Nothing ear earbuds review – nothing lacking

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REVIEW – The Nothing brand and products are the brainchild of Carl Pei. The Nothing ear resembles the AirPods Pro 2 with a mostly transparent body, characteristic of Nothing tech, that enables interaction with the device’s physical components and intended use. I have a pair to review; Read on to see what I think!

What is it?

The Nothing ear is the newest version of truly wireless Bluetooth earbuds by Nothing. The Nothing ear looks exactly like the Nothing ear (2). It is difficult to determine that what is being reviewed are the successors to the Nothing ear (2) given that they are not named Nothing ear (3) or officially Nothing ear (2024). The earbuds feature new ceramic drivers capable of more movement and this is how Nothing claims they have improved the sound clarity and depth. The earbuds also have many electronic and software improvements,  including new LDAC and LHDC codec compatibility, increased battery life, more selective background noise filtering on calls, and enhanced ANC noise reduction (up to 45 db). The companion mobile phone software also offers fit detection, customizable frequency equalization, and personalized frequency boost.

What’s included?

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  • Pair of earbuds
  • Ear tips in size S, M, L (Medium is installed out of the box)
  • Charging case
  • Type-C cable
  • Safety information and warranty information
  • User guide

Tech specs

Click to expand
  • Earbud Dimensions: 29.4 mm x 21.7 mm x 24.1 mm
  • Weight (each): 4.62 g
  • Case Dimensions: 55.5 mm x 55.5 mm x 22 mm
  • Case Weight: 51.9 g
  • Driver: 11 mm ceramic dynamic driver
  • Battery type: Rechargeable li-ion battery
  • Capacity: Earbud, 46 mAh; Case, 500 mAh
  • Wired charging: USB Type-C
  • Fast Charging with ANC off: 10 minutes for 10 hours
  • Playback with ANC off: Up to 40.5 hours with case and 8.5 hours with buds only
  • Playback with ANC on: Up to 24 hours with case and 5.2 hours with buds only
  • Talk time with ANC off: Up to 23 hours with case and 5 hours with buds only
  • Talk time with ANC on: Up to 18 hours with case and 4 hours with buds only
  • ANC Depth: Up to 45 dB
  • Frequency range: 5000 Hz
  • ANC Features: Smart ANC algorithm, Adaptive ANC, Transparency mode
  • Bluetooth Version: 5.3
  • Codec: AAC, SBC, LDAC, LHDC 5.0
  • Profiles: RFCOMM, SPP, HFP, A2DP, AVDTP, AVCTP, AVRCP

 

Design and features

Unboxing

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The Nothing ear earbuds come in a small retail-appropriate box. The packaging is completely free of plastic. Even the retail hanger, usually a plastic piece installed in a slot of the cover, is cardboard glued to the box flap.

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The box is a full-color printed cardboard box with a glossy detail of the left bud on the box front. The rear of the box details the product specification and includes compliance statements. The rear of the box also identifies the lifecycle carbon footprint; is this something we will see more of?

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The base of the box includes a pull tab to show if the box has been opened, but I also found that the glue holding the top flap of the box can be cut through.

Design

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The design of Nothing hardware is always fascinating; The transparent shell of the Nothing devices allows the user to see inside, much like a car owner may lift the hood of their vehicle to appreciate what enables it to move so swiftly. The speaker compartment is a textured black plastic. The finish sharply transitions to glossy around the point where the tips protrude on each side. The tips are transparent and allow the user to see the components within. The top of each tip has a mic grill for the outward-facing feedforward ANC  microphone. The center outside of the tip has the words “NOTHNIG ear” printed in dot matrix on the inside of the clear case so that it is visible through the plastic. The inside of the case is obscure on the outside because the main antenna of each earbud takes up most of the space. The base of the tip has another decorative speaker grill on the inside of the case. 

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Along the side of the tip is the touch sensor that enables pinch control of the earbuds. Some integrated circuitry components are also visible from the sides of the ear tip. 

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The inside of the ear tip has a simple but effective windshield across each speaking microphone. The microphone is covered by plastic and is only exposed to small windows on each end. Along the stem of the ear tip are two charging contacts and a magnet to keep the charging circuit continuous when the earbuds are placed in the case.

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On the case, the top cover is completely plastic with a large hemispherical indentation and two smaller hemispherical recesses designed to keep the earbuds from moving while they are stored or charging. The matte black hinge is off-center and meets a diagonal section of black plastic that runs across the case. Towards the front of the black section is an LED that exhibits the following behaviors:

  • Charging: flashes white
  • Fully charged: steady white
  • Pairing: flashes white
  • Battery status:
    • Extreme low(<5%): no light
    • Battery< 30%: red for 2 seconds
    • Battery>=30%: white for 2 seconds
  • Reset: flashes red three times

Two pogo contacts on an outcropping near each earbud storage area charge the buds while they are in the case. A magnet adjacent to the pogo contacts and one in the base of the storage areas, also made from lucite, help keep the earbuds seated securely. The magnets in the base of the storage area are painted red and white and correspond to dots painted on the earbuds (white on the left, red on the right) to identify which side each bud belongs. Two magnets diagonally opposite the hinge help keep the lid closed. The right side of the case has a USB-C charging port and a pair button. The base of the unit, also in matte black, has information about the battery (in the Nothing characteristic dot matrix font) and compliance stamps. Within the base, there is also a wireless charging coil. The matte black is already a sweat and fingerprint magnet and I expect the acrylic to scuff eventually. But for now, after using it for about two weeks, there are no obvious marks. Not only is the case stylish, it makes it easy to tell if the earbuds are inside without opening the top. For more views of the Nothing internals head here. Nothing has done a teardown of the ear and ear case to show even more of the device’s insides.

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While the materials and the execution are unique to the Nothing earbuds the shape is very familiar. The Nothing ear look very similar to the Apple Airpod Pros. I believe the differences between the AirPods and the Nothing are decidedly in Nothing’s favor. The textured body, earbud tips, and fuller bean shape stayed in my ears better than the Apple product. Fit is very subjective, but if you have difficulty keeping the AirPods in, I recommend you try the Nothing ear; aside from similarities in their appearance, they may be a better fit. The ear uses oval ear tip stems. I like the way these silicone tips feel and Nothing will replace a full set of ear tips for $6 plus $10 shipping to the US. 

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While wearing the Nothing you may forget they are in because each earbud weighs only 4.6 grams. While sporting the earbuds don’t be afraid to get wet or dusty. The Nothing ear has IP54 protection that should protect it from a rainshower or country roads. 

Operation

The first thing to be done while using the earbuds is pairing them to the device you want to listen to. Thanks to Microsoft Swift Pair and Google Fast pair, pairing the earbuds to Windows and Android devices is as easy as pairing the Air Pods to an iPhone. 

To take advantage of all that the Nothing ear has to offer requires that the Nothing X app be installed on a paired device. Without the app the standard pinch controls are available, the standard equalization is active, and the bass enhance is turned off. 

The standard pinch controls are the same for each ear:

  • Single Pinch: Play / Pause / Answer call / Hang Up Call
  • Double pinch: Skip forward / Decline incoming call
  • Triple Pinch: Skip Back
  • Pinch & Hold: Noise Control
  • Double Pinch and Hold: No action

All actions except the single pinch can be customized. 

Each earbud has an in-ear sensor that will stop the music in each ear if one of the buds is removed. If the music is restarted after the earbud is removed then removing the second earbud will also stop the music again. 

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The in-app equalization has a simple 3 band equalizer with pre-programmed options for balanced listening, more bass, more treble, and voice. The app also allows the 3 band equalizer to be custom-programmed. The app also has a more advanced 8 band equalizer. The band frequency and boost are both adjustable. One interesting feature is that the settings on this can be shared and imported using an app-generated QR code. 

The settings for the earbuds are accessible on the app these include in-ear detection, low lag mode, high quality audio, a personal sound profile, dual connection, ear tip fit test, and find my earbuds.  High quality audio supports AAC, LHDC, and LDAC. 

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The personal sound profile is based on a purpose-designed hearing test administered by the app. The test evaluates the ability of the wearer to distinguish signal from noise. The app uses the results of the test to boost frequencies that the user is less sensitive to. After the test is complete the richness and intensity of the boost may be customized.

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The ear tip fit test plays chirps and beeps and uses the ANC microphones to determine if sound is leaking from the earbuds. I tried this test with an ear tip removed and the app was able to tell that the fit was not good. 

The Find My Earbuds plays a very loud chirp that sounds a bit like an insect but should help you find a lost earbud. You should learn the sound before you need it to find an earbud so you can know what to listen out for.

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The app also allows the firmware in the earbuds to be continuously improved.

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The case is easy to use to store and remove the earbuds. The case also supports wireless charging which is a fantastic little added feature. 

Performance

The Nothing ear earbuds sound fantastic. The sound of these earbuds are definitely in the top tier of earbuds available. The earbuds that it competes with cost between $75 and $150 more than the Nothing ear and I feel that the sound improvement over these other options is only marginal. The Soundguys website performed an analysis of the Nothing ear using a calibrated acoustic test head and the test results provide quantitative results that support my opinion that these are exceptional earbuds.

I fully charged the Nothing ear and it took about 5 hours to deplete them with the ANC on which is about what Nothing claims.

The ANC and transparency modes are not as fully developed as they are on the Apple Airpods. I feel that I can hear more with the Apple Airpods than with the Nothing ear when transparency is on and I feel that the isolation of the Apple Airpods is better than the Noting ear when ANC is on the highest setting.  I did notice that there is a bit of distortion when changing modes on ANC and that this discrepancy is noticeable in the adaptive ANC mode. Therefore I used it on high or turned it off. I suppose using the adaptive setting is good for extending the battery life.

I found that the personal sound profile provided an improved listening experience. 

What I like about Nothing ear earbuds

  • Fantastic Sound
  • Lots of Customizations
  • Fast charging and wireless charging case

What needs to be improved?

  • ANC

Final thoughts

The Nothing ear has fantastic audio reproduction capabilities. The Hi Res codecs, long battery life, extensive customizations, and great fit make these a great choice. The fact that they are a bargain compared to their peers makes this an even better option. I fully recommend them.

Price: $149.00
Where to buy: Amazon
Source: The sample of this product was provided for free by Nothing. Nothing did not have a final say on the review and did not preview the review before it was published.

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