EVALUATION

Nothing ear (1) Review: Better Than AirPods, and Cheaper

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Nothing ear (1)

8.25 / 10

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You’ve followed the hype. You’ve waited for months. Now, the moment is here: the Nothing ear (1) true wireless earbuds. But can they deliver?

Specifications

  • Brand: Nothing
  • Battery Life: Up to 34 hours
  • Noise Cancellation: Yes
  • Bluetooth : 5.2
Pros

  • Excellent sound
  • Comfortable for long periods
  • Eye-catching and unique design
  • Easy to use app
Cons

  • Battery life lacking
  • ANC could be better
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When was the last time you felt genuinely excited about the proposition of a new bit of technology?

It’s the Nothing ear (1) earbuds for me.

Despite the ubiquitous nature of earbuds, the relatively standardized form factor this audio hardware takes, and the limitations that come with earbuds in general, for once, it was nice to ride the hype train with everyone else.

Nothing has spent months poring over its designs, working in conjunction with Teenage Engineering to craft, in its words, a product you would be “proud to share with family and closest friends.”

So, do they stand up to the scrutiny? Are the Nothing ear (1) earbuds any good?

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Nothing ear (1) Transparent Earbuds Are Striking

As above, earbud design is difficult to really push the boundaries with. Companies opt for a single bud or bud with a stem, the latter of which Nothing has opted for. Earbuds with stems typically follow the design ethos of Apple’s AirPods, and it’s hard to argue against the comfy and functional form.

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nothing ear 1 earbuds top down case

Nothing has pushed for an eye-catching transparent design, allowing users to look at the inner workings of their earbuds. On display are the minute batteries powering the earbuds, the PCB, connectors, microphones, and everything else that goes into making audio possible through these tiny portable audio tools.

From afar, the Nothing ear (1) buds appear fairly simplistic. But when you get up close, you notice the small details: the little dot markers matching the case, the tiny metallic covered microphones, the mirrored gauze inside the earbuds, and the name of the product delicately but proudly printed down each stem.

It’s an interesting design. Nothing isn’t the first company to create a transparent product, but they’ve certainly delivered a set of earbuds that pushes them apart from the competition. Stemmed earbuds are a dime a dozen, and you can pick them up in all shapes and sizes, but the transparent stems are a unique flourish in a world where mimicking is the simple option.

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nothing ear 1 earbuds close side

Furthermore, the square charging carry case is also largely transparent, its curved corners and lightweight housing allowing you to peer at your earbuds through the case, both top and bottom.

As far as the case goes, I do like the feel of it in my hand, and the dimple on the top cover makes it into a fidget spinner of sorts, spinning around while you’re trying to figure out what to write or which song to choose next.

Another thing to note is the somewhat larger size of the Nothing ear (1) case and, indeed, the shape. The 5.5cm x 5.5cm rounded square might make it trickier to use for those that sling their earbuds in the bottom of the gym bag and toss them in the boot of the car. However, the ear (1) case doesn’t feel fragile, and the magnetic catch withstood the hold-upside-down-and-shake-vigorously test, so the ear (1) earbuds won’t easily dislodge and fall out.

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nothing ear 1 earbuds case open side

Nothing ear (1) Sound Quality Is Excellent At This Price

Nothing’s audio tuning partnership with Swedish premium audio hardware manufacturers Teenage Engineering set tongues wagging months ago. Finally, consumers can plug in and tune out with the Nothing ear (1) earbuds.

So, how do the Nothing ear (1) earbuds sound?

I was genuinely surprised with the Nothing ear (1) sound quality. From my experience with Teenage Engineering products and their attention to detail and tuning, I knew that the ear (1) audio range would be well-tuned. Those people waiting to slate the Nothing ear (1) earbuds will have to wait a little longer because these are true wireless earbuds that will bring audio joy to all but the most discerning of audiophiles.

nothing ear 1 earbuds front

In short, at this price point, the Nothing ear (1) earbuds sound outstanding—the 11.6mm dynamic drivers delivering a well-balanced and, importantly, relatively neutral sound. The less tuning, the less meddling, and the less a company imposes a “signature soundstage” or particular sound balance onto you, the better.

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The oldest trick in the book is tuning for a heavy bass sound to make the output sound larger or to push the mids and highs to create the illusion of additional clarity. The ear (1)s do neither, instead delivering a sound that isn’t muddied, tinny, or artificially boosted.

nothing ear 1 earbuds case open

If anything, the Nothing ear (1) tuning has erred slightly too much on the cautious side of neutrality and lacks a touch of bass, but everyone’s ears are different.

Customize Nothing ear (1) ANC with the ear (1) App

No set of true wireless earbuds is complete with a companion app, and Nothing is no different. The ear (1) app is an extension of the earbud design: stylish yet effective. It has a simplistic visual style with minimal fuss, making it easy to navigate.

Image Gallery (4 Images)

Within the ear (1) app, you’ll find options for customizing the level of active noise cancellation, adjusting the EQ, touch control customization, and the handy find my earbuds tool.

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As a testament to how well Nothing and Teenage Engineering believe the ear (1) is tuned, the EQ customization options are sparse, allowing just four options: Balanced, More Treble, More Bass, and Voice. Playing around with these options does reveal the underlying balance in the soundstage. Still, many people will want more in terms of customization, especially those coming from other earbud manufacturers with fully customizable EQs.

nothing ear 1 earbuds top down side by side

The Find My Earbuds tool is a handy addition, without a doubt. Tap the play button within the app, and your earbuds emit a shrill blast guiding you to their location. One note, however: as the app suggests, don’t prank someone by playing this tone when they have the earbuds in. It really could cause hearing damage. Great for finding your earbuds, of course.

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Is the Nothing ear (1) ANC Good?

Active noise canceling is another important feature that most earbud users demand, especially those using earbuds for travel or commuting. The adjustable ear (1) ANC is okay but not brilliant. When ramped up to Maximum, the ear (1) ANC is enough to block out the sounds of my household with kids on their school break, but it struggled a bit more up against a noisy bus journey into town.

nothing ear 1 earbuds stems brand name

For the budget, it’s not a proper complaint. Many companies attempt ANC and don’t pull it off at all, and while it isn’t the best ANC, it’s far from the worst. However, if you’re considering ANC earbuds and want proper isolation, the Nothing ear (1) earbuds probably aren’t for you.

The Nothing ear (1) Battery Life Isn’t Great

One thing you should definitely know is that as far as ANC earbuds go, the Nothing ear (1) has a relatively short battery life. With active noise canceling enabled, your Nothing ear (1) earbuds will last for up to four hours, and even that isn’t a guarantee.

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During testing at various volumes (and during the short period I had to test the ear (1)), I had to charge the earbuds on multiple occasions, switching between ANC modes.

nothing ear 1 earbuds feature

How much the Nothing ear (1) battery life affects your enjoyment of the earbuds will depend on how you use them. But as someone who wants to wear a single set for hours at a time while working, the four hours playback with ANC enabled isn’t great.

In fairness, the Nothing ear (1) playback time does rise to around 6 hours with ANC disabled, rising to 34 hours using the charging carry case. If you’re using them at home or in a quiet place, the silicon tips form a good seal in your ear and offer some passive noise blocking. You can also swap out the earbud tips for the small

Furthermore, I found the Nothing ear (1) fast charging really handy. In 10 minutes, the earbuds pick up between 50-80 mins charge, handy for those moments when you’re popping out for a run, into a shop, or just need a little more audio juice.

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Are the Nothing ear (1) Earbuds Any Good?

Nothing has generated a great deal of hype for its first product. The Nothing ear (1) true wireless earbuds arrive with a significant reputation to uphold—difficult for a new product, from a new company, that has never manufactured earbuds before.

Before continuing, let’s talk price.

The Nothing ear (1) are set to retail for $99/£99/€99, putting them firmly in the conversation for budget ANC earbuds. Face it; they’re not competing with alternatives like Sony’s awesome XM4. However, they are taking on Apple’s AirPods and significantly undercutting the standard model on price.

nothing ear 1 earbuds front standing case

Taking on one of the most popular earbud options on the market is a gutsy move, no doubt about it. But then again, that’s always been Nothing founder Carl Pei’s modus operandi, not least with the “flagship killer” OnePlus One launch back in 2014. Back then, Pei built the hype around a phenomenal new product aimed squarely at Apple and Samsung.

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It’s a similar story this time.

The battery life issue for the Nothing ear (1) is a shame. Four hours of ANC listening is already one hour less than the AirPods—but given the Nothing ear (1) sound better than the AirPods, it will at the very least make some users consider making the switch.

So, the Nothing ear (1) earbuds are a great first entry into the world of audio hardware for Nothing, but some things can definitely be improved for the hypothetical Nothing ear (2). Not forgetting, of course, that Nothing is set to launch other products and are very much a company to keep an eye on, not least for the striking designs.

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