Nothing Ear (a) review: the perfect $100 replacement

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Nothing Ear (a) review: the perfect $100 replacement
Nothing surprised us this year by launching two sets of earbuds at the same time… and then, naming them kind of weird.

The flagship Nothing Ear buds now have no number attached to them, so good luck figuring out if you are buying the newest model. The Nothing Ear (a) we kind of get — the (a) moniker is slapped on the affordable models — like the Nothing Phone (2a).

The Nothing Ear (a) come at the $100 price point, directly replacing the Nothing Ear (1) — the buds that were available to buy up until now. The new model comes with a redesigned case, a fun yellow color option, and definitely a new sound.

Nothing Ear (a) in a nutshell:
  • 11 mm custom driver
  • Pinch controls
  • New Bass Enhance algorithm
  • Bass-heavy default sound
  • Noise cancelation / transparency OK at best
  • Yellow color is fun
  • Case is more compact, doesn't have wireless charging

Nothing Ear specs




Design and Comfort



Maintaining the distinctive transparent design that Nothing is known for, the Ear (a) earbuds continue to impress with their sleek and minimalistic aesthetic. The earbuds are lightweight and comfortable, making them suitable for extended use.

They come with three tip sizes in the box, as is standard, and we feel like most people will be able to get a fit from these. You can perform a “fit test” from the app to ensure there’s no sound leaking through.



The transparent stems house haptic squeeze controls — none of that capacitive touch shenanigans. And, just like with the flagship model, you can program different squeeze gestures for different actions — Pinch, Double Pinch, Triple Pinch, then there are Pinch and Hold, Pinch twice and Hold, on each stem can do a different thing.



The charging case is compact — certainly more so than the flagship Nothing Ear case — so it fits in pockets more easily.

Sound Quality




Out of the box, the Nothing Ear (a) earbuds have quite a bass-heavy sound. Not only is the new Bass Enhance algorithm on, but their general tuning is quite bottom-heavy.

Personally, the first thing I did was open the Nothing X app, turned off the Bass Enhance and pulled back the Bass from the EQ by -2. Then, they sound OK. Their soundstage is a bit narrower than on expensive models, and instruments don’t have a clear separation that pops and engages you.

But don’t get us wrong — they definitely sound much better than the original Nothing Ear (1), which they are directly replacing. And they sound pretty good for $100 earbuds, too.



Also, we get it — some people love bass. We can assure you that the Nothing Ear (a) can deliver deep, booming, crushing bass. The base EQ offers some sound customization, but you can’t access the new advanced EQ, which is exclusive to the flagship Ear models.

There’s also no personalized sound profile option — again, something you will find on the flagships. But that’s fine, if we ever use the personalized sound on the Nothing Ears, we generally have it dialed down for just a slight bump.

Noise Cancelation and Transparency



The active noise cancelation (ANC) on the Nothing Ear (a) is comparable to what we’ve seen in the Nothing Ear (2). It’s effective in most everyday environments, providing a decent level of noise reduction. Currently, the ANC drops off at random times, if you are moving through highly dynamic environments, but it will work solidly in, say, an office or a gym.

Transparency mode gets the job done — it’s a bit muffled, definitely tinny, but you can hear speech and orient yourself with sounds coming from the left or the right.
Battery Life

More or less the same as you’d find in competing products — the Nothing Ear (a) buds give you 4.5 hours of use with ANC on. The case can add 19 hours on top of that. With ANC off, you can get a total of 33 hours from the buds and case — the buds alone lasting a good 9.5 hours.

The case does not support wireless charging, so juicing them up is a bit more of a conscious decision — you won’t be just plopping those on a wireless charger, you have to connect them to a USB C cable to charge.

Conclusion



Overall, the Nothing Ear (a) offers impressive value for its $100 price tag. The sound is far from ear nirvana, but it’s not bad — no annoying frequencies poke out, and you can definitely rock out with your favorite tunes on those.

While it may lack some of the advanced features and the fine-tuned sound profile of the flagship Nothing Ear, it makes up for this with a stylish design, solid ANC, and a booming bass performance that can be adjusted to suit your preferences.

Then again, the Nothing Ear is $50 more, and it sounds much better in every category — more instrument separation, wider sound stage, more fun to listen to, and it supports the Advanced EQ for absolutely full customization.

Pros

  • Light, easy to wear
  • OK sound for $100
  • Multipoint - dual device connection

Cons

  • Nothing Ear sounds much better at $50 more
  • Basic EQ
  • No wireless charging
  • ANC can sometimes mess up

PhoneArena Rating:

7.0

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