Nuraphone Gaming Headset Review | IGN

Not everyone wants more than one gaming headset hanging around – either as a preference or due to cost – which is the kind of person the Nuraphone Headphones seem to be aimed at. Originally wireless headphones made specifically for music, a new gaming mic attachment now allows them to be multi-purpose. But are they any good? The answer to that is complicated.

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Nuraphone – Design

First and foremost we have to talk about design, because it’s immediately obvious when you see them that these are not like any headphones you’ve likely ever seen.

The Nuraphones are a mix of earbud and headphone, which the company says is advantageous due to taking the benefits of the in-ear aspect to allow for better sound isolation and the company’s special technology (which we’ll get into in the next section) but thanks to the over-ear aspect, the headphones also can project a more true-to-life representation of music.

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As far as overall build quality, these are remarkably high quality: everything about them feels top of the line. The headband is a flexible metal (described as Japanese steel) that is wrapped in the important places in silicone. The exterior of the cups is also metal (aluminum), but everything that makes contact with your ears and head is plush and soft.

As you can imagine, all that metal feels high quality but it also means the headphones aren’t light. While Nura does a good job keeping the headband from being too heavy thanks to how thin it is, the ear cups are notably hefty.

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The interior of the cups, which as mentioned is silicone, bends inwards from the center of the into a point at the tip of which are the in-ear parts of the headphones. Nura ships them with multiple ear tips, common with in-ear earbuds, so you likely will be able to find the size that fits your particular ear canal best – I used the smallest ones.

There is only one physical port on these headphones as well and it is a proprietary Nura connection. The company ships them with a charging cable and 3.5mm jack cable that uses this port, and the gaming microphone also uses this port, though you can only use one at a time (that means you cannot charge these while using them for gaming, unfortunately). Luckily, one of the standout features of this headset is the battery life, which is an impressive 20 hours – very high compared to other gaming headsets.

The long battery life is probably because there is no wireless gaming functionality with these, which means they consume less power.

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I want to mention that I don’t like that the charging cable is a proprietary connection. While the advantage is that Nura can offer a host of different cable options for different customers through just one port, the downside is that if I lose that one cable or forget it after going on a trip, I can’t charge the headphones. I don’t think that tradeoff is worth the benefits.

Moving on, once you’ve got these set up – and there is a significant setup time you have to set aside before you can use them – the sides of each ear cup are touch sensitive and can be programmed to a set of different commands based on your preference.

There are no physical buttons anywhere on the headphone, which means there is no power button. They automatically turn off when you take them off, and automatically turn on when they detect that they are set in place.

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It is not possible, unfortunately, to map what Nura calls “Social Mode” to a button, however. Social Mode is what other brands would call ambient mode, and that allows exterior sounds to be piped in to let you use these in an environment where you would want to hear what is going on around you. For gaming specifically, I use this so I can hear my own voice. Overall I found the quality of that ambient mode to be okay, not great, as in general I found the volume of my surroundings to be slightly too loud in comparison to the game or how the world actually sounds.

A great ambient mode is hard to nail, and Nura does a decent job although does come up short when compared to industry leaders like Sony and Apple. Nura would likely have been better served to just allow me to send specifically what the gaming mic picks up into the headphones and keep noise cancelation on. Sadly, that is not an option, and the Social Mode is the same with or without the gaming microphone attachment.

Social Mode can only be activated or deactivated from the app, which can only be accessed if you are actively wearing the headphones. Speaking of operation…

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Nuraphone – Setup and Features

There’s a significant setup time when you first pull the Nuraphones out of the box, and that’s because they must tune themselves to your ears using that special technology I mentioned earlier. The headphones do this by playing different tones over a period of time to detect how sound moves around inside your ear canal and how sensitive your hearing is to different tones. Once this is done, you can hear the difference between how they are out of the box and how they sound after the specific tuning by flicking a toggle switch in the app.

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That said, it is mainly noticeable when listening to music (you can adjust how much of this specialized effect you hear via a slider) and I didn’t find that games felt any more immersive than with other dedicated gaming headphones. They did work well though, and I can give a thumbs up for sound quality to these headphones despite that they weren’t designed to be gaming headphones when they first hit the market.

The last thing to note here is that as mentioned, you cannot map social mode to a button, so to turn noise canceling on and off – say switching from listening to music to jumping into a game, or even going from a solo game where you want total immersion to a competitive game where you need to chat – requires booting up the app. Even if the headphones are currently connected to your bluetooth device, the app itself takes a painfully long time to form a connection with the headset so that you can make that change. It is not a deal breaker by any means, just an annoyance I was constantly dealing with.

Nuraphone – Specs:

  • Dimensions: 190 x 170 x 88mm
  • Weight: 329g
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth aptX HD, Proprietary wired for Lightning, USB-C, micro-USB, analog, and gaming microphone
  • Battery: Up to 20 hours, full charge in 3 hrs, no specification on quick-charging mentioned
  • Noise Cancellation: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) + Dual passive isolation
  • Materials: Japanese steel, aluminum cups, Bio-compatible, Soft-Touch silicone material
  • Microphone: External microphone for voice calls, attachable microphone for gaming sold separately
  • In the box: Nuraphone, Analog cable, USB-A charging cable, Soft travel case, Multi-sized eartips

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Nuraphone – Music Performance

I should mention that because the Nuraphones are “hybrid” headphones, listening to music is fantastic on them. I really did like the quality of sound that they produced, which leaned more towards giving preference to mids and lows than sparkling highs, but that’s usually what more people appreciate anyway.

In music where the bass is particularly strong, you can actually feel the air moving around inside the cups from the external low-end drivers. When I heard it for the first time, the experience made me laugh out loud at how awesome that felt. Kudos to Nura: these headphones largely deliver on promises for an immersive listening experience.

The noise isolation and cancellation is also very good and nearer to the top of the list of best options out there, though Sony, Bose, and Apple are better. Still, that’s considerable praise considering how high that bar is, and Nura did an excellent job in this department.

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Nuraphone – Gaming Performance

I think the biggest thing you will notice with the Nuraphones is that in-game sounds are crisp and clear which is all you can really ask for. They do support the software-emulated 3D audio that is present on the Playstation 5 and on PC, but there is no head tracking functionality or personalization of that 3D sound effect, which is a bit disappointing. If you’re looking for that, Audeze’s Mobius for PC and Penrose for Playstation are better options.

Your teammates may have to adjust their audio balance if you were using a different headset before, as these ones aren’t as loud as other headphone microphones I’ve used in the past. My friends described my voice as clear, but far away. So while they could easily understand me, they did say it sounded like I was talking to them from across an empty room rather than right next to them.

One last note here: while these work just fine on the PC and Playstation 5, don’t try using them on the Playstation 4 as the 3D audio is really poor. While Nura doesn’t state these are compatible with the PS4, if you were tempted to give these a shot and expected seamless directionality, you won’t get that. You can actually hear each ear transition sound as though it has to cross a physical line when using this with last-gen hardware, and that is particularly immersion breaking.

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Nuraphone – Comfort

If I stopped the review here, I wouldn’t have a problem recommending these. The issue, however, is that the Nuraphones are wildly uncomfortable.

I love both earbuds and headphones for different purposes, but combining them into one headset has a rather notable downside: those little buds that would normally be resting gently in my ear canal are instead pressed into that space by the pressure of the headband. Even though Nura has made the connection point and interior of the headset pliable and soft, I still feel significant pressure and that means I can’t wear these for more than 20 or 30 minutes before I experience too much fatigue and want to take them off.

As someone who games competitively for six hours or more at a time, that is an unacceptably short period to have headphones remain comfortable.

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When I mentioned that these headphones are heavy, I don’t think that weight would have been much of an issue if these didn’t have the earbud design. The headphones rest gently on the top of my head and don’t feel heavy there. That weight is only noticeable as the headphones clamp securely to the sides of my head and force the buds into my ears.

Your mileage here may vary, but if you already have issues with earbud comfort, these are probably not going to work for you. I personally love earbuds, and I struggled with the Nura headphones.

In my opinion and for the same price (or less), the previously mentioned Audeze Mobius or Penrose will provide more gaming-specific features and better comfort over longer periods than the Nuraphones will.

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Nuraphone – Purchasing Guide:

The Nuraphone headphones are available bundled with the Nuraphone gaming microphone for $419.99. If you already own the Nuraphones, you can pretty affordably transform them into capable gaming headphones for just that $49.99 cost of the microphone.

The Nuraphone by itself is $400, so you’re saving $30 if you bundle the two pieces together at purchase.

That price isn’t crazy for a good gaming headset, but it is near the top-end of the market and for that much, there are a lot of worthy competitors worth considering. Check out our list of best gaming headsets for other quality options across a wide range of prices.
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