It may be the nature of our work that we’ve largely become wary of hype around new companies and products. So when the hype machine was at its height around a company called ‘Nothing’ and its upcoming debut product, my first thought was to wait and watch.
But boy has my wariness been uncalled for. Nothing’s first pair of earbuds, called Ear (1), are different from the previous detailed sketches, and nothing like we have seen so far. And that’s a good thing! So can it make its mark in a rapidly growing truly wireless space? Read on.
Design you can see
Let’s start with what’s clearly (pun unintended) its highlight – the design. In a segment where most earbuds seem to have been designed in a Xerox machine, the Ear (1) stands out with its transparent design. The see-through design is limited to the stalks of the earbuds, which give you an impressive view at its internal circuitry, mics, and the logo. The upper part that actually goes into your ears is not transparent, and its oblong shape sort of reminds you of the Apple AirPods Pro.
Even the case is transparent, giving you a constant view at the buds nestled inside. While it looks good, the only drawback is the shape, which is squarer and larger than most other TWS cases. While not heavy, it won’t easily slide in and out of pant pockets. It is better to keep it in a handbag, unless you want to be seen in public trying to tug something out of your pants.
Comfort you can feel
The earbuds themselves are quite small, and at 4.7 grams are extremely lightweight too. The in-canal tips are comfortable, fit easily in your ears without needing to jam them in, and sit fairly snug.
The stalks are flat, and support gestures, which work well more often than not. I struggled a bit with the sliding gesture to increase or decrease the volume. But the triple-tap and long press worked just fine. Whether you’re using an Android device or iPhone, the companion app lets you customise what the taps and press do.
I’ve worn the earbuds at home during office calls and also taken them with me on runs and even to the gym. They have proved to be comfortable, and at no point was I worried that they would pop out. The size and lack of weight also means there’s no fatigue after using them for long hours.
Performance you can hear
Just looking good won’t cut it, and for an earbud to succeed, it also needs to have the required audio chops. Nothing has that base covered as well. Earbuds in the affordable segment tend to lean towards the bass-heavy side, which many associate with good audio quality. It’s also why most of them sound like the audio systems in autorickshaws you would find in Mumbai suburbs.
Fortunately, the Ear (1) doesn’t fall prey to that trend, and what you get is a balanced audio profile that packs a bit of punch when needed. The soundstage created by the 11.6mm drivers is well defined and the tonal balance between the bass, mids and treble is spot on. What this means is you’re going to enjoy listening to beat-heavy songs like The Weeknd’s Take My Breath or the jazzy vocals of Yashraj and Dropped Out’s Galat/Sahi.
Another impressive bit is the active noise cancellation (ANC). It works well whether you’re indoors or outdoors. It was able to cut the noise of the fan and AC, as well as the traffic noise outside. The real test will be when flying somewhere, and I’m fairly confident it will cut the loud hum of the airplane with ease. The overall battery life too is good enough to last an entire day on a single charge. With the case, you can get up to 24hrs of usage with ANC on.
All the hype aside, the Ear (1) is an absolutely all-rounder that does everything well. It looks nice and unique, is comfortable to wear, and sounds good enough to please the vast majority. What really hits the ball out of the park is the price tag, and it still surprises me how it is available for just ₹5,999. To sum it up, the Nothing Ear (1) looks and sounds like nothing we have encountered in this price segment before.