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Nothing Ear (a) Review Hero

Nothing Ear (a) in the test: Stylish earbuds with great value for money

Updated by Timo Altmeyer on June 25th, 2017,

A few weeks ago we tested the Nothing Ear. At the same time, Nothing released another in-ear headphone – the Nothing Ear (a). It's a little cheaper and appears for the first time in playful yellow. We tested what the Ear (a) sounds like and what it can do.

8.8
Our rating
89€ nothing.tech
Price Comparison

Nothing Ear (a): Design, workmanship and scope of delivery

Unusual designs are the order of the day at Nothing. The Ear (a) shares the semi-transparent look with its predecessors, but has been given a completely new shape in the charging case. Inspired by a pill box, it is a real pocket favorite with dimensions of just 47,6 x 63,3 x 22,7 millimeters and a weight of just 39,6 grams.

Nothing Ear (a) charging case opened

In addition to the classic black and white, the Ear (a) is available for the first time in a new color: a bright yellow, like a rubber. Sounds daring, but definitely looks cool! A color that we will definitely see more often at Nothing in the future.

Of course, for 99 euros you can't expect miracles in terms of workmanship. The case creaks in some places and the plastic doesn't feel quite as high quality as it does Nothing Ear and despite the "protective film" the first scratches appear on the case pretty quickly. However, the earbuds sit super comfortably in the ear and rarely slip, even during exercise.

Nothing Ear (a) both earbuds lying down

The case is protected against dripping water according to IPX2. This is completely sufficient for everyday life. The earbuds themselves meet the IP54 standard and can easily withstand sweat and rain.

In addition to the case and earphones, the delivery also includes a USB-C charging cable and silicone attachments in three sizes.

Nothing Ear (a) scope of delivery

Nothing Ear (a): Sound

Hardware

Just like in the Nothing Ear, Nothing also uses dynamic 11 mm drivers in the Ear (a). However, the membrane is not made of ceramic like its big brother, but is made of a mixture of PMI (hard plastic) and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). More on where the tonal differences lie in a moment.

The Bluetooth codecs SBC, AAC and LDAC (up to 990 Kbit/s at 32 bit/96 kHz) are supported for high-resolution streaming. What is missing is LHDC 5.0. This is only available on the more expensive Nothing Ear.

Nothing Ear (a) single earbud

sound quality

If you like bass, the Ear (a) is the perfect choice. Tracks like  "Sail"  from AWOLNATION or  "Day 'N' Nite"  by Kid Cudi are really fun thanks to the rich bass and with the new bass enhance mode the whole thing gets extra emphasis without the ear (a) losing control. The bass sounds a bit artificially boosted, but you can't expect much more depth from tiny earbuds.

With rock numbers like  "Everlong"  The guitars from the Foo Fighters come across as powerful and lively. The highs are a bit more reserved, but still sufficiently detailed. Dave Grohl's voice is reproduced clearly and presently and overall the Ear (a) delivers a balanced sound.

Nothing Ear (a) Earbuds lying down

The highs are a little more difficult. With vocals like in  "Someone Like You"  Adele lacks a bit of airiness and fine dynamics. Adele's voice seems a bit restricted and the accompaniment could use a little more space. This is also the biggest difference in sound compared to the Nothing Ear, which scores with a wider soundstage and better reproduction of details.

Overall, the Ear (a) offers a very solid, if somewhat bass-heavy, sound for its price. The 3-band equalizer in the app helps with adjustment, but lacks the fine-tuning of a pro equalizer like the more expensive Ear. Personal sound profiles cannot be created either.

Nothing Ear (a): Features

The control center for all functions is the Nothing X app. Among other things, you can use this to control the multi-level noise suppression, reassign the controls or fine-tune the equalizer. The app is available in the respective stores for Android and iOS.

Active Noise Canceling (ANC)

For under 100 euros, the Nothing Ear (a) delivers decent active noise cancellation. It even performs better than the No Ears (2) from last year. Monotonous noises in lower frequencies in particular are blocked out well. Even better ANC is only available in a significantly higher price range.

The app has ANC levels Low, Medium, High and an adaptive mode. The latter automatically selects the appropriate setting. In addition, the "Smart ANC" algorithm checks whether noise leaks between the earbud and the ear and increases noise cancellation if necessary.

Nothing Ear (a) charging case with earbuds standing

The transparency mode, on the other hand, amplifies ambient noise so that you can perceive the outside world without having to remove the earbuds. This works well, but has a slight background noise.

Touch control and wear detection

The control works similarly to the AirPods using a “pinch gesture” on the stems. Single, double or triple pinch controls music, skips tracks and answers calls. You can switch between ANC and transparency by pinching and holding. The occupancy can be adjusted in the app.

The touch controls respond well, but unwanted actions can occasionally occur. Wear detection also usually works reliably, but occasionally fails, meaning the music simply continues to play when an earbud is removed.

Nothing Ear (a) Earbuds in front of charging case

Low latency mode

The low latency mode is interesting for gamers and series fans. This reduces the delay between picture and sound and thus prevents annoying asynchronies. But even without this mode, we didn't notice any asynchronies.

Microphone and call quality

Each earbud is equipped with three microphones for making calls. Anything that could disrupt the phone call is largely filtered out. If there is a lot of ambient noise or wind, the microphones still have room for improvement. Overall, the call performance is completely sufficient.

Nothing Ear (a): Battery

The Nothing Ear (a) battery lasts up to 9,5 hours without noise cancellation. With noise cancellation it's still 5,5 hours. Together with the charging case you get 42,5 hours without noise cancellation or 24,5 hours with noise cancellation.

Nothing Ear (a) charging case USB-C

At least these are the values ​​that Nothing gives. In practice, the runtime is around 4,5 hours at medium volume, ANC and LDAC codec switched on.

In the case, the earbuds charge enough power for 10 hours of music in 1,2 minutes. They take around 45 minutes to fully charge. It's just a shame that Nothing hasn't included wireless charging on the Ear (a). If you still want to charge wirelessly, you have to go for the more expensive one Nothing Ear to grab.

Nothing Ear (a) Review Hero

Ear

8.8
Rating
Positive

Compact charging case
Good wearing comfort (subjective)
Supports LHDC codec
Dynamic sound with rich bass
Range of functions (Bluetooth multipoint, equalizer, bass enhancer)
Good microphone quality
Fast USB-C charging

Negative

Wear detection is not always reliable
No other HiRes codecs like LDAC or aptX
Battery life with ANC could be better
No qi shop

Conclusion

With the Ear (a), Nothing demonstrates a good knack for stylish earbuds. The semi-transparent design and the new, bright color variant in yellow bring a breath of fresh air to the product range and stand out from the crowd.

In terms of sound, the Ear (a) deliver a dynamic sound with rich bass, which gets even more oomph without losing precision thanks to the bass enhancement mode. The highs could use a little more brilliance, but the audio quality is absolutely fine for the price.

The bottom line is that the Nothing Ear (a) is an all-round successful package and a clear recommendation for anyone looking for stylish and well-equipped earbuds at a fair price. In this price segment there is hardly any competition that can keep up in terms of design, sound and features.

Price Comparison
89,00€
Timo Altmeyer avatar
author

Timo is the founder of techreviewer.de and a real technology expert. From smartphones to e-bikes, from home cinema to smart homes, he always has his finger on the pulse of the latest trends.

2 comments

2 comments

  1. Olli

    4. June 2024 11 to: 41

    Hello Timo, I have the Ear (stick), but the charging case is much too big for me. Do you think switching to the Ear (a) is worth it?

    • Timo admin

      6. June 2024 22 to: 53

      Hi Olli, I still have the stick here. The charging case for the Ear (a) is much more compact and I personally think the sound is better. If you ask me, the switch is definitely worth it.

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Overview
Manufacturer

Nothing

Model

Ear

Specifications

 General 
Driver: Dynamic driver
Size: 11 mm
Membrane: PMI + TPU

Frequency range: unknown
Impedance: unknown
Sensitivity: Unknown

 Bluetooth 
Default: 5.3
Range: up to 10 meters

codec:
* SBC
* AAC
*LDAC

 Features 
*In-ear wear detection
*Google Fast Pair
*Microsoft Swift Pair
*Dual connection
*Low lag fashion

 Battery 
Capacity: 46 mAh (earbuds), 500 mAh (case)
Runtime (without ANC): 9,5 hours / 42,5 hours
Runtime (with ANC): 5,5 hours / 24,5 hours
Charging time: 10 minutes for 10 hours playback
Wired: USB-C
Wireless: No

 Other 
ANC: Yes, up to 45dB
Microphone: Yes (Clear Voice Technology)
Operation: Touch, App (Nothing X)
Water protection: IP54 (earphones), IPX2 (case)

Size(Earbud): 30,9*21,7*24,3mm
Size (case): 47,6 x 63,3 x 22,7 mm
Weight (Earbud): 4,8g
Weight (case): 39,6 g