After waiting for more than a year, the NuraLoop earbuds are finally available for purchase. As some of you may know, I've been a huge supporter of the original Nuraphone over-ear headphones. This means that the bar is set pretty high for the NuraLoop. But what exactly are they?
For some context, Nura's entire philosophy revolves around personalized listening. In very basic terms, this means that both the Nuraphone and NuraLoop use very advanced microphone tech to determine how you hear music. This means that how you hear experience the NuraLoop may be different from my experience with them, at least sonically.
With NuraLoop, they've managed to take that tech from their over-ear headphones and condensed it down to a set of in-ear active noise canceling (ANC) wireless earbuds. But what sacrifices have they made in doing so? Let's take a look.
A quick look
Bottom line: In 2020, one feature most have come to expect from headphones and earbuds is active noise cancelation (ANC). The NuraLoop feature ANC and they perform exceptionally well. The earbuds aren't small, but they're still light and comfortable. Battery life is solid with at least 16 hours when ANC is enabled over Bluetooth. They can also be used wired with the included 3.5mm cable, making them some of the most versatile earbuds around.
- Long 16+ hour battery life
- Personalized sound makes for a truly beautiful listening experience
- Solid ANC performance for their size
- Flexible app for both Android and iOS
- Can be used both wirelessly and with a 3.5mm cable (included)
- Bluetooth 5.0 with support for SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX HD codecs
- Comfort is hit or miss
- Proprietary charging cable
- Social mode sounds pretty terrible
NuraLoop Personalization and setup
Before you can even start listening to the NuraLoop, you'll need to fire up the app. From there, the earbuds begin to test your ears, first ensuring that you have a proper fit. The app will then walk you through a hearing test. The earbuds come with three extra tips in the box (S, L, and XL) along with medium, which is pre-installed. I personally need the XL on both ears because I have massive ears.
After that, you'll be prompted to sit still for around 60-90 seconds as the earbuds play a series of sounds and tones. As it turns out, your ears actually emit sound. To keep things simple, the organ that translates sound waves into electrical data to your brain emits a sound that's 10,000x quieter than what you're hearing. The NuraLoop uses that data to determine how you hear sound (which you can learn more about here). This is represented in the app in a visual form and will look something like this:
This represents how you hear, according to Nura. From the top and moving clockwise you'll see how you hear bass, mids, and treble (low notes to high notes). Any peaks tell you that you're more sensitive to those frequencies, and any dips mean you're less sensitive to those frequencies. Think of it as an EQ but for how you actually hear.
NuraLoop ANC & Social Mode
Mostly thanks to Apple, active noise cancelation (ANC) has become something most people come to expect on portable earbuds. Thankfully, the NuraLoop have ANC baked in and their ANC performs exceptionally well. They aren't as good as over-ear ANC headphones, but nobody expects them to be. Most over-ear headphones rely on their over-ear seal to block out noise, using active noise cancelation to complete the experience.
This is among the best noise canceling you'll experience from a pair of earbuds.
The NuraLoop block out a good chunk of low-end and midrange noise while struggling with higher-pitched noise, which is normal (it's much more difficult to block out treble than bass). Obviously, I haven't been able to test how well they block out noise while flying or anything like that due to the current situation of the world, but the earbuds are effectively able to block out fan noise, the sound of cars, the sound of planes flying overhead.
Having tested many ANC headphones and earbuds over the years, the NuraLoop perform better than most ANC earbuds out there, including Sony's WF-1000XM3, Apple's AirPods Pro, and the 1More Dula Driver BT ANC.
The included transparency feature, dubbed Social Mode here, is one of the more bizarre ones out there. First and foremost, there's an always-persistent high-pitched hum when it's enabled. The microphones sound like they're trying to focus on voices but ultimately sounds like you're hearing everything through a tube. This is especially noticeable when someone with a deeper voice speaks. Your best bet here is to just take one earbud out, especially if you plan on having longer conversations. Hopefully, the company can fix this in a future software update.
NuraLoop Too smart for their own good?
Despite being earbuds with a wire between them (similar to the Jaybird X series or original Pixel Buds), the NuraLoop share a lot in common with true wireless earbuds. But that makes a lot of sense as the category of wireless in-ear monitors (IEMs) are slowly becoming a true wireless earbuds one. For example, the NuraLoop don't have a power button. They have sensors in both earbuds that automagically power on when you put them on and turn off (after about 30 seconds or so) when you take them off. This works fairly reliably but is really annoying when it doesn't as it causes battery drain for both the earbuds and your device.
One thing the NuraLoop don't copy from true wireless earbuds, but is present on their bigger brother the Nuraphone, is ear detection for automatic play/pause. The sensors are there to know when they're in your ears, but the buds don't auto-play/pause when you take one bud out or put the bud back in. It's not a major omission, but it's definitely annoying when you remove them and the music continues playing.
The way the NuraLoops personalize your sound is ingenious, but it means that no one's experience with the headphones will be the same.
The earbuds offer a set of single-tap gestures and dial controls that can be configured in the app. You get a slew of options for the single-tap gesture, including volume up/down, enable/disable immersion, enable/disable social mode, and next/previous track. For dial control, you have options for volume, immersion, and social mode. Personally, I have both dials set to volume, the left earbud set to play/pause, and right earbud to enable/disable social mode. The tap and dial controls work super well and reliably. I haven't had any misfires or accidental taps or swipes.
One of my favorite features of Nura headphones in general is Bluetooth QuickSwitch. Those who know me know that I'm not a huge fan of headphones pairing to two devices simultaneously. I like to know which device my headphones are paired to. Bluetooth QuickSwitch allows you to switch between known devices extremely quickly. All you have to do is go to your Bluetooth settings and tap connect, removing the need to unpair from the previous device.
NuraLoop They sound really good
Sound quality is going to be really hard to explain because of how the NuraLoop fundamentally work. The personalization features mean that they can sound different for you than someone else. But the results should equate to a similar sound signature for your ears specifically.
For starters, bass response is great. The immersion mode slider within the app is essentially a glorified bass booster. This is pretty much the only part of the sound you can actually customize outside of the personalized profile. If you turn the slider all the way up (I did, for science), the bass gets really distorted, but if you love bass, it's there. There's not a whole lot of thumping sub-bass, but that's expected as most earbuds aren't able to reproduce sub-bass as they lack the proper seal compared to over-ear headphones.
Sound is great overall, with pleasant bass, perfect mids, and a wide soundstage.
The midrange is beautifully balanced with great detail. And the treble is a bit forward — in a good way. The treble boost widens the soundstage slightly and makes sounds such as hi-hats, claps, tambourines, and female vocals more present and detailed without being overbearing, fatiguing, or piercing. The NuraLoop present what is known as a more "airy" treble response.
Their soundstage is wider than most other wireless earbuds (ANC or not). Their soundstage isn't that "in your head" type, where everything sounds like it's coming from within your head, thankfully. You'll be able to identify if an instrument is coming from next to you, above you, or in front of you pretty well.
Dynamic range is excellent. The earbuds can get really quiet if the track calls for it, and really loud without distorting or raising the volume of the rest of the track.
When it comes to total volume, the NuraLoop are excellent. My comfortable listening volume is around 60%, which is in line with most earbuds I've tested in the past. They might be 5% quieter than some of the louder ones out there, but that's a very minor difference in the grand scheme of things. There's a minimal volume difference when plugging them in via the 3.5mm cable versus using them over Bluetooth.
NuraLoop Battery and other fine details
The NuraLoop claim 16+ hours on a single charge. In my testing, I was able to achieve much more than that. The battery indicator might not be the most accurate (100%-80% goes really quick, but 30-40% feels like forever), but in the few weeks I've had them, they've lasted around 20 hours before needing to recharge. Keep in mind that most of this testing is being done over Bluetooth with ANC / social mode on. They support most of the major Bluetooth audio codecs such as SBC, AAC, aptX, and aptX HD. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't really matter much other than you'll get a super solid connection to your phone and they'll sound great over Bluetooth no matter what device you pair them with.
You're able to use the included adapter to plug these into a phone that has a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The NuraLoop use a proprietary circular magnetic charging cable that is rather short in length. It's not reversible and the puck itself feels like cheap plastic. Not great, but at least it's magnetic so it's easy to attach, especially at night, and feels super sturdy. They feature fast charging capabilities with a 10-minute charge giving you two hours of audio playback, and a full charge will take roughly 2 hours.
That same circular magnetic connector is used for wired listening over 3.5mm as well. Included in the box is a 3.5mm to NuraLoop cable. If your phone still has one, you can plug the NuraLoop in for lag-free, high-quality sound. Your personalized profile will still be there, but most touch gestures will be unavailable. In my setup, only the Social Mode toggle is available when wired.
And unlike the Nuraphone, the NuraLoop don't currently support USB audio of any sort. This makes sense considering how short the included charging cable is, but it would be nice to have a USB-C cable for devices that lack a 3.5mm audio jack. Nura says that there simply wasn't enough demand for USB-C, Lightning, or Micro-USB cables with the Nuraphone and that they may consider it if there's enough demand for it from the community.
Comfort is solid. They're not the most comfortable earbuds in the world, but they're comfortable enough. The variety of different ear tips definitely helps. The NuraLoop are the type of earbuds where the perfect fit is essential to whether or not they are comfortable for you, and for some people, none of the ear tips are going to be comfortable.
I recommend getting a pair of 400-series Comply ear tips to increase the comfort.
Fortunately, the NuraLoop supports most (but not all) third-party ear tips. The two sets I've tested and can confirm works with the NuraLoop are the Spiral Dot ear tips from JVC (silicone tips) and the 400 series ear tips from Comply (memory foam tips). I'm using the Comply tips personally because the JVC tips don't come in anything larger than a medium. Just keep in mind that you'll need to use the tips that came in the box for the initial ear test, otherwise the test will either throw out something completely whack or fail entirely.
The earbuds feature IPX4 water resistance, which means they're suitable for most workouts that aren't swimming. The rating also covers most weather conditions as well, so you can run in the rain with confidence.
Their carrying case is... fine. If you plan to just carry the NuraLoop without the charging cable or 3.5mm cable, it's passable. The case itself is great but lacks individual pouches for said charging cable or 3.5mm cable. If you plan on carrying your charging cable, then be prepared for it to get tangled with the NuraLoop.
NuraLoop Comparing them to the competition
I think the NuraLoop's main competitors are true wireless ANC earbuds. There aren't really that many premium in-ear wireless ANC earbuds out there that still have a wire in between them. But there are a handful of true wireless ANC earbuds out now and that number is growing by the day.
Compared to the Sony WF-1000XM3 and AirPods Pro, the $200 NuraLoop are the better value. The NuraLoop feature better ANC performance overall, and don't require you to carry a case around at all times. Arguably, the NuraLoop sound better and technically last longer (they don't need to be put back in the case every 4-8 hours). But, both the AirPods Pro and WF-1000XM3 beat out the NuraLoop when it comes to comfort out of the box.
The Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 feature a much wider soundstage and better instrument separation versus the NuraLoop but come at a much higher price point. Again, their ANC isn't as great as the NuraLoop, but the Momentum True Wireless 2 sound phenomenal and you can customize the way they sound through their companion phone app.
These aren't exactly true wireless earbuds, but they behave a lot like they are.
Outside of true wireless earbuds, the 1More Dual Driver BT ANC and OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 are two popular sets of wireless earbuds out there that still have a cord between them. Neither of them last quite as long as the NuraLoop, with the Dual Driver BT ANC offering seven hours, and the OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 offering 10 hours.
The Dual Driver BT ANC do offer wired listening on top of wireless in the form of a USB-C to 3.5mm cable, which is arguably better given that they're using standard connectors. However, the NuraLoop still feature better ANC than the Dual Driver BT ANC. Though, the Dual Driver BT ANC are half the price of the NuraLoop.
NuraLoop Should you buy them?
True wireless earbuds are absolutely booming right now in 2020. Both major audio and tech brands are looking to add ANC true wireless earbuds to their lineup. This puts the NuraLoop in a really interesting spot as there aren't really many premium wireless ANC earbuds with a cord between them anymore. The NuraLoop suffer from a few minor hiccups like the lackluster social mode, sleep/wake bugs, and lack of USB audio support. Fortunately, these are all software bugs that could be fixed with software updates.
Otherwise, the experience is absolutely fantastic. Their personalization is something nobody else is really doing, and the sound that comes out of them is great. The buds last quite a long time and offer both Bluetooth and wired (3.5mm) options, which is becoming increasingly uncommon and is outright impossible with any set of true wireless earbuds. This combination makes them some of the most versatile earbuds on the market right now.
A truly versatile experience
In 2020, one feature most have come to expect from headphones and earbuds is active noise cancelation (ANC). The NuraLoop feature ANC and they perform exceptionally well. The earbuds aren't small, but they're still light and comfortable. Battery life is solid with at least 16 hours when ANC is enabled over Bluetooth. They can also be used wired with the included 3.5mm cable, making them some of the most versatile earbuds around.
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