Nothing made waves with the ear (1), delivering an incredible design that housed a slew of features that seemed like a steal at its sub-S$200 price point. But two years on, it’s harder to hide its shortcoming behind an incredible transparent design. Since then, Nothing has found ways to squeeze a bunch of new features to address concerns from the first gen. In its second iteration, the ear (2) boasts a slightly higher price tag, better connectivity features, a custom driver, faster charging and more control over the audio experience. We were fortunate to receive a unit two days early and here’s our review of the Nothing ear (2) as a daily earbud.
Model: Nothing ear (2)
Drop date: March 23
Buy here: Limited Edt
The shape of the Nothing Ear (2) remains largely unchanged from its predecessor. As such, it feels incredibly comfortable in your ear and can be worn for hours with little to no discomfort. Also, they are incredibly light, which Nothing attributes to the new custom diaphragm in the drivers that are made out of polyurethane and graphene. In our time with the buds (2), it’s quite easy to forget that they are on, even when no music or audio is playing.
Just like its predecessor, the sound profile of the Nothing ear (2) is decent for the price point. Highs are clear and low notes are controlled and punchy. Mids, especially electric guitars in our experience, can sound a little faint and lack detail as compared to vocals, highs or bass, but it’s never unbearably muddy. Regardless of the track, you will notice that vocals can always be heard above the instrument, which needs to be applauded. On simpler acoustic tracks, the earbuds shine and definitely bring out the details of each instrument with a distinct separation of the vocals. ANC mode enhances the experience, making the audio feel fuller while amping up the bass. We could recommend leaving it on unless you need to extend its battery life.
In short, the ANC on the Nothing ear (2) is impressive – once again considering the price point. For a sub $200 earbud, the ANC decently cuts out ambient noises like the humming of a fan or a passing vehicle. But sharper noises, like a clicking keyboard or screeches from a metal drawer, can still be heard through the ANC. As a daily travel companion, the ear (2) offers sufficient noise cancellation to immerse you in your music. But if you want better sound cancellation, you would probably have to spend far more than its S$199 retail price.
Nothing heard the complaints about the lack of customization on the ear (1) and have made massive changes with the ear (2). Through the updated Nothing X app, you now have options to toggle the equalizer and ANC. First up, for the equalizer, you can adjust beyond the “more bass”, “more treble” and “vocal” presets from prior iterations. You can now customize it based on a three-pronged scale, toggling the settings for mids, highs and bass.
If you would like Nothing to build a sound profile specifically for you, you can take a hearing test on the app-powered Mimi – a feature that determines how you hear sounds. Nothing claims it will adjust the equalizer in real-time based on the generated sound profile. But in our experience, it felt like an enhanced version of the balanced equalizer.
The ANC gets a major update, now offering a range of noise-cancellation presets to choose from. You now get to choose from four presets: high, mid, low and adaptive. Toggling between the presets, you can distinctly hear how aggressively the earbuds are trying to cancel out ambient sounds. Nothing also introduces the adaptive mode, which promises to detect distractions around you and adjust the level of noise cancellation accordingly. In our experience, you can hear the earbuds shift modes as you are moving around. It can be noticeable at times and at times, switching for no reason. We would recommend sticking to one of the other presets for a more consistent experience.
Officially, Nothing rates the battery in the earbuds to last 4 hours and 20.5 hours total with the case when ANC is on. You can stretch it to 6.3 hours for just the earbuds and 36 hours with the case by turning off ANC. In our testing, the specifications from Nothing ring true. Though it might be a shorter lifespan as compared to many other competitors, it is likely a trade-off for the transparent design and restricted space available for the battery. For daily use, Nothing ear (2) 4-hour battery life is more than enough to complete a journey, especially in tiny Singapore. On a longer flight, you would have to pop it back into its case for a quick charge.
As for the case, you can charge it using a USB-C cable or a wirelessly charging pad. The case uses one of the world’s smallest charging coils and is able to get up to 8 hours of playtime from just 10 minutes of charging. Not only is that an impressive stat, but the case is incredibly responsive to being placed on a charging pad. Almost no adjustments are needed to start the charge.
Throughout our review, we used the Nothing ear (2) for multiple work calls and it consistently delivered clear audio. It was so consistent, the Nothing ear (2) quickly became the de facto earpiece and mic for all our calls, whether on our iPhone on the go or on a Google Meets conference call on our Macbook Pro.
The ear (2) gets a slight bump in the Bluetooth department, arriving with v5.3 at launch. But the star of the show is the dual connection feature. Using the app, you can pair the earbuds simultaneously with a laptop and a phone. In practice, the earbuds are able to seamlessly toggle between music on the iPhone and a Google Meets call on my laptop.
But that’s not to say that the experience was entirely bug-free. At times, launching the Nothing X app on the iPhone to toggle settings would pause all incoming and outgoing audio. However, this is likely a small issue that would be fixed with an upcoming software update.
The swiping gestures from the ear (1) have been replaced with press control on the ear (2). These are much easier to use, especially when moving around. Out of the box, a single pinch triggers pause/play, double pinch skips forward, triple pinch skips backward and a pinch and hold toggles the ANC. All these actions can be changed depending on your preferences. As per the request of their fans, Nothing has now added the option to program any of the press controls to activate your device’s voice assistant.
The case and earbuds arrive in an identical transparent, plastic construction as seen on its predecessor. The case will likely show scratches almost immediately after you place it in your pocket with a bunch of keys. But as seen in many other long-term tests, the case should hold up well to daily use. In terms of waterproofing, the earbuds are rated at an IP54 while the case is rated IP55, which makes it resistant to sweat and light splashes – the most amount of water they will encounter in daily use.
In our two-day review of the Nothing ear (2), it’s clear that the S$199 earbuds are punching above their price bracket. It delivers decent noise cancellation, relatively accurate audio reproduction and a head-turning design at a decent price point. With the added customization options and improved gesture controls, the Nothing ear (2) is an easy pick-up for anyone looking for a daily pair of earbuds.
In Singapore, the Nothing Ear (2) will be available first at Limited Edt from March 23 and tryout experiences will be available at Challenger stores at Bugis Junction, Vivo City, and Causeway Point. A wider release is slated for April 8 and will be available at both offline and online stores including e-commerce stores on Lazada and Shopee.