Whether in India or abroad, hype sells. However, to build enough hype to get enough attention, your product definitely needs to be impressive at first glance. OnePlus has successfully run the hype and marketing game for many years, with much credit for this going to the company’s co-founder Carl Pei. After many years of building OnePlus from a small enthusiast brand to a major global manufacturer of premium smartphones, Pei recently left the company to start something new in consumer electronics. That something is called Nothing.
After months of teasers and concept renders to build up the hype, Nothing has launched its first product: the Nothing Ear 1 true wireless earphones. Priced at Rs. 5,999 in India, these true wireless earphones promise a lot through design, specs and features, especially the transparent housing and earphones. How do they perform and are these earphones worth the price? Find out in this review.
Clear charging case and earphones on the Nothing Ear 1
Just as the OnePlus One started out offering premium design and specs at a solid mid-range price, the Nothing Ear 1 is an impressive offering on paper that doesn’t cost a lot of money. Much of the impact comes from the design, especially the transparent stems and charging case of the Nothing Ear 1. This isn’t the first time transparency has been used as a differentiator, but it’s done very well on the Ear 1 .
The ears of the Nothing Ear 1 look nothing like the early concept renderings we saw, but this is not bad at all. The final product retains transparent plastic, although it is limited to the stems of the ears only; the housings are opaque. Nothing has gone wrong with earplugs in the canal for a snug and noise-isolating fit. You can see the internal components, the microphones and the Nothing Ear 1 logo in the stems. Each earpiece weighs a convenient 4.7g, while the charging case weighs 57.4g.
While most earphones have clear ‘L’ and ‘R’ markings to indicate which earpiece belongs where, the Nothing Ear 1 uses color coding instead. A red dot means the right earpiece, while a white dot means the left. It may have taken some getting used to, but eventually I got used to the design and color coding system.
The outer sides of the stems on each earcup are flat and touch-sensitive to controls. The top part – the area around the colored dot – is sensitive to taps to control playback, as well as ANC and hear-through modes. Swipe up and down the long part of the stem on either earbud to adjust the volume. While the volume and controls for play/pause/answer calls cannot be changed, triple tap and long press gestures can be adjusted via the companion app.
The Nothing Ear 1 charging case looks just as impressive as the earbuds, if not more. The lid is completely clear, as is part of the bottom. Diagonally down the center of the case is the actual hardware: the battery, charging points and circuitry. The earcups snap onto the housing magnetically and at an angle, and notches on the lid hold them in place when closed. On the side of the case are the USB Type-C port for charging and the pairing button.
Conveniently, there is also Qi wireless charging on the housing. However, the sheer size of the 570 mAh battery and the generous amount of empty space inside make the case quite bulky and not very pocketable. This won’t be too much of a problem if you put it in a backpack or handbag, but it’s a bit too big to easily carry in a pocket along with other things like a wallet or smartphone.
The Nothing Ear 1 app, available for iOS and Android, allows you to customize and manage certain headset settings and features, as well as update the firmware. You can switch between ANC and transparency modes, choose one of two noise reduction intensity levels, and adjust the preset equalizer for the sound.
You can also customize the gesture controls, turn the in-ear detection on or off, make the earbuds ring loudly when they’re within Bluetooth range to help you find them, and check the battery levels of the earbuds and charging case separately. It’s a handy, well-designed app that I’ve enjoyed using. It’s worth mentioning here that there’s no voice assistant support on the Nothing Ear 1, which is pretty disappointing.
The Nothing Ear 1 has 11.6 million dynamic drivers and uses Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. The earphones have an IPX4 rating for water resistance. Nothing claims up to 40db of noise cancellation using active noise cancellation. It is claimed that Google Fast Pair is supported, but I was unable to use this to pair my review unit with an Android device. The sales package includes a charging cable with a transparent outer coating and a total of three pairs of silicone eartips, including the medium-sized eartips that are already attached to the earpieces.
The battery life on the Nothing Ear 1 is good enough for the price, with the earphones running about four hours per charge with the ANC on and the AAC Bluetooth codec in use. The charging case added a whopping five additional full charges for a total battery life of approximately 23-24 hours per charge cycle.
There’s also fast charging when using a cable to charge the case, with nothing claiming just under an hour of listening with ANC on with 10 minutes of charging the earphones. A 10-minute charge for the case promises about six hours of listening for the earphones with ANC on, with the earphones quickly charging in the case while plugged in. As with most true wireless earphones, even plugging the cable into your laptop’s USB port is enough to quickly charge the case.
The Nothing Ear 1 is an all-rounder
The most striking thing about the Nothing Ear 1 is the design, but that’s not what these ears are about. With decent sound quality and active noise cancellation, the Nothing Ear 1 offers a healthy and all-round experience for the price. While there’s no support for advanced Bluetooth codecs and better-sounding earphones are available for about the same price, the overall experience comes together quite nicely.
I had the Nothing Ear 1 paired with an Apple iPhone 12 mini (Review) for much of the review, listening to music and audiobooks, as well as taking calls during my daily workout routine. While I sometimes felt that the earphones didn’t get loud enough even at the highest volume, especially when listening to audiobooks, they performed equally well in all situations.
To start with music, I listened to Je M’amuse by Caravan Palace, and what immediately struck me was the balanced, spacious sound of the Nothing Ear 1. The retro-sounding introduction of this track was nicely detailed and soon gave way to the soft, refined electronic bass. The different styles and elements in this song played well together, with frequencies across the range sounding detailed and clean throughout.
Even the vague details in this song were easy to pick up, as were the rare but punchy vocals. The busy and lively character demanded detail, balance and coherence, which the Nothing Ear 1 delivered largely without much effort. This could also be heard with tracks like The Avalanches’ upbeat sample-based Subways, with which the Nothing Ear 1 managed to use its excellent sound staging and detail to bring out the true mood and feel.
That said, listeners looking for outright attack and aggression may not find the sound’s balanced nature very appealing. The earphones seem to have some flexibility in adjusting to the nuances of different songs, but not quite as impressive as I’ve heard with advanced options like the Apple AirPods Pro.
Listening to Fire by Ferry Corsten, the Nothing Ear 1 seemed to raise the bass a bit for this fast trance track, and I enjoyed listening to it through the earphones. However, the Nothing Ear 1 seems to be a bit held back by its hardware and tuning here; the earphones simply couldn’t adapt to the pace and required track riding.
While the natural limitations of the AAC codec may be a big part of the reason for this, the single dynamic driver in each earpiece also can’t quite match what the (more expensive) Oppo Enco X manages to achieve with its dual-driver setup and Dynaudio tuning. There’s a lot to like about the Nothing Ear 1, especially considering its highly competitive pricing in India, but comparisons to more expensive options will leave it falling short.
Active noise cancellation on the Nothing Ear 1 is customizable, with two intensity levels to choose from. While many people may prefer the milder setting for generally quiet environments, I preferred the full-intensity setting. The quality of the ANC on the earphones is very good for the price, almost matching more premium options like the Oppo Enco X and Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro in reducing both indoor and outdoor noise.
The noise cancellation took a gentle yet effective approach, which made a noticeable difference in reducing noises such as air conditioners and ceiling fans, as well as the general hum of the urban outdoor air. Transparency mode was also very good, providing natural and subtle listening through, much in contrast to the excessive audibility I’ve heard on most true wireless earphones across all price ranges.
Call and connection quality on the Nothing Ear 1 was also very good, and I had no issues using these earphones for both indoor and outdoor calls. Connection stability was good at distances of up to 3 meters or so from my paired phone, and I had no issues even if I switched rooms.
Despite being the first product, Nothing has done exceptionally well with the Ear 1 true wireless earphones. There’s little to complain about – this headset offers balanced and detailed sound, good active noise cancellation, decent features and an excellent design, all at a very competitive price of Rs. 5,999 in India. If you’re looking for mid-range true wireless earphones, this should be high on your list of options.
There are currently better sounding options available at comparable prices, such as the Lypertek Tevi and Samsung Galaxy Buds+, but the Nothing Ear 1 offers a better design and features, plus active noise cancellation, making it a more attractive overall package for most users on a budget. of fl. 7,000 or less.