Don't bother trying to find the perfect pair of headphones: Nura wants to do the work for you. This group of Australian entrepreneurs is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter for a new kind of headphones, and it's promising an experience tailor-made for your ears.
The Melbourne-based inventors claim that they've built a form of automatic hearing detection that allows the Nura headphones to build personalised profiles to balance the music you listen to. Just plug it into your phone, use the companion app to complete the automatic hearing test, and off you go. After the initial setup, listen to music however you would normally, not necessarily from your phone. All the magic is built into the headphones.
The physical headphones have both over-ear and in-ear speakers for noise isolation -- no other sounds in or out, and they'll run off Lightning, USB, Bluetooth or 3.5 mm connections.
I'll admit, I was sceptical. I thought the Nura sounded too good to be true. But then I tried a pair, and that shut me up quick smart.
After a short, automatic test that went for about a minute, the companion app provided me with profiles for my left and right ears based on sensitivity to different sound frequencies. This gave the Nura my specific "aural fingerprint", and meant that any music I listened to through those headphones was balanced for my ears only.
The dual speaker setup meant the vocals, instrumentals and bass (my god, the bass) all came through remarkably clear. I was picking up on things in songs I hadn't heard before. It sounded great.
Compared to the earbuds I had in my bag and the noise-reduction headphones the Nura guys had on hand, it sounded amazing.
If you're interested in the science behind it, it's all laid out on the Nura Kickstarter page. The short version is that it uses otoacoustic emission, a kind of echo produced by the ear when it hears certain sounds, to learn how you receive particular sound frequencies. The tiny sounds are picked up by a mic embedded in the buds, and used to build a personalised profile that can balance music playback and fill in your "musical black spots".
At the time of writing, the Nura was closing in on $1,000,000 on Kickstarter with nine days left in the campaign. Surging past its $100,000 goal, it's become the most successful Australian Kickstarter campaign ever.
The headphones are currently going for the early-bird rate of $219 (around AU$290 or £165), and will creep up to $249 (AU$330 or £190) once those run out. The campaign promises a 30-day return policy, no questions asked. After the campaign, the Nura will retail for $399 (AU$530 or £300), putting them in the same ballpark as decent noise-cancelling headphones.