Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

Ivan, 26 May 2024

Nothing's Ear line of earbuds was an instant bestseller thanks to its semi-transparent design and Nothing's elite marketing but the product's prowess is more than surface-deep.

Having used the Nothing Ear (2) extensively since their launch, this reviewer can vouch that these are among the most comfortable earbuds out there, and they sound pretty great too.

So naturally, I was curious about the new ones. Meet the Nothing Ear and Ear (a) - the company's new two-pronged assault on the booming wireless earbud market.

The Nothing Ear is the flagship model, coming in at $149/£129/€149 (matching the Ear (2)). This means the Nothing Ear replaces the Ear (2), which replaced the Ear (1). It's a confusing naming scheme that will surely become even more so next year when Nothing will need to name the Ear's successor - Ear (2025) or some such will probably need to be used.

The Ear (a), in contrast, comes in at a more affordable $99/£99/€99. Both buds ship with the same retail package with S, M, and L-sized ear tips and a USB-C cable.

The Ear and Ear (2) have the same package The Ear and Ear (2) have the same package
The Ear and Ear (2) have the same package

You can have both the Ear and Ear (a) in Black and White, and the (a) comes in this fun yellow color with DHL vibes. The cases are a bit different - the Ear packs an identical case to the Ear (2), while the Ear (a) comes in a smaller case that lacks wireless charging.

Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

Both cases have a built-in 500mAh battery, while each bud has a 46mAh battery. The cases have USB-C ports for fast charging - Nothing advertises 10 hours of listening with ANC off in just 10 minutes on the cable - and the aforementioned 2.5W wireless charging on the Ear. The Ear case is IP55 resistant, while the Ear (a)'s only complies with IPX2, so you shouldn't drop either in the pool.

Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

So, what's the same and what's different? Both models are identical in size and have the same tips and 11mm drivers. The flagship Nothing Ear's driver has a ceramic diaphragm to the (a) PMI and TPU for superior richness, clarity, and sound accuracy. The Ear also supports LHDC 5.0 (1 Mbps, 24-bit/192kHz) and LDAC (990 Kbps, 24-bit/96kHz) for higher quality Bluetooth streaming, whereas the Ear (a) makes do with just LDAC.

Ear Ear (a)
driver 11mm 11mm
diaphragm Ceramic PMI + TPU
ANC 45dB 45dB
battery buds 46mAh 46mAh
battery case 500mAh 500mAh
battery life + ANC 5.2 hours / 24 hours 5.5 hours / 24.5 hours
battery life - ANC 8.5 hours / 40.5 hours 9.5 hours / 42.5 hours
charging USB-C + 2.5W wireless USB-C
IP rating IP54 buds/IP55 case IP54 buds/IPX2 case
LHDC 5.0 yes no
LDAC yes yes
Bluetooth 5.3 5.3
Price $149 / 129 GBP / 149 EUR $99 / 99 GBP / 99 EUR

Both Ear and Ear (a) have active noise cancellation up to 45dB - an improvement on paper over Ear (2)'s 40dB, but all three models support Bluetooth 5.3.

Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

The Nothing X app is the place to configure the buds's sound, their controls, and carry out software updates. Both models had a couple of updates while we were testing them.

Each bud' stem supports pinch gestures. They work great and never trigger by accident - something we can't say for stemless earbuds, where you need to touch the bud itself.

The Nothing X app The Nothing X app
The Nothing X app

The Nothing X app is more sophisticated for the Ear than the Ear (a). There's an 8-band equalizer that you can set yourself, along with the Simple options found on the (a) as well.

Another Ear-exclusive, which leverages the ceramic diaphragm is the personal sound profile. It's an upscaler based on your personal hearing profile, which the app determines by giving you a number of sound tests at different frequencies to gauge your sound profile. It then adjusts EQ values in real time to tailor the music to your profile.

You have a choice of three settings - Softer, Recommended, and Richer, and you can adjust the intensity of the profile with a 0-100% slider.

Tuning the sound on the Nothing Ear Tuning the sound on the Nothing Ear
Tuning the sound on the Nothing Ear

The Nothing Ear (a) gets a basic equalizer where you can choose between the preset Balanced, More Bass, More Treble, and Voice, or create a custom profile by adjusting sliders for Mids, Bass, and Treble. We think you should really have the same extended EQ on the Ear (a), sans the Personal Sound Profile.

Barebones tuning on the Ear (a) Barebones tuning on the Ear (a)
Barebones tuning on the Ear (a)

Finally, the Ear and Ear (a) have a built-in ChatGPT on the go, which you can use with a pinch, but it requires that you have a Phone (1), Phone (2), or a Phone (2a).

Sound quality and battery life

Before we talk quality, we have to say that the Ear and Ear (a), just like the Ear (2) before them, are among the most comfortable buds this reviewer has ever had on. However, part of the reason is the loose fit.

No matter which ear tips you choose, the Nothing Ear buds fit a bit loose. It's not a snug fit like on the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 or the Sony WF-1000XM5. That's not to say that the buds will fall off, they sit very securely, they simply don't create a true vacuum with your ear the way other buds do.

This means that your ears don't hurt after long hours of using the Nothing Ear, but it also means the buds don't create as much noise isolation as other buds.

Headphone fit is a very personal thing, but this reviewer is happy with the looser fit because it's more comfortable.

Active noise cancellation is very good when dealing with constant sound, though not impressive in a quiet office environment. It's a bit let down by the poor passive isolation. We can't say we noticed a difference to the Ear (2) when testing side by side.

ANC on earbuds these days can only go so far - aside from outliers such as the Sony WF-1000XM5, which has tighter-fitting foam tips.

A word on battery life. We got around 4 hours with ANC turned on and volume at 100% on the Ear and about 25 minutes more on the Ear (a).

Okay, sound quality. The Nothing Ear is a classy-sounding product. There's a lot of volume on tap, even in the default setting. Going full 100% is impressively clean, with no distortion, but the higher frequencies come out a little too strong, with an over-boosted presence and brilliance, which easily leads to fatigue with longer sessions.

We played around with the EQ and managed to reel those in, which reveals a balanced and potent soundstage. Bass is very good and the ceramic drivers can take a lot of it - you can boost with confidence that it won't overwhelm and muffle the rest of the sound. ANC helps here, adding a feel of isolation.

The Nothing Ear is a clear step up from the Nothing Ear (2), despite the slight reduction in driver size (11mm vs 11.6mm). It has a more dynamic sound with fuller, stronger volume, and the bass is boomier. It's simply more sophisticated and more powerful.

Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

The Ear (a) is a little muffled compared to the Ear. It doesn't sound as crisp and is around 10% to 15% quieter, though its volume isn't insufficient in isolation - the Ear is simply very loud.

Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

Let's talk about the Personal Sound Profile on the Nothing Ear. It's a very impressive feature but one that's not for everyone. It upscales the already big sound on the Ear to another level. At 100% effect strength, it's just overwhelming and leads to ear fatigue in a matter of minutes. But the amount of volume you gain, without distortion is very, very impressive.

However, the feature isn't for everyone. This reviewer found it overly synthetic and too artificial. It devoids music of its genuine studio quality and makes it feel made in a lab. The feature practically eliminates the baseline oomph from the lower frequencies, adding to the artificial sound, and you get some hissing and digital noise at the end of songs. Try it and see how it fits, but I'll reiterate - it's very impressive, especially on vocals and instruments.


The Nothing Ear is a big step up from the Nothing Ear (2). It's just as comfortable and looks just as good, but you get better battery life and improved audio quality.

The new ceramic drivers make a world of difference to the soundstage that's felt when compared to the Ear (2) and Ear (a). These new flagship buds should be on anyone's list of premium TWS earbuds. We'd wager they're the most comfortable by far!

Nothing Ear and Ear (a) review

The Ear (a) is also a great option for the less picky buyer who's looking for style and comfort. But if you have the Ear (2), then the Ear (a) doesn't make a lot of sense.


Reader comments

  • Anonymous
  • 27 May 2024
  • 7k{

Where do you get this figure from? If it's from the manufacturer,then it would be about 220-300 ms in real life. Which is very noticeable and intolerable for gaming. Go check out some real latency tests.... you'd be surprised how much ...

It's probably not that bad given how good Bluetooth has become these days. My buds2 pros have been really good for almost a year. But you make a good point, a latency test would be pretty cool for wireless devices.

  • Anonymous
  • 27 May 2024
  • m51

Official Nothing site.

Popular articles


Popular devices

Electric Vehicles