Nothing is a delightfully curious brand. The designs of their products are quite unique, such as the Nothing Phone, Nothing Ear (1) and the Nothing Ear (stick). Now the company is coming out with the Ear (2), but are they worth the money? WANT editor Dennis Mons walked around with the new plugs in his ears for a week.
When the Nothing Phone came out, the whole (tech) world was intrigued. It was a unique phone that rivaled a number of flagships. But the coolest thing was the design: it was transparent. That’s not surprising since the first headset (Nothing’s first product) was too.
Are Nothing Ear(2) much better than (1) or the (stick)?
It is obvious that I am comparing the (2) and the (1). And primarily due to the fact that they are almost identical in appearance. The charging case of the Nothing Ear (1) is a bit thicker and wider, but the difference is minimal.
The caps themselves are exactly the same to the naked eye. In fact, you can plug them into either charger. Works fine otherwise. Not that it really matters, but it indicates that Nothing has adhered to the adage “if it ain’t broke. That, then, is not remarkable.
It’s extremely subjective, of course, but the Nothing Ear (1) are extremely comfortable. Perhaps the finest in-ears as far as I’m concerned. The same goes for the (2). Indeed, in the box you will find (in addition to a USB-C cable) also two extra rubber caps, so they fit nicely in your ears.
In addition, they are also tremendously light at 4.5 grams. And since they fit nicely, you would almost forget that you are wearing them. You could even sleep with them without it becoming irritating.
In addition, Nothing has switched to “pinching” on the stems, much like the Apple AirPods do. Previously, the Ear (1) used touch and swipe. And you don’t want to know how many times I accidentally skipped or paused a song by pushing the pods into my ears. That problem has improved significantly.
Tweaked with the precursors in mind
But what matters, of course, is what Nothing tweaked inside the earphones. And in that, the (2) really does score big points. These earbuds also have 11.6 mm drivers, but now have “clear voice” technology that eliminates an additional 3 dB of ambient noise.
Granted; this is done with software. And in very loud environments, you can hear it. It sounds artificial when you talk. This is partly due to Adaptive ANC, which means that the active noise cancellation is adjusted to the sound around you. You are perfectly understandable, but it often doesn’t sound very natural. By the way, you can turn this off, but it doesn’t improve the ANC very much.
However, if you are in a quiet environment, the noise cancelling for your mic is pleasant and sufficient. The same goes for the exclusion of ambient noise when listening to music or a podcast. Also, you don’t feel like you’re underwater when ANC is on because the caps have a hole to take the pressure off your ears.
The ANC definitely does not reach the level of, say, the Apple AirPods Pro 2 or Bose Quietcomfort Earbuds II, but then those are 259 and 279 euros, respectively. The Nothing Ears (2) cost only 149 euros. If the best ANC is important to you; you might want to shell out a little more money.
But what do the Nothing Ear (2) sound like?
Again; they don’t compare to the earbuds above, but they sound pretty darn good. ‘Out of the box’ they do sound a bit shrill because Nothing has the treble set higher by default. However, it’s amazing how much you can adjust in the app.
For example, there are options to turn on low lag, or choose high quality audio thanks to the LHDC codec. For this, though, your phone or tablet must support it. But it is mainly the equalizer function that excels as far as I am concerned.
I tested the Nothings with different types of music: from EDM (Fisher) or metal (Slaughter to Prevail) to classical (Mozart) to singer/songwriter (Townes van Zandt). For all those types of music, you can create fine presets in the app. But the switching can sometimes be irritating. It is therefore advisable to find a middle ground with personalized settings. By the way, these are great to find online.
However; if you mainly listen to music with a lot of bass such as EDM, hip-hop and metal, the Nothing Ear (2) certainly do not disappoint. The beats and drums sound full and dark, especially for caps in this price range. If you listen to more “clean” music, you’ll really have to fiddle around in the app, but the results don’t disappoint after tweaking.
The battery is not impressive
The Nothings also have another minor drawback: with ANC on, they barely make it to four hours. On average, that figure is around 6.5 hours from competitors in the same price range, such as the Sony WF-C700N or the OnePlus Buds Pro 2. Still, that’s hardly a problem because you can quickly recharge the (2) in its case. You can do that up to five times, so you can use them for at least 20 hours. By the way, the box is chargeable with Qi Wireless Charging, just like the (1).
All in all, the Nothing Ears(2) are recommended if you want an unusual design and comfortable, lightweight earbuds that you can easily use for a day. They sound absolutely excellent, but in terms of mic, ANC and Transparancy they could use some work.