When you listen to music, you may not actually be hearing what you think you're hearing. What do I mean by this? First, everyone hears differently. No two people will hear the same sound the same way, just as people don't see colors the same. Next, your headphones also play a big role in what you hear as well, as they are tuned a certain way, much like your own hearing. So combine your natural hearing abilities, combined with a headphone that might be tuned completely different, and you've got a rather large loss in what we'll call audio image quality. Or in other words, you just don't hear the music like you should. But what if there was a way to specifically hear exactly what you're supposed to hear? After years of research and development, there is, and it's called Nuraphone.
After one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever, the Australian based company has finally released its headphone that features a technology bordering on one of the most important scientific breakthroughs in audio and monitoring history. Add to that an incredibly sleek and modern looking package, and you've got a product that might just flip the entire music world on its head. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dragan and Kyle of Nura, to give the Nuraphone a test. Big shout to fellow staff writer Tanya for letting us use your couch!
So what is it? As I said, it's a headphone that literally plays music how you will best hear it. Everyone's hearing is different, but the technology the company has developed literally changes the sound of the music to fit your hearing abilities.
How does it work? When first using the headphone, you go through a 60-second test to setup your sound profile, thus allowing the headphone to work properly, via their app. It plays a serious of strange sci-fi sounds that are actually sending signals into your ears and then collecting that data to create your profile. There has been a recent spurt of companies with seemingly similar technology, but not are as in-depth as what Nura has created. Once your profile is complete, you are now able to experience the world of sound you didn't know you were missing. The best part is that, in the app, you're able to switch back and forth between standard listening and your profile.
So what did I think of it? Well, after discovering a small software issue that now allows me to say I had a tiny hand in helping create this product (not really, but let me dream!), I was pretty shocked to hear exactly what I've been missing in my music. This is because I have a trained ear, and the way I hear things is already going to be different than most. I had brought my trusty Phonon SMB-02s with me as a reference, and the difference is pretty shocking. Now, every headphone you buy comes pre-tuned, even the extremely flat ones. I've been using my Phonons for almost two years now, so I know them like the back of my hand. My hearing profile indicated that I had a rather large dip in the higher mid frequencies, which probably stemmed from going to too many concerts without earplugs as a kid.
When listening to the Sasha tune that they were using as an example with my profile, there was a large section of textures that I honestly didn't even know was there when listening in standard. This was a huge surprise. What's really crazy is when switching back to the standard listening after using your own profile for just 10 minutes. It honestly sounds like you're listening to some shitty 80s car stereo. What's, even more, nuts is listening to someone else's sound profile, and it sounding even worse. This goes to show just how different each person's hearing is, and how much we are all missing via poor playback ability.
So the Sasha tune was great, but I wanted to hear my own music. I build and place every piece of sound in my tracks, so it's safe to say I know what they are supposed to sound like, and this is where I was most curious to hear the Nuraphones in action, especially now that I could almost see where my hearing strengths and weaknesses were. However, I have to admit that this is where I preferred my own headphones. Probably because I built the track in them, and knew that's exactly what I wanted to hear from it. When I asked Kyle and Dragan about this, they admitted that the first iteration of the product is geared more towards consumers, as producers are on another level of hearing due to having trained ears. Nevertheless, they have built an extremely important product.
So, would I recommend it? Absolutely. For the general listener, and even professionals, this headphone will change you see sound. The consumer headphone market is littered with garbage quality headphones, disguised as top quality. The difference is instantly night and day and will have you questioning why such a product wasn't invented sooner. What about the prosumers? As I said, this could be just as important to you as it could for a regular customer. Where I see this really benefiting people like us, is the ability to see our hearing weaknesses via a chart from Nura. Somewhat like a hearing test, but using their own technology. Or, imagine an entire sound system or even studio monitors like this. Note that this is just the beginning for this company, and there are many, many ideas floating around in the pipeline.
The Nuraphone is available now for $399. For a more information on the actual science of the headphone, check out their website here.
Final score: 9/10