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Nothing Ear 1 in hand
Chase Bernath / Android Authority
aa2020 recommended

Nothing Ear 1 review: Was the hype all for nothing?

If you don't need the latest and greatest, the Nothing Ear 1 are great true wireless earbuds.
November 21, 2022
aa2020 recommended

Nothing Ear 1

The latest entrant into the true wireless earbud market, Nothing strips away all the fancy coating to deliver the essentials for only $149. Extremely light and comfortable, the Nothing Ear 1 also sound good and have decent noise-cancelling and a great microphone.

What we like

Multiple noise-cancellation modes
Auto play-pause
IPX4 rating
Fast and wireless charging
Extremely light and comfortable

What we don't like

No Bluetooth multipoint or aptX/LDAC codec support
Minimal active noise-cancellation
aa2020 recommended

Nothing Ear 1

The latest entrant into the true wireless earbud market, Nothing strips away all the fancy coating to deliver the essentials for only $149. Extremely light and comfortable, the Nothing Ear 1 also sound good and have decent noise-cancelling and a great microphone.

The saturated true wireless earbuds market has a new competitor in the ring — Nothing. Utilizing increasingly affordable wireless earbud tech, the company promises a lot with its inaugural product. You get active noise-cancellation (ANC), a water-resistant build, and software support all for under $150.

Started by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, Nothing has backing from tons of big players in the tech space, from Google Ventures to Casey Neistat, Tony Fadell, and Kevin Lin. We put the Nothing Ear 1 through their paces to determine whether or not the earbuds live up to the hype.

This Nothing Ear 1 review comes from the audio experts at our sister site SoundGuys. Check out their in-depth take on the Nothing Ear 1.

Update, November 2022: This review was updated to address the price increase of the Nothing Ear 1 from $99 to $149, add a FAQ section addressing the launch of the Nothing Ear Stick, and include information about the renaming of the Nothing Ear 1 app to the Nothing X app and its inclusion of additional features.

Who should buy Nothing Ear 1?

  • iPhone users who don’t want to splurge on the AirPods Pro should get the Nothing Ear 1 instead. The earbuds feature active noise-cancellation (ANC) and a strong AAC connection to Apple devices for less than the price of the AirPods Pro.
  • Minimalists will appreciate the translucent design, as well as the fact that these earbuds just work without overly complicated bells and whistles.
  • Gym rats will appreciate the comfort and durability of the Nothing Ear 1. With an IPX4 rating, the earbuds can handle sweat without a problem.

What’s it like to use Nothing Ear 1?

Nothing Ear 1 putting in ear
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Let’s talk about that transparent design Nothing has made such a fuss about. Both the earbuds and charging case are wrapped in transparent plastic to showcase the technology and Nothing’s transparent philosophy. However, for either practical or proprietary reasons, most of the internals are still hidden. Nothing also added a black option in December of 2021. This iteration is still transparent, but of course (what could be seen of) the internals is now much less conspicuous.

With the help of colored dots to identify each earbud, the buds magnetically snap into the case. A small divot in the case holds them in place, so you don’t have to worry about the individual earbuds falling out.

Learn more: What makes a good set of in-ears?

If you’ve seen the AirPods Pro before, the Nothing Ear 1 may trigger some déjà vu. A short, flat stem protrudes from the driver of each earbud, and the earbuds weigh almost exactly the same as their fruitful counterpart at only 4.7g. Nothing also includes three different sizes of ear tips and the same IPX4 water resistance as the AirPods Pro.

Nothing Ear 1 in case outside
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Android users benefit from quick pairing with the Nothing Ear 1, with the initial connection as simple as opening the charging case near your device. iPhone users have to press the pairing button for a couple of seconds and manually pair the earbuds within Bluetooth settings.

Touch controls located on either earbud control music playback, as well as activating ANC or transparency mode. In-ear detection also automatically pauses audio when the earbuds are removed from the ear, and resumes playback when the earbuds are put back in.

Is the Nothing X app good?

In November 2022, Nothing renamed the Nothing Ear 1 app to the Nothing X app. A crucial update to this iteration of the companion app is the inclusion of a custom EQ. That means you can tailor your listening experience to suit your preferences a bit more fully than EQ presets let you do.

There are still only two intensity options for the ANC, or you can choose to disable ANC completely or enable transparency mode. The transparency mode uses onboard microphones to pump in external noise to your ears. It’s essentially the exact opposite of noise-cancelling and is useful for athletes or commuters who need to be aware of their surroundings.

Nothing focused on simplicity above all else with the Ear 1 earbuds.

You can now customize the touch controls on each bud a little more. That includes skipping tracks via triple taps and set touch-and-hold to control noise-cancelling settings or handle incoming phone calls.

Within the app settings, you’ll also find options to disable in-ear detection, locate lost earbuds, and install the latest firmware updates. Overall, the Nothing X app makes for a useful companion to the earbuds.

How well good is the Nothing Ear 1 noise-cancelling?

Nothing Ear 1 in ears outside
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Unsurprisingly, the Nothing Ear 1 earbuds don’t block out noise as well as premium headsets like the Sony WF-1000XM4. Still, the inclusion of any ANC at all is a welcome addition on sub-$100 true wireless earbuds. Active noise cancellation reduces ambient environmental noise, so you don’t have to crank up the volume to hear your music clearly. This improves sound quality in noisy environments, while also protecting your ears.

A good fit from properly sized ear tips will provide good passive isolation against high frequencies and incidental noises, like the clang of pots and pans. Active noise cancellation, on the other hand, targets low-frequency ambient noises such as an airplane engine or AC unit.

Nothing Ear 1 ANC Chart
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Three hybrid mics on the Nothing Ear 1 earbuds measure sound both inside and outside the ear canal to cancel out noise. With ANC set to maximum, the earbuds attenuate frequencies from 100-1,000Hz to sound up to 50% quieter. You won’t notice a huge difference when toggling ANC on and off but it’s better than nothing at all.

Related: The best noise-cancelling true wireless earbuds

How strong is the Bluetooth connection on Nothing Ear 1?

Nothing Ear 1 app and earbuds in ears
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

The Nothing Ear 1 rock Bluetooth 5.2 with support for AAC and SBC codecs, which ensures a good connection to nearly any device. While AAC is often unreliable on Android, it provides stable, high-quality playback on Apple devices. Since the Nothing Ear 1 doesn’t have any high-quality Bluetooth codecs such as aptX and LDAC, Android users may want to force SBC streaming for the most consistent experience.

Do the Nothing Ear 1 sound good?

Nothing Ear 1 frequency response chart HATS SoundGuys consumer curve V2

Most people will enjoy the sound of Nothing Ear 1. As seen in the chart above, the frequency response of the earbuds (cyan) closely follows the SoundGuys consumer curve (pink), which we posit as ideal for most listeners.

Lows, mids, and highs

Unlike many other affordable earbuds, Nothing Ear 1 don’t emphasize bass notes to the point of overpowering the rest of the music. At 0:57 of Bad Habits by Ed Sheeran, the vocal and guitar are both loud and clear even as the kick drum and bassline play concurrently.

Nothing Ear 1 earbuds on a table
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

The 11.6mm dynamic drivers inside each earbud boost mid frequencies relative to our house curve. This helps vocals to stand out from the mix, such as in Stay by The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber, where both vocals are heard clearly alongside the track’s instrumental underscore. This boost also brings out details in the instrumental, as the reverb and delay on the synth are still heard even as the beat comes in at 0:22.

Slightly emphasized high frequencies can be perceived as increased detail and clarity. On Beggin’ by Maneskin, the cymbals and hi-hats are well defined throughout the verse.

Mid frequencies around 500Hz sound about 50% louder than sub-bass frequencies around 50Hz. If you’re craving some extra bass, the bass boost EQ setting adds a noticeable amount of volume to frequencies below 200Hz.

How long does the battery last?

Nothing Ear 1 in case in pocket
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Nothing promised four hours and 30 minutes of battery life with ANC turned on, and six hours with ANC off. In our testing, the earbuds lasted four hours and 28 minutes with constant playback at 75dB(SPL) and ANC set to maximum. This lives up to the 4.5 hours of battery life that Nothing claims, and is in line with battery performance from competitors such as the AirPods and AirPods Pro.

Related: Let’s talk true wireless earbuds and their battery life

The charging case provides 34 hours of total playback and is recharged via USB-C or wireless charging. Just 10 minutes of charging the case provides eight hours of battery life, while 10 minutes of charging the earbuds nets 60 minutes of playback.

How good is the microphone on Nothing Ear 1?

Nothing Ear 1 in ear
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

The three high-definition microphones onboard Nothing Ear 1 make it serviceable for conference calls or taking phone calls on the go. The protruding stem design of the earbuds places a microphone close to your mouth for loud and clear vocal quality.

Nothing Ear 1 review: The verdict

Nothing Ear 1 in case
Chase Bernath / Android Authority

Anyone seeking affordable true wireless earbuds should consider Nothing Ear 1. In its first attempt, Nothing manages to deliver a more complete pair of true wireless earbuds than nearly any other manufacturer, even though they’re now $149, up from the original $99 (the company cites cost increases). However, it’s still worth it to look at some true wireless earbuds under $200 before making your final decision.

Great sound, decent noise-cancelling, and a comfortable fit make the Nothing Ear 1 a success when it comes to the most important earbud elements. Throw in some extras like an IPX4 rating, auto play/pause, and wireless charging, and Nothing Ear 1 delivers exceptional bang for your buck.

Anyone looking for affordable true wireless earbuds should consider Nothing Ear 1.

Missing from the earbuds are some high-end features like Bluetooth multipoint, aptX support, and the ability to change up the touch controls beyond a few tweaks. Still, most casual listeners won’t notice or care about their absence, though, especially in sub-$200 earbuds.

These aren’t the best earbuds we’ve ever tested, but they do make for a great option for those on a budget. Maybe Nothing really can be better than something.

Nothing Ear 1
Nothing Ear 1
Adjustable ANC • Loud and clear microphone • IPX4 rating
True wireless earbuds that pack all the essentials in an affordable package.
The Nothing Ear 1 buds are super comfortable, sound good, and feature decent noise-cancelling abilities. Nothing's signature transparent design philosophy reflects in the form factor of the earbuds, and you get all of this for a very comfortable price.

What are some alternatives to Nothing Ear 1?

Nothing Ear Stick inside the case, vertically standing on a desk with plant and guitar
Rita El Khoury / Android Authority

Nothing itself makes the Nothing Ear Stick ($99), which come packed in a striking cosmetic-like tube-shaped case. Crucially, these are unsealed buds, which means there’s no isolation or ANC to be found. They are comfortable, though, and they sound good, along with incorporating a good mic in our experience. You still don’t get any other Bluetooth codecs than SBC or AAC, however. If you want something slightly cheaper than the Ear 1 buds and don’t mind an unsealed fit, they’ll make for a good choice.

The 1More Comfobuds Pro ($69) are a solid pair of true wireless earbuds that can match nearly anything that Nothing Ear 1 has to offer. Customization is even more limited on these earbuds and there’s no wireless charging support, but they now retail for even less than the Nothing Ear 1.

There’s also the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen) ($119), which you can snag for just over $100 if you forego wireless charging for the case. These buds give you ANC, many fit options, and an IPX4 rating so they’ll be fine at the gym, to boot.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro ($45.99), which have a robust companion app with tons of customization offerings. Even the earbuds are more customizable, with nine included ear tip sizes and a built-in ear tip test to ensure a good fit.

Samsung Galaxy device owners should also check out the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149.99). The Scalable Samsung codec, reverse wireless charging, and Spotify integration all deliver a great experience for Galaxy phone owners.

Frequently asked questions about the Nothing Ear 1

The Nothing Ear 1 and AirPods Pro are both true wireless earbuds with ANC. Apple’s earbuds are primarily designed for iOS devices, while Nothing’s offering is a bit more cross-platform friendly. Notably, the AirPods Pro cost more than the Nothing Ear 1.

Yep. Nothing raised the price of the Nothing Ear 1 in 2022 to $149 from $99. This happened at the same time as the arrival of the Nothing Ear Stick, which are now the company’s $99 earbud offering.

The Nothing Ear Stick are cheaper than the Nothing Ear 1 (as of 2022). They have a cosmetics-inspired charging case and don’t have ANC. The Stick earbuds also have larger drivers and “Bass Lock” technology, which measures lost bass response due to the fit of the buds and compensates accordingly. If you like bassy listening experiences, this feature might especially appeal to you.