Nothing first came into limelight around two years back when they released the Ear (1), giving a new look for true wireless earbuds without charging a very high price. Now, the company has launched its successor, the Nothing Ear (2), which is priced at Rs. 9,999, and comes with several improvements and additions, according to the company. Let’s try and see what it really offers and where it lacks.
Design: The whole package comes in a small black box with minimal cardboard usage, carrying the case with the earbuds, USB type-C charging cable, and two pairs of eartips of different sizes. The case here is made up of all plastic and has a transparent body for the most part. The buds themselves have a plastic body with about 50 per cent of it being transparent, showing internals of the buds in an aesthetic way, something we have seen from Nothing with their products by now. The back of the case carries the USB type-C port, physical switch for putting it in pairing mode, and inside there’s a small LED for indicating charging or pairing.
Neither the case nor the earbuds feel cheap in any case and seem to have a sturdy plastic material in place for prolonged usage. The buds are 1P54 rated while the case is IP55 rated for water and dust resistance. The buds have a familiar stem-cell design with silicon gel tips. I found these to fit in-ear well and to be comfortable for wearing even for longer durations continuously. Perhaps, the best part about the Ear (2) is how well they stay in your ear and don’t add any bulk that you might feel at all times.
Sound quality: Coming to the audio side of things here, the Nothing Ear (2) supports AAC, SBC and LHDC 5.0 audio codecs along with Bluetooth 5.3. It’s powered by two upgraded 11.6mm drivers. You can use the Nothing X app to update the buds’ firmware, customize and configure different settings for the buds from your smartphone, whether Android or iOS, including EQ and ANC.
The pair has a somewhat emphasised treble and improved detailing. For those concerned about bass and sub-bass, it’s a bit on the aggressive side, but not too aggressive that you would be better off without it. It seems to handle lows better than the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, which did overdo a few things. I also found sound to be better tuned for vocals while it can struggle at times to handle mids to go alongside at the same time, Nothing seems to have tuned it (by default settings) keeping lows and headroom for instruments in mind. For Android users, there’s higher frequency codec LHDC in place, though this isn’t a very widely used codec as AptX and AptX HD are.
The pair supports controls by way of squeezing either of the buds’ stem, and it works fairly reliably without missing it too frequently. Coming to active noise cancellation (ANC), let’s just say this isn’t quite a feature that you might want from a wireless pair of earbuds priced around Rs 10,000. The buds produce a hissing sound as others in order to cancel out on external noise but, in doing so, it not only drags down sound quality and battery life (naturally), but also the noise cancellation itself isn’t really up to the mark. I found using the pair with noise cancellation completely off to be a much nicer experience.
Mics and battery life: Each of the buds has three mics around the top for noise cancellation and calls. The mics on these for calls are just about okay, a bit better when used indoors of course but then, it isn’t significantly worse in this department than other TWS around this price range. Both buds carry a 33mAh battery unit, lasting about 6.5 hours with ANC switched off and about 4.5 hours with ANC switched on at all times. Add the charging case (485mAh battery), and the battery life extends to around 30 hours or so with no ANC. The charging case is Qi2 certified for wireless induction charging, and, as per the company, gives 8 hours of playback with 10 minutes of quick charge over using the USB type-C port. There’s support for Google Fast Pair as well as Swift Pair, and you can also connect these to two devices at once. And yup, you can use just one earbud at a time, if preferred.
There’s also in-ear detection for music pause and resume, and it works fine on the Ear (2). For high bitrates videos and gaming, low latency mode does a decent job of countering the audio lag issue to some extent, which I had turned on during most of my usage.
Verdict: All in all, the Nothing Ear (2) carries the company’s trademark in terms of looks and design while offering a good set of features with performance on most fronts. It would have been nicer to have a longer battery life and ANC performance, but you do get a good bit of audio quality that might be liked by many users, plus a great design and in-ear fit, which is essential for any pair of wireless audio product. I got one firmware update while trying out the pair, and hopefully the company keeps on pushing these to further improve on the experience, which is currently up to the mark and good enough to make it a worthy contender to be on your list if you’re looking for a pair of true wireless earbuds under Rs 10,000, that can also stand apart from the crowd.