Nothing Ear (2) Review: Refined Audio Quality And A Sleek Design Make For A Worthy Upgrade
Good design has to be more than just attractive aesthetics. It also has to be functional and improve the quality of life. London-based consumer tech brand Nothing upholds this principle by striving “to remove the barriers between people and technology to create a seamless digital future.” This vision is evident in their latest hardware product, the Nothing Ear (2).
Nothing first debuted in 2021 with the competitively-priced Nothing Ear (1) ears buds to positive reception. The tech company, founded by Chinese-Swedish entrepreneur CEO Carl Pei, followed up the next year with their first phone, the Nothing Phone (1). This year, they have already revealed the successor to their smartphone and now it’s time to have a successor for Nothing Ear (1), predictably named Nothing Ear (2).
Exterior – Minor cosmetic changes, improved functionality
One of Nothing Ear (2)’s appealing USPs is its hybrid transparent stem and white buds retained from Nothing Ear (1). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Tweak it instead.
The Nothing Ear (2) swaps out the Ear (1)’s tap controls for press controls similar to Apple’s AirPods Pro. This switch to tactile controls allows a more precise user experience and avoids any accidental touches that’ll dampen your listening experience. This means that you’ll be able to skip tracks, switch between noise cancellation modes, and adjust volume levels all with a press. You can also add customised controls via the Nothing X app, which is available to download from the Google Play Store and the App Store.
The Ear (2) fits comfortably and snugly beside the concha and isn’t drop-prone when doing exercises like running. They come in a squarish transparent charging case that opens like a ring box. Use this to propose to a tech fanatic, perhaps? It supports both wireless charging, albeit slower, and USB-C cable charging.
In addition, the Ear (2) buds are IP54 rated, which makes them resistant to a limited amount of dust and water splashes (including sweat). But don’t ever think of dunking them into a sand pit or submerging them underwater unless you’ve money to throw.
Battery life seems to be average to below average compared to its competitors but it’s decent for casual listening. Nothing claims the Ear (2) will offer four hours of playback with active noise cancellation (ANC) on and goes up to 22.5 hours with the charging case. But with ANC off, they offer 6.3 hours and 36 hours respectively.
Interior – Refined audio quality with minimal gripes
The upgrades from Ear (1) to Ear (2) may seem negligible on paper, but the latter’s audio quality is excellent for its price point. The Ear (2) now has support for LHDC 5.0 codec alongside SBC and AAC.
On Goldfrapp’s atmospheric and haunting ‘Stranger’, the Ear (2) picks up the dramatic orchestral strings clearly which transported us to another realm instantaneously. For Roosevelt’s shimmery rendition of ‘Teardrops’, the four-to-the-floor disco beats and bass melody made our hearts sync into rhythm with Ear (2)’s lush and rich audio delivery.
A minor gripe we have is that the vocals can get sharp at times. But that’s nothing a pre-customised EQ can’t fix with Bass, Mid, and Treble bands. There’s also a sound personalization feature that tests your hearing by listening to a series of beeps at varying pitches.
Distinctive alert sound notifications also play a vital role in the user experience. When toggling between noise cancellation modes or indicating a successful connection, the unique short accents make it easy to differentiate the various function changes.
Also, something new for Ear (2) is multipoint connectivity, which Nothing calls “Dual Connection”. This feature allows the earbuds to connect to two devices, like a laptop and a phone, simultaneously. For example, switch between listening to your favourite playlist on your phone to attending an urgent Zoom meeting on your laptop without the need to connect and disconnect. The time taken to switch isn’t immediate. But hey, it’s the convenience that counts and we’re sure it’ll be improved in future iterations.
If you’re after sleek design and a stellar aural experience in a single package, getting the Nothing Ear (2) is a sound (pun intended) decision.
(All images credit: Nothing)
Nothing Ear (2) is now available at Limited Edt for SGD199. It will go on general sale across all stores of Nothing’s partners in Singapore both online and offline, including flagship e-commerce stores on Lazada and Shopee on April 8.
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia Singapore