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Nuheara IQbuds 2 MAX Review: Music to My Broken Ears

Rating: 8/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $250
A set of Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max on a desk
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

I once called Nuheara’s IQbuds Boost earbuds potentially life-changing, but I did have some complaints. Now the IQbuds 2 MAX buds are here to solve those problems. These are some of the best wearables on the market, and they do address most of my issues. But perfection is still just out of reach.

The first thing you should know about all Nuheara products is that they aren’t hearing aids. The closest accurate description is “Hearable,” which is similar to Wearables but for your ears. Nuheara doesn’t promise the IQbuds 2 MAX (IQbuds 2 from here on out) can replace hearing aids, nor as they for anyone with severe hearing loss. But mild to moderate hearing loss is common, and $5,000 hearing aids are overkill for those situations. That’s where Hearables come in—they offer a boost.

The previous IQbuds Boost earbuds did an excellent job of providing that help. But while they perform great at other earbud tasks like music, they still have flaws (especially that annoying case). Along the way, Nuheara promises the IQBuds 2 sound better than ever, especially thanks to new features like ANC. But the true wireless earbud world has changed a lot, and in some areas, the IQbuds 2 have been left behind.

Here's What We Like

  • Amazing hearing assistance
  • Fantastic bass
  • Venting is helpful

And What We Don't

  • Bulky
  • Short battery life
  • No USB-C or wireless charging

Review Geek's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Setup Remains the Same

The first thing you’ll do when you get IQBuds out of the box is stick on a set of eartips. Unlike most true wireless earbuds, IQBuds don’t come with a set pre-applied. That’s probably a good thing: many people accept the default “medium” without checking to see if other sizes would fit better. A tight yet comfortable seal is vital for Hearables.

But one significant departure for Nuheara is the number of eartips the company provides you. The older IQbuds Boost boasted eight pairs of eartips, four made of silicone and the rest made from memory foam. The IQbuds 2 step down to just six sets of eartips, half made from silicone and half from memory foam. That’s despite Nuheara’s claim that “[n]ow in its three generations of IQbuds, Nuheara has improved the design to fit more .ears (sic).”

Last time around, I found only the small memory foam tips were comfortable to wear, which isn’t surprising given my tiny ears. But to my surprise, the foam tips were painful to wear this time, and the small silicone tips were very comfortable. Once you have a set, you’ll turn on your IQbuds 2 earbuds, pair them with your device and open the IQbuds app (iOS and Android).

The app has several useful functions, but the first thing you’ll do is set up your “Ear ID.” If you’ve ever been through a classic hearing test, this will sound familiar (literally). During Ear ID, the IQbuds 2 will play a series of tones at various pitches and volumes, and you’ll tap a button to indicate when you hear the noise. In theory, Ear ID will modify what frequencies the IQBuds 2 boost to help with your hearing.

In my case, I show a slight loss of hearing in the upper frequencies in one of my ears—not surprising given I am approaching my 40s. But that doesn’t adequately describe my struggles. My entire life, I have had trouble understanding whispers or people in a crowded and noisy room. I pass these tests fine, yet I still have difficulty hearing people.

Beyond the Ear ID, you can customize tap settings, change how the earbuds alter sound around you, and more. While you get World EQ options to adjust how much filtering happens, you don’t get regular EQ options for music. That’d be a nice addition. Likewise, while Nuheara’s app attempts to adjust frequencies based on your test results automatically, you can’t fiddle with them yourself. But once you’re paired and set up, you’re good to go.

Even Better Music Than Before

A side view of the Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

The original IQbuds Boost did a decent job of playing music, which was good considering the price. But since those days, other true wireless earbuds have stepped up in capability (and cost). To keep ahead of the competition, Nuheara went a simple route: increasing the dynamic driver’s size.

And for the most part, that does the trick. It’s astounding how much bass you get out of the IQbuds 2. It’s not “7.1 surround sound” quality, but it’s more than good enough for all your music needs. I own half a dozen earbuds, along with headphones and various speakers. I’ll still use my headphones when I’m at my computer (though, thanks to Bluetooth, I can use IQbuds 2 if I want). But for all my phone and tablet music listening, the IQbuds 2 are my “weapon of choice.” The new addition of ANC only improves those results. And while it’s not the best ANC I’ve experienced, it does make a noticeable difference.

The downside is that a larger dynamic driver also means larger earbuds. The original IQbuds Boost earbuds were some of the largest on the market. Now the IQbuds 2 are even bigger. They look absolutely ridiculous in my ears, and that’s a problem. One of the reasons people don’t like to wear hearing aids is the shame of being seen with them. But standard hearing aids are downright inconspicuous compared to the IQbuds 2. I’ve never had anyone say anything to me if I wore them in public, but I still felt self-conscious.

It Can Help With Hearing

A set of Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max earbuds next to a nearly equally sized 4x4 LEGO brick
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say you should speak with a doctor if you develop hearing issues. But for someone with mild hearing issues, like me, the IQbuds 2 are frankly amazing. I have problems understanding a whisper if someone is too close to me. Step into another room, and I can understand your whisper with perfect clarity. But if you’re right next to me, a whisper becomes unintelligible noise—unless I’m wearing IQBuds 2.

With these earbuds in, I can finally hear whispers nearby. I can understand people in a crowded room. I can hear what’s happening around me without asking people to repeat themselves. I’d like to say that what I’m hearing is noticeably better than the original IQbuds Boost, but it’s not. My guess is the results are about the same as before. But that’s not a complaint, because the final result is excellent. At least for someone with minor hearing issues. If you need true hearing aids, these just won’t cut it. And only a doctor can say for sure what your needs are.

Importantly, this time around, Nuheara added venting to the earbuds. The last set of buds blocked your ears entirely, and everything you heard sounded filtered. Worse yet, the buds caused your voice to sound echoey and distant, like putting a cup over your ears and then talking. That situation is much-improved thanks to venting, but not totally solved. My family still complains that I talk softer when I’m wearing the IQbuds 2, but it’s not as bad as before.

Many Improvements, But Still Flaws

The IQbuds 2 max case next to an IQbuds Boost case
Josh Hendrickson / Review Geek

With the original IQbuds Boost, my single biggest complaint had to do with the case. It was, frankly, awful. The magnets sealing the case shut made it very hard to open, and the lack of magnets in the slots made it easy to lose your earbuds. It was a lesson in frustration.

Thankfully that’s all fixed. Nuheara put the magnets where they belong, and now the earbuds snap right into the charging position. I don’t struggle to open the case or put the earbuds away anymore, and that’s great. But here in 2022, the IQBuds 2 are still far behind in other ways, especially at the suggested price of $500.

First, the case doesn’t have USB-C—you’ll deal with MicroUSB instead. And let’s be frank, the new case is enormous. I can barely wrap my fingers around the entire case, and I have medium-sized man hands. Imagine an AirPod Pro case and then double the size, and you’re getting close. You’ll only get about three recharges off the case despite the size. That takes about 120 minutes, though 15 minutes will get you an hour’s playtime.

Speaking of time, Nuheara says you’ll get eight hours of hearing assistance or five hours of Bluetooth streaming. I don’t think these are comfortable enough to wear for eight hours straight, so I haven’t tested that metric. But I can say that the five-hour estimate is about an hour too long for Bluetooth streaming. I consistently only saw about four hours of charge, even with other features turned off.

I’m also sad to say the case doesn’t have wireless charging. Nuheara apparently designed the IQbuds 2 in 2018 before USB-C and wireless charging were so common, but even still, it’s a miss here in 2022.

The sound assistance still isn’t perfect, of course, and won’t work everywhere. Don’t expect these to help in a noisy store; for instance, if anything, it makes things worse. But used correctly, they are quite simply life-changing for anyone with mild hearing loss.

Should You But The Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max?

Before I recommend any hearing product, I have to say you should speak with a doctor if you’re experiencing hearing loss. It could be a symptom of some worse problem, or your hearing loss could be worse than you realize.

But if you have done all that and know you don’t need true hearing aids, then should you buy Nuheara’s earbuds for assistance? It’s a tricky question, especially given the retail price of $500. But I’ve tried just about every hearable on the market. If you’re looking for something that also functions as a true wireless earbud, the Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max is the single best option available. I own dozens of true wireless earbuds and at least half a dozen hearables, and in either case, I turn to the Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max first every time. Nothing else compares in this admittedly small niche. If you want something hidden, then an option like Eargo 6 may be better for you.

But if you don’t mind looking like you’re wearing true wireless earbuds and want something truly life-changing, turn to the Nuheara IQbuds 2 Max. They’re not perfect, but they are great. And if you find them on sale for $300, which happens frequently, don’t wait. Buy them instantly.

Rating: 8/10
Price: $250

Here’s What We Like

  • Amazing hearing assistance
  • Fantastic bass
  • Venting is helpful

And What We Don't

  • Bulky
  • Short battery life
  • No USB-C or wireless charging

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »