The premium headphone market wants your ears. The past five years have seen a veritable blizzard of start-ups, Kickstarters, relaunches and revivals as over-ear headphones came in from the barren wastelands of audiophile eccentricity to become the dominant way of listening to music, at home and on the move. To make waves in a crowded marketplace, you need a niche. High fidelity comes as standard, but if you’re especially keen on standout colours and styles, a la Beats, or even the faintly retro-esque forms of Master & Dynamic et al.
Nura is a new company with a new angle on sound. Taking the premise that our ears are as individual as our fingerprints, and that each of us hears music in a uniquely different way, the Australian start-up created a set of headphones that’s capable of analysing the capabilities of your eardrums and processing the music to suit. How we each listen to music is notoriously subjective; what sounds crisp and bright to one person might be a muddy mess to another. Hearing ability degrades and some of us are better at picking out high or low end depending on our biological make-up, age and exposure to loud noises.
Users can create a hearing profile using the Nura iOS or Android app
Nura’s system involves ‘tuning’ their speakers to each individual user, with a bespoke app that pairs with the headphones when you put them on and runs through a short set of acoustic diagnostics. No input is required – the company’s patented method involves measuring and analyzing the miniscule otoacoustic emissions sent out from the eardrum. By working out what sounds the eardrum is actually processing, using tiny, ultra-high sensitive microphones, Nura’s software can tune its music delivery system to suit your hearing range.
The analytical process itself is seamless, high tech and rather theatrical, with a Tron-like series of electronic tones swirling about your ears as the software does its stuff. Nura takes pains to contrast ‘your’ newly deciphered sonic signature with someone else’s, and there is an undeniably strong contrast. It helps as well that the packaging, presentation and design is all superb, from the biodegradable shipping container, through to the snappy magnets of the case and the headphones themselves, with their curious mix of in-ear buds and over-ear protectors. This takes a bit of getting used to, but Nura’s engineers promise the combo brings better comfort, better sound and better ventilation.
The Nuraphones come with a magnetic locking protective case
For audiophiles, who place great stock in their ability to set up a system to meet exacting self-imposed demands, the idea of giving it all over to an app might be a bit much. For the rest of us, dizzied by the options, Nuraphones are a welcome technological surrender.