It doesn’t matter if an album was created in the world’s most advanced recording studio, mixed by a master engineer, and distributed to fans as high-resolution audio files. If you’re listening to it on a pair of wireless earbuds, you’re introducing lots of compression that’s going to diminish the experience. Bluetooth has its limits, but the new NuraTrue Pro wireless earbuds leverage a new streaming codec that promises ‘CD quality’ sound.
Although there are many factors that can affect the perceived quality of a digital audio file, bitrate factors in more than most today, with wireless headphones and streaming services being so prevalent. It’s a measure of how much data is being transmitted every second, and when it comes to audio, more data results in better sound.
MP3s max out at 320 kilobits per second (Kbps), while streaming services usually strive for about half that, assuming you’re not paying for a higher-quality tier. Audio CDs, although a near dead format, delivered audio at 1,411 Kbps without any compression techniques that often reduce sound quality to also reduce data demands.
Bluetooth doesn’t have as much wireless bandwidth as other protocols like wifi, so companies use compression codecs to shrink audio streams before sending them to devices like wireless headphones. Nura’s new NuraTrue Pro wireless earbuds will be among the first to take advantage of Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec (in addition to older versions of aptX) announced late last year, which promises to stream 16-bit, 44.1 kHz, CD quality audio over Bluetooth at data rates of up to 1,200 Kbps. It’s a codec that will be supported on more and more flagship Android phones throughout the year, but unfortunately won’t be available to iPhone users as the company continues to stick with AAC that maxes out at 320 Kbps bitrates.
When paired with the right hardware and a high-quality streaming service (Tidal is still your best option) the new NuraTrue Pro wireless earbuds should provide a noticeable difference in sound quality over older wireless hardware paired with streaming options like Spotify. The NuraTrue Pro earbuds still offer the same personalized sound profiles created through a short hearing test the company is known for, but improve upon last year’s NuraTrue buds with a two hour bump in battery life to eight hours per charge, with the upgraded wireless charging case adding an additional 24 hours of top up. The new Pro model also adds Dirac’s Virtuo spatial audio tech, improved active noise cancelling, and a new ProEQ feature through the companion app allowing for manual EQ adjustments.
The NuraTrue Pro earbuds are once again being made available to consumers through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that’s already blown well past its modest $20,000 funding goal this morning. Early-bird backers can pre-order a pair for just $199 with delivery as early as October, but full retail pricing will be much higher at $329. The usual caveats and warnings about crowdfunded products still applies here, although Nura has been churning out headphones for six years now, and mostly seems to be leveraging Kickstarter as a tool to manage pre-orders.