Nothing Ear (2) review: wow!

Nothing Ear (2) review
It has been more than one and a half years since Nothing released its very first product — the earphones Nothing Ear (1). Back then, they launched for $99 and, eventhough we had some complaints about their sound, they were a very good value proposition in the wireless earbud market.

Much has changed since then. Nothing launched the Phone (1), then another set of earbuds — the Nothing Ear Stick —, which took the $99 price slot and pushed the Nothing Ear (1) up to $149. And at that point, the latter became harder to recommend.

Now we have the successor — the Nothing Ear (2), which is here to improve on the formula of the original and earn its rightful place in the $150 price range. And improve upon it, it did.

This update isn't just a product refresh, it went straight for the pain points that reviewers and the community were complaining about and the result is an excellent new set of earbuds!

Nothing Ear (2) in a nutshell:

  • 11.6 dynamic driver — same size, but custom built; larger cavities in the buds
  • Touch controls have been replaced with pinch controls
  • Custom EQ is now available, but the star of the show is the new "Personal Sound profile"
  • Noise cancellation / transparency still not the best, but get the job done

Nothing Ear (2) specs

On paper, they look more or less the same as before, with the added convenience of dual device connection and support for the high-res LHDC codec. It's also worth noting that the drivers, despite being the same in size, are now equipped with stronger magnets. And a new dual-chamber design allows for more air to move around them as they vibrate.

Nothing Ear (2) design and colors

When it comes to the earbuds, Nothing has chosen to stick to the same design. The white bud with the transparent stem — it's all back in the same shape and size. So, we find them to be as comfortable as before, no complaints there.

The case they sit in has definitely changed, though. Now, it's the same concept as before — the overall transparent design with the dimple on top are back. But the case itself is ever so slightly smaller than the previous model and its corners are sharper, giving us a more defined feel. The base on the bottom now has a white matte cover, instead of the easy-to-scratch gloss from before. It's still not the most compact case out there, but we appreciate the slight improvement in dimensions while the character remains untouched.

Back to the buds, the one major change you will find is that they are operated by squeezing the stems (Nothing calls it "pinch" — same potato). So, by default, one squeeze is play / pause, two times for next, three times for previous. A squeeze and hold toggles ANC / Transparency. And, if you wish, you can customize a 2-squeeze and hold gesture to adjust volume, for example.

Three tip sizes in the box will ensure you have a better chance for a proper fit, and the companion app will let you run a quick "fit test" to see if you are using the proper tips.

We really are glossing over the design section here, but we do wish to note that we still find the transparent stems to be really pretty to look at — it's a crazy feat to build those with no goopy glue or unsightly elements showing from underneath the plastic casing. Out in the real world — everyone will think your earbuds just have black stems, they do need an up-close inspection to be fully appreciated.

As for fit and feel — as ever, my ears are a great test for that as they are super-picky when it comes to in-ear buds. Here, I get wearing discomfort at about 2 hours in, and fatigue or dull pains in the ears at about 2.5 - 3 hours in, which is very good by my standards. The buds tend to stay in place just fine, but will squeeze out of my ears if I do extra grimacing — most buds do, but these are among the models that are quickest to get displaced. If you are an individual that typically doesn't have problems with in-ear buds, I imagine these will fit just fine for you. If you are like me — these still have a high chance of staying in your ears, but no promises.

Nothing Ear (2) sound quality

The old Nothing Ear (1) weren't exceptional in terms of sound, but it did stood out that they were "brave". Not trying to hide their faults behind a boomy bass or an exaggerated V-curve, you could tell that Nothing was trying to achieve something with the Ear (1), but just didn't quite get it.

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Well, the Nothing Ear (2) seems to be "it". The sound from these buds is oozing with character, which kind of took us by surprise upon first test. Their bass seems to be slightly stronger than last time, but it still feels very controlled and defined, and at no point boomy. 

The midrange feels saturated and rich, especially when we approach the 2 kHz range. And this is why these feel like they have a lot of character — other big name buds on the market usually cut the mids and definitely don't risk playing around the 2 kHz range, as it's very finnicky to get right and not sound fatiguing. Nothing decided to explore this particular spot and the payoff is that you get a lot more detail from your music — specifically if it involves guitars or dirty synths.

As for the high range, they roll off pretty quickly — we find that, by default, the Nothing Ear (2) has less sibilance than other big name buds out there. But don't despair, since these begin to truly shine once you start tuning them to taste.

There is no support for Android Spatial Audio and whether or not that is a con depends on what you think about Spatial Audio. This reviewer doesn't really think much of it, especially since its implementation on Android devices is not... amazing currently. Still, it would've been nice for a flagship earphone product to come prepared to support the tech — you don't buy new earbuds every few months or so! Right?

Tuning Nothing Ear (2) with the Nothing X app

The Nothing Ear (1) app has now been updated and evolved to be called Nothing X — owners of the Nothing Phone (1) have probably already seen the update. Obviously, this is slowly going to transform into the one-app hub for all future Nothing products.

So, within the Nothing X, you can further tune the Ear (2) to taste. In here, you can run a "Ear tip fit test" and a "Personalised ANC" test — basically, they play a sound and use the internal microphones of the buds to figure out if they fit right and how exactly to tackle noise cancellation in your particular case.

In this app, you can also get a Personal Sound Profile. Basically, set aside 5 minutes to have the app test your hearing at various frequency ranges. Then, you can apply a personalized EQ curve and you can choose its intentsity.

A lot of modern earphones offer this personalized experience — it's a reality of life that our individual ear shapes will always have a unique EQ curve, and with age (and going to tons of loud shows), we lose some high end. But I rarely end up using such personalizations — since most earbuds already have an aggressive V-shaped EQ, any boosting of the top end seems redundant.

Well, the Nothing Ear (2) have rich and detailed mids and a rolled-off high end, so a slight boost in the latter does absolute wonders for these earbuds. Details remain rich and clear, and the sibilance can be controlled thanks to the fact that you can choose exactly how much "personal correction" you want to apply. If you happen to be sensitive to that 2 kHz hump we spoke of before, it will be toned down to just the right amount, since the app will now know how your hearing is in that range.

Typically, I prefer to have a nice custom EQ so I can set my sound to taste, but the Personalized Sound here hits the spot just right. Still, the Nothing X app does provide a Custom EQ (only for Ear (2) users), but it's kind of quirky and not very precise. It gives you control over 3 areas — Bass, Mids, Highs — and that's it. Furthermore, if you boost any of the bands, it also lowers the others — they all react to each other like an old tube guitar amp. If you wanted to experiment with the custom EQ, we would recommend trying to get results by cutting undesired bands, before resorting to boosting.

Nothing Ear (2) noise cancellation and transparency

The active noise cancellation here is still not amazing. It's not as buggy as before — we don't get weird cut outs or pop-ins of noise — but it also lets voices and mid-rangey grinding sounds through. Still, if you were to put these earphones in and play music at a comfortable volume, you will drown out the outside world with no problem.

The ANC does have 3 steps of intensity — from Low to High — but, as is common, when you go for a High level, you get a drop in bass in your music. So, we kept the ANC to Low, but you can also opt for an Auto mode, where the earbuds will switch between modes based on the ambient noise around you.

Similarly, the transparency mode will not wow you. It gets the job done and you will be able to hear and identify speech and other sounds in your environment. However, it's very noticeably "not clear" — with a distinct rolloff in the high end and a honky sound to it. Not a big deal — as we said, it works fine, but we have heard clearer transparency in other buds (but maybe not at that price point).

Nothing Ear (2) vs AirPods Pro?

Apple's AirPods Pro 2 do sound excellent and have a similarly pleasing EQ curve. However, they do have more presence in the top end, which is perfectly fine for some users, but sounds a bit too bright for others. Unfortunately, you have way less customization options with the AirPods Pro 2 than you have with the Nothing Ear (2).

However, when it comes to noise cancellation and transparency, the AirPods Pro 2 win, hands down.

The squeeze / pinch controls feel slightly more satisfying with their feedback on AirPods Pro 2. But on the Nothing Ear (2) you have an extra gesture — double pinch and hold — which you can assign to volume control, and it's really nice to have.

Furthermore, the price of the Nothing Ear (2) is hard to beat, especially with how good they sound.

Nothing Ear (2) battery life

Nothing shocking or disappointing here. With ANC off, you should get about 6 hours from the buds and an extra 29 hours from the case (about 35 hrs total). With ANC on, you get about 10 hours less, and dual device connect will drain them further. However, with all these extras on during our testing, we didn't really feel like their batteries are weak. They can easily give us 20 - 24 hours total, with everything on.

Thanks to the case supporting wireless charging, we didn't really get to a point where we were out of juice. We would just occasionally pop the case on a wireless pad — either when listening to music or when getting home and winding down for the evening.

Nothing Ear (2) summary

We are happy to report that we are quite impressed with the improvements here. These just don't sound like other earbuds in their price category — or beyond — and we mean that in a good way. If you are in the market for new wireless earbuds, and if your budget allows a $150 spend, we would definitely recommend these. Fit, comfort, sound quality, and character — they are all there.

We would not recommend these if really good noise cancellation is a priority. Unfortunately, while they do provide sufficient ANC, you can't rely on them as earplugs where you just "silence" the external world without playing music.


  • Prominent midrange for great details and clarity
  • The Nothing X app fine-tunes the sound for excellent results
  • The clean, transparent design is subtle beauty
  • New squeeze controls improve interaction


  • Noise cancellation and transparency mode are not the best
  • No Android Spatial Audio
  • Case looks cool but boxy design makes it less compact / harder to stow in small pockets

PhoneArena Rating:


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