The NuraLoop is attempting to do again what Australian company Nura first managed in 2018 with its Nuraphone over-ear headphones — blow away the establishment by being smarter than all of them.
While not as slick-looking as some of the best wireless earbuds, like the AirPods Pro, Jabra Elite Active 75t or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, the NuraLoop more than makes up for it with audio power and well implemented features. It includes all your favorites like active noise cancelling, customizable controls and a snug gel-tip fit, and adds an aux cable connection and custom listening profiles. And despite all that it offers, the Nuraloop remains competitively priced.
The NuraLoop has an unusual connector, and I’m not totally convinced by its looks, but as you’ll see by the end of this NuraLoop review, anyone looking to invest in high-quality but compact wireless earbuds should have these on their shortlist.
NuraLoop review: Price and availability
Battery life (rated): 16 hours
Weight: 25g (0.88 ounces)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Within the box, aside from the NuraLoop itself, you get alternate ear gel tips, a USB-A charging cable with a proprietary connector, a headphone jack-tipped aux cable with the same proprietary connector and a travel case to cart everything around in.
NuraLoop review: Design
Nura’s design philosophy looks to be one of function first and form second with the NuraLoop. These all-black earbuds, set off by the Nura logo on either bud, are solidly engineered but are definitely built for enthusiast use rather than for fashion. The matte surfaces of the majority of the unit mean it’ll easily blend into the background though.
It’s worth noting that the NuraLoop is wireless, but it isn’t true wireless. Unlike your average pair of Apple AirPods, there’s a cable connecting both earpieces.
The least aesthetically pleasing parts of the NuraLoop are also the most functional parts – the wired earhooks that fit around the outside of your ear and the circular connector with its seven copper-colored pogo connectors. These make the NuraLoop look kind of dated compared to the glossy constrained designs of many popular earbuds, but also give the NuraLoop an advantage in quality of user experience, as we’ll see later.
NuraLoop review: Comfort and fit
With four total ear gels to choose from in the box (10.5mm, 12mm, 13.5mm and 15mm in diameter respectively), malleable earhooks and a good fit test built into the Nura app, you’ll be left with no doubt that once you’ve set the NuraLoop up, you’re set for the rest of your time with them.
Since it uses eargels, you don’t have to rely on various parts of your ear to hold the NuraLoop buds in for you, which is always my preference with earbuds. The earhooks bend to where you want them and then stay put, and are pretty easy to forget about once you’ve been wearing them for some time.
The only issue I noticed was the cable that connects both sides of the NuraLoop is kind of short. It fits fine around my head even with my fairly thick hair in the way, but I wonder if someone with a broader head would find it hard to stretch this cable around the back of their neck.
NuraLoop review: Setup and app
Nura requires the use of its iOS or Android app when you use the NuraLoop. So the setup process goes like this. You put on the NuraLoop (they connect automatically when you wear them), connect your device via Bluetooth, then connect it to the Nura app, which you’ll need to make an account for if you don’t have one already.
Then you go through a short test to make sure the earbuds fit in correctly, before you then have a couple of minutes of strange noises played into your ears for the sound customization software to work out what sounds best for your ear shape.
When that’s done, the app will start playing a sample track and allow you to throw the switch to activate your profile. It’s quite theatrical for a tech product, but it all goes smoothly enough, and once you’re done, the profile is saved to your device, with the option to add more if you want to let a friend or family member try out the personalization process for themselves.
The app itself is pretty basic, since Nura’s whole selling point is that the NuraLoop will take care of the tricky stuff for you. You can check your remaining battery, go through the hearing profile setup again either to refine your own profile or make another, turn the personalization and ANC on or off, configure what the TouchDials do, or share your unique hearing profile graphic on social media to show off how smart your earbuds are to your friends and followers.
All of this is done with a clean and easily comprehensible UI that even Apple itself would be proud of. True audio nerds may miss the chance to fiddle with the settings themselves if they don’t agree with what the NuraLoop says their profile is, but for most people the app is exactly how you’d want it to be.
NuraLoop Review: Controls
There are no visible buttons on the NuraLoop, as you control it via the capacitive “TouchDial” on either earpiece. You can tap these dials to turn things on or off, or run your finger clockwise or anticlockwise around them to increase the volume or the intensity of the active noise cancellation, although you can customize these to some extent in the app.
There’s no haptic feedback when you do this, which I would have appreciated so I knew my commands were definitely registering, but it’s quite intuitive once you’ve used it once or twice. And having the option to tune the volume or ANC without buttons feels pretty magical.
A September firmware update recently improved the controls further. You now have a double tap gesture on either earbud, meaning that you can now perform more actions without reaching for your phone. The update also improves voice call quality and fit detection, fixes some other bugs, and lets you choose how the NuraLoop switches on and off.
By default, the earbuds turn themselves on and off automatically when they detect they’re in your ears. Now however you can opt to enable manual on/off instead from the settings in the Nura app.
I have mostly had a good experience with the auto on/off, the earbuds recognizing when I was and wasn’t wearing them accurately, even if it’s a little slow to switch off sometimes. There have been a few occasions where I have taken the NuraLoop off when it hasn’t registered, meaning I’ve left them on for half an hour or more without realizing.
The manual switch means that no longer happens, but the way to use it is by holding both earbuds’ TouchDials for three seconds, meaning you either have to grab both buds in one hand before you put them on or away, or you look like you’re sticking your fingers in your ears if they’re already on. It’s nowhere near as smooth, but at least you have complete control this way.
I don’t think either method is completely perfect. However I do appreciate that now you have a choice, and I am sure anyone who buys these would too.
NuraLoop review: Sound quality
Being stuck in rural northern England for the national lockdown means it’s hard to give the ANC a good stress test, but it certainly worked well sitting at my desk. The whirring of my laptop’s fan and the muffled speech of my family in other rooms were all deftly cancelled out at maximum cancellation, with the external sound smoothly increasing in intensity as I lowered the cancellation level with the TouchDial until it reached ‘Social Mode’, Nura’s name for its listen-through option that pipes in all the sound the four external mics can pick up.
The large and bulky design really pays off here, as I’m convinced these earbuds cancel sound just as well as my big Sony WH-1000XM3 noise cancelling headphones. I’ll get back to you once I try both out on the streets of London though.
As for the sound itself, again all is forgiven when it comes to the chunky frame of the earbuds. The NuraLoop produces some of the best percussion I’ve heard from a pair of earbuds; the Brazilian-inspired drumming in the track “Hillside Plaza” from the Street Fighter V soundtrack came forth with all the energy you could ask for.
Playing Laura Mvula’s orchestral/RnB-blending “Kiss My Feet”, Mvula’s vocals, the backing singers, the brass, the strings and the synthesizers were all perfectly balanced with each other. This is because of the NuraLoop app’s personalization, as turning the app back to Neutral Mode brought the treble sounds out far more than the voices or lower-pitched instruments. Everything is still clear and enjoyable to listen to, but the hearing profile’s ability to mix the EQ to balance everything just for you is really quite remarkable. You’d be foolish to turn it off.
NuraLoop review: Connectivity
The NuraLoop uses a fairly typical Bluetooth 5.0 connection to link up with your device. It’s not the newest Bluetooth 5.1 standard, but I have zero complaints to make about the reliability of the connection.
Actually I do have one. One time I took my phone upstairs, leaving the NuraLoop accidentally still connected on my desk below. I then tried to play a video clip from Twitter, but was stumped as to why it was playing silently despite me having my volume up. I hadn’t anticipated the NuraLoop’s connection being so good that I’d need to wait for it to turn itself off before trying to use my phone’s speakers.
NuraLoop review: Battery life and charging
I’ve been using the NuraLoop each time I’d normally pull out my own headphones to listen to music or video on my phone during work hours. It’s been just over a week of medium intensity usage, and I’ve only had to charge the NuraLoop twice, so the rated 16 hours of battery life seems to be accurate.
My only complaint comes back to the proprietary connector. You only get one charging cable in the box, and a fairly short one at that. While Nura will likely sell you spares from their website once the NuraLoop starts shipping, that’ll probably be a £15 ($18) charge for a second cable you can’t use with anything else.
Most new earbuds and headphones use USB-C connectors (unless it’s from Apple or Beats, in which case it’s probably a Lightning connector), which you can use with almost any modern device to charge or transfer data.
Nuraloop review: Verdict
The original NuraPhones were a great product, but I found them too impractical and uncomfortable for my audio needs. The NuraLoop, however, is much more my speed, and I think many other more casual music lovers will agree, particularly if you’ve got the money to spend. Now, $200 is quite a large amount to spend on earbuds, but it’s par for the course if you’re also looking at the AirPods Pro or similar products. You just have to be willing to live with a cord connecting the buds together.
The hurdles in your way of buying the NuraLoop are the looks, and more importantly the unusual connector that may make you feel you have to carry the included cables around with you at all times in case you need them. However, this probably isn’t necessary since the battery life is plenty long enough and the connection over Bluetooth is secure. The TouchDial controls and the overall audio quality with a personalized profile are what really stand out.