Advertisement
Advertisement

NuraTrue Pro preview: A new dawn for lossless Bluetooth

Andy White
28 Jun 2022

The impact of aptX Lossless remains to be seen, but the NuraTrue Pro are shaping up very nicely thanks to a whole host of upgrades

Advertisement

Australian manufacturer Nura has unveiled the NuraTrue Pro, the latest true wireless earbuds in its range of headphones capable of analysing your hearing and creating a personalised EQ based on the results.

Like Nura’s debut headphones, the over-ear Nuraphone, the NuraTrue Pro are launching on Kickstarter and are available to pre-order for a 30-day period from 28 June. They’re set to go on general sale in October but I got my hands on a preview pair and have been putting them through their paces for the past couple of weeks.

I haven’t been able to test their headline feature – lossless audio over Bluetooth – as there currently aren’t any phones on the market that support it. Nura has also said it will be pushing out regular firmware updates to optimise the experience over the coming months, and for those reasons, I’ll be holding off giving the NuraTrue Pro a rating until later in the year. But if you’re considering backing the Kickstarter campaign or simply want to know what to expect from Nura’s new flagship earbuds, read on.

Pre-order now on Kickstarter


NuraTrue Pro: What’s new?

The NuraTrue Pro are the follow up to the NuraTrue, which received our Recommended award in the summer of 2021. They’ll cost £299 at launch – £100 more than the base model – although anyone who pre-orders early on Kickstarter can secure a pair significantly cheaper.

Like the NuraTrue, the Pro’s big hook is their ability to create a bespoke sound profile from a hearing test that measures your ears’ response to various sonic frequencies. The process has been sped up by roughly 20% and now uses the information from a greater number of hearing tests (around two million) to inform the creation of its profiles. In a first for Nura headphones, you’ll also be able to adjust the NuraTrue Pro’s EQ manually using a graphic equaliser in the companion app. That’s a welcome addition but a relatively minor one compared to other upgrades to the NuraTrue Pro’s audio arsenal.

The first big new feature is a Spatial Audio mode that uses processing technology developed by Swedish audio innovators Dirac. Unlike with some implementations of three-dimensional audio, the NuraTrue Pro’s spatial mode doesn’t rely on head tracking, which means you don’t need photos of your head or ears to take advantage of it. Their spatial audio processing can also be applied to any stereo content from any source or streaming platform, unlike key rivals such as the Apple AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM4.

The other, and arguably more significant, new addition is support for Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless – the latest capability of the chip manufacturer’s aptX Adaptive codec technology. As a result, the NuraTrue Pro will become one of the first pairs of true wireless earbuds capable of 16-bit 44.1Hz lossless transmission over Bluetooth.

You’ll need a phone powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip to be able to take advantage of aptX Lossless, however, and we won’t start seeing these released until later this year. It’s also worth bearing in mind that your distance from your source will affect the efficacy of lossless transmission: the further away you are from your source, the lossier your content becomes.

Earbud battery life is up from six to eight hours, with the charging case still providing three full charges, taking total battery life to a very respectable 32 hours. Wireless charging via a Qi pad is now supported, while charging times when using the included USB-C cable have been cut in half. The charging case now also features coloured LEDs that reflect the battery life of both the buds and case, which is handy.

Bluetooth connectivity has been upgraded from version 5.0 to 5.3 and the NuraTrue Pro support Multipoint pairing, so can be connected to two input sources simultaneously. Calls make use of four microphones rather than the two found on the NuraTrue, and Nura has incorporated a bone-conduction sensor to help reduce the impact of background noise on calls and improve voice clarity.

The extra mics are also put to use for noise-cancellation purposes, with the NuraTrue Pro now offering adaptive noise cancellation that adjusts attenuation automatically based on the external sound in your immediate environment. As was the case with the original NuraTrue, you have a choice between ANC and Social mode, which is Nura’s take on a transparency option.

The NuraTrue Pro have also received a bit of an aesthetic upgrade. The core design remains unchanged – the buds consist of large discs, nozzles that end in eartips, and wings – but the outside of the discs are now framed in a glossy material. The same material is used for the Nura logos in the centre of the buds and on the case and gives the Pro model a more distinguished look than its predecessor.

READ NEXT: The best headphones for every budget

NuraTrue Pro: Initial impressions

Given how much more than the base model the NuraTrue Pro cost, you’d expect a far superior product, and they’re certainly that in some areas. In others, the improvements are less pronounced, while the jury is still out on sound quality given it’s not currently possible to take full advantage of their lossless streaming capabilities.

The aesthetic tweaks give them a more attractive look, although their design still doesn’t scream premium in quite the same way as the Master & Dynamic MW08 I reviewed recently. But Nura doesn’t profess to be a luxury lifestyle brand. It’s a company that places technical innovation and audio performance at the forefront of what it does. Tangible improvements to the user experience are what it’s targeting with the NuraTrue Pro, and I’ve been impressed by most of the changes.

Increases to battery life and the speed at which hearing tests are carried out may not be glamorous or headline-grabbing but are very welcome, as are the addition of wireless charging, Multipoint pairing and manual EQ adjustment, although how effective the latter is uncertain, as it’s not available in the app yet.

Noise cancellation performance is definitely better than it was on the NuraTrue, but not to the point where the Pro shoot straight to the top of the ANC pile. Low-frequency attenuation is more effective and mid-range frequencies are also reduced to a greater degree, but the overall listening conditions they create aren’t quite as quiet as the best buds in the business. Notoriously difficult-to-cancel high frequencies and loud voices are still going to disturb your peace every once in while, as I discovered to my detriment when a particularly raucous group boarded my Elizabeth Line train.

Pre-order now on Kickstarter

The Pro’s Social mode is implemented in the same manner as it was on the NuraTrue, which is to say it reduces the volume of music and pumps in external sound so you’re more aware of your surroundings. It’s accompanied by an audible hiss, which is particularly apparent if you’re lying in bed or sitting at your desk, and isn’t as natural-sounding or effective as the excellent transparency mode on the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. It does, however, achieve its aim of letting you converse with others without taking the earbuds out of your ears.

There’s still room for improvement when it comes to how well background noise is reduced when on calls, too. At home, distractions such as the kettle, TV and washing machine were all picked up by my partner when I was speaking to her on the phone, although not to any significant degree. Overall, she said I sounded pretty clear but reported some sibilance. I also experienced this when listening back to audio recordings of myself, but otherwise voice clarity was pretty good.

In noisier outdoor environments, however, I struggled to be heard at times. Sitting at a railway station while on a Zoom call with the Expert Reviews team, I was intelligible for the most part, but completely drowned out whenever a train approached the station. This is a pretty extreme example but serves to show that one shouldn’t expect miracles from the incorporation of additional mics.

My experience of the new spatial audio mode, on the other hand, has been very positive. Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” is a song that features clear stereo imaging, and with spatial mode switched off, the left and right channels were well articulated but felt a little disconnected. Switching it on enhanced the cohesion between them, expanded the soundstage and created smoother transitions between audio moving left to right and vice versa.

The effect is even more pronounced with content that’s been optimised for 3D audio. Positional cues in “Dance Monkey (8D Audio)” – part of a 3D Spatial Audio playlist on Spotify – travelled around the soundstage in a convincing manner and successfully created that sense of music being played in the space around your head rather than being piped directly into your ears. It makes for a more immersive listening experience, and the mode remained toggled on for a significant proportion of my testing time.

The EQ personalisation that works so well on the Nuraphone, NuraLoop and NuraTrue works equally well here, although the graphical representation of my hearing profile looked rather different to the profiles I’ve created in the past. I don’t think my hearing has changed dramatically over two years, so this is likely to do with a slightly different in-ear fit and tweaks to the hearing test based on data Nura has compiled from its users.

READ NEXT: Our favourite cheap wireless earbuds

Sound quality remained up to Nura’s usual high standards. Everyone’s profile will sound slightly different but mine was characterised by boosted mids and treble – ensuring vocals sounded crystal clear – and dialled back bass frequencies. The resulting clarity when listening to high-resolution tracks using the aptX Adaptive codec was top notch and the Pro successfully delivered contrasting genres with energy, balance and precision. This was all without the benefits of lossless streaming that is set to further elevate the listening experience when smartphones supporting it become available later in the year.

A number of other aspects of the Pro package remain consistent with the experience delivered by the base model, and that’s no bad thing. Comfort levels remain high, with the four pairs of silicone eartips, a single pair of foam tips and two pairs of wingtips ensuring most people will be able to achieve a comfortable and stable fit. An IPX4 rating for water resistance marks them splashproof and therefore a fine choice for use while exercising, and I found the in-ear detection worked consistently.

The NuraTrue Pro’s touch controls are pretty much identical to their predecessor’s following the firmware update they received in December 2021. They cover key commands including track skipping, volume adjustment and increasing or decreasing “Immersion” mode, which boosts or reduces bass. Taps, double taps and triple taps were all registered without issue and the level of customisation on offer is pleasing. I’d like to see the option to toggle spatial mode on and off incorporated into the list of commands, however, and a way to manually switch between connected Multipoint devices would be welcome, too.

Finally, I want to touch on a few little issues I’ve come across during my time with the NuraTrue Pro, which may or may not be addressed ahead of their general release. On a couple of occasions, the earbuds failed to charge when in the case. I was unable to work out why this happened but would hazard a guess that the connectors in the case are a little finicky.

A more minor gripe relates to getting the buds out of their case. There’s a bit of space left in the case to get your finger under and prise the buds out, but doing so wasn’t easy at first due to their slippery round edges. Once you’ve got the technique down it becomes a non-issue, but be prepared for some initial frustration.

Also frustrating were occasional disconnects from the app, which takes quite a while to boot up, and a horrible feedback noise made by the noise-cancelling microphones when I coughed. Neither are huge problems and don’t happen frequently enough to detract from the Pro’s positive traits but are worth mentioning nonetheless.

Pre-order now on Kickstarter


NuraTrue Pro: Early verdict

Nura headphones have always had the unique selling point of innovative EQ personalisation, and with the addition of spatial audio and lossless streaming over Bluetooth, the NuraTrue Pro are better placed than ever to take on the might of Sony, Bose and Apple.

A few key areas still require some work – the Social mode and call quality could both be better – and only those that splash out on an Android smartphone with Qualcomm’s latest chip will be able to fully enjoy their lossless streaming capabilities at launch.

Just how good their personalised EQs sound once aptX Lossless is available remains to be seen, but the NuraTrue Pro are already operating from an impressive baseline and boast a more complete set of features than most true wireless earbuds on the market.

Read more

First Look