The above video if a review of IQbuds² MAX by Juan Carlos Bagnell, known to his 117,000+ followers on YouTube as SomeGadgetGuy. In the video, he describes his experiences during an in-depth test of these next-generation hearing devices from Nuheara. Read the full transcript below.
It’s like super-powered hearing.
Hearables are going to be a trend in mobile audio. Rates of hearing loss across all age groups is still rising. And lots of people are going to need some kind of hearing assistance at younger and younger ages. This is an exciting follow-up product to something I reviewed last year. The IQbuds² MAX look like any other pair of true wireless earbud, but the idea here is to use a ton of microphone modelling to cut noise from your environment and better hear people and speech around you.
This isn’t just make the world louder kind of product. There’s a lot of noise reduction tech happening. Touring the hardware, these are simple black drivers, cases, all touch controls with no tactile buttons. And you get a handy collection of silicone and foam ear tips. The charge case is a little on the larger side and it has a micro USB charge port, so that’s not my favorite. But on the whole, we’re in competitive territory for true wireless buds.
The real magic happens after you give yourself a hearing test through the Nuheara app and then customize a listening profile. At my age, my biggest problem is hearing speech in crowded environments, especially tiled reflective areas like cafes or coffee shops. I read lips almost as much as I’m actually following the conversation these days.
Next Generation Hearing Devices
These are an evolutionary step beyond normal headphone noise reduction. Using aptX low latency to sample sound around you, cut down on the noise, and then pass human speech through to your ear. Think about like a voice mode or audio zoom mode on a camera, but processed in real-time in the earbud. And they work surprisingly well.
The best part of this is how granular your controls are. Hearing loss is not a one size fits all solution. Very much the opposite– everyone facing some degradation has unique issues they need to correct for. My hearing overall is actually pretty good considering my age and how dumb I was as a kid when I would go to concerts. But tuning these to focus on speech, drown out traffic noise, roll off some of the upper EQ, and reduce the total volume of the world around me is a little slice of magic.
Going out on a walk, having a conversation with my wife, not straining to hear her over traffic sounds, because those are almost totally gone. And especially these days, wearing masks, and I can’t watch her mouth like I used to.
From the first generation IQbuds to these IQbuds² MAX earbuds, the tech has noticeably improved for scalpeling around human speech. The first-gen of this product were surprisingly good. But if you adjusted too heavy into some of the EQ and world filtering, everything would get that kind of distortion, digitally, underwater sound. So you’d have to pick and choose compromises a little more based on location like in a restaurant to reduce the clink and clack of silverware spiking you in the ear. Voices would have to be a bit more muffled than I would have liked.
Hitting these second-generation earbuds harder, voices are still going to be affected. There is some filtering happening. It’s not going to be the highest fidelity voice capture you’re ever going to hear, but this is a really nice generational improvement. And I can roll off the upper EQ a lot more aggressively to reduce some of the shrill sounds I couldn’t completely escape from the first generation.
How MAX Stacks up Against the Original IQbuds
I brought out my first-gen earbuds again just to side by side some of these improvements and there were times that even the keys rattling in my pocket could be a bit twitch-inducing. Where the second generation, I could control for those incidental sounds a lot better. It coupled with surprisingly, decent battery life. Nuheara rates these for around five hours of music listening and eight hours of hearing amplification. Keeping the pass through audio going with world noise reduction on and listening to some music and some podcasts, I got just over four hours before needing to pop them in the case. That’s slightly below average battery life for basic earbuds. That don’t do anything like what the IQBuds audio processing can achieve. The case supplies three full recharges, so they’ll be solidly long lived away from a charger.
And as you might have gathered, the high buds also function like regular earbuds with better than average sound quality. These new IQbuds move over to a dynamic driver over the originals single balanced on design. And it’s no surprise that bass is going to be fuller than the first generation product. They’re solid performers, it may be a bit lacking in the mids. There are some tracks that I feel are a bit too smiley facey cute for my liking, especially based on my hearing profile, but nothing I would fault as poor. And there’s a respectable range to tweak that EQ and dial in a listening profile that’s going to appeal to you.
If I have a concern about this audio profiling, I wish the hearing tests were just a little more granular. It takes about five minutes per ear, but I’m generally pretty strong on a here that tone kind of hearing test. But what I’d prefer is a test that plays tones at descending volumes until I can’t hear that tone any more. And from there, I think we’d get a more accurate profile of each person’s individual strengths and weaknesses. I only miss out on one tiny gap on my IQBuds test, but I know my hearing isn’t equally strong across this whole range.
And one other concern– and this is just a general foam ear tip issue, it’s not something specific to Nuheara– but wearing them for longer periods of time and pulling them straight out of my ear, I have had a tip pop off and left inside my ear canal. After a longer listening session, when taking them out, you want to give them a bit more of a twist before you pull, and that seems to help for me.
Summarizing My Thoughts on IQbuds² Max
So I think we have something kind of special here. The first generation IQbuds were an eye-opening experience and found their way into regular rotation for my use. It was really exciting to hear a consumer-facing product make good on some of these claims that often sound like product as seen on TV magic, but they never really perform like you think they should. Nuheara has improved on every individual metric I can listen to– refining the audio processing, reducing the potential for microphone feedback, especially when they’re in the case, better audio playback quality. Piece by piece by piece, it’s a nicer total package. And they’re launching at a lower price than last year’s version. Even how these things might hit you in the wallet. I’m always really excited to see progress in that price to performance ratio. We should have some serious concerns for our audio futures. And we need something. We need something in between medical grade hearing aids and absolutely nothing for hearing assistance.
A few more boutique players are entering this space. And products are finally shipping out to consumers after getting shown off at this year’s CES. I’ll be surprised if these kinds of features aren’t incorporated into normal earbuds over the next couple of years. Once we include hardware for advanced noise reduction and beefier internals to process speech in real time, we’ll see a greater spectrum of bionic ear hearing assistance. But for today, Nuheara is a rare brand ahead of that tech curve. And their second generation gear is a solid upgrade.
I’ll, of course, leave some links down below for more information on the Nuheara IQbuds² Max for some solid hearables. As always, thanks so much for watching, for sharing these videos, and subscribing to the channel. Audio is my first love, my passion, my joy. But for all the fun we have with cool audio tech, we also need to make sure we protect these sensitive bits on the side of our head. If you would like to help support the production of more audio tech conversations like these, there are those links down below. There’s the support page on somegadgetguy.com.
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