NuraTrue Pro Earbuds Deliver Wireless Lossless Audio -- but There's a Catch
Due to ship in October, Nura's upcoming high-end earbuds support Qualcomm's aptX Lossless audio codec. But you'll need the right hardware to take advantage of it.
David CarnoyExecutive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
ExpertiseMobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakersCredentials
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There's been a lot of hype and speculation about CD lossless audio quality coming to the world of wireless Bluetooth streaming. Folks want to know if Apple's next-gen earbuds and headphones will support it, especially since Qualcomm's 2021 announcement that Qualcomm debuts lossless Bluetooth audio streaming with aptX Lossless would soon be available. Now we're starting to see new earbuds that support aptX Lossless trickle into the market, including the NuraTrue Pro buds from Australia-based Nura. They're due to ship in October and the official list price will be $329 (£299, AU$499).
You can order the earbuds for the early-bird price of $219 as part of a Kickstarter campaign. Just keep in mind that, although Nura is a reputable headphone company, these campaigns can come with risks. Before contributing to any crowdfunding campaign, read the site's policies -- in this case, Kickstarter -- to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.
I received an early sample of the NuraTrue Pro buds, hoping to finally get a taste of Bluetooth lossless audio, which is supposed to be the bit-for-bit equivalent of the uncompressed audio you'd get using wired headphones. I've been playing around with them using an iPhone Pro 13, which supports the AAC audio codec, and a Motorola Edge Plus 2022 Android phone, which is equipped with Qualcomm's Snapdragon Sound with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset. According to its specs, that hardware supports aptX Lossless. Qualcomm says, "AptX Lossless is a new capability of the proven aptX Adaptive technology and a new feature of Snapdragon Sound Technology that is designed to deliver CD-quality 16-bit 44.1kHz lossless audio quality over Bluetooth wireless technology."
However, it turns out that's apparently not accurate. According to a Qualcomm spokesperson, the newer Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 is the mobile platform, along with FastConnect 6900, that brings aptX Lossless to mobile devices. (That's "8 Plus" versus just plain "8," like the chipset in my Motorola test phone.) It's up to the smartphone manufacturer "if it wants to use the aptX Lossless codec." A few Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 smartphones are just starting to hit the market now with more on the way.
That's pretty irritating and somewhat confusing for consumers. If Qualcomm says Snapdragon Sound supports aptX Lossless, you'd expect that any Snapdragon Sound phone would support it, right? But let's step back for a minute and talk about what aptX Lossless actually is from a specs standpoint. Alas, it's all pretty technical so bear with me.
According to Qulacomm, aptX Lossless has a bit rate of up to 1.2 megabytes per second, which is the bandwidth you need for the transmission of lossless audio over Bluetooth. It's even more confusing because earbuds like the NuraTrue Pro are also backward-compatible with previous versions of Qualcomm aptX Adaptive and Classic, with 24-bit (96kHz) lossy audio support at 880 kilobytes per second. That transmission rate gets you 80% of the way to lossless, but not all the way there, so it's considered "near" lossless.
Note that Sony's highly regarded LDAC audio codec can support wireless streaming with a bit rate of up to 990 Kbps -- but you can get dropouts, at which point the bit rate gets bumped down.
The NuraTrue Pro will be among the first to use the latest-generation Qualcomm QCC5171 Bluetooth 5.3 audio system on a chip. Nura says that this "unlocks the transmission bandwidth required to deliver uncompressed, bit-perfect 16-bit 44.1kHz audio quality over Bluetooth wireless technology."
Smartphones that will actually support aptX Lossless include several upcoming rumored or expected high-end Android models such as the Motorola Edge 30 Ultra, the OnePlus 10 Ultra, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 and the Asus ROG Phone 6. New ZTE and Xiaomi models that are said to be shipping in the coming months are also in the aptX Lossless mix. I hope to try out the NuraTrue Pro and other next-gen buds with the Asus ROG Phone 6, with Qualcomm providing a review sample.
Testing With the Hardware I Have
I use the Qobuz music service for high-resolution Bluetooth streaming. To make sure I was actually streaming high-resolution music, I downloaded 24-bit (96kHz) tracks directly to the Motorola Edge Plus 2022. I then streamed those local files over Bluetooth to the NuraTrue Pro. I assume I was getting near lossless Bluetooth audio because the Edge Plus 2022 said I was using aptX Adaptive (not aptX Lossless) for my Bluetooth streaming.
I also used Qobuz on my iPhone 13 Pro to stream the same tracks over Bluetooth (using the AAC audio codec). In theory, the Motorola Edge Plus 2022 should offer higher fidelity -- and on some tracks I did hear a small difference, but it wasn't night and day. There's a bit more texture and depth to the sound with certain tracks, but the earbuds still sounded quite good when I used them with my iPhone. I suspect that many people would barely notice the difference if at all.
The NuraTrue Pro are the step-up model from the current NuraTrue buds, which retail for $200. The originals are on CNET's list of best-sounding true-wireless earbuds and fit more like sport earbuds -- they include a couple of sizes of stabilizing fins -- and stick out of your ears a bit. They're not exactly discreet.
Although their designs are similar (the Pro has a chrome-like ceramic ring around the edge of bud), The NuraTrue Pro improve on the original NuraTrue with significantly improved voice-calling performance along with better noise-canceling, sound and battery life (up to 8 hours versus 6 hours). They're IPX4 splash-proof with wireless charging and multipoint Bluetooth pairing, which enables you to connect the buds to two devices simultaneously and easily switch audio between them. That feature came in handy for my comparison testing.
Like earlier Nura headphones and earbuds, the NuraTrue Pro has the same hearing personalization feature. It's among the best you'll find -- a quick 5-minute process, with no test tones involved -- and it should noticeably improve the sound for you.
Nura has added full manual EQ settings for those who want to tweak their sound further. And you can also adjust the bass level with a slider in the "immersive" mode in the app. A "high-gain" switch in the app boosts the volume a bit. And finally, there's a transparency mode if you want to let ambient noise in.
NuraTrue Pro Earbuds: Final thoughts
Are the NuraTrue Pro the greatest sounding buds out there? No, but they do sound very good, with big, open sound that's accurate and natural, with a warmer, bass-forward profile. The bass is meaty but well-defined; and as I've noted, it's adjustable.
I'm not yet convinced that Snapdragon Sound and aptX Lossless will really have that big an impact on sound quality when you're dealing with earbuds like these despite their premium nature. The earbuds' hardware itself (driver designs) and some other factors also play a major role in sound quality. For example, the new Beyerdynamic Free Byrd earbuds ($249) arguably sound better than the NuraTrue Pro, with better overall clarity, accuracy and zip. However, NuraTrue Pro are more likely to fit your ears better than the Beyerdynamic buds.
As I said in the intro, the NuraTrue Pro's official list price is $329 (£299, AU$499), which may be too pricey. But as part of its Kickstarter campaign, Nura is offering early-bird pricing that's much more palatable, and I'd say they're a decent value at $219.