Home Tech Nothing Ear (a) review: Cheaper, smaller, longer-lasting headphones

Nothing Ear (a) review: Cheaper, smaller, longer-lasting headphones

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Nothing Ear (a) review: Cheaper, smaller, longer-lasting headphones

tThe latest set of cut-price Bluetooth headphones from technology firm Nothing offers excellent sound and noise cancellation at an even more competitive price, while still standing out from the crowd with its attractive design.

The London-based firm has launched the affordable Ear (a), which maintains almost everything good about the previous Nothing headphones and costs £99 (€99/$99). That’s £30 less than its previous offering and the new £129 (€149/$149) Ear, which offers a few more customizations for sound and other features.

The Ear (a) have the same shape as their predecessors, although now with an injection of color to make them a little more striking. The fit and finish remains excellent, and the company’s signature transparent design reveals some of the inner workings.

The Nothing earbuds manage to stand out from the crowd despite their AirPod-like shape. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The controllers have the same playback, noise cancellation and volume controls as their predecessors. They are customizable and work quite well by pinching once, twice, three times, or squeezing and holding the stems, although the final gesture, pinching and holding twice, took a little practice to get right each time.

The main body of the earbud and silicone tip sit comfortably and securely in your ear for long listening sessions. The battery has a solid five to six hours of playtime, with about three more charges in the case.

Nothing has significantly improved the Ear(a)’s case, bringing it down to about the size of the best in the business, like Apple’s AirPods, sliding nicely into the case. fob of a pair of jeans. It lacks Qi wireless charging, having only USB-C, which is a well-made sacrifice for size.

The flip case has a clear lid and fits easily in your pocket, but the glossy plastic base is easy to scratch. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian


  • Waterproof: IP54 (splash resistant)

  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (SBC, AAC, LDAC)

  • Battery duration: 5.5 hours with ANC (24.5 hours with case)

  • Headphone dimensions: 30.9 x 21.7 x 24.3mm

  • Headphone weight: 4.8g each

  • Driver size: 11mm

  • Charging Case Dimensions: 47.6 x 63.3 x 22.7mm

  • Charging case weight: 39.6g

  • Case loading: USB-C

Great sound for the price.

The Nothing X app for Android and iPhone shows battery levels and handles updates, controls, and sound customization. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

The headphones support Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint to connect two devices at once, making it easy to switch between devices. They support the usual SBC and AAC Bluetooth audio formats, but they also support high-quality LDAC, which is quite common among Android devices.

Nothing continues to offer better sound quality than its rivals at this price. The Ear (a) are as complete as their processors and sound very similar to their more expensive Ear brothers. They handle complex tracks with ease and have a fairly wide and expansive sound. They can play very low notes when necessary, but have a lot of detail in the highs and lows.

They’re a little bassier out of the box thanks to a new bass boost feature, which has five levels and can be adjusted in the Nothing X app along with a basic equalizer.

Noise cancellation is also quite good, managing to dampen the hum of travel and the bustle of an office well when set to maximum. They also do a slightly better job of dealing with higher pitches, like keyboard noises and voices, than their predecessors. The ambient sound mode is also one of the best available, while call quality in quiet and noisy environments was decent, if a little artificial sounding.


Several internal parts are visible through the transparent casing, but are not accessible or repairable. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Nothing says that the batteries in the headphones and case will maintain at least 80% of their original capacity for 500 full charge cycles. Out of warranty, replacement cases or earbuds cost £39.99 each, but the earbuds cannot be repaired, ultimately making them disposable.

The headphones contain recycled tin, but Nothing does not offer audio product exchange programs or publish environmental impact assessments. The carbon footprint of the headphones is estimated to be 2.72 kg.


The Nothing Ear (a) costs £99 (€99/$99) and is available in three colors to choose from, and will ship from April 22.

For comparison, the Ear costs £129, the Fairphone Fairbuds cost £129OnePlus Buds Pro 2 cost £179Google Pixel Buds Pro cost £199and the Apple AirPods Pro 2 costs £229.


The Ear(a) has set a new standard for quality at the cheaper end of the market. Costing just £99, they offer better sound and noise cancellation than most of their rivals, and with a more interesting transparent design that looks great.

The headphones work and fit well, the controls are good, the multipoint Bluetooth is very welcome, and they have solid battery life. The new smaller and more pocketable case is a clear improvement over the previous Nothing headphones. They may be missing details like a full equalizer or support for advanced spatial audio, and they’ll be fine with the best in audio quality and noise cancellation, but you’d have to spend a little more to get a better everyday set. headphones.

The biggest problem is that the battery is still not replaceable in the earbuds or case, ultimately making them disposable and losing them a star. The Fairbuds have proven it can be done, so it’s time for others to take notice.

Advantages: great value, interesting design, great sound and noise cancellation for the price, comfortable fit, good call quality, solid controls, Bluetooth 5.3 with multi-point and cross-platform app.

Cons: disposable, case is very easy to scratch, does not support spatial audio with head tracking, does not support future-proof LC3 or Auracast.

The Ear(a) are a great set of budget headphones that outperform their rivals in sound and noise cancellation and have an outstanding design. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

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