I was impressed by the true wireless IQbuds from NUHEARA I reviewed some time ago. But while they offered some unique features, they didn’t stand far enough in front of the pack to make them my daily driver. The new IQbuds BOOST takes things up a few notches, and they do things no other true wireless earbuds can do.
NUHEARA describes their new true wireless earbuds (I’ll refer to them as TWE from here on) as:
innovative hearing buds that learn and automatically adapt to your unique hearing profile. BOOST will transform the way you hear and connect to your world. The perfect enhanced hearing device for when you’re not yet ready for a hearing aid.
They go on to say that,
IQbuds BOOST delivers smart personalized hearing. BOOST includes Ear ID, a clinical grade hearing assessment that automatically calibrates the earbuds to your unique hearing profile. IQbuds BOOST will transform the way you hear and connect to your world.
Those two pr statements seem to make the IQBuds BOOST rather unique in an ever-more crowded market and, for their $499 price tag, they had better be. Let’s take a closer look and you can decide for yourself if the sentiments hold up.
Perhaps the best way to discuss the BOOST is to look at each of the various features and aspects of the earphones one by one.
In the box, you get the left and right earbuds (there is a proper orientation, and the “L” and the “R” are embossed on each,) a protective charging case, various sized ear inserts, and a micro-USB charging cable. The earbuds look like a fairly standard affair that is, by now, familiar.
There is the rubber tip that sits inside your ear and the larger casing that houses the electronics and battery.
The earbuds are larger than many of the earbuds we have reviewed in recent months but not so large as to be uncomfortable or unwieldy. There are no visible buttons or controls. The portion of the case next to the ear insert has four metal contact points. These line up with contacts inside the case and begin charging the earbuds when they are placed inside and the cover is closed. The earbuds provide 8 hours of Bluetooth audio streaming or 12 hours of Hearing Processing. More on that in a bit. The battery case gives you even more time on-the-go thanks to its 1,140mAh battery.
The outside surface of the earbuds has a small hole for the microphone and an equally small power indicator.
Both your left and right earbuds feature a sensor that allows you to control the behaviour of your earbuds without using the App on your mobile device. They respond to a light touch of your finger – there is no need to press.
The surface of the earbuds serves as the controls. These can be customized using the free IQBuds app. The earbuds ship with a default set of tap controls.
You can, however, customize the controls so that the touch surface of each earbud works in a manner that is most intuitive to you. The range of options currently available for the touch controls looks like this:
When you first get the BOOST you will want to take the time to try out the various inserts included in the box. The proper size will give you the best, most comfortable fit and, in turn, deliver the best sound. This ear insert is the only thing that keeps the BOOST in place. There is no additional mechanism, like an ear loop, for stabilizing them. They stay in place fairly well but I have been able to shake them out by jumping around like an idiot. I would have preferred the option to keep them in place a bit more firmly.
One of my biggest issues with many true wireless earbuds has been the way they lose connection when the audio source is not positioned properly in relationship to the earbuds. That’s not an issue here, and the IQbuds maintained their connection without issue.
The first thing you will want to do once you have the proper fit and have paired the earbuds with the free iOS or Android app activates the EAR ID.
Ear ID: Self fit, self-assess and auto calibrate your IQbuds to match your unique hearing profile.
EAR ID is an unusual system that assesses your hearing and then automatically calibrates each earbud to your particular ears. The result is your hearing profile! It might seem like magic, but it makes a difference.
SELF ASSESS: Ear ID analyzes your hearing thresholds using a prescription formula (NAL-NL2) used by audiologists everywhere.
The Ear ID system is built on technology that has been “independently and clinically validated as compared to conventional clinic-based audiometry.” This is actual science and not some marketing spin!
INDEPENDENTLY and CLINICALLY VALIDATED: Ear ID is an intelligent audiometric system that learns how you hear and automatically adjusts the IQbuds to your hearing prescription. It is built on technology that has been independently and clinically validated as compared to conventional clinic based audiometry.
When the process is done, it takes just a few minutes, you not only get impressive, customized sound but you also get a map of your hearing in the IQBuds app.
The technology employed by Ear ID is something Judie, and I first saw at CES a few years ago. Those headphones cost significantly north of $1000, but the customization made a huge difference. To see the technology available in something that is under $500, let alone in small, TWE, is impressive. And, most importantly, it works!
Active Noise Cancellation:
The BOOST not only has active noise cancellation but take ANC to the next level.
The app offers some presets including Workout, Street, Home, Office, Restaurant, Driving, and Flight. Each offers an ANC profile that is best suited to the environment you are in at any given moment. Changing the profile is as simple as going into the app and tapping on the profile that best meets your current situation. You can also select some profiles and make them favorites so you can switch profiles using the touch sensors on the earbuds. You can, however, also create a custom profile if that better meets your needs.
The ANC adjustment doesn’t end there, however. The app not only lets you control the ANC but it also allows you to control how much ambient sound is allowed in. The company refers to this as SINC- Super Intelligent Noise Control. With “World” off the earbuds block out as much of the ambient sound as possible. When “World” is toggled on, and the onscreen adjustment is moved all the way to the left, the ANC is as active and impactful as possible. When the adjustment is moved all the way to the right, the ANC is minimally impactful.
The cool thing is that you can choose any point between the two extremes to allow more or less of the outside world in. For example, when I was using them while walking our dog Nava earlier today, I had the setting in the middle. This let in enough of the outside world to be safe if a car honked but activated enough ANC to deliver a nice audio experience. That’s what the company means by:
Audio Transparency: Be aware of your surroundings & world noise while still listening to your favorite music/audio.
I love having this degree of control over the ANC and can see how the BOOST’s features make the appropriate for any setting.
Focus and Intelligent Amplification:
Intelligent Amplification: Suppress background noise and boost your hearing, customizable to different environments.
What makes the BOOST stand out from the abundance of True Wireless Earphones is the Intelligent Amplification they provide. When both ANC and “World” are on the earbuds amplify the sound around you. This is, I suspect when the company refers to the BOOST as a “hearing device.” It lets you ear the people or television more clearly than you otherwise would. And it works!
HEAR BETTER, ENJOY LIFE BETTER: There’s nothing more precious than your hearing. IQbuds BOOST hearing devices enable you to more easily converse with loved ones and hear the TV clearly at lower volumes. Life is enriched when you hear the world better. Social, sporting and dining events become more enjoyable with an enhanced personal hearing experience, even in noisy or challenging locations. Make hands-free phone calls and listen to your favorite audio with enhanced clarity while still hearing the world around you.
Key to the effectiveness of Intelligent Amplification is the new Focus feature. Focus uses “audio beaming” technology that isolates and enhances the sounds directly in front of you while blocking out sound from behind or either side. The result is the type of enhanced hearing one might expect from hearing aids. It works and is something you won’t find with other wireless earbuds.
Focus – Directional Hearing: Bring the sound directly in front of you into sharper focus.
This is especially helpful when you are watching tv. Alternatively, you can connect your IQBuds to your TV and listen to its audio without disturbing others. You can learn what additional equipment you need and how to set up this functionality here.
- Intelligent Amplification: Suppress background noise and boost your hearing, customizable to different environments.
- Ear ID: An intelligent audiometric system 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
- Superior Sound for Calls and Music: Advanced wireless connectivity and microphone technology offers high-fidelity audio and clear phone calls.
- Focus – Directional Hearing: Bring the sound directly in front of you into sharper focus.
- Audio Transparency: Be aware of your surroundings & world noise while still listening to your favorite music/audio.
- High Fidelity Audio: Listen to favorite music, books or news with premium sound while you’re working out, in the office or relaxing at home.
- TV Streaming: Enjoy watching favorite shows again with low latency streaming to your Bluetooth-enabled TV.
That’s a pretty impressive list of functionality and, after spending a serious amount of time testing the earbuds, I’m impressed with how it all comes together in a single, small package.
I do, however, have one serious gripe with the IQbuds BOOST earphones. The technology driving the features is complex and, as one might expect, receives a firmware update from time to time. My earbuds currently need an update, but I have not been able to do so. While most devices can now receive updates over the air, the IQbuds still require that the earbuds be placed into their battery case and the battery case connected to a computer.
After downloading a special update program, the earbuds are supposed to go through the process that brings them up to date. This is annoying enough but, in my case, I have not yet been able to get the updater to recognize the earbuds when they are plugged in.
I’m going to try with my work computer tomorrow but, even when it does finally work, the fact that I’ve been unable to update them at all is annoying. In a sense, the IQbuds is a 2018 product, but the update process belongs to 2008 or earlier. Not good.
- Dimensions: 21mm x 25mm x 15mm
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 4.2, 2.4 – 2.5Ghz
- Bluetooth Profiles: A2DP, HFP v1.6, HSP, AVRCP, aptX, aptX Low latency
- Near Field Magnetic induction(NFMI): 10.579MHz, Maximum TX 132 dBuV
- Microphone: Digital MEMS (2 per earbud)
- Speaker: High Fidelity Balanced Armature
- Battery: 120mAH (per earbud)
- Discharge Time: 8 hrs audio streaming / 12 hrs hearing processing
- Weight: 8g (per earbud)
- Ear Tips: 8 pairs silicone reusable, two pairs Comply memory foam
- Water resistance: “Sweat/rain resistant. Internal circuits coated with NanoProof water protection, which is rated at IPX7.”
- Streaming: Low latency streaming for TV audio
- Fitting Formula: NAL/NL2
Dimensions: 97mm x 47mm x 34mm
Charge Capacity: 5v, 1.1A maximum charge
The IQbuds BOOST pack an amazing amount of technology into small, true wireless earbuds. When I first read through the features I assumed that while much of it was cool, it was mostly shiny tech that would never actually be used. I was wrong. The ANC works well. The control you have over the ANC is impressive. And the sound processing really does let you hear better when having a conversation in a noisy place. This isn’t marketing spin but is, instead, something you will really use. Add in the fact that the IQbuds sound fantastic and, despite being rather pricey, they are worth considering. I do wish they shipped with add-ons that help stabilize the earphones when you are moving rapidly but, despite that one little issue, these are fantastic. I’ll be doing a lot of traveling over the next few months and the IQbuds BOOST will be coming with me. They are that good. Check them out here.
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample of the IQbuds BOOST earphones
What I Like: Ship with an assortment of ear inserts so you can get the right fit; Hold their Bluetooth connection quite well with no dropouts thus far; Get good battery life; ANC works and is highly adjustable; Intelligent amplifications and Focus feature combine to help you hear in noisy settings; Sound great
What Needs Improvement: Pricey; No stabilizing ear hooks included or available