Back in 2021, Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus, was leading the consumer technology firm Nothing at the time. Nothing had only been openly operating for a few short months before to the launch of the Ear 1 true wireless earbuds. Although they had a lot of features for their price point of $99, they suffered from a lot of glitches and had mediocre noise-cancelling effectiveness when they first came out.
After a period of two years, it was time for an update, and the ingeniously titled Ear 2 earbuds were the result. They provide some good quality-of-life features like as support for multipoint connectivity, but otherwise, they are fairly similar to their predecessors in many basic respects. If you put the two things next to each other, it can be difficult to distinguish which one is which.
Nothing Ear 2
+ Still just as stylish
+ A significantly more equilibrated tone
+ Charging using wireless means
– Options for customising that are hit or miss
– Occasional ANC bugginess
– A fifty percent increase in cost
But, while wearing them, the Nothing Ear 2s give the impression of being a far more refined product. There are fewer bugs, active noise cancellation that is more capable, and a sound that is significantly improved and more tuned. It is sufficient to transform the Ear 2s from a pair of earbuds that look excellent but perform only adequately into an accessory that (nearly) sounds as good as it looks. It’s a shame that at this point in time, with a price tag of $149.00, they are not nearly the entry-level steal that they once were.
The Nothing Ear 2 earbuds now have a starting price of $149. This is a price increase of 50% when compared to the initial starting price of $99 for the Nothing Ear 1. The fact that Nobody raised the price of the Ear 1 earphones by the same amount last October makes this development somewhat predictable, but it does have an effect on the companies that are competing with the Ear 2. The price of $149 is comparable to other wireless earbuds on the market, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 and Apple’s AirPods, which are frequently on sale. It indicates that Nothing’s offspring will be held to a much higher standard than their forebears were.
However when compared side by side with the Nothing Ear 1s, the differences in their outward appearance appear to be rather modest. The housing of the Ear 2 is somewhat more compact and lighter, and the earbuds themselves are marginally more protruding but also marginally more lightweight. But, as you can see, the dimensions are sufficiently similar that the earbuds may physically fit in either charging case, even though they are not functionally cross-compatible between the different generations. One of the functional changes that has been made is that Nothing says it is using more durable plastic this time around. This should, in theory at least, limit the amount of scratches that emerge on the case, which is something that we noticed happening on our Ear 1 case.
When compared to the Ear 1 earphones, the battery life of these earbuds is both better and worse. Nothing claims that the Ear 2s offer four hours of playback duration from the buds themselves (the same as the Ear 1s), with the playback time increasing to 22.5 hours when the case is included (slightly worse than the 24 hours claimed last time). Nevertheless, if you disable ANC, those values increase to 6.3 hours and 36 hours, which is a modest improvement over the 5.7 hours and 34 hours rated for the Ear 1.
The Ear 2’s battery life is not particularly impressive in comparison to that of many of its rivals that are also capable of noise reduction. While Apple’s more expensive AirPods Pro 2 give six hours of noise-canceling listening from the buds alone, Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 offer a more astounding five hours of noise-canceling playing from the buds themselves (but admittedly only 20 hours paired with their case). If you take a look at our shopping guide for the best wireless earbuds, you’ll notice that many of our top options have a battery life of at least six hours.
Wireless charging is still available on these headphones, just like it was on the Ear 1s. This feature is especially helpful if you have a phone like the Phone 1 that supports reverse wireless charging. In any other case, a cable that connects USB-C to USB-C is included in the package for wired charging. As is the case with an increasing number of consumer technologies, there is no supplied charging brick.
This time around, you are given an IP54 rating as opposed to an IPX4 designation.
An additional point to mention concerning the construction quality is the IP rating, which indicates how resistant the item is to dust and water. There is no indication that the Ear 2 earbuds have an IP54 rating, which, on the surface, is a great deal more impressive than the IPX4 classification of the earphones of the first generation. In point of fact, the only distinction between these two options is the inclusion of five levels of protection against a specified quantity of dust. The water resistance rating is still a 4, which indicates that you are protected from light rain and drizzle but not from immersion in water. Its certification of IPX5 places it somewhere between the Galaxy Buds 2 and the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro in terms of resistance to water and dust. In other words, this is good news if you intend to perspire while wearing the earphones from Nothing, but it is not good news if you intend to submerge them in water.
The Ear 2 headphones are controlled by squeezing the stems on each earbud, very similarly to how Apple’s AirPods are controlled. The tap controls that are used by the Ear 1s and other earbuds from companies like Samsung are not used by these headphones. During my testing, the controls performed as expected; they did not have a high risk of inadvertent activation, and the majority of them can be changed using the Nothing X software.
A plethora of personalization capabilities have been added to these earbuds, and they are designed to adapt to your ears and the way you prefer to listen to music. They can all be accessed through the Nothing X app, which is available for both iOS and Android. There is a noise cancellation (ANC) personalization feature that attempts to automatically calibrate the earbuds’ noise cancellation to your hearing, an equalizer that gives you manual control over your audio, and a sound personalization feature that attempts to test your hearing by having you listen to a series of beeps at varying pitches. Another feature can tell you whether you are using the appropriate size of ear tip, and this time around there is also a “adaptive” noise cancellation mode that will adjust its intensity depending on how loud your environment is to avoid draining your battery in quieter environments. Another feature can tell you whether you are using the appropriate size of ear tip, and this time around there is also a “adaptive” noise cancellation mode.
It is wonderful to have this degree of control, but the actual value of the customizing options can be somewhat hit-or-miss. It is nice to have this level of control, though. Creating a unique sound profile is a laborious manual process that resulted in a setting that I thought sounded worse than the default. The personalized ANC option and ear tip size testing seemed to function well enough, though.
The good news is that none of these choices are required, and I strongly suggest that you experiment in order to determine which combination works best for you. I only wish that the sound customisation was more automated, like what we’ve seen in the past from businesses like Nura, so that there is less of a risk that user error is to blame for any anomalies that may occur.
Multipoint connection, which Nothing refers to as “Dual Connection,” is another novel feature of these earbuds. This connectivity mode enables the earbuds to simultaneously connect to two different electronic devices. During the time that I was working at my desk, the earphones successfully maintained a connection to both my laptop and my phone. This enabled me to easily switch between activities, such as taking a break from watching a video clip on my phone and listening to music on my laptop. The transition from one device to another does not take place instantly (the transfer of the connection may occasionally take up to five seconds), although this behavior is typical for multipoint connections. It is wonderful to see that it has been incorporated, particularly in light of the fact that even Samsung’s more pricey Galaxy Buds 2 Pro do not have it.
On paper, the Nothing Ear 2 earbuds are not a significant improvement over the Ear 1s, despite the fact that all of these quality-of-life features are quite wonderful to have. And on top of that, you could be excused for thinking that they sound the same. The driver size has not changed and remains 11.6 millimeters, but there is now support for the LHDC 5.0 codec in addition to SBC and AAC if your phone is capable of using it (LDAC and aptX are not included).
But, when it comes to the quality of the sound, these specifications do not convey the whole story. The Nothing Ear 2 earbuds have a sound that is noticeably more balanced and refined than their predecessor’s, and as a result, they are a great deal more pleasurable to listen to. When you listen to a song with a lot going on, like “Masayume” by Paranoid Void, you’ll notice that the Ear 2 earbuds perform a far better job of making sure you can hear each instrument. In comparison, the Ear 1s were muddy and had an excessive amount of bassiness. As I listened to “Saigo No Bansan” by Mouse on the Keyboard or “Butterfly Effect” by Fox Capture Plan, I was reminded of a similar experience. The Ear 2 earphones delivered a dynamic and energizing experience, whereas the Ear 1 earbuds’ bass was simply excessive and left the higher frequencies feeling hollow.
The specifications on paper don’t tell the whole story about the sound quality.
The differences are not as stark as the night and day metaphor suggests in most cases. A tune with fewer intricate elements, such as “On the Nature of Daylight” by Max Richter, for example, sounded quite similar when played via Nothing’s earbuds. Although it was more of a coin flip, if I had to choose, I’d probably go with the Ear 2s rather than the Ear 1s.
The noise-cancelling performance of the Nothing Ear 2 has been improved in a manner analogous to that of the Nothing Ear 1. It wasn’t an issue for me to listen to podcasts even though the London Tube was screeching and rattling around me, and it performed an adequate job on the bus near my house. Nevertheless, I did have a strange glitch with the adaptive noise suppression mode, which would occasionally produce a whooshing sound. It sounded nearly exactly like an imaginary train was rolling past me in a station when it happened. By switching the ANC mode to “high” rather than the adaptive setting, the issue was totally resolved; but, doing so would, in theory, prevent you from reaping the benefits of the adaptive mode’s ability to save battery life. After making contact with Nothing, I was informed that it was unaware of this apparent issue in its system.
The quality of the microphone on the Nothing Ear 2 was, according to my tests, about comparable to that of the Ear 1. My speech was picked up by the three-microphone array slightly more clearly when the room was silent; however, as soon as I introduced background noise, it began to sound similarly muffled and muddy. When compared with the Galaxy Buds Live from Samsung, the sound of my voice came through more clearly with Samsung’s earbuds.
The Nothing Ear 2 earbuds serve as yet another illustration that features, rather than specifications, are more important. On paper, this is an incremental update to the Ear 1 earbuds, with a design and battery life that are relatively comparable to one another, minor improvements to the earphones’ durability, and a few of new software capabilities.
In actual use, however, the total product has the impression of being of much greater quality. Yes, a portion of this is due to the fact that I did not experience any major bugs while using the Ear 2s (with the exception of a bug in the adaptive noise cancelation feature), but the primary reason for this is due to the fact that the majority of the songs I listened to simply sounded much better with the Ear 2s. They have the appearance of a product of the second generation.
The Ear 2 earbuds are a well-rounded pair of earbuds that are priced in the middle of the range at $149. These have the same fashionable appearance as the Ear 1s, but without the Ear 1s’ rougher edges. The likes of Sony, Apple, and Samsung may still rule the roost when it comes to more premium earbuds, but the Nothing Ear 2s are a capable alternative if you’re on a (slightly) tighter budget. Even though they’re not quite the bargain they would have been if they were under $100, the Nothing Ear 2s are a good option to consider if you’re looking for an affordable pair of earbuds.