The model might not have been round for lengthy however Nothing is already on its third pair of wi-fi earbuds – the Nothing Ear (2). That tempo of growth isn’t completely unusual within the quickly rising true wi-fi market however definitely displays the London-based tech firm’s dedication to carve itself a much bigger slice of a really profitable pie.
And given the standard of the Ear (2), it deserves to realize precisely that. I used to be despatched a pair forward of launch and so they mark a big step up from their predecessors, the Ear (1). Their sound is way improved, as is the noise cancellation, and so they have a formidable suite of options. Certainly, they make a really sturdy declare for being the most effective wi-fi earbuds of their worth bracket.
Nothing Ear (2) overview: What it’s essential to know
The Ear (2) are the follow-up to Nothing’s debut earbuds and first-ever product, the noise-cancelling Ear (1), which have been launched in 2021. We weren’t blown away by these buds, however they’ve bought over 700,000 items worldwide – a formidable determine for a burgeoning startup, even one fronted by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.
The Ear (2) search to construct on that success by upgrading their predecessor’s audio, enhancing their ANC capabilities, and making minor design tweaks with out compromising Nothing’s distinctive aesthetic. Additionally they borrow the most effective performance from the attention-grabbing however in the end disappointing Ear (Stick), which have been launched in October final yr.
In an excellent world, Nothing would like you to pair the Ear (2) with its smartphone, the Nothing Telephone (1), and there’s one large motive to take action: LHDC 5.0 help, which unlocks the Ear (2)’s high-resolution audio potential. For those who don’t have a cellphone with LHDC, you’ll need to make do with SBC or AAC over Bluetooth 5.3.
The remainder of the providing is system agnostic, nevertheless, and there’s a robust concentrate on personalisation and comfort. Each audio and noise cancellation could be tailor-made particularly to your ears courtesy of intelligent listening to check expertise, whereas put on detection, “Discover My Earbuds” and Bluetooth multipoint are all current to make your life that little bit simpler.
Nothing Ear (2) overview: Worth and competitors
The Nothing Ear (2) have an inventory worth of £129, placing them firmly in mid-range territory – some of the aggressive sections of the true wi-fi market. Most producers have a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds obtainable for between £100 and £150, so that you’re spoilt for alternative.
A few our favorite choices are the JBL Stay Professional 2 (£129) and Anker Soundcore Liberty 4 (£140), whereas the Urbanista Phoenix (£149) provide distinctive performance within the type of a solar-powered charging case. Denon’s AH-C830NCW (£139) are a few of the best-sounding mid-range buds round however lack options, whereas these in quest of cheaper options would do nicely to take a look at the Huawei FreeBuds 5i (£90) and Redmi Buds 4 Professional (£85), each of which have ANC and help high-resolution audio. If spatial audio is extra your bag, 1MORE Aero (£100) are your greatest guess.
In fact, the earbuds the Ear (2) aspire to be like are the AirPods Professional 2. Apple’s ubiquitous buds dominate the market and for good motive – they’re snug, cancel noise supremely nicely and are crammed stuffed with helpful options, particularly for those who personal an iPhone. They’re, nevertheless, considerably dearer than the Ear (2) at £249.
READ NEXT: The very best wi-fi headphones
Nothing Ear (2) overview: Design and match
At first look, there’s not a lot to distinguish the Ear (2) from the first-generation mannequin. The case continues to be comprised of clear plastic, as are the earbud stems, which suggests you’ll be able to see them within the case and take a look at a few of their inner parts. The principle earbud housings are original from the identical shiny white plastic and the distinction between that and the black and clear supplies stays eye-catching.
Nothing has made just a few tweaks, nevertheless. Most notably, the case is now lighter and extra compact. The place the Ear (1)’s case measured 58.6 x 23.7 x 56.6mm (WDH), the Ear (2)’s has diminished dimensions of 55.5 x 22 x 55.5mm. Which may not sound like a lot, however it’s 5.5g lighter and feels much less chunky in your hand. It’s extra tactile too, with a bit of white plastic protruding just a few millimetres from the bottom and raised bumps of clear plastic beneath the place the buds sit. These touches, together with the thumb-sized dimple on the lid, are there to encourage you to make use of the case as a technologically superior fidget spinner.
The buds are barely lighter, too, however a distinction of 0.2g is imperceptible – the Ear (2) are merely a really snug pair of buds. You get the same old choice of small, medium and huge eartips to select from and I discovered that the most important suggestions created an in-ear seal that remained safe no matter what I used to be doing and by no means as soon as precipitated any earache. The IP score of the buds has been upgraded from IPX4 to IP54, that means they’re now dust-tight in addition to splash resistant, whereas the IP55 case is extra protected towards the weather.
Nothing Ear (2) overview: Options
Like their predecessor, the Ear (2) could be topped up through the USB-C port on the facet of their case, wirelessly utilizing a Qi charger, or reverse charged on a appropriate gadget just like the Nothing Telephone (1). Battery life when not utilizing ANC has acquired a little bit of a lift, with whole playtime as much as 36 hours from the 34 hours supplied by the Ear (1). In-ear battery life additionally sees a rise, rising from 5.7 hours to six.3 hours.
These figures take a hefty hit whenever you have interaction ANC, with the buds delivering roughly 4 hours of audio playback and the case offering an additional 18.5 hours of playtime. That total determine isn’t too shabby however 4 hours in-ear is on the quick facet – this may occasionally show a dealbreaker for some.
I discussed earlier that the Ear (2) take some inspiration from the Ear (Stick) and that is most evident of their implementation of contact controls. Somewhat than utilizing the faucet gestures discovered on the Ear (1), the Ear (2) use the pinches that labored so efficiently on the Ear (Stick). There’s benefit to each approaches however pinches successfully take away the opportunity of by accident triggering instructions whereas adjusting the buds.
A single pinch of both stem performs or pauses audio and this isn’t customisable, however you’ll be able to select which instructions to assign to the opposite three gestures – triple pinch, pinch and maintain, and double pinch and maintain – within the Nothing X app. You’re not given full management as to which gesture does what, however it’s potential to create a setup that covers each command at your disposal: monitor skipping, voice assistant activation, quantity controls and noise management (switching between ANC/transparency). Personally, I hate having to omit sure instructions so this complete management scheme is significantly appreciated.
The controls themselves work very persistently and are accompanied by sound prompts, which suggests you’re by no means left unsure of whether or not your gestures have been registered. I solely encountered one small hiccup throughout every week of testing – when strolling within the wind and rain, my voice assistant was triggered with out me going anyplace close to the buds. I had voice assistant activation assigned to pinch and maintain on the left earbud on the time however was unable to duplicate the difficulty so am uncertain what precipitated it.
The Ear (2) help put on detection and the sensors proved extremely responsive, pausing audio rapidly when one bud was eliminated and resuming it virtually instantly upon reinsertion. This may be toggled on and off within the Nothing X app together with the low-lag mode for lowering latency when gaming, twin connection (Bluetooth multipoint) and personalised ANC, which I’ll come onto shortly.
Additionally obtainable within the Machine Settings part of the app are an eartip match check that works as supposed and Discover My Earbuds which can be utilized to set off a moderately horrible sound that will help you find the Ear (2) in the event that they’re close by.
READ NEXT: Our favorite noise-cancelling headphones
Nothing Ear (2) overview: Noise cancellation and transparency
One of many large variations between the primary and second-gen Ear fashions is how lively noise cancellation is dealt with. The place the Ear (1) had simply two noise-cancelling modes (excessive and low), the Ear (2) have 4 (excessive, mid, low and adaptive). The adaptive possibility is one we’re seeing extra steadily nowadays and adjusts attenuation primarily based on the extent of sound in your setting. This helps save battery and reduces the feeling of in-ear strain that builds up whereas stronger ranges of noise cancellation are being utilized.
The Ear (2) additionally provide personalised ANC. To utilize it, you’re required to take a really fast check that assesses the sound loss out of your ear canals throughout seven audio filters. As soon as the check is full, the Ear (2) can tailor how sound is attenuated when the excessive noise-cancelling setting is engaged in line with your listening to sensitivity.
Total, I’d describe the Ear (2)’s noise-cancelling as useful moderately than spectacular. They efficiently took the sting off exterior distractions when on the health club, on public transport and within the workplace, whereas responsively altering attenuation ranges relying on what was occurring round me. Low-end frequencies have been diminished to a good diploma, however there was little impact on mid-range sounds (akin to individuals speaking) and something piercing or significantly shrill. I additionally didn’t see a lot profit from partaking the personalised ANC possibility. In each scenario throughout testing, the extent of attenuation utilized felt near-identical no matter whether or not it was on or off.
In the end, I didn’t anticipate the Ear (2) to quieten a room as successfully because the far pricier AirPods Professional 2 or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, that might be unrealistic. However, regardless of the noise-cancelling system right here enhancing on that of the Ear (1), rivals such because the FreeBuds 5i nonetheless ship simpler ANC for much less.
The Transparency mode, alternatively, may be very spectacular. It’s a one-level-fits-all method, so you’ll be able to’t select how a lot sound is piped in, however it does an incredible job of filtering in ambient sound clearly and naturally. I had no points making out what my accomplice was saying in one other room and will hear each phrase of what was being mentioned on TV within the lounge whereas sitting at my workplace desk.
Nothing Ear (2) overview: Sound and name high quality
The Nothing Ear (2) use 11.6mm drivers just like the Ear (1), however this time round they’re custom-made and have two distinct benefits over their off-the-shelf predecessors. They use a brand new diaphragm that’s constructed from each polyurethane (PU) and graphene moderately than simply graphene, with the addition of PU enhancing low-end readability and energy. Additionally they incorporate a dual-chamber design, which will increase the house across the audio system, smoothing airflow and leading to clearer, extra outlined sound.
Not solely are they structurally superior, however they’ve that all-important high-resolution help due to LHDC 5.0. Utilizing a Nothing Telephone (1), I listened to quite a few songs over AAC on the Ear (1) and LHDC 5.0 on the Ear (2) and the distinction between the 2 was stark. The soundstage of the second-gen mannequin was broader and this extra headroom allowed for a extra detailed presentation and extra correct stereo imaging. On Hybrid Minds and Netsky’s “Let Me Maintain You”, the piano and feminine vocals sounded that a lot crisper and straight-edged and there was higher presence throughout the entire soundstage.
LHDC 5.0 injects a welcome stage of further element and is certainly the optimum solution to take heed to music utilizing the Ear (2) however the second-gen sound higher than their predecessors over AAC, too. Higher midrange and treble frequencies have been overemphasised on the Ear (1) however they’re much less aggressive right here, with the Ear (2) a better and fewer fatiguing hear.
There’s a bit of additional weight to bass and sub-bass frequencies too, and that additional punch means most individuals received’t have to resort to the Extra Bass preset or the essential three-band equaliser discovered within the Nothing X app. There are additionally Extra Treble and Voice presets accompanying the default Balanced profile, however probably the most impactful audio customisation comes within the type of a personalised sound profile created after taking a listening to check developed by German agency Mimi Hearing Technologies.
The check entails listening to beeps being performed over background noise at totally different frequencies and indicating whenever you’re in a position to hear them. When you’ve accomplished the check on each your proper and left ears, the expertise constructs a listening profile that compensates for areas of auditory weak point. You may even select how this personalisation is utilized, with Softer, Beneficial and Richer choices together with a sliding scale for depth.
I used to be already impressed by how the Ear (2)’s default profile sounded and my personalised profile elevated this even additional. As I’ve been proven by different listening to assessments prior to now, high-pitched frequencies are these I battle most to choose up, which is widespread for a person of my age. My profile actively restored particulars on this area and I used to be in a position to discover an enchancment in how cleanly vocals have been delivered, too. It’s a kind of options that might be extra impactful for some than others, however its inclusion is certainly welcome and was my most well-liked method of listening to music on the Ear (2). I’d undoubtedly stick to both the Softer or Beneficial choices, nevertheless – Richer sounded a bit too distant and scientific for my tastes.
In relation to making and taking calls, the Ear (2) once more trump the Ear (1). They use an analogous three-microphone setup, however a brand new algorithm is used to filter out exterior sounds and isolate your voice extra successfully. The variety of sound samples used to create this algorithm has elevated from round 2 million to twenty million and people I spoke to reported that the (2) extra clearly highlighted my voice when out and about. They did battle considerably in windy circumstances, nevertheless.
Nothing Ear (2) overview: Verdict
Nothing has actually upped the ante with the Ear (2). Though the Ear (1) bought nicely, they lacked the audio chops to really stand out and have been beset by buggy firmware at launch.
Nothing has taken that criticism on board and the Ear (2) sound nice, with LDHC 5.0 help and sound profile personalisation proving a profitable mixture. Noise cancellation will not be the most effective round however it’s each adaptive and efficient, and the snug match, distinctive design and useful options spherical out a potent providing.
Nothing appears to have gotten its home so as in terms of software program, too. My expertise with the Nothing X app was blissfully clean and common updates are being pushed out to enhance issues additional.
Whereas our earlier overview of the Ear (1) was titled “Not fairly the complete bundle”, the identical can’t be mentioned for the Ear (2). They’re great-sounding, feature-packed and – at this worth – deserving of our Finest Purchase award.