Nuheara IQbuds Boost review: Improved design with new features but dat price?

Audio / Audio Hardware Reviews / Reviews

The teardrop design of the Nuheara IQbuds makes a return with the Boost and it still looks great.

TA-ratings-91Last year the invasion of the wire-free headphones started, and it only intensified this year. It seems every headphone maker is scrambling to get a wire-free option on the market. The Nuheara IQbuds Boost are Nuheara’s second-generation wire-free headphone and they have a lot to like. But one major factor may have you thinking twice about these headphones, and that is the price. The Nuheara IQbuds Boost retail for an astonishing $499USD. Do the improved design and new features justify the price tag on these wire-free headphones? Read the full Nuheara IQbuds Boost review to find out.

Specifications

The Nuheara IQbuds Boost have the following features and specifications:

  • Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2, 2.4 – 2.5Ghz
  • Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, HFP v1.6, HSP, AVRCP, aptX, aptX Low latency
  • Microphone: Digital MEMS (2 per earbud)
  • Speaker: High Fidelity Balanced Armature
  • Battery: 120mAH (per earbud)
  • Weight: Earbud: 8g (per earbud)
  • Nuheara IQbuds Boost Dimensions: 21mm x 25mm x 15mm
  • Charging Case Dimensions: 97mm x 47mm x 34mm
  • Charging Case Battery: 1140mAH
  • Weight: 72g
  • 20 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
  • Ear ID: An intelligent audiometric system that that learns how you hear and automatically adjusts the IQbuds to your hearing prescription.
  • SINC: Super Intelligent Noise Control to balance between world noise and speech.
  • Low latency streaming: BOOST is engineered for low latency streaming for TV viewing using Bluetooth-enable streamers

What’s In The Box

  • Nuheara IQbuds Boost
  • Nuheara charging case
  • MicroUSB cable
  • 11-pair of earbud tips
  • Documentation

Design

The teardrop design of the Nuheara IQbuds makes a return with the Boost and it still looks great. As a matter of fact, I think the Nuheara IQbuds Boost design is slightly improved in looks than their older siblings. Gone is the two-tone look, replaced with a sleek all-black exterior that looks sexy and clean. They remain about the same size as the previous version with the same weight and ever so slightly (and it’s slight at 1mm) smaller footprint.

The IQbuds Boost are probably average sized as wire-free earbuds go and will still stick out of your ears like the previous generation. It’s not enough to make them overly gaudy or unsightly, but something to be aware of. Like the previous generation, there are no buttons here and the Boost power-up upon removal from the case and go into pairing mode right away. If you have them paired to a device already, they will auto-pair when you remove them. There are touch controls but no actual physical buttons.

There are LED indicators on these earbuds, just like the previous generation, but little to nothing else. The charging pins are located under the earpiece and there are several sizes of ear tips to choose from to get the fit you need. The charging case hasn’t changed at all. It’s still a pill shaped case with LED lights inside and out to indicate battery level and charging.

Overall, this is a minimal design, but it is heightened by the all-black look which makes them super sleek looking. I also love the teardrop shape of these buds.

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

Clean design.

Ease of Use

The IQbuds Boost are just as simple to use as the original IQbuds. Always charge the earbuds and case fully before setting up. You can do this with the included MicroUSB cable and plug into your PC or wall wort. I am a little disappointed that USB-C wasn’t included along with a method for fast charging. USB-C should become the new standard for all device makers and the continued use of MicroUSB seems wrong, especially given the price tag.

After you’re all charged up, you’ll want to check fitment of the earbuds. Nuheara includes 11-pair of ear tips, eight traditional rubber tips, and three foam Comply tips. The earbuds come with medium Comply tips pre-installed, and I had to switch them out for different ones to find a comfortable fit. With 11-pair of tips though, there should be a fit for just about everyone.

Once you’re all charged up and fitted, just make sure you have the iOS or Android app installed, and you can jump into the setup. Removing the IQbuds Boost from their case, put them in, press and hold the touch sensors for 5-seconds. The IQbuds should show up in your Bluetooth settings and you can pair to them there. The connection grabs one bud while the second bud piggybacks on the first bud. Once you’re paired, that’s it. Whenever you take your buds out of the case, they will auto-pair to your device.

The last step for complete setup is diving into the app. When you open the app it should automatically detect there are IQbuds in the area, so be sure the phone and buds are close to each other. Once the app sees your buds you can tweak the software features as you like, more on that later. Like the previous generation, these have instant on and off. So removing them from the case automatically turns them on and pairs them. Putting them back in the case automatically turns them off and starts charging them.

Overall, these aren’t hard to use and setup. They are a bit more involved than regular Bluetooth headphones due to the software, but taking your time to set them up will deliver the best experience.

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

Buds in the case.

Sound

In this section, we’re going to cover the sound of the Nuheara IQbuds Boost as it pertains to listening to media (music, movies, etc). We’ll cover the other “sound” features under the software/features section.

You can use the Boost earbuds right out of the box without doing anything, if you like. But Nuheara does provide “EarID” technology. Again, we’ll go over that later. I highly suggest you take the time to setup EarID as it will make your listening experience that much better.

Honestly, the soundstage on the Boost earbuds is very similar to the original IQbuds which is a good thing. The sound is full bodied with a nice, robust evenly EQ’ed stage. As I mentioned in my review of the original IQbuds, be sure to get the correct fitment. That’s going to be very key with these earbuds. I noticed the first time I used them that there was a lot of sound leakages. This was due to my using the wrong ear tips. Once I found a pair that fit snug and tight, everything fell into place.

The highs are nice and clear with mids balanced nicely. I felt the lows were slightly exaggerated but not overdriven. As with the original IQbuds, I really like the spatial dynamics on these earbuds. You can really pick apart songs from the strings and vocals to the brass and bass. You can even connect these to your Bluetooth enabled TV and stream straight to them.

Overall, the sound is really great when using these for media consumption. Music, movies, YouTube, anything of the sort sounds really great.

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

Not to big, not too small.

Software/Features

The Nuheara IQbuds Boost come with the same software features as the original IQbuds but with a new feature, EarID. First, let’s go over what we already know from the original IQbuds, the software they now call SINC. 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 while being Mr. Mom and keeping an ear on the kids.
  • Workout: Hear the world around you and be completely aware of your surroundings.
    • I admit I don’t work out 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.
  • Restaurant: 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 worked fairly well the last few times I flew, I still prefer over the ear noise-canceling headphones for this but these do a decent job.

These dynamic noise control features and speech amplification technology really is impressive. I found using the Boost buds in an office environment was pleasurable. I could hear the office around me as well as my music and my co-workers didn’t have to hear my music at all. I will say, using these features does significantly decrease the immersion you get from your music, but that’s what it’s for.

The IQbuds Boost also features touch controls like the originals and you can customize them in the app. As with the original buds, you can get granular with the settings of your gestures, here are the gestures and controls you can assign to each gesture.

  • Left Tap
  • Left Double Tap
  • Left Long Tap
  • Right Tap
  • Right Double Tap
  • Right Long Tap
  • Play/Pause
  • Next Track
  • Previous Track
  • Volume Up
  • Volume Down

Now, on to the new software feature, EarID. EarID technology isn’t new. There are other headphone makers using this technology. Basically, what EarID does is measure the frequency range of each of your ears in order to learn where you hear the best. The setup process takes about 8-10 minutes and consists of multiple frequencies being played in each ear. When you hear the frequency you acknowledge it and the app plays the next. This continues until you complete the test.

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

The touch controls are on the sides of the buds.

I’ve used similar technology in other headphones and in my humble opinion, your mileage will vary. There are people who hear a dramatic difference after they’ve gone through setup and there are some who don’t. For me, it was a nominal difference and not just for the Boost but for most any other headphone using similar technology. I think this technology is really helpful to those with a significant hearing loss. I think it boosted the sound for me slightly but not enough to say it’s a major difference. This is going to be a very personal thing for most everyone.

Nuheara did commission a study from Australia’s “world-leading” research organization NAL to examine the EarID reliability, and here’s what they concluded:

The Ear ID™ hearing assessment was shown to be as reliable as conventional clinical audiometry when conducted in a quiet environment. 97.5% of hearing thresholds derived by the Ear ID™ system were within 5dB of those measured on subsequent retests. Clinical audiometry includes such factors as having an audiologist conducting the hearing assessment, meaning that Nuheara has now broken the threshold of how hearing assessments can be reliably completed, and hearing devices configured, with the use of automated technology.

Nuheara also has some new software called Focus. Focus is supposed to enhance the voice coming from directly in front of the user. This is best used in conversations and uses “audio beamforming” technology to isolate the sound giving a better conversational experience. I do think Focus actually works pretty well.

Overall, I think SINC and Focus work really well and are very useful. EarID is going to be a hit or miss for many. But I also think Nuheara is really marketing these earbuds to those with moderate to extreme hearing loss or those who want music but also want the world around them to be accessible.

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

Pill-shaped charging case.

Reception/Call Quality

Bluetooth 4.2 reception was typical at around 33-40 feet when inline with the source device. Dropping signal between buds was a small issue in the previous version but has improved here. I did notice Bluetooth reception struggle between walls and around corners, so don’t stray too far from the source device indoors. Call quality is super and being able to hear the call while still hearing the outside world is great.

Overall, reception is typical and call quality is great.

Battery Life

Battery life is improved over the previous model and is now capable of 8-hours. I got just over 8-hours, and you can recharge quickly with the included case. Nuheara gets props for improving battery life and giving these bigger batteries while keeping them basically the same size.

Price/Value

Alright, here’s where I need to be brutally honest. The original IQbuds cost  $299USD at release, and I said those were pretty pricey but might be worth it. Those same earbuds are now on sale on Nuheara for $249USD. These Nuheara IQbuds Boost cost $499USD which is insanely expensive. I think the price is too high for the addition of EarID and Focus. $499USD for wire-free earbuds is a tough pill to swallow.

That being said, I can’t say the value isn’t there for everyone. There may be some users with severe hearing loss who might pick these up and they work miracles. But for the average user, I think these are a bit too pricey to jump on.

Wrap Up

Overall, the Nuheara IQbuds Boost are some amazing earbuds. They produce some quality sound, have great features like SINC and Focus that are actually useful in the real world. I think EarID might be a hit or miss with many but the price is certainly over the top and you could pick up the first generation for 1/2 the price and still get great sounding earbuds.

*We received a sample of the Nuheara IQbuds Boost for the purposes of this review.

Nuheara IQbuds Boost

$499USD
9.1

Design

10.0/10

Ease of Use

10.0/10

Sound

9.0/10

Software/Features

9.5/10

Reception/Call Quality

9.0/10

Battery Life

9.0/10

Price/Value

7.0/10

Nailed it

  • Unique design is improved
  • Produces very nice quality sound
  • Easy to setup
  • App and software offer good options
  • Battery life is still solid

Needs work

  • $499USD is a lot of dough and while there's a lot to like about these earbuds, the price is truly hard to swallow.
  • No USB-C charging
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