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NuraLoop hands-on review: The smartest earbuds you’ve ever seen

The NuraLoop are smarter than the AirPods Pro - and could be cheaper

NuraLoop
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

For

  • Excellent and customizable ANC and audio transparency
  • Can be used wirelessly or with an aux cable
  • Comfortable and secure fit
  • Sound great, particularly with a custom profile enabled

Against

  • Price could be higher at launch than it currently is for pre-orders
  • Charging cable uses proprietary connector

Australian audio company Nura first caught the attention of the audio world with its unique $400 Nuraphone headphones, which attune themselves to the shape of your inner ear for a personally tuned audio experience. It revealed the smaller sibling of the Nuraphone, the NuraLoop, at CES 2019, but a year later, and just a couple of months out from the shipping date, we finally got to try these high-tech earbuds out.

In essence, the NuraLoop buds are the Nuraphone pared down into a pair of cord-connected wireless earbuds. They retain the ability to adjust to your particular inner ear architecture with a simple test, have built-in active noise cancelling, use Bluetooth 5 for a secure wireless connection and are IPx3 rated for when you take them to the gym.

NuraLoop pricing and availability

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you preordered the NuraLoop before November 2019, (for $199 or £199), you’ll be getting your new earbuds delivered in February 2020. If you look at Nura’s NuraLoop store page today, you’ll see you have to wait until at least March to buy them, and you might have to pay a little extra, although Nura is still considering the final pricing.

NuraLoop design and setup

You get three sizes of ear gels in the box, which with the help of flexible hooks that bend over the top of your ear, make sure the NuraLoop stays in place. I prefer wearing earbuds with ear gels rather than open-fit style buds, so I was a big fan of these lightweight, secure-feeling buds from the moment I put them in my ears.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

During my brief hands-on time, I went through the set-up process and listened to a few tracks with my personal Nura listening profile. It takes a couple of minutes of sci-fi sound effects being blasted through your ears to complete the test, but it really makes a difference. Switching between the default Neutral profile and the freshly made ‘Richard P’ profile, it was easy to hear how Nura’s app improved the sound of Flying Lotus’ “More”, one of my favorite  tracks of 2019. The NuraLoop gave me the meaty bass notes I want from FlyLo’s music, while keeping the vocals and higher-pitched instruments perfectly balanced at the same time. I’ll need to try more tracks and listening situations when I get some more time with the NuraLoop in future to get a better idea of what it’s capable of, but it’s certainly made a fantastic first impression.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

You control the NuraLoop via the capacitive TouchDial controls on either bud, the functions of which are customisable in the app. With a single clockwise or anti-clockwise motion you can adjust the volume, “immersion” level (which aim to make your music sound more or less like a live performance depending on your preference) or audio transparency as you wish, which is far faster than opening your phone to adjust them in-app, or using multiple taps or button presses to move one step up or down at a time.

NuraLoop Social Mode

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Similar to Transparency Mode on Apple’s AirPods Pro, or various other near-identical features on other headphones, the NuraLoop has Social Mode, which uses the buds’ four inbuilt microphones to pipe in noise from the outside world, letting you keep an ear on your surroundings and talk to people without needing to remove the buds all the time. You can turn it on or off with a tap on one of the buds, or you can adjust how much external sound you’re getting with one of the dials, which allowed me to listen to music, then talk to Nura’s representatives without having to remove the buds. You can do pretty much the same thing on other headphones, but the NuraLoop’s controls are either faster or more precise depending on what you want in that moment. It’s the best implementation of this feature I’ve seen so far.

NuraLoop battery life and connections

The NuraLoop feature a promised 16-hour battery life, with two hours of listening time from 10 minutes plugged in. The charging cable uses a proprietary magnetic connection, similar to the MagSafe connectors you used to find on Apple MacBooks. It will stay together securely most of the time, but if you pull on them sharply it’ll come away without any risk of damage. 

This connector also allows you to plug in an aux cable to the NuraLoop. This lets you use it with a wider variety of devices, and squeeze even more battery life out of the buds should you need to, since you won’t need to turn on the Bluetooth connection. Although this does of course mean you can't plug any old cable in to recharge or use the aux connection, which is a small nuisance.

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Outlook

We’ll have more to tell you once we get some more time with the NuraLoop closer to the release date. But based on our impressions, this is a very exciting audio product that users interested in the best wireless earbuds around need to keep an eye on.

Be sure to check out our CES 2020 hub for the latest news and hands-on impressions out of Las Vegas.