Nothing Ear (1) earbuds: simple, transparent, different
Nothing Ear (1) earbuds bring transparency and simplicity to a crowded market – here’s what sets them apart
There’s much ado about Nothing, the newest low-key high-tech brand in a crowded market. Nothing is debuting with the Ear (1) earbuds, a product that’s ten a penny these days. Will the brand’s fresh approach be enough for us to sit up and take notice? When we spoke to Nothing’s Thomas Howard, Jesper Kouthoofd and Carl Pei, about their ambitions for the new brand, they flagged up the Concept 1 earbuds as proof of a different direction.
Now that concept has become a reality, and Nothing Ear (1) earbuds are available to buy.
Nothing Ear (1): clearly different
So what makes the Ear (1) different? There’s a ferocious amount of engineering that goes into an object as small as a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, most of which we take entirely for granted. Nothing’s point of difference is transparency and simplicity. This approach is obvious from the moment you tear open the pared-back packaging, slide open the silver box and remove the clear plastic charge case.
Although relatively conventional in appearance – there’s not a lot of wiggle room in this particular form factor – the Ear (1)’s industrial design lays bare the constituent parts of this ubiquitous object. You can see the PCB, the magnets, the microphones, all revealed beneath the transparent shell. There’s a jewel-like delicacy to these hitherto invisible components, and the Nothing team hunted high and low to find the best examples of each element to ensure it looked just right, whether it was magnets or even adhesive.
Comfort is a key part of the earbud experience, and at 4.7g each, the Ear (1) is lighter than its Apple equivalents. The liquid silicon tip is designed to be softer in the ear, while the stems have a flat surface to make touch controls easier to deploy. The transparent case ends the hassle of wandering off without the actual earbuds themselves, as well as incorporating a fast-charging unit; ten minutes in the case should get you 90 minutes of listening time.
On their own, the Ear (1) buds will run for four and a half hours with noise cancelling switched on, or roughly six hours without. Oh, and you can sling the little case onto a charging pad to make the whole process completely wireless. Finally, there’s Bluetooth 5.2 to improve the range and battery life and the Ear (1) is also sweat- and water-resistant.
The low-key packaging and branding, from the dot matrix font to the disposable protective wrapping, conceals a very premium set of materials. There’s also nothing basic about the sound quality. The stems of the earbuds contain a big chamber for better bass performance: Teenage Engineering did all the acoustics as well as bring the industrial design know-how. There’s a bespoke app to help you tune Ear (1) to suit your own preferences, although they give pure, precise tones straight out of the box.
The app is also crystal clear in terms of layout and approach, with a ‘find my earbud’ feature as well as options for the three-stage noise cancelling, driven by three microphones and tuned to cut through background noise and foreground speech during calls. The Ear (1) is the first in a promised series of products from Nothing, building up to an eco-system of simple devices that will guide its fans away from tech fatigue towards a better-sounding and more intuitive future. §