Nothing introduced its first product the Nothing ear (1) TWS earbuds, in July 2021. The company was started by OnePlus founder Carl Pei and as he mentioned during the launch of his company, “It’s been a while since anything interesting happened in tech. It is time for a fresh breeze of change.”
That began a hype for something new in the tech scene and brought upon high expectations for its first product, the TWS earbuds.
This year, Digital Walker brought the ear (1) to the Philippines and we were given a pair to try for ourselves. Did it actually live up to the height or is it even worth it? Well, we’re here to share with you our experience with the new TWS earbuds from Nothing.
The box in itself is already quite unique. It is dominantly black with the earbud design on the top of the box in all its glory. On the side are the details of the TWS earbuds, while underneath are its specifications.
All the text is in the Nothing font adding even more familiarity to both the device and the company without adding too much to the box itself.
The overall design of the outer box is actually impressive, but it’s getting to the actual box that I wasn’t too much a fan of. The box has a peel tab before you get to the actual shiny silver box. This either leaves you to toss the outer box altogether and keep the silver box or store the torn outer box with the inner box slotted in.
I wish the outer box had a more ‘traditional’ sleeve design instead so you can store both the inner and outer box without destroying anything. However, it’s notable that the peel tab was easy to tear.
Inside the shiny silver inner box, you are greeted by the earbuds in the charging case in a black tray. Underneath it are the documentation, eartips, and braided USB-C cable. The last of which is good to see as you mostly see rubber cables.
All in all, it offers nothing new to offer as far as inclusions but I must commend the company for storing these in understated black sleeves of their own. Each is labeled, again with the Nothing font.
Design and Experience
With the Nothing ear (1) freed from its confinements, it was time to see the company’s first product in person. I, personally, was already impressed with its aesthetic in photos. However, it looks even better in person.
I opted for the white color option over the ‘newer’ black colorway. I just thought the original white color option just had more personality in the photos. And true enough, the transparent design on the earbuds’ stems and charging case just had its own personality.
The earbuds general design though is akin to other in-ear TWS earbuds out there with ear tips and all. However, it replaces the usually rounded stems with a squared-off design. This change, while seemingly small, fits the overall design much better. It also made the touch controls so much easier because it’s a flat surface.
Another thing that I appreciate with its design is that there isn’t much as far as branding goes on both the earbuds and the case. On the earbuds, you can find a small Nothing ear (1) with the iconic dotted font on the stems. By small, we mean you’ll only notice it if you’re pretty up close and personal to the earbuds.
Meanwhile, the case has text on the information underneath and text “ear (case)” on the top.
The earbuds themselves are incredibly light. Coming from the bulky Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds, the ear (1) felt like nothing in my ear. Putting them on was pretty easy and pretty secure once worn. The weight also made it pretty comfortable to use even with long use.
The charging case pretty much has all that you can ask for in a TWS earbuds charging case, a charging port, a button for Bluetooth pairing, and a light on the top of the case for battery status. Let’s not forget that the charging case supports wireless charging.
One thing with the transparent case with the white option though is that you’re bound to see the dings and scratches eventually. It does come with a plastic cover on the top and bottom though to you can opt to keep than on. [I know I will.]
The Nothing ear (1) is equipped with 11.6mm drivers tuned by Teenage Engineering.
The drivers seem to offer more of the mid-frequency which helps boost guitars, pianos, and vocal tracks. This was pretty good with most of the music that I listened to like K-Pop tracks like Nayeon’s Pop!, J-Hope’s More, and Dreamcatcher’s Maison, to name a few as well as other alternative tracks.
Its bass isn’t the most powerful but it’s enough to give tracks a good oomph. However, if you want a little more bass in your audio, you can use the More Bass preset in the ear (1) app EQ options.
As a fan of bass-heavy earphones, I actually found the bass in this pretty solid while still offering a pretty vibrant sound. I hardly used the bass boost preset but I’m glad it’s there in case I’m in the mood for more thumping in my ears.
Additionally, its soundstage is pretty wide and allowed me to enjoy songs from Heilung and clipping.
Active Noise Cancellation
The ear (1) features Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation with Light and Maximum options. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the two so I stuck to Maximum. If you need to hear your surroundings or need to talk to someone, you can also switch to Transparent mode or turn off ANC altogether.
Switching between the three modes is easier from the ear (1) software. Meanwhile, there are touch controls on the stems to switch between ANC and Transparent modes which is handy when you just need to quickly talk to someone.
Noise Cancellation is pretty good. It was enough to block the clicks from my mouse and my Gateron Blue Switch keyboard, the electric fan, and the fans on my PC.
Despite being pretty new, the ear (1) software is pretty good. It not only informs you of the battery status of your earbuds and charging case, but also helps with quick pairing.
Upon connecting the ear (1), you get to see the earbuds with the respective battery underneath and two buttons at the bottom – Hear and Touch.
Touch allows you to change the touch controls on both earbuds.
Meanwhile, Hear allows you to choose your ANC level as well as the Equalizer. However, the Equalizer only offers four preset sounds, Balanced, More Treble, More Bass, and Voice. I found myself using More Bass or Balanced EQ modes more than the others.
The software also has In-Ear Detection, Latency Mode, and Find My Bud.
Overall, I think the ear (1) software is pretty straightforward and that’s a good thing. You don’t have to go through so many menus to find what you need. However, I wish there were more EQ customization options.
It is the first iteration of the software afterall, so there’s definitely a lot of room to add new features and tweak it.
The company boasts that you can get up to 5 hours on a single full charge on the earbuds and up to a total of 34 hours with the charging with Active Noise Cancellation on.
Based on my experience at max volume, I got around 4.5 hours with ANC on. I opted to just run with ANC on all the time as it is the first time I got earphones that had ANC.
The case, on the other hand, gave me around 3-5 charges which were enough to get me through a little more than a day before having to charge the case.
Charging on the case and charging the case itself was pretty quick. It also features wireless charging but I couldn’t test the speeds of that.
Product shots courtesy of Rianne Ronquillo
I think what really makes the Nothing ear (1) stand out in the saturated TWS earbud market is its transparent design. It’s not the most unique sounding earbuds nor does it blow out the park as far as ANC goes. It holds its own.
I think the best way I can describe the ear (1) is it’s a jack of all trades, master of design. This isn’t necessarily bad, especially not by my book and for a first product from the company. It has a lot of features that I think make the PHP 5,990 price tag pretty reasonable.
However, if you’re looking for an audio experience that stands out or will just blow your mind, I think this isn’t for you.