True wireless earphones for a subscription price
The Nurabuds are true wireless earphones you effectively rent rather than buy, with monthly costs not too steep. However, some of the tech is slightly dated, and if you’re planning to use them for a year or more, then you can get better sound quality by buying another pair outright.
- Pleasantly rich bass and sub-bass
- A novel way to (sort of) own earphones
- Nuranow includes a one-time replacement service
- Limited ANC effectiveness
- Short battery life
- Basic approach to the mid-range
- UKRRP: £5
- USARRP: $5
- Active noise cancellationThese earphones use microphones to monitor and cancel out ambient noise. It’s not as effective as that of some rival pairs, but is always a welcome feature for public transport and city use
- Nuranow You don’t buy these headphones outright, but instead pay a monthly fee through a service called Nuranow. This is linked to your Nura account, so when you stop paying you can’t continue using them
- Four-hour battery lifeThese earphones last around four hours from a charge, and this extends to 10 hours using the carry case for on-the-go top-ups. They’re not the longest-lasting true wireless earphones, but they’re petite
The Nurabuds are the most conventional wireless earphones Nura makes. But the way you buy them is highly unusual.
You don’t purchase Nurabuds outright. You pay £5/$5 each month, plus a £19/$19 start-up fee. Over the two-year term, you end up paying £139. But this isn’t like buying a pair of earphones using a “buy now, pay later” service such as Klarna.
The downside of such a setup is that your Nurabuds only work while your subscription is active. If you decide to leave the service, you may have to pay to return the earphones, and may be charged for any damage that exceeds what could be considered usual “wear and tear”.
There are several positives, too, however. You’re not hooked into a long-term contract. You could just try them out for a month, if you like. Nura promises an upgrade every 24 months, and you’re partially insured if something goes wrong. Lost, damaged or stolen pair? Nura will replace the Nurabuds once over the course of 24 months. That’s one of the most valuable offerings of the setup.
This scheme is called Nuranow. You can buy other Nura buds through it – but note that the Nurabuds are the only earphones not available to buy separately, without subscription.
Are they worth it? You don’t get any of the classic Nura sound-tuning benefits here, active noise cancellation’s effectiveness is just okay, battery life is short – and the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 sound more insightful. But they do offer easy-going smooth audio and a fairly complete feature set without having to pay out a significant sum up-front.
Design and features
- Small earpieces with a pleasantly innocuous design
- Relatively short battery life
- Active noise cancellation is a welcome feature, but not the most effective
Nura made quite an impact three years ago with the Nuraphone. These were full-size headphones with an IEM earphone tentacle that plugged into your ears. It was all a bit strange.
The company wanted you to forget all of your audio brand loyalties and try something new. But now Nura wants some brand loyalty of its own, with the “headphones as a service” Nurabuds.
These are much more ordinary earphones than anything Nura has made to date. They don’t come with the company’s much-admired ear-tuning tech, which measures your tympanic response to tailor audio to your ears.
You can import profiles made using other Nuraphone headphones via the Nura app, applying them to the Nurabuds. But I’m reviewing these buds as standalone earphones, so for the most part this won’t factor into this write-up.
The Nurabuds are good-looking earphones on the outside, functional ones on the inside. Each earpiece has Nura’s icon-based logo in mirror-like silver on the back, around a shell of matte plastic. The inside is glossy plastic with clear metal contacts, used for charging when you put the earpieces into their tiny charge case.
Comfort is great and they come with IPX4 water-resistance, which is good enough for runners and gym folk. You do need to keep an eye on the charge level, though, because battery life isn’t a strong point. Nura rates the Nurabuds at four hours of use per charge.
Such battery life is the reason it took me a few years to get into true wireless earphones. Go out for a long walk and they’d not last the whole time, where rival pairs such as the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 and Anker Soundcore Liberty can make it to 7-10 hours from a single charge.
That handful of extra hours gets you closer to the stamina of older neckband wireless headphones, and means a lot – to me, at least. You pay for it with slightly larger earpieces, but you should consider whether four-hour battery life is likely to prove sufficient before signing up for a pair of Nurabuds.
The communication between the earpieces isn’t perfect, either. Every now and then, you might hear the audio in one ear flutter out for a fraction of a second before coming back. However, this is likely something Nura can improve through firmware updates; the connection to your phone itself seems rock-solid.
In a few areas the Nurabuds seem slightly behind the times, too. Even the charge case uses micro-USB to charge rather than USB-C – a connector type that is no longer used in the latest phones.
The Nurabuds do benefit from active noise cancellation, and an Ambient mode that plays some outside noise through the drivers to let you hear what’s going on around you. These are the kind of features you still don’t tend to see in entry-level true wireless earphones. Whether the Nurabuds are part of that class is up for debate, given the cost over two years.
Active noise cancellation here is handy, but not remarkable. It takes the edge off low-frequency noise rather than obliterating it entirely. You don’t get the sense of a wall erected around you, as is the case with the best pairs of ANC headphones. In fact, a few times I switched it on and off to check it was actually working. But the Nurabuds do remove some low-frequency sound, which would otherwise compete with your music/podcasts.
- Easy-going, rich sound
- Soft mids don’t offer the most hi-fi listening experience
- Earphones support Nura profiles, but you need to create them with another Nura pair
The Nurabuds include 10mm drivers and support the AAC and aptX codecs as well as the basic SBC. They have the tech needed for good sound with either Androids or iPhones. But do they sound any good?
These earphones seem tuned for an easy-going, lush-sounding listening experience. They have slightly boosted bass, with enjoyably powerful sub-bass. It comes with a hint of boominess, but it’s easy to get what Nura is going for here. The aim is thick, crowd-pleasing audio, similar to what you might hear in the company’s higher-end headphones when using their Immersion mode.
A little extra bass and low-mid bulk gives the earphones a smooth and rich tone. And this is offset by some extra upper-mid-range energy that ensures they still display good appreciable detail – and that “warmth” doesn’t go too far and become audio pudding.
I enjoy using the Nurabuds for exercise, or for walking around, listening uncritically. And that’s what most of us do a lot of the time, right?
However, they’re not the most insightful or three-dimensional true wireless earphones, even if we restrict the competition to those sets under £100. Nura’s approach to the mid-range ends up sounding a little too simplified — a low-mid squishy bed with, on occasion, a slightly synthetic sounding high-mid sizzle.
Lypertek’s PureSound Z3 2.0 have more convincing texture running through the entire mid-range, and this leads to sound that displays a greater sense of height, a more detailed stereo sound field. That pair also has much more reserved bass; they’re more rhythmically nimble as a result. However, I can imagine many preferring the unchallenging added padding of the Nura pair.
However, overall the Nurabuds are a little basic-sounding as a result of those mids. And this was evident on applying one of my Nura tuning profiles, put together using the Nuratrue earphones. The mid-range started to sound a whole lot more like that of the Lypertek PureSound Z3 2.0. The imaging becomes more complicated, in a good way, and they retain the slightly bassier tuning you might appreciate. However, you’re not going to have that option if you just buy the Nurabuds.
Nura says it tuned these earphones with reference to a million profiled listeners, and the result is a little “lowest common denominator” compared to the best-sounding sub-£100 true wireless pairs.
Should you buy it?
You want a quality pair without the initial outlay Nuranow is an interesting experiment in ways to “buy” headphones, letting you try a higher-end pair than you might normally buy without a grand commitment.
If you actually want to own your earphones
You need an active subscription to use these earphones, so may end up spending less if you buy outright (and take care of your earphones)
The Nurabuds are solid true wireless earphones, if you like the idea of warmer-sounding earphones with active noise cancellation that you can buy on subscription rather than outright.
However, they aren’t the most insightful pair among the sub-£100 crowd, and the short battery life means they’re not fit for all-day use.
Make sure you know what you’re getting before signing up for Nuranow. This isn’t a pair you gradually pay off. It’s more like Netflix: stop paying, and you can’t use the earphones anymore.
How we test
We test every headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Tested over several weeks
Tested with real world use
You might like…
They are IPX4 water-resistant, which is good enough to handle sweat and a bit of rain, but not immersion in water.
These earphones have ANC, although it isn’t the most effective around.
You can import profiles to these earphones, but not make them, so Nura’s sound optimisation only comes into the picture here if you own another Nura pair.