Smartphone company Nothing delivers on its first promise and has officially unveiled its second audio product: the mid-range Ear (stick) earbuds.
In the run-up to the unveiling, there were some leaks that showed the cosmetically inspired design of the ear (stick), which admittedly looks pretty cool. Earbud charging cases usually have a boxy design, but nothing went for a more cylindrical look with a hint of red. Aside from the design, not much was known about the device internally, aside from the company’s claim that the Ear (stick) is the “most advanced audio product to date”. However looking at the announcement (opens in new tab)that’s really not the case.
The $99 Ear (stick) may not be a bad product. But it’s certainly not Nothing’s most advanced audio product, as it doesn’t have active noise cancellation, a much-requested feature in last year’s Ear (1) device. The earbuds also lack the older model’s silicone earbuds to seal out the sound. Instead, it opts for a more AirPods-esque design: a hard plastic that sends sound directly into your ear canal. As a result, more background noise will likely leak in.
So what does the ear (stick) have that distinguishes it?
For starters, the Ear (stick) has a new feature called Bass Lock, it’s software that detects if bass has been lost in the audio and tunes the internal equalizer to compensate. That way, the audio sounds like it should ideally.
There are three microphones on each earbud, each playing its own role, according to TheVerge (opens in new tab). You have one that simply hears your voice, the other filters background noise for calls through “intelligent algorithms”, and the latter apparently listens for audio feedback and tunes the sound from the device to your ear canal.
The audio output is handled by a pair of custom-built 12.6mm speakers, as opposed to the “ready-made drivers” on the ear (1). CEO Carl Pei told TheVerge that there was no going for custom speakers because the company wanted a good balance between size and acoustic design, rather than just stuffing a large driver into the earbuds.
You can pair the Ear (stick) with: nothing is telephone (1) to unlock additional features. The equalizer of the device can be adjusted via the Quick settings menu on the smartphone. On Android and iOS, you must first download the Nothing X app. And if you ever experience lag while gaming on the phone (1), the earbuds will automatically switch to a low-delay mode to suit the game.
The battery life on the ear (stick) has improved slightly: up to seven hours on a single charge versus four hours on the ear (1). With the charging case, that time is increased to a maximum of 29 hours. Other notable features include an IP54 resistance rating to protect against dust and water, plus Google Fast Pair support for fast Bluetooth pairing.
We reached out to Nothing for clarification on some of its features. The announcement mentioned something about “press controls” but doesn’t really go into what they are or how they work. We also asked for more details on how the microphones work. This story will be updated if we hear anything.
You can pre-order the Ear (stick) for $99 (we’ll update when we get international pricing) on Nothing’s website, which has a release date set for November 4. When you see that price tag, you might think it’s odd that the mid-range earbuds have the same price tag as the flagship model. As it turns out, CEO Carl Pei recently took to Twitter to announce that the Ear (1) (opens in new tab) will see a price increase, to $149 “because of an increase in costs.”
If you are looking for something cheaper, be sure to check out TechRadar’s best budget earbuds for 2022.