So, I usually review earbuds ranging from the budget options to the premium ones, and mostly, I am always excited to review and test them out.
However, this Nothing Ear 1, for me, believe it or not, wasn’t something that I was “dying” to check out because I am never a fan of overhyped products, especially earbuds.
As a tech reviewer, I get TONS of requests on my email and IG of some companies having to send you “free” earbuds for me to review, and 90% of the time are brands that I absolutely never heard of.
I mean, think about it guys, there are usually only two ends of the spectrum, it’s either going to sound GOOD or it’s going to sound BAD, then there are the other compromises that come with it, like the comfort, ease of use, battery life and of course the price.
So where does this Nothing Ear 1 stand then? Well, let me tell you where.
First, let’s go through the unboxing process of the earbuds.
Now, since I didn’t get to shoot the exact unboxing experience for the very first time, as the earbuds were already unboxed prior to the shoot, the box has this sort of paper tab that will tear around the box.
So this absolutely sucks, because now, you have a box and the small little torn half in order to “retain” the overall package, so I am not sure what was Nothing thinking over here.
But yes, the box comes in black with the visuals of the earbuds in front, with a totally different outlook than how it was claimed to look.
After you slide off the cover, it has another silver box, with absolutely no branding or text whatsoever.
And my first impression of this silver box is that it looked like those wedding door gifts, where there was a tiny little fruit cake inside…..like….thank you for coming for my wedding, here is a fruit cake….
After taking off that silver cover, you will immediately find the case of the earbuds.
Underneath, there are two little black boxes on top and below, where on top there are the silicone ear tips, which Nothing calls “earplugs” again, not sure why… because earplugs and ear tips are two totally separate things.
Then there is a cool looking braided USB-A to USB-C cable.
And finally, some paperwork and user manual, and I have to say that I loved this sort of lines and dark mode theme that is going on over here.
Alright, next, let’s look at the build quality.
Starting from the case, it comes with a squared-shape case with rounded corners, and from an aesthetics point of view, I believe this is quite subjective because either you are going to love it or you are going to hate it.
Now for me, I don’t particularly “hate” the case, but I am not a fan of how it looks because it looks like a “Pasar Malam” (Night Market) case… Now, if you are not from Malaysia, “Pasar Malam” indirectly means that it looks cheap….
In terms of durability, I think in the long term, you will get some of those scuffs and scratches on the case, which will eventually make it look even cheaper and there are already some scuffs here and there.
I mean, I do get what Nothing is trying to do “something” here, nothing….something…
The whole transparent case may seem unique to some but because it has a bit of a glossy finish, that for me it is already a huge NO for me, as there is a potential of it being slippery especially when working out.
However, LOOKS can be a little deceiving because although it “looks” cheap, the case did feel like it had a nice weight to it, so that was indeed a good thing since it is packed with a wireless charging coil, the magnetic pins when storing the earbuds, and of course, the USB-C charging port and pairing button as well.
Then there is this weird hole or dimple in the middle, which for the life of me, I can’t figure out what initially it was exactly for, but apparently, it is there to hold both of the earbuds from moving around in the case… But aren’t the magnetic pins already enough though?
Then finally, it had a really solid hinge, which did feel very premium and I just love how it closes with a nice little snap and that again does make the casing not feel cheap.
As for the earbuds themselves, I actually really loved the original or first design “concept” that Nothing had when they announced that they were going to do earbuds for their very first project.
Because while this new transparent design looked “cool”…in a way, but it really looked like they almost just took an Airpods Pro and made it transparent, just a slight difference on the top part of the stem where it’s more squared than curved.
BUT the good news is at least they didn’t copy it exactly…like most companies tend to do.
And since the company is owned by a very prominent individual, Carl Pei was the co-founder of OnePlus, before leaving the company, I would have thought that he would come up with a totally cooler design than this.
But yes, with this transparent design, it already seems like it’s going to be an earbud where people would instantly recognize that it’s the Nothing Ear 1 buds, since there is the Nothing Ear 1 branding on them, although small, so still smart from a marketing point of view.
Like the Airpods Pro, this Nothing Ear 1 has an IPX4 rating, so it can resist some water splashes or rain, which doesn’t really scream premium but considering its price, I am willing to compromise on that.
However, from a designer’s perspective, I do appreciate that little red dot, that represents the right of the earbuds, and the white dot represents the left, which is color-coordinated with the case, making it quite easy to spot, in case the earbuds are out of the case.
Since the earbuds are pretty much an Airpods Pro in terms of the design, so it did fit in well and snug, right out of the box, but of course, in order for us to know how well it fits and if it does not come out easily, check out my quick sawan mode test on my YouTube video.
So the initial pairing process was pretty straight forward where as soon as you open up the case, you will need to wait for a while and then you will get a prompt on your phone to get it connected.
Now this is something that is indeed one of the biggest plus factors of the earbuds BUT this doesn’t have the same quick detection to pair on an iOS device, for obvious reasons.
Now just in case, you want to pair the earbuds to maybe another phone, your PC or laptop, just press and hold the pairing control button on the charging case when both earbuds are in the charging case again to initiate the pairing process again.
And there were several times which I noticed that although the earbuds were inside the case and it was closed, for some strange reason when I was using the phone in my room, when the earbuds were out in my living room, it was connected and it ate a whole chunk of battery because of that, I actually thought my cat Luna, probably knocked it off the table and that’s why it got connected, but no, it was just there on my table and once again it was closed shut.
As for the playback controls, it is all done by double-tapping, triple tapping or a slide control as well.
So there is no single tapping to prevent accidental taps, which was nice.
To play or pause is when you double-tap.
By default Triple Tap to go to the next track on both ears, but you can customize that in the app to make triple tap to work differently on each ear, so I have set the previous track on the left and the next track on the right earbuds.
Tap and hold then toggles between Noise Cancellation, Transparency Mode, or turning both modes off, which I would prefer a voice confirmation instead of a beep, as there is no way of knowing which mode that you are in unless you see it within the app.
And finally, volume controls are based on sliding on the stem of the earbuds up and down. Based on my test, it was very responsive, so that was good to know.
There is no Voice Assistant trigger over here and no multi-device pairing too, so keep that in mind.
Alright, since this app is new in the market, let’s go through a quick app walkthrough.
Once you’re at the home screen, if you hit the menu icon towards the top left, you will see a menu for the name of the earbuds. (Yes, thank you, Joel) Then there is a toggle for the Dark Theme, the Notifications Toggle and other menu options like Rate Us, Submit Feedback, and About the App.
Next, if you hit the 3 dotted icons towards the top right, here is where you will come to the Device Details such as the toggle for the In-Ear Detection, which to me works just OK, as it does take a second and a half to actually stop the music, and then it resumes the music about the same time.
Then there is the Find My Earbud, where it will play a sound to find your earbuds, which does a good job in playing a quite loud sound.
Below that, there is the Firmware update, Renaming the device and other menu visuals like the Bluetooth Address, Serial Number, Disconnect and Forget The Device.
At the home screen of the app, you will see both of the earbuds, with the battery indicator and a touch button for Hear and Touch as well.
Under the Hear option, you will find the toggles for the Noise Cancellation toggle to choose between Light or Maximum.
Next is the Transparency Mode Option and Turning it Off. Then below that, you will find the EQ settings, between Balanced. And guys, please don’t bother to choose this as your EQ settings, because it’s practically useless.
Then there is More Treble, More Bass and Voice.
Then finally, the Touch buttons bring you to the Gesture Controls for both the left and the right ears, which you can customize as mentioned earlier.
So before we go into the ANC options, let’s first talk about the overall sound quality.
The earbuds come with 11.6mm drivers. Now, if you have been following my earbuds reviews, you would know that I absolutely love LOUD earbuds and this was a complete disappointment when it comes to the volume as even at maximum, I just didn’t feel that immersive feeling because of how it really lacked volume.
Another thing I noticed was while the mid-level frequencies were good, but when the bass was almost non-existent, for example at minute 1:12 of Billie Ellish’s “ilomilo”, when the kick bass was supposed to come in, it was like…..errrr…where is the bass? Then when I switched the EQ from Balanced to More Bass, there was just a BIT more bass.
And then when I was listening to Tremonti’s “Make it Hurt”, again, the mid frequencies for the intro guitar was nice, and then when the overall music hits, there was NO bass, and the highs coming from the drum’s cymbals were almost piercing into my ears, so yes, this totally sucks on rock music.
Then I listened to some typical radio-friendly type of songs, like Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” and it only sounded good with the EQ at More bass, so with this, I can say, don’t even bother listening to the earbuds on the Balanced EQ because I have no idea what are they “balancing” in their overall sound.
Before giving up hope, I tried out Eagles’ “Hotel California” unplugged live, and while the music separation was good but YET AGAIN, the high frequencies are really just all over the place.
And keep in mind that they are using a nylon string guitar which sounds less sharp than a typical acoustic guitar, even the part where the crowd cheered it was sharp.
So the ONLY way to get decent sound is if you put the volume 3 steps down from the maximum volume, but you will sacrifice a lot of volume, so what’s the point?
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, the latency when it comes to watching videos was also bad as there was a slight delay of audio and video playback, not super major but it’s enough for you to notice.
Active Noise Cancellation
As for the active noise cancellation, hmm, I would say that it was not the best that I’ve heard, while it is there, I feel that the passive noise cancellation is doing most of the work because as I was typing this video’s script on my iPad with the Apple Magic keyboard, I still could hear the keyboards with this ANC on.
So I would say that it does not do a good job on high-frequency sounds, like fan noises or running water, but it does just decent to cancel out a lower frequency sound, but I still think that I have heard better Noise Cancellation for other cheaper earbuds like from Edifier and XRound.
And keep in mind that this was all on the Noise Cancellation level of Maximum, so I would say, don’t even bother with the Light level setting.
The transparency mode was almost as transparent as the earbuds, in other words, I couldn’t even tell a difference, and it’s surely the worst thing about these earbuds.
As for the microphone quality, firstly from a listener’s perspective, it sounded clear, not as good as other premium microphones, but quite clean indeed.
Then from my listening perspective, it was also great, without any issues as well. For microphone test, check out my YouTube video.
As for the battery, I got an average of 4 hours and 10 mins or so with ANC turned on, I didn’t really test it with ANC off, because I didn’t really like how it sounded with it turned off, but apparently, it gives an average close to 6 hours with ANC off.
The charging case can charge up to 6 times or so depending on your usage, so that was nice. And it also has wireless charging, which I appreciate more.
So, in conclusion, as I mentioned at the beginning of this video, THIS is the reason why I don’t bother checking out lots of unfamiliar brands who want to send me earbuds to review, because I have this sense of worry if it’s going to sound bad and eventually, it will waste my time and effort shooting a video and ended up not liking the earbuds at all.
But on a positive note, it gives you a warning when I make this kind of video, and although Nothing is a relatively “famous” brand, this is going to be the very FIRST earbuds that I have reviewed in my channel that I am not going to recommend at all.
So no, I am not going to leave any links for you guys to get it, but I will link another two earbuds from different brands that I would recommend, so check that out at the description below, as I really think you should just skip this.
1. Edifier TWS NB2 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpTFpCODigM
2. XROUND VERSA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUDgXqNhedc