All the hype and news pieces after news pieces finally took the shape of the Nothing Ear 1. This is the product of a new venture by Carl Pei after he quit OnePlus last year and the buzz that followed after. The buzz was enough to make us believe that it ain’t another budget truly wireless but something that is here to revolutionise our music experience. Also Read - Nothing Ear 1 TWS earbuds next sale on August 31 via Flipkart: Price in India, sale offers, and more
That’s a little far-fetched but if you look at the spec sheet and the pricing, it feels like a TWS that has it all. We are talking ANC, wireless charging, fast charging, a unique design, and a lot more than I can mention in a go. Also Read - Nothing Ear 1 in pictures: Unique design, budget price
So, here I am, after testing the earbuds for over two weeks, to tell you if spending Rs 5,999 is a good choice or there’s nothing too special about it. Grab a snack and have a read to find out. Also Read - Nothing Ear 1, the company's first product officially launched in India
This is the design that attracts attention, even if a person is standing miles away. The Nothing Ear 1’s transparent look for both the case and the earbuds is different, even though it might leave a polarizing impression. While one set of people might find it “too out there,” others might stand in awe of it. I happened to come across the latter lot and on a personal level feel that this looks cool. Especially, when you know the internals of anything, let alone earbuds can be ugly. The effort to neatly bring that out and keeping the glue that holds the components together, out of sight is appreciable. There’s also the white and red dots on each earbud to tell which goes in what ear and the right case holding. As opposed to the L and R initials, this is new!
The basic design, which is a combination of a small stem and bean-shaped buds, has been taken from the AirPods Pro. The case hasn’t. It is square-shaped, has a clamshell-like opening scenario, and features a cavity that you might think boasts of fidget-spinning capabilities but you will feel disappointed. It is intended to keep the buds secure and makes carrying it around easy. If you try harder, you might end up mastering spinning it around.
Apart from being put together in the cleanest way possible, the earbuds are built well too. They don’t feel like some cheap earbuds you just bought. I can’t say the same for the case, though. As one would expect from a transparent, plastic material, the case easily attracts scratches and dust particles. It’s been over two weeks and it already has a few scratches and I didn’t drop them. Unless you don’t keep them safe in some other case or pouch, be ready for the untimely wear and tear.
But, are they comfortable? Majorly, yes but there are some instances you would want to steer clear of. While sitting for hours and listening to music or even walking, they will feel comfortable and the 4.7 grams (each) of weight would feel really light. It might start to feel a bit uncomfortable if you are working out or say, running. Plus, there’s been a constant need to adjust the earbuds for me. But, this is a matter of subjectivity. From a wider point of view, they mostly fit well.
The earbuds and the case come in a small box that houses the small USB Type-C cable and two more pairs of ear tips, in case the default one doesn’t fit. This can sort out your fit problems if you encounter any just like me.
These little earbuds are feature-rich and feel apt enough to ring a bell. Nothing banks high on ANC, wireless charging, fast charging, a claimed battery life that is similar to the AirPods Pro and loads more. But there are few more things: big 11.6mm drivers, a “painstaking teenage engineering” for balanced audio, in-ear detection, the ability to find the lost earbud, and water and splash resistance.
The Ear 1 also gets an app (by the same name) that allows you to make a number of tweaks to the whole music streaming. It is compatible with both Android and iOS.
Now, they look good but the main question hangs, “how are they?” and I would have to say that the earbuds are safely the ones that can be your everyday audio accessory. I replaced my AirPods 2 with the Ear 1 for over two weeks and I didn’t really miss the AirPods, except for some situations I will talk about soon.
Pairing the earbuds up is pretty simple; a dedicated button on the case helps you pair it up with an Android phone in seconds. The process is slightly a hassle in iOS’ case. You will have to download the app first, enable both the BLE and Bluetooth via the app and the settings, and then can start using the earbuds.
Once I got acquainted with the process, I used the pair for consecutive hours to listen to a variety of music genres. While I hooked onto Bollywood and Punjabi songs more often than not, I included EDM, pop, and a few more types to my playlist. The playlist was well taken care of by the earbuds, for everything felt balanced. These are the earbuds that will be mostly liked by all. Songs like Rattaan Lambiyan (from Shershaah) and Nazar Na Lag Jaaye were a mix of balanced treble and vocals. The beauty of these romantic tracks was well captured without overdoing things.
Popular Punjabi songs such as High Heels and Brown Munde were a delight to listen to too. The earbuds also distinguish each instrument in a song and you can feel that in songs such as Levitating by Dua Lipa or Blinding Lights by The Weeknd. However, bassy songs such as Alone by Marshmello felt slightly distorted. This is where audiophiles will be able to find out some issues that might not be the case with high-end earbuds.
To up the game, the Ear 1 offers some EQ settings in the app. Now don’t expect a plethora of options to choose from as there are just the basic four (to adjust the bass, treble, voice, or keep it balanced). But, they do make a difference to how your music sounds. The app is simple to use that allows you to access a few of the features. It also supports dark mode, if you are a fan.
Let’s talk about the ANC part. Certainly, the attraction for a majority of audio products these days and the Nothing Ear 1 is no different to having jumped onto the bandwagon. This jump is clearly a good one. ANC on the Ear 1 is quite good. You switch it on and you won’t hear the ceiling fan spinning, people talking, or random noises. High-pitched sounds or the keyboard typing (if you’re smashing it) can be heard, though. There are two modes (light and medium), although, you won’t be able to spot a major difference. Indoors, balcony noises or someone incessantly knocking at my door was totally cancelled. Outdoors, car horns could be heard, even though they were feeble.
So far so good? Not really! There are a few setbacks too. Primarily the fickle-minded touch controls. The touch controls are buggy and I wasn’t able to get them to do their job despite a firmware update. You will be required to tap really hard to play or pause the music and even harder to slide through the stem to increase or decrease the volume. Speaking of, the volume levels are low and if you like listening to songs at mid-to-high volumes, you will have to reach the 100 level for it. Also, the touch controls are customizable via the app.
Another feature that can catch someone’s attention is in-ear detection. But, it has trouble figuring out if you are wearing the earbuds. While it stops the music in about two seconds once you pull them out of the ears, the feature can randomly stop the music even when the earbuds are on. Disabling it was my passage to interruption-free music streaming. The mic setup is decent for calling but often creates an echo effect.
But, here’s some silver lining. The Find My Earbud feature is helpful if you mistakenly lose it. You just have to tap on the feature via the app and it will play a sound once found. Although, it would have felt good if it rang louder. Then, there’s water and splash resistance and it will keep you sorted if you break a sweat!
This is another positive. The earbuds became my go-to and I used them for straight 4 to 5 hours every day, mostly with ANC enabled. With the case fully charged, I could use the earbuds for more than a week. And when I finally charged them after long usage, it was able to charge somewhere between 1 and 1.5 hours, which is quite decent. For those who have wireless chargers, you are sorted too.
The Nothing Ear 1 is the company’s first product and it would be safe to say that it is something good enough. It is a package deal that can easily garner anyone’s interest and provide for a good audio experience. At Rs 5,999, you can’t say no to it.
But, it is also a product that feels like the one in its early stages and nothing extraordinary, thanks to a few elements. The too sensitive touch controls, the fragile case, and the earbuds’ inability to attain the best audio mark are some of the issues.
But, put the Nothing Ear 1 up against the Realme Buds Air 2, the OnePlus Buds and many more options in the price bracket, and you will find the Nothing Ear 1 still appears like an option and makes us believe that the company has potential.