In an incredibly crowded headphone space, you have to have a USP to make sure your cans can be heard. Nura has this. You may not have heard of them as they aren't quite yet a household name, but in audio circles it's a brand that's been praised for its unique approach to making sound personal to the user.
Its first product, the bulky, brilliant Nuraphones were over-ear headphones that boasted a long battery life, exceptional noise cancelling (which was added later via a software update) and that all-important sound personalisation, which we'll go into more detail in this review.
While Nuraphones are still a great product, they aren't for everyone - a high price point (which has been tempered with the ability to own them on a subscription basis) and form factor meant that they were never going to be the 'everyday' pair of headphone for general users.
Nura's latest, the NuraLoop, is for all. They are in-ear headphones that come packing the same tech as their bigger siblings but at a much cheaper price and in a form factor that's good for sports, at home or commuting - there must be a catch, right?
Here's what we think...
1. It's time for some ear mapping
The secret sauce to NuraLoop is its app. When you set the earphones up, they connect to your device through Bluetooth but you need to load the app up if you want to sort your unique audio profile. This may sound techie and that's because it is - the app emits a number of sounds through the earphones, mapping how you hear sound. This process takes around a minute and is fun to do - the sounds you hear are like Star Wars outtakes.
The app also tells you if the earphones are in properly (there are four different sized buds to use) and it's here you can name your device. Once the ear mapping is done, there's a toggle to see what music sounds like as a 'neutral' profile and a 'personalised' one. The results are stunning - the personalised sound, for us, was richer and more immersive.
2. Fitted for comfort
In the box you get the NuraLoop earphones, an attachable 3.5mm cable (which hooks on to the magnetic part of the strap that also doubles as the charging port), a charging cable, four different ear bud sizes and a carry case.
The design of the earphones is great. The first thing you will notice, though, is that these aren't capitalising on the current True Wireless trend. These earphones are attached by a cable. While it means they may be looked over by those looking for a true AirPod rival, having them linked together does have a number of benefits.
The first is something we will mention later but it does mean that battery life is improved massively. After speaking to Nura, it was also felt that the cable was good for those using them while running and other sports, and that the original people in mind when the earphones were being made were musicians - and one of the big asks from musicians is that they can have a cable, so they can slip out an ear with ease if needed.
There is a little bit of bulk in the actual bud bit of the earphones but it's not that noticeable when in the ear. They are comfortable, too. This was one of our big bugbears with the original Nuraphones - our ears began to ache after a few hours' use. We didn't get any of that fatigue while wearing these headphones for long hours.
3. Big sounds come from small packages
When it comes to sound, there's a real depth to the audio on display. While the setup process may feel like a gimmick, when you listen to your music with the personalised option toggled it really adds to what you are listening to.
We've been using these earphones for weeks now, but a sample of the music tried includes: The Twilight Sad's live album, Perfume Genius' Set My Heart On Fire Immediately, Fontaines DC's Mongrel and Duke Dumont's Duality.
There was a richness to the 'bigger' songs we heard. Perfume Genius' Without You was lush, A Hero's Death by Fontaine's DC had the rawness the record warrants while Duke Dumont's sun-kissed track Ocean Drive bounced with funk thanks to the big bass these small earphones emit.
Although the sound isn't quite as big as what we get on the Nuraphones, the NuraLoop does a fantastic job for its size.
The active noise cancelling was superb, too. Nura does a good job of telling you - in a soothing voice - if your earphones aren't offering the right amount of seal for noise cancelling.
While sound wasn't an issue at all, we did have some niggles with the touch controls. You can change what the controls do on each side of the ear but they just weren't as responsive as we would have liked - and would go off if all we were doing was shifting the earphones back into place. This is an issue with most earphones with touch controls, however, but we felt it was worth pointing out.
4. Fantastic battery life and charger
The charger on the NuraLoop is proprietary but reminds us of the old magnetic MacBook charger. It's a great idea - given this port is also used as the connector for the 3.5mm cable. The idea is that if you are listening to music on, say, a plane and you forget it's plugged in then it won't break if you accidentally yank it out.
When it comes to charging, it only takes 20 minutes to get around two hours' use out of the 'buds. If you charge them fully, though, then you can get a fantastic 16 hours' use out of the NuraLoop. This is up there (and we think surpasses) any other earphones of this type - it's fantastic.
One quibble with the cable is that because it is proprietary, there is always the fear that you will lose it and if you do, then there's no way of charging - unless you get a replacement.
5. Fitness first
As mentioned, the NuraLoop earphones are great for sport. Having the band really does help when you are out on a run and offers peace of mind which True Wireless headphones just don't. They are comfy to run in, as well as being sweat proof.
It's a really nice touch that the earphones will turn off after two minutes not in your ears, too. Having them rest around our necks when cooling down and not having music blaring out is a very good thing.
They aren't too heavy, either and because they've been designed to be snug in the ear so that the ANC works properly, they never felt like they were going to fall out.
NuraLoop Review: Final Verdict
The NuraLoop are a fantastic pair of in-ear headphones, offering up bucket-loads of smart technology in a relatively small package.
They sound fantastic, offer up great noise cancelling and, for their price (£199 / $199), offer up superb value for money. If you can forgive the occasionally clunky touch controls then you are in for a real treat.