Review of Nothing ear (1): Making something out of Nothing

  • Independent tech expert Nothing has loosened Apple’s grip on the world of earbuds and knocked it off the pedestal with the Nothing Ear (1).
  • Said to be the best wireless earphones to buy on a budget, TheHomeGround Asia’s VFX artist and video editor Ziyaad Siddique puts Nothing Ear (1) to the test to see if it is offering a good-enough sound to break Airpod’s stranglehold on the bluetooth earbuds arena.

Nothing is the latest London-based stat-up founded by Carl Pei, who was also a co-founder of One Plus. Its first product, the ear (1), is a pair of wireless earbuds which have been hyped up for a while through the internet. The ear (1) is packed with features and sold at a very competitive price of US$99 or £99. It is set for release in Singapore on 8 November for S179 and will be available on Lazada and all authorised retailers.

General use

Setting up the ear 1s is straightforward. All you need to do is to hold the button on the case till the led light starts flashing and pair it with your phone using bluetooth. Alternatively, you can use the app for the Ear 1, which is supported on both iOS and Android. 

There’s also a fast pairing method where you can instantly pair your phone to the buds, but this particular feature is only available on the android.

Ear (1) uses touch controls just like a lot of other wireless earbuds. The general touch actions are double tap to pause and play, triple tap to skip to the next track, touch and hold to switch between turning noise cancellation on and off, and the transparency mode. You can also slide up or down on the stem, to control the volume.

Its battery life is great. The case is able to provide full charges to the earbuds with merely 10 minutes for up to 24 hours with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), or 34 hours with ANC turned off. The case itself supports wireless charging, which is very nice to have.

The transparent box showcases Nothing’s technology. (Photo source: nothing.tech)

Overall feel and design

The transparent design is reminiscent of retro gaming devices like the Gameboy Color or the limited edition crystal Xbox. The white, black and red colour scheme blend well with the transparent design, and the left and right earbuds are marked with a white and red dot respectively.

The case is also partly transparent so you can clearly see your earbuds within. It has a little dip on the top, allowing you to place your thumb inside naturally, letting you have a better grip.

The earbuds snap into place within the case satisfyingly via magnets. While the general use of the case with the buds is very smooth and feels comfortable, its transparent design leaves it to be susceptible to scratches and visual wear and tear.

The charging cable is braided with a transparent coating on it, pairing well with the case and earbuds. However, it is relatively short. A longer cable would have been much better. 

Sound

The ear (1) has a balanced everyday listening sound, though with a little more focus on the treble. Using the equaliser within the app, there are options to change the soundstage, adding more bass, treble or focusing more on voice. 

They may not be the best, but overall they sound great for the price. Instrumental pieces tend to resonate stunningly with percussion instruments sounding amazing.

Nothing Ear (1) has a balanced everyday listening sound and has active noise cancellation. (Photo source: nothing.tech)

Active noise cancellation works very well, cleanly reducing road noises, rumbles and low-frequency sounds altogether. Transparency mode also works well, making the sounds feel quite natural. When you take the ear 1s off it’ll automatically pause to whatever you’re currently listening to, but this feature has been quite inconsistent. There were instances where the currently playing media did not pause, and had to manually done on the playback device.

The ear(1) also includes microphones that allow you to pick up calls on your mobile device. The calls are clear and the ear(1) cancels out background noise as well. The noise cancellation isn’t as effective as the other more expensive wireless earbuds, but they work well enough.

All in all, the ear(1) is a great start for Nothing and the product is comparable to other major earbuds in the market. Looking forward to what they would produce next. 

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