The Nothing ears (1) are finally on sale, and we have been able to verify if they live up to expectations.
And boy were the expectations high. Nothing is one of the technology companies that has aroused the most strong emotions in social networks, even before presenting its first product; The ear (1) are ‘True Wireless’ type wireless headphones, that is, direct competition from the AirPods Pro, but per slo 99 euros.
To understand the ‘hype’ generated by this company, it must be remembered that it was founded by Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus along with Pete Lau. In the same way that OnePlus was born as an alternative to the big ones, capable of offering the same but cheaper, Nothing arrives to rekindle that flame, focusing on an original design.
Unique Wireless Headphones
That is what distinguishes these ear (1) from the vast number of wireless headphones on the market: their design. From the beginning, the idea of Nothing was to create ‘invisible’ technological products, integrated into our lives as if they weren’t there. In practice, that assumes that the company’s first product is ‘transparent’ or, at least, as transparent as it can be given current constraints.
One thing is clear: there are no other headphones like these. If originality is your priority, look no further; Ironically, the ear (1) manage to attract more attention despite the use of transparencies, or precisely because of that.
The charging case reflects this philosophy very well. It is made of translucent plastic, so we can see the headphones resting inside, something that we cannot say about any other model. The internal components are hidden in a white frame, so the whole thing gives a very curious ethereal feeling.
Still, Nothing has not been able to make the functional parts of the case disappear, such as the hinge, the USB-C charging port or the magnets that guarantee that it does not open by accident. Once we open it to take the headphones, we will notice a very curious detail: the magnet that keeps them in place and the charging contact are in different places, when they are normally together. That implies that, at first, you need to be a little careful when putting the headphones in the case, making sure that the metal parts on the ‘pistil’ are in contact with those in the case.
Are those small details that you notice when you have the case in hand, in those moments when you have nothing to do and are just enjoying the music. It is also the details that attract the attention of those who see you with these headphones, which generate conversation and interest.
So I can’t help but be a bit disappointed with the headphones themselves; They have little to do with the prototypes and advancements that Nothing published in their day, and they are more like conventional headphones, although with a good design.
To begin with, they are not ‘transparent’ technically speaking; rather they are mostly white, with the black pistil covered in transparent plastic. Carl Pei explained in his day that working with transparent plastic involves more difficulties than one could imagine, and there is no doubt that that, and the costs, has affected the final product, but honestly, I could not care less.
The design of the ear (1) is exceptional and original, full of peculiarities such as the red or white dot that differentiates the right or left earphone respectively, or the digital screen printing that runs through the pistil and that we also find in the charging case, and even in the product box. It looks like a digital screen, and although it obviously is not, it is another detail to appreciate.
The ergonomics of the ear (1) are also outstanding; They have reminded me a lot of the AirPods Pro, for the way they rest in the ear, unlike other headphones that ‘plug’ them. Still, the isolation is correct and they weigh very little, 4.7 grams each. It is very easy to get used to wearing them. In return, Nothing has sacrificed battery, since they last only 5 hours, although the charging case makes up for it by providing 34 hours of use.
Lots of technology at this price
If the Nothing ears (1) hadn’t brought active noise cancellation, I wouldn’t have complained; for 99 euros, many of its rivals in this price range do not have it, and that without counting on this very modern design.
It is a very pleasant surprise that the ear (1) have built-in noise cancellation. Be careful, it is not the best I have tried, as it is unable to completely eliminate the noise from the environment, but at least it is present and the best of all is that we can configure it thanks to the official app; It is there where we will find the option of putting the noise cancellation to ‘maximum’, or opting for a ‘light’ mode, which generates less strange sounds when trying to eliminate noise.
We also have a transparency mode, which enhances external sound. Finally, from the app we can configure the touch controls, integrated in the upper part of the pistil, in addition to using an equalizer to adapt the sound to our tastes.
However much we hit that EQ, it’s impossible to get around the limitations of these headphones. I want to clarify that the Nothing ear (1) not bad, but not great either; if I had to define the sound with a word, it would be ‘harmless’. They won’t thrill or shock us, but they won’t destroy our favorite tracks either. The built-in microphones follow the same vein, and are acceptable for one-off calls.
It gives the feeling that the 11.6mm ‘drivers’ could have been pushed a bit more, and that Nothing has not done it because it lacked power or because the battery was even worse than now. Whatever the reason, it seems to me that they are not fully exploited.
As for audio codecs, they are compatible with AAC as well as SBC for clarity in sound, but they are not compatible with high resolution codecs, although I did not expect it at this price.
That is the key to Nothing ear (1), the price. No matter how you look at it, 99 euros is very cheap for what is offered: a design more typical of ‘premium’ products, an originality that is appreciated, and active noise cancellation.
They are not the headphones that I would recommend if we are looking for good sound in this price range; the Jabra Elite 3 are better in that regard, but they do not have noise cancellation or such a unique design.
If you are looking for cheap and complete wireless headphones, the Nothing ear (1) should be at the top of your list.