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Nothing Ear (1) Review

Verdict

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Trusted Reviews Recommended

A good set of true wireless headphones, which deliver a strong overall performance and a distinctive design on a relatively modest budget.

The audio is pleasingly precise, Active Noise Cancellation works well, and they are very comfortable to wear whether you’re being active or at rest.

There were a handful of Bluetooth interruptions during my time using them, and there are premium products that might deliver greater sound, but they’re a hard prospect to ignore at this price point.

Pros

  • Relatively modest price
  • Good sound quality
  • Distinctive design
  • Comfortable to wear while resting or working out

Cons

  • Some connectivity issues
  • Design may be divisive

Availability

  • UKRRP: £99
  • USARRP: $99
  • EuropeRRP: €99
  • Canadaunavailable
  • Australiaunavailable

Key Features

  • IPX4 ratingSplashproof in case of water exposure
  • Distinctive designNew-look transparent appearance
  • Battery lifeThe charging case offers 34 hours maximum battery life

Introduction

Nothing is an all-new tech brand co-founded by Carl Pei (previously of OnePlus).

Its principles seem to lie in being present but less noticeable, hence the name, and so the casing is thus transparent, the software is intended to be seamless, and the ergonomics are intended for minimal intrusion or distraction.

The Ear (1) true wireless headphones are the first ever product from the new company, and so we’ll be putting them to the test to see if they really do live out these values.

Design

  • Unique look
  • Comfortable fit
  • Remarkably lightweight

The earbuds are white-tipped, while the black stem is visible through colourless plastic and so are all the circuit-boards, microphones, and magnets if you take a closer look. There’s a subtle white dot on the left earbud and a red one on the right to distinguish between them.

I quite like the design, which is at least a little different and a little more interesting than the more mainstream options. It could well prove to be divisive among the public; when asking my friends their opinion it certainly wasn’t universally popular, though for a few of us it brought back fond memories of the clear version of the Game Boy Color.

While the transparent appearance is relatively new in the field, the overall design is informed by the Apple AirPods, with the similar bud and stem construction. That’s no bad thing by any means, as it’s both practical and rather inconspicuous, but they do lose a point for originality.

Looks aside, the ergonomics will surely face less criticism as the earbuds function just as I’d want. There are three different sizes of liquid silicon tips provided in case you need to adjust it for your ear size, and once snugly pushed in I found that the headphones rested very comfortably, neither rubbing against the skin nor threatening to slip out – even when I took them on a sprightly 10km run. Being very light (just 4.7g apiece) it’s easy for you to forget that they’re there, and it’s easy for others to do the same as they don’t stick out terribly either.

The charging case also works well; the magnets mean that the buds slip snugly into their sockets, and after a few uses the red-white colour coding becomes second nature. It charges up quickly, and is compact for ease of carrying. I would have to say that I’m not so fond of the transparent effect in this context; the case can sometimes look a bit more like store packaging rather than the finished article.

Features

  • Good ANC performance
  • Easy-to-use app
  • Some irritating connectivity issues

Despite being on the affordable side, the Nothing Ear (1) still offer a few features that may be considered more premium, such as Active Noise Cancellation, gesture controls, and location tracking.

The first of these works pretty well, significantly reducing background noise of passing traffic for instance. There are some occasions where it is completely overpowered; at the busy junction of a main road, or in noisy sections of the Underground they’re not much cop, but mostly it provides good cover for otherwise distracting outside noise, and it was particularly efficient at shutting out the wind whilst I was running.

All of your specific audio requirements can be managed through the official app, which offers a pleasingly simplified and streamlined experience. Even if you’re not an audiophile you’ll be at ease changing the settings to your preferences at the tap of a button or the swipe of a slider.

If you’re just seeking to control the basics, then there’s no need to get the phone out of your pocket, because with a tap or a swipe of the headphone, you’ll be able to change songs and adjust the volume. I always found this to be simple to use and responsive, without any pesky “false positives” when I didn’t mean to trigger the response.

When misplaced, the “Find My Earbud” feature causes a strong beep to be emitted from the offending headphone, allowing you to find it whether buried in a drawer or just left on a countertop.

The Bluetooth 5.2 tech should ensure a high quality connection and they were certainly very fast to pair, however I experienced a handful of dropouts over the course of five days. Though these would only last a second or two, it was still irritating to have your music or podcast interrupted no matter how briefly. This was one of the few major issues I had with the product.

The quoted battery life for the earbuds is 5.7 hours without ANC, and around four hours with ANC enabled. In total, the charging case boosts those numbers up to 34 hours and 24 hours, respectively. After frequent use I only needed to charge them up once after four days, so that number seems to hold up. That’s decent endurance considering their small size.

Fortunately the case charges up very quickly when it’s plugged; Nothing claim that ten minutes provides 6 hours of ANC-enabled playback, and I can attest that it’s quick on the uptake. I charged the headphones up from dead for around ten minutes and had enough juice for a two-and-half hour round trip.

Sound

  • Precise feedback
  • Good bass support
  • Sometimes lacking in depth

Sound quality is always the predominant concern when considering a new pair of headphones, and I found these still to be very satisfying in this regard, especially bearing in mind the cost difference between them and the likes of Bose and Sony at the top of the tree.

The best aspect of the sound is the remarkable precision that it lends to voices and instruments, fortunately lacking the murkiness that can characterise cheap headphones. From guitar plucking, to bell chimes, to the breathiness of a flute, I felt that these headphones captured the clarity and delicacy of musical performances very accurately.

However, I’d also say that they could sometimes be lacking when it came to bringing on that musical “heft”, where you feel really enveloped in sound. This is perhaps generally more prone to be absent in the category of in-ear headphones than their over-ear counterparts.

When the texture is a little less thick they’re much more in their comfort zone; taking the Miles Davis Quintet playing You’re My Everything as an example, and the piercing trumpet loses absolutely none of its power and each of the five instruments are very well-defined; the same is true of an energetic soul number like Steve Wonder’s For Once In My Life, and just in case you’re worrying, the bass boasts the same impressive clarity as the treble.

Nothing ear 1 inside case

Orchestral music tended to show off these two contrasting aspects, with solo instrumentalists being well realised and captivating, but the full swell of an orchestra playing the New World Symphony can come over as somewhat flattened or dull by comparison.

In my opinion the sound quality was well-realised across the spectrum from the treble down.

Should you buy it?

If you want affordable true wireless with competitive features These are an affordable and comfortable set of true wireless headphones that still boast competitive features and a strong performance for the price

If you want better sound quality Though the sound quality is good, it’s not the best around, and other pricier options can also deliver longer battery life

Verdict

A good set of true wireless headphones, which deliver a strong overall performance and a distinctive design on a relatively modest budget.

The audio is pleasingly precise, Active Noise Cancellation works well, and they are very comfortable to wear whether you’re being active or at rest.

There were a handful of Bluetooth interruptions during my time using them, and there are premium products that might deliver greater sound, but they’re a hard prospect to ignore at this price point.

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FAQs

Who are Nothing?

Nothing is a tech brand launched in 2021 by the co-founder of OnePlus, Carl Pei. Based in London, it aims to create “intuitive and smart technology that improves our lives without getting in the way”

Where can you buy the Nothing Ear (1)?

It will be available in limited quantities on 31 July 2021 exclusively from the brand’s official website, and open sales are set to commence on 17 August from selected retailers including Selfridge’s

What’s the battery life like?

The manufacturer claims that the buds will last 5.7 hours without ANC, and around 4 hours with ANC enabled; the case holds a maximum charge of 34 hours, which falls to 24 hours if the buds employ ANC

Specs

UK RRP
USA RRP
EU RRP
CA RRP
AUD RRP
Manufacturer
IP rating
Battery Hours
Wirless charging
Fast Charging
Size (Dimensions)
Weight
Release Date
First Reviewed Date
Driver (s)
Noise Cancellation?
Connectivity
Frequency Range
Headphone Type

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