Before Nothing stepped into the smartphone world, the brand was known for its rather unique-looking earbuds. Launched in 2021, the Nothing Ear (1)’s (review) standout feature was its semi-transparent design that gave the user a peak inside the case. Now after nearly two years, the company has come out with a sequel and the focus this time is to enhance the audio experience. As such the newly announced Nothing Ear (2) are priced slightly higher at Rs 9,999. In this review let’s find out what upgrades has Nothing made on the Ear (2) and if they are worth your consideration.
Build and design
- Visually the Ear (2) are nearly identical to the previous iteration of the earbuds. Matter of fact, when I received the buds I thought that I had been sent the Ear (1) by mistake. However, don’t fix what isn’t broken is the policy adopted by Nothing and I’m all for it. The earbuds still retain that look of uniqueness that sets them apart from a sea of TWS’ on the market. Even the case is a work of art, blending the same see-through design along with easy placement of the buds inside. Even so, its plastic build and transparent look do leave it susceptible to scratches that are visible prominently.
- There’s a USB Type-C port on the back that facilitates charging and a physical button on its side can be used for pairing purposes. The case is a bit wider than I would’ve liked, making it hard to slide inside my pocket. As for the hinge, the lid opens up to 90 degrees and holds firmly at that angle while also snapping shut with a satisfying click.
- Coming back to the buds, each weighs 4.5g individually and comes with a pre-installed silicone tip that fits snuggly in my ear. Of course, there are three other sizes for more inclusivity. Interaction with the Ear (2) is almost the same as the last iteration with a capacitive touch control present in the stem of the bud. However, controlling volume by swiping up or down the earbuds has been removed in favour of a long press on either stem.
- Apart from that the earbuds are also colour coded with a white dot on the top signifying the left side and a red dot on the right side. From a durability standpoint, the Ear (2) are IP54 certified for water and dust resistance while the case has a higher IP55 rating. The earbuds use the latest Bluetooth 5.3 for connectivity purposes.
- Talking a bit about the features, the Ear (2) can be paired easily with both Android and iOS devices. Matter of fact, with Google Fast Pair there’s an instant notification on Android phones, running version 6.0 and above, as soon as the case is opened. The Nothing X app is also present for both platforms although currently, it is in beta testing mode specifically for Ear (2)’s functionality. As far as the interface goes, the fonts and ease of use have a distinctive Nothing feel to them.
- On the home screen is the battery percentage in both earbuds, below which you can spot the Equaliser, Controls, and Noise Control settings. There are four EQ presets to choose from or you can use a custom set based on your preference. The Ear (2) can work on two devices simultaneously and the hand-off between the two when switching audio is also quite seamless. Also, you can change the EQ setting in the app of one device and it will be reflected even if music is playing from the second. Different pinches on the stem enable different functionality such as play/pause, answering/declining calls, enabling ANC/transparency mode and more. They can of course be changed in the Control settings.
- There are other features of note as well such as in-ear detection which will play and pause music when the earbud is inserted and taken out respectively. You can disable this feature if you want in the app’s settings menu. A personalised ANC setup is also available that can fine-tune the Ear (2)’s noise-cancelling ability to your liking. In relation to that, there’s also a personal sound profile you can create to maximise your listening experience.
Sound quality and ANC
- In terms of sound quality, the Nothing Ear (2) uses 11.6mm dynamic drivers that are slightly larger than what your usual TWS can provide. This enables a larger movement of air inside the chamber to produce a deep bass that resonates as the primary sound signature while using the earbuds.
- During my time with the TWS, I found that they were designed to replicate a sound that didn’t overly boost or attenuate any particular frequency range. The Ear 2 delivers crisp and clear audio that is well-balanced while the bass is punchy without being overwhelming, and leaving the mid and high frequencies well-defined. In terms of codecs, the device has support for SBC, AAC, and LHDC 5.0 codecs alongside certification for Hi-res audio.
- When listening to vocal heavy songs such as Adele’s Ease on Me the mids particularly shone brightly. Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamon, especially from the band’s Pulse (Live) concert, made me greatly appreciate the earbuds’ expansive soundstage and instrument separation. Hip-Hop and electronic music enthusiasts can cherish how well the bass has been amped up without disturbing the higher frequencies. Overall, the sound quality of the Nothing Ear (2) is rather good and justifiable for its price tag.
- However, I would say that the noise-cancelling capabilities felt a bit subpar in comparison. Even with ANC turned on to the maximum level, I could still distinguish ambient noise leaking from the outside. Also, the noise cancellation could barely drown the sound of the fan spinning above my head. The hear-through mode is above average with an overtly artificial boost to the sounds near me. I think this is an area which can be improved upon. In terms of call quality, there are three mics present on either bud for a reasonably good calling experience.
- Finally, there is the battery life which I found to be more-or-less in line with the current TWS offerings in the market. The case has a 485mAh battery while each bud has 33mAh individually. I received the Ear (2) with a full charge and listened, with ANC turned on, for about three to four hours a day. The buds lasted me easily through most of the week with the search for a charger only being initiated on the sixth day. Apart from that the case can also be wirelessly charged at 2.5W using any Qi-compatible charger.
While their ANC capabilities do leave a bit to be desired, the Nothing Ear (2) improve upon the original recipe and deliver a bang-for-the-buck sound quality. Visually, the earbuds do make an impression and stand out almost instantly, as does the case. They are great in terms of comfort too. The Nothing X app is convenient and offers a fair bit of functionality as well. Overall, the combination of hardware and software from Nothing, along with the larger drivers helps provide an immersive audio experience.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Unique look
- Immersive audio experience
- Decent battery backup
- Touch controls work well
- ANC could be improved
- Case can scratch easily