We tested… The Nothing Ear

Third incarnation for Nothing’s affordable in-ear headphones…

The Nothing Ear is a brand new model from the transparent technology specialist, which forgoes numbers and tells us “this is as good as it gets here”.

Beneath the now-familiar styling lies a new dynamic driver, improved noise-canceling algorithms, and much better battery life than the outgoing Nothing Ear 2. Clearer voice calls and additional high-resolution Bluetooth codecs also make a difference. It’s quite the package, considering the $149 asking price – only it’s no longer the obvious choice for budget-conscious music lovers.
Nothing has just drawn the curtain on the even more affordable Ear (a). It lacks features, but matches its big brother in terms of ANC capability and will only cost you $99. Does the updated original still have what it takes to impress?

Design and finish: family
It will take a keen eye to notice that you are listening to the Nothing Ear and not the outgoing Ear 2, or even Ear 1; Nothing sticks to its look when it comes to style, with clear stem headphones in a clamshell case. They come in black or white – for a pop of color you’ll want to pick up the Ear(a) in its distinctive yellow hue.
The case retains the flat top and bottom introduced with Ear 2. It’s made from the same mix of opaque and transparent plastics, which are more scratch-resistant than those used for Ear 1; This case scratched far too easily, but it held up well throughout our testing. The size is perfect for pockets, but the more rectangular Ear (a) case was better, even if its plastics aren’t as pleasant to the touch.
Nothing has made the case IP55 water resistant, which is better than the IP54 rating of the earbuds. Both can now happily ignore a brief rain shower, which will reassure outdoor fitness enthusiasts. Magnets keep the cover locked and hold the earbuds in place against their charging pins.
No major changes to the earbuds’ internals, with the pinch control and in-ear detection sensors being in roughly the same place as on the Water 2. The bits that hold the drivers in appear just as bulbous, and sat just as comfortably in my ears. The weight is also about the same. If you get along well with Apple AirPods Pro or any other stem earbuds, you’ll be right at home here.
There’s the usual bunch of different sized silicone ear tips included in the box. Once you get a good fit, they provide decent passive noise isolation and help keep the buds in place as you move. I could feel some movement while jogging, but not enough that they would fall off.

Features and battery: longer life
Most of the Ear’s features have been carried over from the Ear 2, including multi-point connectivity and a low-lag mode that works great for gaming or streaming video on a smartphone.
Nothing has improved its high-quality Bluetooth support for 2024, adding LDAC alongside LHDC; Ear 2 only had the latter, which isn’t as well supported as LDAC. Both offer higher bitrate streaming than SBC or AAC, which Apple users have to make do with.
The pinch controls are just as easy to use as on the outgoing model. I’ve never accidentally paused my music or skipped a track by adjusting the position of an earbud in my ear. I do think, however, that the in-ear detection took a step back compared to Ear 2. Songs kept stopping, even though the earbuds were firmly in my ears. We finally deactivated the function. Maybe my ears are a funny shape, maybe it was a faulty device – or maybe it’s something that can be fixed with a firmware update.
For us, the biggest improvement is in battery life. Officially, the Nothing Ear can manage eight hours with active noise cancellation turned off, an increase of two hours over the Ear 2. With ANC enabled, we still managed just over five hours of listening, which is at least an hour more than the previous generation. TO DO. The charging case can increase those numbers to 24 hours and 40 hours respectively, putting these earbuds on par with similarly priced competitors. Previously, Nothing’s efforts were a bit disappointing.
If you want Nothing headphones with wireless charging, Ear is your only choice; The ear (a) does without it. Personally, I think it’s a nice product at this price and only useful if your phone supports wireless power sharing. USB-C remains your best choice for faster charging.

Interface: signed
The Nothing’s ANC and battery life numbers for the case and each bud right there on the home screen.
Dual-device connectivity, in-ear detection, and low latency mode are all hidden in the settings screen, along with firmware updates, higher quality Bluetooth codecs, and an ear tip fit test handy to make sure you are using the correct size tip. . Find my Earbuds can also play a tone in each earbud if you misplace them.
A hearing test personalizes the audio based on the sound frequencies you are able to hear. I found this to make a minor difference, but if you are more hard of hearing it might prove more useful. It’s the customizable EQ that can make bigger differences: Simple mode returns, with sliders for bass, mids and treble, but an advanced mode offers an eight-band EQ (with an editable Q factor) . You can create multiple profiles with drastically different audio signatures and import those created by others using QR codes.
It seems a bit artificial to limit this customization to the ear, while the cheaper (a) water has to make do with the basic sliders. Ear 2 users have also benefited from this customization for almost a year now.

Sound quality and noise cancellation: it’s a win
If the Ear 2 “sounds good…for the price”, the Ear simply sounds good, period. Nothing has upgraded to a new 11mm dynamic driver that uses a ceramic diaphragm, which allows for crisper highs than before, and added additional ports that let more air through the driver and help reduce distortion across the board.
The setting is still energetic and engaging, but also with lots of nuance. The guitar on Freddie King’s Going Down had the kind of clarity you don’t often hear without spending a lot more, and the vocal performance can really shine through. It does a good job of avoiding harsher high frequencies, even on songs that aren’t particularly well mastered.
Bass is also more controlled out of the box than Ear 2. This is partly due to the new Bass Enhance mode, which is enabled by default and adds a bit of extra low-frequency punch for those who want it – ​​without getting lost in a booming territory. Personally, we were happy to turn it off, as the bass presence was very good without additional processing. The bassline of Sigma’s Adrenalin Rush made a real impact, without interrupting the vocals or other instruments.
With the EQ set to Balanced, these headphones get incredibly loud, to the point where I won’t listen above the 70% mark through my smartphone. Switching to the advanced EQ also reduces the volume a bit, leaving plenty of room to push individual frequencies. These headphones won’t compete with competitors that cost twice as much in terms of clarity or precision, but the difference is much less than you might expect.
Nothing thinks Ear’s updated active noise cancellation algorithms can now remove up to 45dB of background noise, up from 40dB on the previous generation model. Noise levels are exponential, so it’s a significant improvement on paper. In practice, we were impressed with its ability to quiet our commuter train ride, with the adaptive setting quickly activating in response to sudden loud noises and withdrawing during quieter moments. I also noticed an improvement over Ear 2 while walking around a busy city center. Owners of the Sony WF-1000XM5 and Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbud won’t be jealous, as wind noise isn’t reduced to the same extent, but you get great ANC for your money here.

Verdict
With only half the development time between generations as its predecessor, we don’t think this Nothing Ear is as big a leap forward as Ear 2 was. But the improvements are obvious. Noise cancellation is effective in environments that are noisier than before, even if only slightly, and the new driver delivers punchy sound for the price. More importantly, the battery life is now much more competitive than its competitors.
If you’re an Ear 2 owner and regularly run out of juice during long listening sessions, this might be enough to convince you to upgrade. Anyone who prefers buds over stems will probably still head for the Sony WF-C700N or Samsung Galaxy Buds FE, but neither has the transparent panache of those earbuds.
If you’re happy with Nothing’s out-of-the-box setting and don’t need niceties like wireless charging, this is a very tempting alternative that will leave a little more money in your wallet.

Rating: 4/5
Still as distinctive, but now with ANC upgrades and EQ improvements. A modest but welcome update to already capable wireless headphones at a very attractive price.

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