Nothing is back with a new thing. It’s a new earphone, the Nothing Ear (stick). You might think it’s an update to last year’s Nothing Ear (1). That’s not quite the case. It’s a different style of earphones, even though they may share similar design cues.
Let me cut to the chase. The Nothing Ear (stick) is an earbud-style earphones. This means the earpieces sit in the concha of your ears, quite different from the Nothing Ear (1). There are also other important differences from the Ear(1). The Ear (stick) has no active noise cancellation. The case is also of a different style, and it does not have wireless charging.
This almost sounds like the Nothing Ear (stick) is a downgrade. It is indeed more budget friendly. But you should know that it has a different value proposition. Some people may very much prefer what the Ear (stick) has to offer.
For example, in-ear buds may be uncomfortable for some people. The Ear (stick) sits in the concha, i.e. outer ear. It is reminiscent of the 2nd generation AirPods, having lozenge-shaped buds with speaker grills aimed into the ear canal, and a stem that descends from the buds. The Ear (stick) follows the same design cues of the old Ear (1). It has a transparent body so you can see some of the inner components of the earbuds.
The Ear (stick) is very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. This is decidedly a benefit of earbuds that just sit in the concha. I personally find the loose fit a little disconcerting, though it was secure enough that it would not fall out no matter how I moved my head (in a reasonable manner).
The loose fit also means that the Ear (stick) doesn’t have that great of an acoustic seal. You will not be isolated from the environment around you. This is good when you need to be aware of your surroundings, such as when you are out for a run. However, the lack of seal does impact sound quality. I’ll come to that later.
The controls of the Ear (stick) are less fancy than those of the Ear (1). You now get pressure-sensitive spots on the stem that you have to squeeze. The good thing is they are hard to accidentally activate. However, the controls need to be purposefully squeezed, a little bit too much than I’d like. You can pause/play, skip tracks, and adjust volume.
There is also in-ear detection, allowing the Ear (stick) to automatically pause and resume music as you take out and put back the earbuds.
I love the new Nothing Ear (stick)’s carrying and charging case. The old box design is now a cool cylindrical case. You rotate it at one end to open and close the case. There’s a very satisfying feel in opening and closing the case. It’s like a fidget toy.
The case has a LED indicator, a button for pairing, and USB Type-C port for charging.
The earbuds are good for up to 7 hours of listening time and 3 hours of talk time on a single charge. Together with the case, you can get up to 29 hours of listening time and 12 hours of talk time.
The Nothing Ear (stick) has decent sound quality. It has a 12.6 mm custom dynamic driver. Nothing speaks of stronger magnets and strengthened diaphragms, producing sound that is true-to-life and consistent quality through the highest and lowest frequencies.
I found the sound to be good for everyday casual listening. The mids are clear. The trebles are bright and energetic. The bass, unfortunately, suffered with a Nothing Ear (stick) having a less-than-perfect seal in my ear. If I pressed the earbuds into my ear, I can hear that the bass is decent, though certainly not best-in-class. It may work better for others who get a better fit.
Nothing does list a Bass Lock Technology feature that makes up for bass loss using built-in software. The Ear (stick) supposedly detects bass loss as you wear the earbuds and automatically tunes the equaliser curve to produce an optimal level. My ears must be difficult to work with.
Let the bass not disappoint you, however. In other respects, the sound is good. Music reproduction is accurate.
Call quality with the Ear (stick) is pretty good. There are three microphones, and using smart software algorithms, the Nothing Ear (stick) filters out background noises while isolating and amplifying your voice.
The Nothing Ear (stick) supports Bluetooth 5.2 with SBC and AAC codecs. It has low-latency mode, but only with using with the Nothing Phone (1).
A USB Type-C to Type-C charging cable is included in the retail box.
The new Nothing Ear (stick) is different, not better or improved over last year’s Ear (1). Even though the Ear (stick) has superior voice pickup so you sound clearer over calls, it gives up on active noise cancellation and the new case does not support wireless charging. The overall sound quality remains good, although for some people, the earbud-style won’t make a good acoustic fit in their ears, and so may find that the bass suffers. I’ve got to say I love the new cylindrical case.