With the Nothing ear(1), one of the founders of the smartphone company OnePlus relies on transparent materials and, in the accompanying app, on chic design accents. The result is a successful all-round package of good sound, good app and good design – at a good price.
In the small and very tidy box are the Nothing ear(1) in-ears, the flat charging case, which allows contactless charging according to the Qi standard, three pairs of earpieces and a USB-A to USB-C charging cable 30 cm long. A brief instruction manual completes the package.
Design and appearance
The Nothing ear(1) connect to an external player via Bluetooth 5.2; encoding is exclusively via SBC or AAC. The charging case, made of fairly thick plastic, looks nice due to its “airy” transparency and feels very good in the hand. Thanks to Google Fast Pair, it is possible to simply hold the case open in the vicinity of an Android device to establish a connection.
These in-ears, encased in partially transparent plastic, are splash-proof to IPX4 and allow a peek inside, are somewhat reminiscent of glass-backed automatic watches or a transparent GameBoy Classic. Of course, nothing moves in the ear(1) and the knowledge gained about how True Wireless in-ears work is limited. Nevertheless, the impression is successful, the basic shape is reminiscent of the Apple AirPods Pro and with a matching ear pad, the ear(1) fit very well, even if they are not particularly tight.
The bar on the backs of the Nothing ear(1) responds to both tap and swipe gestures, the latter for volume change only. Double-tapping initiates start/stop, and triple tapping jumps back or forward – depending on what you’ve got set up in the app. However, when I tried the swipe gesture, it often caused me to swipe the in-ears out of my ear. Changing between ANC, transparency or neither is acknowledged by three different tones – but because these are so “meaningless”, there is sometimes uncertainty as to which mode is active. Here, a specific announcement would offer much more orientation. Despite these minor problems, the ear(1) reacts reliably to all commands.
The free app for iOS and Android has a nicely designed user interface, and a lot can be adjusted to suit your own preferences: The charging status of the in-ears is displayed, and updates are managed here. The behaviour of the triple tap gestures can be adjusted, and tap and hold can be assigned to ANC. The transparency mode and the ANC can be activated, and the strength of the noise suppression can be varied, in two stages. In addition, there are four EQ pre-sets, an option to minimise the image-sound offset (latency) and the ability to find the in-ears when they go under the sofa by playing a very loud sound. Last but not least, you can turn the wear detection on or off.
Five hours of battery life, with the option of recharging the Nothing ear(1) up to five more times in the charging case, gives 30 hours of playtime – according to the manufacturer. In our test, the ear(1) already have to go back in their case after four hours of mixed operation, which is not an exceptionally long runtime. But thanks to the quick-charge function, you can look forward to another hour’s playing time after ten minutes.
Music is delivered to the ear via 11.6 mm dynamic graphic drivers, producing a balanced and clear sound with sufficient foundation. The drivers were tuned – according to their advertising – by the Swedish company Teenage Engineering, which specialises in synthesizers and groove machines and is already represented on the headphone market with the M-1. They seem to know their stuff because Teenage Engineering’s tuning suits my taste very well.
Bass, rich mids and clean highs form an airy and easily penetrable mixture that allows fatigue-free listening and delivers current pop music from Ed Sheeran to Coldplay effectively. Poppy Ackroyd’s piano sounds are conveyed with decent dynamics and sufficient momentum, with finer nuances of touch being audible. However, when it comes to the really big performance with orchestra, the ear(1) reaches the limits of resolution and no longer reproduce the action quite as comprehensively and clearly.
Noise cancelling and transparency
The noise cancellation (ANC) of the Nothing ear(1) has two levels and can be switched between “Light” and “Maximum”. This changes the sound a little towards fuller mids and stronger bass has slight background noise and a slight diving bell effect during operation. It mainly swallows the lower frequencies and results in a less noticeable and bass-reduced sound mixture. The effect is noticeable but also reduced due to their less than optimal mechanical isolation.
In transparency mode, on the other hand, one can perceive the environment better, even if the noise level increases noticeably. But for conducting a short conversation at the post office counter, this was certainly sufficient.
The Nothing ear(1)’s built-in microphones and clever algorithms didn’t work wonders on a busy main road, but the caller’s voice stood out well against the turned-down background noise, even if it did seem a little choppy. In front of the computer in a quiet environment, the caller’s voice was easily understandable during video conferences and sounded quite natural.
With the Nothing ear(1), you get eye-catching looks thanks to the transparent design, and they also feel good in the hand. The sound is solid, balanced and unobtrusive with decent fullness. The hybrid noise cancelling does what it is supposed to do, but remains a little too mild in its effect. The nicely designed app is functional and offers enough setting options, although a manually adjustable EQ would have been nice. All in all, for an RRP of 99 euros, you get a well-packaged product with an individual touch.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable4.7 g each, Case: 57.4 g
- Cable length30 cm
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of ear tips in S, M, L
- USB charging cable
- Charging case
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.2
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP