The Personalised Headphones Producing High Fidelity

When it comes to acoustics, the problem is we all hear differently. Cue a new headphone design that promises performance as tailored as your playlists.

Article by Mark Gambino

Nurabuds allow the listener to import their hearing profile to create a personalised listening experience. Photography courtesy of Nura.

Once, a solid turntable and a pair of ancient, and probably heavy, speakers was the closest you could get to hearing music the way the artist intended it. Now, a smartphone and a modestly priced pair of earbud headphones is all you need to journey to a similar place. But the pursuit of high fidelity from personal headphones can make or break a manufacturer.

One Australian company has been able to not only achieve that, but also rise to meet the heavyweights of the industry in the process. “Music can be very personal and means something different to everybody,” says Dr Luke Campbell, the chief technology officer and cofounder of the audio company Nura. “We recognise that everybody is unique — and that’s not an abstract thing. You literally hear differently from other people. What we do is analyse the unique characteristics of your hearing and mould your sound to allow you to get the most out of your music.”

As a music lover and an ENT doctor, Campbell began to formulate an idea: what if the hearing test he used to detect the capacity of a patient’s hearing could be employed to personalise music reproduction in headphones so listeners heard every facet of the sound tailored to their ears? The Nuraphone was born. These headphones deliver a truly personalised experience by automatically adapting audio to a listener’s hearing characteristics, rather than the qualities defined by a manufacturer. For example, if your ears perceive low-end frequencies with reduced sensitivity, the headphones will boost that range and give you the full effect.

So groundbreaking was the concept that the Nuraphone received various awards for innovation before its release. Both the audio industry and consumers took notice. Since then, Nura has spawned three iterations of its headphone technology: the original over-ear Nuraphone; the wired Nuraloop; and NuraTrue wireless earbuds, which rest in the ear in much the same way as Apple’s AirPods Pro and Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds.

Offering noise cancellation, sweat resistance, Nura’s personalised audio delivery and immersion and social functions, NuraTrue is a very portable alternative to the full-size version, without the sacrifices that usually accompany miniaturisation. This full set of features illustrates the Nura team’s dedication to ensuring compromise plays no part in a music lover’s listening time. “NuraTrue was a really exciting project for us,” says Campbell. “We wanted to take the incredible advances over the last couple of years that have enabled true wireless earbuds, package them with all the smarts and offer them in a convenient form factor.”

Luke Campbell, an ENT doctor turned cofounder of the audio company Nura. Photography courtesy of Nura.

He says that combining these technologies without sacrificing sound quality required “a blind focus on giving our users the best experience of their music. That was our approach to designing every aspect of the product.” The ultimate aim was to enable the deepest possible emotional connection — something that is now the company’s core mission.

“Music has the power to connect you with the people who created it and the people you’re experiencing it with,” says Campbell. “Most importantly, it connects you to your emotions in the moment, the emotions you feel when listening to the music and the emotions of those around you. It’s a really powerful thing.”

Wireless Freedoms

The advent of true wireless earbuds has freed us from the shackles of copper wire. Despite the drop in scale — from classic over-ear “cans” to tiny gadgets that slip into your pocket — these thumb- sized wonders boast features normally associated with their larger counterparts, thanks to cutting-edge tech. Social features, such as the ability to dial in and out of the outside world to allow easy conversation, make earbuds a safer alternative when outdoors, not to mention a little more socially acceptable when you’re in the office or at the supermarket checkout. For those who exercise regardless of weather conditions, earbuds with sweat- and water-resistance are non-negotiable.

Nuratrue, $299

Nura’s foray into true wireless earbuds are true in every sense. Present is the company’s audio technology that reproduces music authentically, tailored to your hearing. Swapping in these earbuds after wearing others highlights the customised audio, which will very quickly set the benchmark for your listening devices. The earbuds’ immersion feature, which focuses ultra-low frequency sound against the skin and inner ear to create a feeling of presence, needs to be experienced to be believed.

Beats Studio Buds, $199.95

These new Beats earbuds are a great alternative to the brand’s Powerbeats Pro model, trading the latter’s ear hooks for a more compact and comfortable in-ear design. Beats delivers its trademark performance with these buds, combining powerful low ends and balanced response with smart features that play well with both iOS and Android smartphones. While these easily outperform the standard AirPods created by Apple (the parent company of Beats), iPhone users wanting improved active noise- cancelling should opt for Apple’s AirPods Pro. 

Sony WF-1000XM4, $449.95

The noise-cancellation specialist has bottled lightning with this product, the latest in its headphones range. The compact fit is the first aspect you’ll notice; these earbuds balance perfectly in the ear. Fire up your favourite tune and the performance is superb, with Sony’s noise-cancelling technology dealing with background sound to ensure every frequency in the music can breathe.

A version of this article appears in print in our third edition, Page 52 of T Australia with the headline:
Order a copy | Subscribe