The wire-free invasion is here and the latest pair to hit my desk is the Nuheara IQbuds. Ever since Apple announced AirPods, companies have been scrambling to get their wire-free offerings to market. The initial wave of wire-free earbuds wasn’t all that great but there have been great improvements. The Nuheara IQbuds is most certainly one of the best wire-free options currently available. These buds are not only wire-free but they have a few other tricks up their sleeve. Read on for the full review of the Nuheara IQbuds and find out why they’re rated 9.3/10.
The Nuheara IQbuds have the following features and specifications:
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2
- Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, HFP v1.6, HSP, AVRCP
- Microphone: Digital MEMS (2 per earbud)
- Speaker: High Fidelity Balanced Armature
- Battery: 100mAH (per earbud)
- Weight: Earbud: 8g (per earbud)
- Nuheara IQbuds Dimensions: 21mm x 26mm x 15mm
- Charging Case Dimensions: 97mm x 47mm x 34mm
- Charging Case Battery: 1140mAH
- Weight: 72gE
- 16 hours of on-the-go Bluetooth Streaming
- 32 hours of on-the-go Hearing Processing
- Tap-touch earbuds designed for comfort and hands-free control
- Dynamic noise control
- Speech amplification
- Blended audio worlds
- Custom tap touch
What’s In The Box
- Nuheara IQbuds
- Nuheara charging case
- MicroUSB cable
- 8-pair of earbud tips
The teardrop design of the Nuheara IQbuds is one of my favorite designs on a wire-free earbud so far. They’re not overly huge like some others but they’re also not small. As a result, these earbuds will stick out of your ears slightly but not enough to look gaudy.
There are no buttons on the IQbuds and they power up the second you remove them from the charging case. The outer shells of both buds are touch sensitive which give you a variety of options. We’ll discuss this later in the review.
Other than LED lights on both buds, there’s nothing else on these buds at all. Overall, the design is minimal and simple and I love the shape they chose to go with for these.
Ease of Use
The IQbuds are dead simple to use. The first thing you’ll want to do is charge them and the case. Just plug in the case with any wall wort and wait for all the lights to turn green indicating the buds and the case are charged. You’ll then want to find the right fit for your ears. Nuheara provides 8 pairs of earbud tips so there should be something for everyone here.
Be sure to download the Android or iOS app, then pair the earbuds with your Android or iPhone via Bluetooth. Remove the IQbuds from their charging case, put them on, press and hold one of the touch sensors for 5-seconds, choose the bud in Bluetooth. Once you pair one bud, the other bud will pair to the master bud and you’re done.
You can then open your Nuheara app and be sure the app sees your IQbuds. Once that is done you can tweak until your heart’s content. One other great feature is the instant on and instant off. When you take the buds out of the case they are on automatically. Put them back in the case and they turn off and unpair from your phone. Overall, Nuheara has made it simple to operate these buds, even though there are a few more steps than normal wireless Bluetooth earbuds.
When I first heard about the IQbuds I was very curious how their sound would stand up, given all the sound features they have. I’ll cover those features and the software in the next section. In this section, I will cover how they sound using them for music only.
I was more than pleasantly surprised at the soundstage of these earbuds. I was not expecting the full rich body that comes from these buds when properly fitted. That last bit is key, be sure you find the right ear tips and that they seal well in your ear. I think that goes without saying for just about any earbud but more often than not, complaints of poor sound quality are a result of poorly fitted earbuds.
I really enjoyed the sound the IQbuds produced when used without the hearing processing software. They sounded even better when you turn on the software and move the toggles to “less world.” The noise isolation/canceling is spot on and you are immersed in whatever content you are listening to.
As far as frequencies go, the highs are nice and clear, cymbals and strings are easily heard. Mids are nice and level as well, vocals and voices are perfectly clear. The lows are slightly heavy but in a good way. The way they are tuned lends a broader platform to the overall sound experience. Spatial dynamics were really great, I could hear all the nuances on all of my favorite Pink Floyd tracks.
Overall, the soundstage is great for such small earbuds. Using these was enjoyable but be sure to find that correct set of ear tips. If you don’t hunt around and go for the first or second pair, you might not get the seal you need to truly get the sound these are capable of.
The Nuheara IQbuds are slightly different than other wire-free offerings on the market, thanks to their software. The Nuheara app provides different listening experiences which can enhance your music experience or environment. Thanks to some extra mics on the buds, the software can allow you to listen to your music while still remaining aware of your surroundings. Here are the location presets you can choose from within the app.
- Home: Hear your family and sounds around you in your home and boost conversation.
- Great for when I needed to work and be Mr. Mom keeping an ear on the kids.
- Workout: Hear the world around you and be completely aware of your surroundings.
- I admit I don’t workout enough but this setting seems to work well.
- Street: Reduce street and city sounds in a noisy city.
- Does a great job of bringing down loud vehicle noises and the busy movement of people.
- Office: Hear your co-workers in the office.
- This one I used a lot, allowing me to work, listen to music and still hear when someone needed me for something.
- Resturant: Amplify speech and reduce background noise in a restaurant.
- I don’t eat out much so this didn’t get tested in a restaurant environment but seemed to work well otherwise.
- Driving: Block driving and tire noise in your car.
- I believe this setting is intended for use when in the passenger’s seat. I never use earbuds while driving but it worked well to block out the road and car noise.
- Plane: Lower aircraft noise and jet engine sounds.
- This one will be tested when I head to CES 2018.
The dynamic noise control and speech amplification technology built into the buds is what allows you to control what you hear. Nuheara says the IQbuds offer its users the ability to blend their entertainment with the world around them for better situational awareness.
I found that to be pretty spot on. I really liked the ability to block out everything and everyone when I just wanted to lose myself. At the same time, having the ability to hear certain things in my environment while still hearing my music was valuable.
The IQbuds also features touch controls that can be customized within the app. Customization is pretty granular and really impressive. The following gestures are what you have to play with:
- Left Tap
- Left Double Tap
- Left Long Tap
- Right Tap
- Right Double Tap
- Right Long Tap
Here are the following controls you can assign to these gestures:
- Next Track
- Previous Track
- Volume Up
- Volume Down
There’s a lot of features here and some of them you may or may not use. Overall, the software and features are really a great addition. I loved being able to control what I could hear when I wanted to hear it. These features aren’t something everyone is looking for, but if you are, the IQbuds should be on your shortlist.
Bluetooth reception is standard with the IQbuds, around 33-40 feet. We did notice a few instances of a dropped signal between buds but that’s normal for wire-free. The signal drop wasn’t enough that it affected my enjoyment of the product. I’ve used other wire-free options that were consistently dropping signal, for these, it was only a few occasions.
Call quality is great here and with the ability to bring the world in and out these are perfect for driving, riding and running. Overall, both reception and call quality are solid just be aware that you may experience a drop in the connection between buds once in a great while.
Battery life is excellent, considering these are wire-free and the batteries are small. Nuheara claims that with Bluetooth streaming, these will have up to 5 hours continuous use. I got just about 5 hours but not quite. With the additional charges from the charging case, you will have 16 hours of on-the-go Bluetooth streaming. If you use less streaming and/or are using only the Hearing Processing, IQbuds will last 9 hours, and a total of 32 hours on-the-go hearing processing.
I used these pretty much for Bluetooth music. But I did use the hearing processing in the office and when walking in crowded areas, just so I was aware of my surroundings. Overall, I think the battery life on these is where it should be and the charging case is convenient. It took just under 2 hours to fully charge the IQbuds from around 15%.
Let’s be honest here, the IQbuds are pricey. With a price of $299.99USD, it isn’t exactly what most people want to spend on a pair of earbuds — wires or no wires. While the price is high, there is value here. With the added software and processing features, these really begin to show their worth, albeit to a subset of people. I don’t think everyone will see value in Nuheara’s technologies but for those who do, these are very worth considering.
With the wire-free earbud market heating up, the Nuheara IQbuds are worth checking out if you’re looking for some specialized software and hardware features. If you’re just wanting a basic pair of wire-free buds, the $299.99 price tag may be a bit much.