again and experienced the same. A deep bassy noise in my ear/head that felt very bad because you could not control it. I searched the web and lots of forums but could not find anyone mentioning such a thing.
Off course I sent them back and nura was very quick in refunding. They have a great customer service!
If anybody has had problems like that I would reall like to know.
I'd bought and returned these. It took a while but they finally refunded it. They fit good on the outside for my large head but one of the tubes with the ear bud on the end did not fully reach far enough into my ear. No adjustment fixed it. I listened to music. The high end, and spatial soundscape were great. On songs with normal to weak bass, at most bass settings with their App, it was fine. The sound out of the box is horrible and you need to customize them to make them bearable. The trouble is even at normal to lowest bass settings, songs with a serious amount of sub bass will distort badly. You can turn the bass slider all the way down, even cut a few db with EQ, they still can't handle a lot of lower sub bass. If they redesign, I'd suggest they make them sound good without the App. No headphone should depend on software. They should find a way to make their inner poles extendable to reach all ears. I am very tall but despite that, my larger than average (circumference) ears are flat against my head. I guess the size of my jaw bone wouldn't allow for that. Next they should find some leak-proof porting, maybe chambers I see other brands use, to allow more bass levels that don't crap out the driver excursion causing distortion which I think is what is happening. It's too bad as the higher end and passive noise reduction were great, and the sound was unusually wide and spacious, rivalling some of the best open cans and even going beyond those. It's just not quite there.
Interesting impressions. You were saying you'd prefer it if they sounded good without the process of the app. The whole point of this headphone was the personalization to each individual with the app wasn't it? Otherwise you'd go for some other headphone right?
Interesting views, maybe a tad patronising?
Maybe you were correct when you tjought that maybe the personalization wasn't optimal for you. Overwhelming reviews I've seen seem to be very positive. I'd love a chance to demo before ordering. Don't want to go through a painful return process. Opinions on headfi are relatively scarce.
The default hardware sounds very bad. It is expected that users will customize their profiles, so the company doesn't care that it sounds very bad by default. In fact, they prefer playing parlor tricks by doing a BEFORE and AFTER demonstration of how much better it sounds after the profile is customized to sound flat to you personally. But again: The default hardware sounds very bad, so the BEFORE is clearly inferior to headphones that cost less.
I basically agree with Mark Up: If the nuraphone's internal EQ was pre-set to sound 'objectively' flat across the spectrum before taking personalized calibration into account, then it would be a fairer game.
You wanna talk 'patronising'; I think that their BEFORE and AFTER trick is hucksterism with the assumption that most people have no idea what great headphones sound like.
I really, truly hope that you get to experience them. Unless those "overwhelming reviews" you see are from headphone diehards, then that should say a thing or two. And for anyone with damaged or otherwise modestly impaired hearing, this really could be revelatory. I just happen to have pretty good hearing by default, and can tell that the default nuraphone sounds like an actual insult. I was not, in any conceivable way, joking when I said that the humble and cheap VE Monk sounds better to me than the nura. Whatever, though.
Yes, that is common in EVERY review. They all say the pre customised sound is atrocious so shouldn't be used as a standard to compare. The post configured sound has to be used as a comparison standard and no one has really compared with other headphones. One reviewer said it was the best wireless can by far.
I guess if the process doesn't workfor the individual then they won't get the benefit.
Dunno if I'll risk it.