Nothing’s new headphones play the comfort and autonomy card. They offer satisfactory sound quality, but ignore isolation in noisy environments.
After the Ear (1), here are the new Ear (stick) headphones from Nothing, sold for 119 euros. What new surprise does Carl Pei’s company have in store for us in terms of design? Let’s open the cardboard box (unfortunately unable to close it afterwards due to a destructive tab system) to find out…
Surprise: the charging case is a tube! Or more exactly two tubes, because the outside serves as a transparent protection. You can rotate to place an opening in front of the earpiece housing. The operation is somewhat reminiscent of twisting a tube of lipstick and can easily be done with one hand. The design is original and practical.
Then we can remove the two earpieces, but it is a pity that the opening is not a little larger at the ends, because it is sometimes possible to hook the edge at the level of the temples. The case also includes a status LED that is used to indicate its battery level, that of the headphones, as well as Bluetooth pairing.
The pairing operation is done by pressing the button located at the end of the box. It’s a breeze for Android device owners thanks to Google’s Fast Pair feature. We also appreciate the support for Microsoft’s Swift Pair feature for automatic recognition by Windows PCs.
Another big difference with the Ear (1), Nothing opts for a design open fit (semi intraauricular), that is, without a mold. Apple makes a similar design choice with its AirPods. Users who don’t support in-ear models will appreciate the comfort, which is excellent. We hardly felt them and were even afraid that they would fall off at times. But that’s just an impression and they stay in place well, even if you shake your head sharply. The headphones are IP54 certified to withstand rain and sweat, but you’ll need to avoid dropping them in water as they’re not waterproof.
For the controls, Nothing chose a pressure system on the stem instead of a tactile zone. You check the reading by squeezing the stem one to three times. A long press adjusts the volume. It works pretty well, but pinching the rod three in a row is a bit difficult. And you have to be careful not to mistakenly squeeze the stem when pulling the headphones out of your ears.
Let’s move on to the listening tests. Choosing large speakers (12.6mm) is a good idea because it offers spacious sound, with a wide soundstage. In this case, there is certainly bass, but not enough for our taste, which translates into a lack of soul. But this can be corrected with the app’s equalizer (see below). On the contrary, we appreciate the good treble reproduction that gives precision and clarity. Nothing plays the minimum card for audio codecs (AAC and SBC) and the Bluetooth 5.2 connection is not multipoint to connect two devices simultaneously.
A real lack of isolation.
Where it went wrong was when we took public transportation. Due to their semi-in-ear design, Nothing’s headphones do not isolate enough from the outside and do not allow you to comfortably enjoy music in noisy places. Also, your neighbors will hear what you’re listening to if you turn up the volume a little more. Being banned on the subway during peak hours. On the other hand, the sound of your voice has good clarity for phone calls, even if you have noise around you, or even wind.
Almost 7 hours of battery life
Nothing promises an autonomy of 7 hours and the measurements of the 01Lab confirm this value with a score of 6 h 52 min, compared to 5 h 25 min for the Ear (1) with the ANC stopped. However, Apple’s AirPods 3 perform slightly better with a measured battery life of 7h 9min. Nothing advertises up to 29 hours with the charging case. It has a USB Type-C port (cable provided), but it doesn’t support Qi wireless charging.
Nothing cares about the design of your application
As for the Ear (1), the Ear (stick) parameters are directly accessible on the Phone (1), the manufacturer’s smartphone. For other devices, Nothing offers a free app for Android and iOS. This application allows you to update the firmware headphones and has a three-band equalizer (low, medium, high), with a rather original circular design. In addition to custom settings, it has four preset modes. We especially appreciate the way Balance which bears its name well and adds just enough bass to provide good dynamics.
On the other hand, the customization of the commands is too limited. For example, the long press only changes the volume or launches the voice assistant. Double tapping can only activate rewind or fast forward or even voice assistant. We would have liked more freedom.
Finally, the app helps locate the headphones by making them ring and has a low latency mode, which allows you to play without suffering a significant lag between sound and image. In addition, it proposes whether or not to use in-ear detection. This stops playback when you take one of the headphones off and restarts it when you put them back on. A useful feature if you need to strike up a conversation or listen to announcements at a train station or airport.
#Ear #stick #stylish #affordable #alternative #AirPods