Founded a few years ago by a OnePlus exec, Nothing doesn’t have a large product lineup yet: three smartphones, five TWS headphones under its main brand, and three under the more affordable CMF. But it has managed to attract attention, not least because of its very unusual design, created in collaboration with Swedish Teenage Engineering. It is known mainly for its OP-1 synthesizer, sampler and sequencer. Recently, Nothing introduced two new models of TWS headphones: Nothing Ear 3 and Nothing Ear (a). The first is the flagship model. The second is positioned as an affordable option with good sound and a bunch of additional features. We decided to check whether Nothing Ear (a) is really worthy of attention.

Specifications of Nothing Ear (a)

Headphone type In-channel
Type of emitters Dynamic, 11 mm
Connection type Wireless, True Wireless
Compatibility Android, iOS, PC
Bluetooth version 5.3
Range of action 10 meters
Support for codecs SBC, AAC, LDAC
Management Sensory
Volume control +
Microphones 3 for each earbud, noise cancellation support
Weight of headphones with case 4.8 g each headphone, 39.6 g case
Protection against moisture IP54, IPX2 case
Battery Up to 9.5 g, up to 42.5 g with case without ANC; 5.5 / 24.5 g with ANC
Charging USB Type-C, wireless
Recommended price in Ukraine UAH 5,760

The editorial team would like to thank Pixophone.com for providing us with the Nothing Ear (a) headphones for review

Package content

Nothing Ear (a) packaging and equipment are also quite original. The model comes in a compact box with a large image of the earphone. It is not possible to open the box neatly: A tear-off tape is provided for this purpose. Therefore, it is impossible to pack them back as new.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

Inside, there are headphones in a case, a short charging cable, two additional pairs of silicone ear cushions, and an instruction manual with a QR code for quick download of the Nothing X branded app.

Design and usability

All Nothing devices look very original. They are not always practical, but their style is immediately recognizable. Nothing Ear(a) also has a design with some transparent parts. This applies to both the headphones and the charging case. In addition to white, there are also black and the most interesting yellow.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

Structurally, Nothing Ear (a) is a typical modern TWS of a small size with a leg. But they look extremely unusual. The main part of the earbud is made of white and black plastic with a matte and glossy finish, respectively. The leg is mostly transparent and you can see what’s inside.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

On the outer part of the headphones there are small white inserts with the inscriptions Nothing Ear (a), as well as red and black marks corresponding to the right and left earbuds. Near the junction of the leg and the main part there is a white area with a number of holes with a microphone for active noise control.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

On the inside of the Nothing Ear (a) legs there are contacts for charging, and some of the internal components of the headphones are visible, including magnets. On the inside of the main part there is a microphone and a compensation hole.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

The shape of the sound cables is non-standard: they are elongated and have additional plastic inserts for fixing the ear cushions. Therefore, you should not lose the bundled ones, third-party ear cushions will not fit. There is a usual mesh against dirt on the sound guides.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

The short length of the sound guides and the overall shape of the headphones provide for a shallow fit in the ears. Nothing Ear(a) are lightweight, weighing only 4.8 g each. Therefore, they do not get tired even after several hours of continuous use. They are IP54 protected.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

The charging case has the shape of a rectangular clamshell with a transparent top cover. It is thin and compact enough to be carried comfortably in a jeans pocket. But the materials used are not very practical. The transparent plastic on top and glossy plastic on the bottom will quickly become covered with small scratches.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

Inside, there are headphone slots with charging contacts, as well as red and black markings. It is convenient to take out the headphones. There is an LED indicator closer to the front edge on the left. In the right corner is the connection button. The Type-C port for charging is located at the back, and a metal hinge for the cover is a little higher.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

The lid has a clear auto-close in the extreme positions and is well fixed. The magnets are strong enough and the lid won’t open from an accidental sudden movement. But, like many modern TWS, the lid is a bit wobbly. The case has only formal IPX2 protection, which means it can withstand minimal water splashes.

Management

The control of Nothing Ear(a) headphones is not quite the usual way. Instead of the usual touching of the touch zones, the headphones respond to the squeezing of the legs. It turned out to be quite convenient. It takes a minimum of time to get used to, and there are almost no false clicks.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

By default, one compression is responsible for play/pause, double compression for the next track, and triple compression for the previous track. A long press turns active noise reduction on and off. And the voice assistant is set to short plus long compression.

The Nothing X app allows you to customize the controls to your liking. For example, for actions that have a long press, you can set the volume to increase or decrease. And for ANC actions, you can select the modes that will be switched. For example, you can leave only active noise reduction and transparency mode.

Connectivity and functionality

Nothing Ear (a) uses Bluetooth 5.3 to connect. There is support for SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs. Variations on the aptX theme are not supported, but the presence of LDAC fully compensates for this. The codec can theoretically provide 990 kbps and is supported by any Android smartphone. The connection stability is average: after 5 meters and two walls, when using LDAC, there are sometimes interruptions.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

Among the interesting features of the headphones are support for Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair, as well as Multipoint, which allows you to connect to two devices simultaneously. The headphones were also announced to integrate with ChatGPT. However, we did not have a chance to test the functionality: this feature is available only on Nothing smartphones.

The Nothing X app has quite familiar functionality and appearance. The main screen has an image of the headphones with the charge level and buttons to go to the basic settings. The equalizer has a rather unusual graphical appearance. There are four ready-made settings and the ability to adjust the sound yourself. There is a separate bass boost function with five intensity levels.

The Active Noise Cancellation system has three operating modes: on, off, and transparency mode. There is also a choice of ANC intensity and adaptive mode.

Огляд Nothing Ear (a): функціональність

The rest of the settings can be seen by clicking on the gear in the upper right corner of the screen. Here you can find the in-ear detection function (auto-pause), low latency mode, high quality mode (LDAC), dual pairing settings, ear cushion tightness check, headphone search, and software update.

Sound and noise reduction

Nothing Ear (a) uses dynamic 11-mm polymer emitters. Unlike the top-of-the-line Nothing Ear 3, where the size is similar, but the diaphragm is ceramic.

The sound is very good, considering the official price of $99. Typical entertaining, driving sound for the most popular styles of music with noticeably amplified low frequencies and a slightly reduced amount of midrange.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

There is really a lot of low frequencies, including a fair amount of sub-bass. Bassheads will be happy. At the same time, they are relatively quite clean, do not climb into the middle frequencies and do not turn into a hum. If you do not crank the woofer amplification function to the maximum. The high frequencies are slightly raised, but not too bright and do not cut through the ears.

The worst thing about Nothing Ear (a) is the midrange, which is usual for this class of headphones. Detailing is mediocre and the total amount of midrange would be a bit more. Live instruments sound bland and are not very well readable in the overall mix. The separation of instruments is at an acceptable level, but the imaginary scene is a little too tight. So, in general, these are headphones for lovers of electronics, hip-hop, pop music and other not too complex styles.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

The active noise control system in the maximum operating mode removes monotonous noise well, so in the office, on the street or in public transport (except for the subway, of course) nothing will distract you from listening to music. Yes, during pauses between songs, you can hear some noise, but their volume level is not distracting at all. Adaptive mode should automatically adjust the ANC intensity depending on the environment. So far, it does not always work correctly. But it is likely that it will be fixed with new firmware.

The Nothing Ear(a) is said to use a new Clear Voice technology for voice transmission, and the legs have channels for wind transmission. This should ensure clear voice transmission in any conditions. But in actual use, the microphones turned out to be not very good. The voice is very dull, and even with a low level of ambient noise, the interlocutor sometimes asks again.

Battery life

The Nothing Ear(a) headphones themselves have 46 mAh batteries and a 500 mAh charging case. It is stated that the headphones can work from a single charge for up to 9.5 hours, and with the case – all 42.5 hours. But these figures are for listening without ANC. And, it seems, at 50% volume. With ANC, the figures are much more modest: up to 5.5 hours and 24.5 hours, respectively. Fast charging is supported: they promise 10 hours of operation after 10 minutes of charging. Wireless charging is not supported.

Nothing Ear (a) review: TWS headphones as a fashion accessory

When listening with ANC and a comfortable volume level (80-90%), the headphones can work for about 4.5-5 hours. An acceptable figure, but most competitors can offer more.