NuraTrue Pro hands-on review: The first lossless wireless earbuds

Nura – the Australian company behind the innovative Nuraphone earbuds, which measure the unique architecture of your ears to personalize sound – is working on a first-of-its-kind new technology for its upcoming NuraTrue Pro wireless earbuds. The new buds debut today as Kickstarter Campaign. The company says the NuraTrue Pro will be the first wireless audio device (headset or earbuds) to use Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec, the first codec to promise true CD-quality sound over a Bluetooth connection.

Digital Trends was offered an advanced look at the NuraTrue Pro. And although not all the pieces of the puzzle are in place yet, the emerging picture looks very promising. Here’s a taste of what’s to come.

Why go lossless?

Nuratrue pro headphones in a charging case.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Wireless headphones keep getting better. Bluetooth connection issues are almost entirely a thing of the past, battery life has increased by leaps and bounds, and you can pick up a fully waterproof set for well under $100 if you need that level of protection. But the one thing that’s kept these devices from completely supplanting their wired cousins ​​is an inherent limitation of Bluetooth when it comes to audio: it’s lossy.

When we say lossy, we mean that during the process of compressing a digital audio file to make it small enough to be transmitted over the limited bandwidth of a Bluetooth connection, some information is removed. Depending on how good this lossy compression is, you might not even notice a difference – a lot of people don’t. But artists, producers, and those who enjoy listening to music have long opposed lossy compression, saying it just isn’t precise enough.

So the ability to send digital audio wirelessly between a source device and a set of headphones or speakers without any loss of detail (thus “lossless”) has been something of a holy grail, and Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec seems to be the first technology to break this barrier. It’s not quite a perfect replacement for the physical connection used by headphones and wired headphones, but it does promise that as long as your source is lossless CD quality that was produced at 16-bit/44.1kHz , there will be no difference between wired and wireless in terms of the details sent to your chosen listening device.

Ready, willing — but not yet able

Close-up of nuratrue pro headphones.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Given this explanation of the benefits of aptX Lossless, the NutraTrue Pros seem to have an unbeatable edge, at least when it comes to their wireless technology. But, there is a catch.

AptX Lossless only works when both the sending device (such as a smartphone) and the receiving device (wireless headphones) have the necessary hardware and software to support Qualcomm’s codec. And while the NuraTrue Pro may be the first receiving device, at present, no device is capable of acting as aptX Lossless transmitters.

In fact, to test the NuraTrue Pro’s aptX Lossless performance, Nura CEO Dr. Luke Campbell had to travel to the company’s manufacturer in China where he had access to a never-before-seen aptX Lossless dongle.

When will we see the first aptX Lossless compatible phones? Any handset using Qualcomm’s flagship The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset should theoretically work, according to Nura, and we expect to see the first phones with this hardware shortly. In fact, it’s likely that most if not all new flagship Android phones will have them by the end of 2022. Apple, as usual, is the outlier here – no iPhone has ever supported the Qualcomm’s Bluetooth codecs.

So for now, as cool as the promise of aptX Lossless might be, we should think of it as a future-proof, not an immediate benefit of buying the NuraTrue Pro, especially if you don’t intend to upgrade your phone this year. .

premium price

Nuratrue pro charging case exterior.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Speaking of buying the NuraTrue Pro, if you want that to happen, the company’s Kickstarter campaign price looks very attractive at $199. Once these headphones hit regular retail channels like Amazon, the company says they’ll cost a lot more: $329.

This puts the NuraTrue Pro in rare territory – only the $400 Bowers & Wilkins PI7 and $400 Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX cost more – and a tough sell given that Nura lacks the long history and iconic status of these two luxury audio brands.

Premium features

Man wearing nuratrue pro headphones.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

To help justify such a high expense, Nura has added a ton of features to the NuraTrue Pro. Based on nearly the same size and shape as the existing NuraTrue headphones, the Pros feature polished ceramic inlays and outer rings, for a more premium look. Their wireless charging, wear sensors for auto-pause, fit detection test and Bluetooth multipoint for connecting to two devices simultaneously is just the tip of the earphone iceberg.

Even when you don’t have access to an aptX Lossless source, the headphones are backwards compatible with aptX Adaptive, giving you the next best thing: high-resolution lossy audio up to 24-bit/96kHz. For what it’s worth, Nura claims you’ll get 80% of the way to the quality you’d expect from its true lossless connection.

Staying on the audio front, Nura still uses its proprietary Custom Sound technology to detect your hearing abilities, but it adds Nura ProEQ, the first time Nura has given its user the ability to fine-tune the EQ settings generated by its sound. personalized. algorithms.

Want more? Nura has teamed up with the digital signal processing (DSP) gurus of Dirac, to include that company’s spatial audio technology on the NuraTrue Pro. I haven’t always been a fan of Dirac’s DSP. But when I recently tried his spatial audio on Sudio E2 headphones, it gave me a convert – if you don’t have access to music produced in Dolby Atmos Music, Dirac’s spatial audio can do a job incredible “spatialization” standard two stereo channel. In some cases, listening to a Dirac version of a stereo track is even better than listening to the remastered version of Dolby Atmos Music.

Add in Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), Transparency Mode, IPX4 water resistance, fully customizable controls, and a generous eight-hour battery life per charge, with 32 hours of total playtime, and it’s nearly impossible to think of something that Nura left out.

It could be good – very good

Nuratrue pro headphones seen next to nuratrue headphones.
NuraTrue Pro (left) and NuraTrue wireless headphones. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Now that I’ve pumped you up, you probably only want to know one thing: how do these headphones work? If the NuraTrue Pro was fully baked and I could test out all of these awesome features, it would be a full review, with a score and all the usual fixings.

Because I wasn’t able to test the buds’ aptX Lossless connection, their Dirac spatial audio, or their ProEQ – three of the things that help set them apart from their competitors, for now this is a hands-on review not noted.

But I can tell you this: they’re light and comfortable, and the NuraTrue Pro have everything they need to be cutting-edge wireless headphones. The sound quality is excellent, even without the benefit of aptX Lossless. In fact, Nura has done such a good job with the EQ, driver tuning, and amplification on these headphones, the only way to detect a difference between an iPhone’s AAC codec and the aptX Adaptive Hi-Res connection of ‘Android was to sit in a perfectly quiet room and really focus on what I was hearing.

Without the custom sound engaged, they’re good, but frankly a little disappointing. With this setting engaged, these buds really come alive, with deep, resonant bass, a fully defined midrange, and clear (if a bit crisp) highs. They have no problem dealing with Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3, Sony WF-1000XM4 and the excellent Astell & Kern UW100.

ANC works very well, providing powerful blocking of most unwanted external sounds, while managing wind noise effortlessly. Transparency mode is just as good. It’s not quite the invisible performance you get from AirPods Pro, but nothing else has hit that bar so far.

Even the call quality is remarkably good. When things are loud around you, the mics cancel out most of those distracting sounds, while preserving an acceptable level of intelligibility for your voice. In quieter places, it’s fine, and you’ll come across nice and clear.

The only downside to calling the NuraTrue Pro is that there’s no sidetone feature and you can’t keep transparency mode on during a call. So while you speak well to your callers, you won’t be able to hear your own voice as clearly.

Follow the crowd?

Even though Nura is an established brand with several products under their belt, I must remind you the nature of crowdfunding campaigns. They are notorious for going sideways, so as always, buyer beware. Nura’s current plan is to deliver the first batch of NuraTrue Pros to backers in October 2022.

Great at first price

Nura is the first company to announce a set of aptX Lossless compatible wireless headphones, but you can bet there will be plenty more hitting the market by the end of the year. From my limited experience with these headphones, I think Nura has absolutely justified its first support price of $199. But I’m on the fence about its regular retail price of $329. My advice is that unless you’re very happy to be first among your friends with the latest and greatest gear, a little patience is in order.

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