Home Tech Nothing’s New Ear and Ear (a) are great affordable headphones

Nothing’s New Ear and Ear (a) are great affordable headphones

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Left Two yellow inner buds on a wooden surface. Right hand holding an internal button showing the panel being extruded.

Not everything needs reinvent the wheel. Product iteration year after year has produced some of the best wireless earbuds money can buy, and that’s precisely the path Nothing is taking with its latest earbuds, the Nothing Ear and Nothing Ear (a). Sure, at its founding, the company promised to do much more than make headphones and smartphones (it hasn’t delivered on that promise yet), but at least we have affordable headphones that don’t look good.

The new Ear and Ear (a) are the third generation of AirPod clones from Nothing, resulting in a pair of mature products with competitive sound, pricing and user experience. From attractive cases that fit easily in your pocket to smaller, thoughtful design touches, these are great wireless earbuds to consider if you’re looking for a pair under $150.

Neither are innovative audio products (there are better headphones if you spend a little more, and plenty of comparable models), but they will more than satisfy almost anyone. They work well and look great; What more can you ask?

What is the difference?

The Nothing Ear costs $150 and the Nothing Ear (a) costs $100, following the “a” designation that Nothing uses on its cheaper Nothing Phone (2a) than the Nothing Phone (2). The company started with Nothing Ear (1) in 2021 and followed up with Nothing Ear (2) last year, so it’s confusing why the latest Nothing Ear isn’t called Ear (3).

The biggest physical difference between Nothing Ear and Nothing Ear (a) is the size of the earbuds, and the more expensive model includes wireless charging support in its carrying case. The Ear is identical in appearance to the 2023 Ear (2), but is slightly larger and heavier. The Ear(a) are smaller and lack the fancy processing of their more expensive sibling, but they come with fun bright yellow (or white or black, depending on your preference) accents on the case and earbuds.

Nothing Ear

Photography: Parker Hall

Both wireless earbuds come with three sizes of ear tips, with the medium one installed as standard. They fit me very well for the extremely average ear size, and the ear feels a little tighter and probably less suitable for anyone with smaller ears. The Ear (a) reached Goldilocks porridge territory in size, stability, and long-term comfort. I don’t mind using the larger, more feature-rich Ear, but if I had to choose based on comfort alone, the Ear (a) would take my money.

Inside the Ear (a) you get a less powerful chipset, but the headphones still feature the same level of noise cancellation, the same driver, and the same number of microphones for better calls as the Ear. The weaker chipset has one benefit: longer battery life. The Ear (a) can last up to 5.5 hours with active noise cancellation turned on, while the more expensive Ear lasts 5.2 hours. Another change? The Nothing Ear employs a different driver material, a form of ceramic, which is unusual for headphones, while the Ear(a) has more traditional polymers. I go into more detail about what this entails later.

nothing ear

Photography: Parker Hall

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