Hearing buds offer sound enhancement with state-of-the-art technology
When you have hearing loss, the one thing you want is to be able to communicate with those around you. That can be difficult at best when you are only hearing part of the conversation. While hearing aids are an option for some people with hearing loss, they aren’t always affordable for those who only have partial hearing loss. There are some devices out there that provide hearing assistance without being true hearing aids. One such device is the IQbuds2 MAX.
The IQbuds2 MAX are earbuds that incorporate Active Noise Cancellation and Ear ID personalization to provide unparalleled noise control and sound fidelity for users. Dubbed “the world’s most advanced hearing bud,” the IQbuds2 MAX won three CES innovation awards in 2020. Built on Nuheara’s innovative new smart-hearing platform, the IQbuds2 MAX features hybrid Active Noise Cancellation and unique features for personalizing and enhancing the wearer’s soundscape. They are designed with the latest acoustic technology, which enhances normal hearing and allows users to fine-tune their sound environment. Nuheara’s EarIDTM technology and Speech in Noise Control (SINC) provide wearers with unrivaled customization and control over their personal hearing experience, so they can enjoy music, conversations, or silence wherever they go.
- True Personalization: Nuheara’s EarIDTM technology uses a convenient mobile app to assess a wearer’s hearing and automatically calibrate the buds to their personal hearing profile. EarID uses the clinically-validated NAL-NL2 hearing test—a neural network-driven system that optimizes the hearing augmentation engine to the user’s personal preferences. This provides research-grade hearing customization without the need to visit audiology specialists.
- Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation: With the most advanced form of ANC, IQbuds2 MAX uses three microphones to analyze and process sounds both inside and outside the ear. Advanced filtering circuitry creates cancellation waves in the ear to reduce distracting sounds and in-ear occlusion. With the tap of a finger, users can block external noises. Working in combination with SINC, this feature delivers a premium dual noise-isolation experience for unparalleled noise mitigation and control.
- Situational Sound: Nuheara’s proprietary Speech in Noise Control (SINC) adds unique sound controls for each situation. With SINC, wearers can quickly toggle their earbuds to the most comfortable noise settings for their location—muting background noise and enhancing focus on their direct conversations in a noisy environment.
- Advanced Digital Signal Processing: IQbuds2 MAX triple-core DSP system delivers optimal hearing fidelity and reduces occlusion to deliver the most natural enhanced sound ever in a hearing bud. IQbuds2 MAX have a 450MIPS signal processing engine in each earbud, offering an optimal natural sound experience.
- Sonic Accuracy: A large 9.2mm dynamic driver with vented acoustical design provides pitch-perfect sound fidelity. This improves sound quality, especially bass, which can be an issue with smaller earbuds.
- App Syncing with iPhone and Android: Nuheara’s user-friendly apps allow full control of the listening environment, including noise reduction and hearing processing. Users can adjust hearing preferences from the app and receive future developments and upgrades for the IQbuds2 MAX.
- Intelligent controls: Nuheara’s smart sensors provide intuitive tap- touch and gesture control for a seamless user experience.
- Water and sweat-resistant: All of Nuheara’s products are designed to maximize compatibility for an active lifestyle.
The IQbuds2 MAX come in a hard black cardboard box with a branded sleeve wrapped around it. A nice image of the earbuds on the front and some of the details are outlined on the back. Inside the box, you will find the earbuds in their charging case, a Micro USB charging cable, multiple pairs of ear gels, and a travel pouch for the kit. There are safety instructions provided as well as a quick start guide card. Even though these earbuds have advanced features, they are still at their core, Bluetooth earbuds. So, the first step is to download the companion app from your given app store – for me, it’s the Apple App Store – and then pair the earbuds. I walked through the startup steps and the pairing process with the app and ended up having to do a firmware update. The update took approximately 5-10 minutes to complete.
One of the first things I noticed about these earbuds is that they charge using Micro USB. To me, this is now classified as ‘old technology.’ I know that the connection still serves a worthy purpose, but most devices are moving toward USB-C as their charging connector of choice and in that respect it just doesn’t make sense to me that a modern device that was released in 2020 would still have this older technology built-in. The second thing I noticed was the size of the earbud. The piece that goes inside the ear canal is about the same size as other earbuds, but the piece that contains the mechanics of the earphone is quite large. It’s actually quite a bit larger than other earbuds I test out.
One of the first steps the app instructs you to complete is to ‘insert IQBuds into your ears.’ While this seems self-explanatory, the details on this step are what’s a little surprising to me. The screen after the ‘insert’ step says the earbuds should fit like an earplug. “For high-quality bass and noise reduction, IQBuds need to form an airtight seal. Push the buds into your ears as you would an earplug.” This is something I’m well-versed at doing since I work with a lot of earbuds, but I was surprised at how far I actually had to press the earbuds into my ear canal to get the ‘seal’ referred to in the user manual. After just a few minutes, the earbuds actually caused pain for me. I had my fiancé try them on, too, and he had the same experience. I do want to point out that this was with the small ear tips on the buds.
After I had the earbuds situated, I went through the steps in the app of setting up the Ear ID, which is kind of like a hearing test, and changing different settings in the World feature. I found that I could hear voices a bit – maybe about 2% – better when the earbuds were being worn than when they weren’t, but since they were so uncomfortable for me, I didn’t wear them very long. As I mentioned, I had my fiancé try them out, too, because he has hearing loss and does actually have prescribed hearing aids. He had the same review of the world feature as I did – he could hear me talking better with them, but only in a closed environment. When we started watching TV, he said he could hear better without the earbuds. I thought the Focus feature was very useful. I had my fiancé try that out while we were talking and he said he heard better with the Focus pointed forward rather than in the 360º mode. I did hear a lot of static when using the World feature. I tried playing with the settings, but when I turned the volume up, the static was there. It sort of reminded me of a bad phone connection.
Aside from the hearing assistance features, I thought the IQbuds2 MAX were very similar to other earbuds as far as sound quality goes. For me, the bass was lacking, but I think it’s possibly because the ‘fit’ wasn’t ideal in my ears. That said, the sound was very clear, just not “deep”. I was able to hear ambient noise while wearing the earbuds even with the ANC engaged.
While I love the concept of these earbuds, I think that they probably aren’t for everyone. The advanced features that are built-in do function properly, but the user has to weigh whether or not the benefit they are getting from those features is worth the discomfort that wearing the earbuds causes. The discomfort I had wearing the earbuds may not be a factor for everyone as every ear is different, but it’s definitely something to be aware of as you search for a device that will suit your needs the best.