A few buffet mistakes aside, NuraLoop proved the biggest disappointment of my 2019 CES. When the headphones showed up at the show as dummy units, it hurt my heart a little. The original Nuraphones made an appearance on my 2017 best of the year list, and the idea of a portable version I could take on long flights seemed almost too good to be true.
And for a full year, it was exactly that. Understandably, the Australian startup ran into a few roadblocks attempting to bring the product to market. It’s still a young company, even though its first-gen product went over remarkably well. The noise-adapting headphones were extremely well-thought-out, right down to the package.
The hangup for their portable, in-ear counterparts is pretty surprising, to be honest. For much of the year, Nura just couldn’t crack the code of the cable, of all things. It’s a doubly odd sticking point, given how many of its competitors have ditched the cabling altogether. It should be noted upfront, however, that the decision to keep things tethered is more pragmatic than aesthetic (honestly, it wouldn’t have been choice from a design standpoint).
As CEO Dragan Petrovic mentioned in a briefing at the show this week, the customer base for the original over-ears includes a pretty strong base of professional musicians. The cable includes a magnetic adapter for an analog headphone jack, so they can be used on stage monitors. There are a number of other times that still require cables — I’m writing this on a plane, for example. What am I supposed to do, just stare at Gemini Man?
There are other benefits, including a stated 16+ hours of battery life without requiring a charging case. Also, you can wear them around your neck while not in use, if that’s a thing you like to do.
It’s never fun to have to delay a product, of course. In the year between CESes, Apple launched the AirPods Pro. The devices are two distinctly different approaches to the category, but Apple’s product does edge into NuraLoop’s territory, with a built-in fit check and great noise canceling. Again, different products with different audiences, but one has to wonder how many folks waiting for the NuraLoop pulled the trigger on the new AirPods, instead.
I’m happy to report that the sound quality on the NuraLoop is still extremely excellent. Sure, you lose the over-ear immersive bass effect without the ear cups, but the customized sound profile is still firmly intact. The calibration is more or less the same, and when you’re done, you can swap between profiles to see how big a difference the customization makes (hint: it’s big).
The headphones are a bit on the bulky side. I’m definitely going to go exercise with them as soon as I get a review pair to see how well they stay put. The control scheme is clever — a touch well on the outside of each ear that perform a variety of different functions.
The year-long wait was less than ideal, but if you held out, you’ll probably find them worth it. NuraLoop is another excellent product from the small Australian startup, which has managed to distinguish itself well in an overly crowded category. They run $200 and will start shipping in March.