London-based consumer tech startup “Nothing” finally launched the ear (1), the company’s first product, earlier this week. This comes after a lot of teasers and the company had secured several rounds of funding from a list of high-profile investors. The ear (1) has an eye-catching transparent design both for the case and the earbuds, comes with Bluetooth 5.2 with AAC audio codec and also has ANC. So, are these the best true wireless earbuds with ANC for the price? Let us dive into the review to find out.
- Nothing ear (1) in White colour
- Ear tips in Small and Large sizes
- USB Type-C cable
- User guide
Design and Build Quality
The first thing you notice about the product is its eye-catching transparent design. It has partnered with Stockholm-based teenage engineering, a company known for unique craftsmanship and industrial design prowess. Only the centre part of the case has a white covering, while the other parts are transparent so that you can view the earbuds clearly. The case has magnets, so that it locks securely. There is also a magnet connecting the two parts of the case. Even the part connecting the earbuds to the case have a strong magnet to secures the buds in its place. The charging case measures 58.6×58.6×23.7mm and weighs 57.4 grams. There is a tiny LED light on the case that glows in white, green and red colours.
There is a function key and a USB Type-C port on the side of the case.
The base of the case has some specs for the case. As you can see, the plastic case is prone to scratches easily.
The earbuds also feature a transparent design that prone to fingerprints. There is a red colour signal for ‘Right’. The earbuds weigh about 4.7 grams, which is light. These feature an in-ear design and also come with medium-sized ear tips pre-installed. You can change to bundled Large or Small sized ear tips if you wish. There is an Optical Sensor for Wear Detection so that it can automatically pause the audio when you remove it from your ears and play when you put it back.
There are three microphones on each earbud for active noise cancellation and to block wind noise during calls. You can also see the NOTHING ear (1) branding on the outside where the touch-sensitive area is present that lets you control play/pause, ANC and volume.
Overall, the headset offers a good build quality for the price and fits your ears perfectly so that they don’t fall off your ears easily even when running or cycling. The earphones also have IPX4 water resistance rating to prevent splash, rain, and sweat in everyday use scenarios, but you can’t use it when swimming or immerse in water.
Connectivity, Pairing, and Controls
Connecting the earbuds to an Android phone is simple using Google Fast pair mode, so once you open the case it shows up on your phone, and you instantly pair it, and it gets remembered in your Google account. If you don’t want ‘fast pair’, you can place the buds in the case, press and hold the function button on the case for a few seconds until the status light blinks white, and the Nothing ear (1) shows up on the phone’s Bluetooth page. As soon as the connection is established, the blinking LED should go off.
Since the phone pairs with the case and not the headset, you will need the case if you want to reconnect it. Wish the buds had a manual on or off button, since you need to place the buds in the case, if it’s disconnected from the phone for long. The touch controls are easy to access and has perfect amount of sensitivity to change tracks or control volume.
It supports Bluetooth 5.2 with AAC high quality audio codec. We can’t expect LDAC for the price, but the company could have added aptX or aptX HD for low latency gaming experience, since it doesn’t have a gaming mode. The connection range is around 10 meters, which is common in most headsets, and the connection quality is good.
|Function||Left earphone (L)||Right earphone (R)|
|Play / Pause or Answer call / Hang calls||Double tap|
|Next track||Triple tap|
|Switch between ANC and Transparency Mode||Tap and hold|
|Volume up or down||Slide on stem|
The headset has Smart wear detection that can sense when they’re in the ear and automatically pause the music when taken out and resume when you put back. Also, for a better wearing experience, when you take one earbud off, the other will automatically switch to Transparency mode. This is very useful.
You can customize the controls from the settings in the ear (1) app on Android and iPhone. You can change actions for the triple tap to previous song from next song, or select no action to disable it. However, you can only disable the tap hold action from Noise cancellation to no action. Wish it had an option to customize the double tap action, since I am used to ‘double tap’ to enable noise cancellation on OPPO Enco X.
You can disable in-ear Detection from the settings. There is ‘Find My Earbud’ option that makes high pitch sound so that you can locate the earbuds when you misplace them. The company also pushed firmware update through the app.
It already got an update during my use, and the changelog and version is also mentioned.
Audio Quality, Call Performance and Noise Cancellation
The Nothing ear (1) packs an 11.6mm dynamic driver 0.34cc spacious air chamber that allows the content to expand and realise its full potential. The company said that audiophiles at teenage engineering tuned the software as well.
The app also lets you switch from balanced to more treble, more bass or voice for the best bass, mid, and treble performance. When listening to podcasts, the voice option is the best. With the AAC enabled, audio quality is good with clear vocals and good amount of bass, thanks to the 13.6mm driver that handles high, middle and low frequencies well.
Regarding the Noise cancellation, the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) blocks the ambient sound up to 40dB that helps in most cases. You can feel the difference when you are listening outdoors and even indoors when the AC or fan is on. There are two modes, light and maximum. You can switch between noise cancellation, transparency and noise cancellation off with a long press on the earbuds. Wish the app had the option to select only two modes, since I don’t use the transparency mode often. For the price, this does a good job in blocking noise. You need to select the right size of the ear tips that fit your ears since it also helps to certain extent.
Even though I have not used the AirPods Pro extensively, I would not compare noise cancellation level to it. These are better than the old Galaxy Buds+, but I feel the Buds Pro offers better noise cancellation. The Galaxy Buds Pro is double the price of the ear (1). I can say that the noise cancellation is better than the OPPO Enco X, which I have been using for over six months now. Overall, the noise cancellation quality is the best in any headset in the price range.
Coming to the call noise cancellation, it uses Clear Voice Technology for calls that uses three high-definition microphones to cut external noise. The company says that it uses advanced algorithms that analyse the input, referencing more than a million voice and sound combinations (and even winds up to 40 km/h) to isolate and amplify your voice with remarkable clarity. This really works. During my run, wind noise was complete cut out to the receiver, but the footsteps were faintly audible.
The 31mAh earphones promise 5.7 hours of standalone battery life without ANC and 4 hours with ANC enabled. During my run with AAC, I got about 5 hours with mixed use with and without ANC in about 60% volume, so it is decent. It also has support for fast charging. The company says that 10 minutes of charge can get you 1.2h hours (without ANC) / 50 min (with ANC) playback for the earbuds and 8 hours (without ANC) / 6 hours (with ANC) for case charging.
With the 570mAh charging case, it promises up to 34 hours of total battery life without ANC and 24 hours of total battery life with noise cancellation enabled. Even though the case is compact, the battery it packs, and the backup offered is impressive. I have been using the headset for a few days now, and the case still have 20% charge left after charging the buds a few times. The green light in the case indicates that the battery is full, and when it turns red, it is low. However, the light in the case doesn’t change even when the charge is low in the earbuds. You can also see the charge left in the case and the buds in the ear (1).
Charging the case fully take about 2 hours, and charging the earbuds fully takes less than an hour. The charging case also has Qi wireless charging.
Overall, Nothing ear (1) is a value for money true wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) that you can get for Rs. 5999, and it is the cheapest in India compared to other countries. It has a good design, offers good audio quality with noise cancellation, call noise cancellation and the battery life is decent as well with support for fast charging as well as wireless charging. It will be available for purchase from Flipkart in India starting from August 17th.
realme Buds Air Pro is a good alternative that is cheaper, but the ANC is just average. The OPPO Enco X at a slightly higher price offers LHDC support and low-latency audio experience. OnePlus will sell its OnePlus Buds Pro ANC earbuds with LHDC in India in August, but it is expected to cost more.
- Eye-catching design
- Good audio quality
- Bluetooth 5.2 offers strong connectivity
- Brilliant call quality
- Good ANC for the price
- Decent battery life with fast charging, wireless charging
- No aptX or low-latency gaming mode
- Glossy case is prone to scratches