Nura’s come a long way since last June. Back when the hardware company last stopped by our offices, its headphones were giant, like a pair of old library headphones recreated on a 3D printer. Their innards were splayed out next to them in a separate control box. It seemed impossible that the company would be able to fit all of that into a reasonably sized set of cans.
Last month, however, the company stopped by a different office with the final version of its shipping product. They look even better than the mockups the company showed off a while back — $4.6 million in seed funding on top of an $1.8 million Kickstarter campaign will do that. The all-black, aluminum and stainless steel over-ear headphones with silicone earbuds are hitting retail today, priced at $399.
They’re weird looking — and expensive. And their promise of creating a custom sound for a listener’s unique ear shape certainly isn’t a new one — a number of companies like JBL have attempted some version of this over the years. But the product’s calibration system does a really impressive job tailoring the sound through the app.
According to the company, the headphones send out a signal designed to vibrate hair cells within the ear, which then send back an ”otoacoustic emission.” The received sound is what the system uses to calibrate the headphone settings based on an individual’s ear architecture and hearing.
I had a quick demo with the product in our San Francisco office just ahead of Disrupt, and the difference before and after the app’s quick calibration is pretty staggering. It’s a much fuller, richer sound, and the headphones’ bizarre design add a bed of bass accompanying the sound that’s delivered directly through the bud. I only had relatively short time with the headphones, but it’s a pretty impressive experience.
We also pulled in a coworker to test the calibration on her ears. Switching back and forth between two different configurations gives you a pretty good idea of just how much ears and hearing differ from person to person. Trying out another person’s customized setting was like listening to music underwater.
Nura’s put a lot of thought into its first product, from the design to the claimed 20 hours of battery -- though $399 is a pretty steep price for a set of headphones from an unproven startup. But if you’d like to take them for a spin, the company will be holding listening parties in North America, Europe and its native Australia.