Nothing Ear (1) review

New and genuinely improved

the nothing ear 1 earbuds in their charging case
(Image: © TechRadar)

TechRadar Verdict

The Nothing Ear (1) make quite the comeback from last year's release, with superior sound and better noise cancellation than before. Comfortable to wear and distinctive, they're worth your time at last.

Pros

  • +

    Very comfortable

  • +

    Decent sound

  • +

    Responsive touch controls

Cons

  • -

    Limited EQ options

  • -

    Transparency mode is weak

  • -

    Limited codec support

Why you can trust TechRadar Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Two-minute review

When the Nothing Ear (1) first launched last year, there was a lot of excitement and hype for the first true wireless earbuds from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei's new company. 

Simply put, they didn't live up to the hype. They looked cool but they provided overly quiet sound, numerous connectivity issues, and poor noise cancellation.

Things have changed since then with the release of the Nothing Ear (1) Black Edition, and the October 2022 Nothing Ear (Stick) option, following a number of updates to the original wireless earbuds – which is why we wanted to re-review them. The Ear (1) look a bit better now, still feel incredibly comfortable to wear and, most importantly, sound pretty good for the price too. 

Improvements could still be made, of course. The charging case is still rather bulky compared to the competition. Also, while the Nothing app is easy to use, it's a bit limited if you like to tweak the equalizer yourself. 

The earbuds' active noise cancellation may be better than before but the Transparency mode leaves a lot to be desired. 

So, these aren't perfect earbuds just yet, but there's a lot more to like. Their unique transparent design suits a black casing better than its white version did. It's a cool looking concept even if we're not sure how often anyone peers adoringly at their earbuds. 

Also, there's now voice assistant support, courtesy of a firmware update. It's as convenient as you would expect and, in conjunction with the Nothing Ear (1)'s ever responsive touch controls, sure to be useful during walks or workouts. 

The audio performance has been improved too, with a far stronger soundstage than anticipated. This time around, Nothing's collaboration with Swedish audio company Teenage Engineerings seems to be shining through. Crucially, ANC means you don't actually hear what's going on around you anymore. 

Battery life has taken a hit here with us getting about four hours from one charge with ANC on and the volume at a middling level, but with the wireless charging case, you should get up to 34 hours when it's switched off. 

Connectivity is improved too, thanks to the use of Bluetooth 5.2 - but don't count on any multipoint support here. 

Overall, the Nothing Ear (1) are a step forward after last year's attempt. Well priced at $100 / £100 / AU$150, you finally get good noise cancellation, decent audio, and a mostly reliable connection. 

the nothing ear 1 true wireless earbuds in their charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Nothing Ear (1) price and availability

  • Available now 
  • $100 / £100 / AU$150 
  • Available at third-party retailers as well as direct 

The Nothing Ear (1) are available to buy now for $100 / £100 / AU$150, which means they are pretty cheap for noise-cancelling wireless earbuds

Previously only available via a limited drop on the Nothing website, it's now possible to buy them at third-party retailers such as Amazon. Both Black and White varieties are available to choose from but if you're buying from a third-party retailer, you may wish to steer towards the Black version, to guarantee these are the latest model.

the nothing ear 1 charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Distinctive transparent appearance
  • Large charging case
  • Very comfortable 

The Nothing Ear (1) are designed in a truly distinctive way. If you want earphones that look different from the rest, these are the ones to go with. 

Both the earbuds and charging case are nearly entirely see-through. The only parts you can't see through are the housing of the earbuds and the bottom of the charging case.

It's possible to see some of the inner workings such as the circuit boards and magnets involved, and it looks pretty cool. If you're keen to learn more about how your earbuds work, this is quite a fun way of doing so. 

They're comfy too with a choice of three silicone tips helping matters. 

Each earbud stem is touch sensitive with the usual bevy of controls to adjust here. Besides the standard options, it's possible to adjust settings via the Nothing Ear (1) app. That's also where voice assistant support can be set up. 

The charging case is the less stylish part of the package. Its flip-top design is satisfyingly snappy, but the case itself is much larger than those of competitors. It won't fit in your pocket so easily. 

a closeup of the nothing ear 1 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audio performance and noise cancellation

  • 11.6mm drivers
  • Strong noise cancellation
  • Wide soundstage 

The previous version of the Nothing Ear (1) lacked a lot aurally but this time around, they're pretty good. While bass could still be a little richer and stronger, the mids sound clear and smooth with a certain crispness to them. There's no flatness to the beat here. 

A wide soundstage means you feel part of the experience too, with Billie Eilish's Bad Guy sounding like it's coming at you from multiple directions. It's listening to Foo Fighters' All My Life that makes you realize the bass could be more substantial. Switching over to Queen’s Under Pressure, however, leaves you happy with the finer details. 

Whatever you listen to, cranking up the volume feels genuinely noticeable this time around. The noise cancellation works well too. With music on at about half volume and noise cancellation switched to Maximum via the app, we couldn't hear the TV playing across the room or even the taps of our keyboard. 

Transparency mode is still a little weak but we'll take that in exchange for superior ANC.

a closeup of a nothing ear 1 earbud

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life and connectivity

  • Up to 34 hours of battery life via the case 
  • USB-C and wireless charging
  • Bluetooth 5.2  

The Nothing Ear (1) offer about four hours of listening time with ANC switched on. Combined with the case, you should get about 24 hours overall. That number increases to 34 if you switch off ANC. 

It's a reliable amount, if not exceptional in either direction. Fortunately, a 10-minute charge of the case produces about eight hours of playback. It's possible to charge via the wireless charging case or via its USB-C port. 

Connectivity is Bluetooth 5.2 based. There's still no Bluetooth multipoint or aptX/LDAC codec support for hi-res audio streaming, but we never suffered from any dropouts. Pairing for the first time only took a couple of seconds and we never had the earbuds fail to connect. 

The Nothing app lets you see how much battery life is left for each bud, plus allows you to change noise cancellation modes, change touch controls, and alter equalizer presets. There's no way of manually tweaking the latter though.

Should I buy the Nothing Ear (1)?

the nothing ear 1 wireless earbuds in their charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy them if...

You want distinctive earbuds
The Nothing Ear (1) will look like little else you've seen before and they're pretty cool.

You want decent ANC on a budget
These won't rival the likes of the Sony WF-1000XM4 (opens in new tab) for ANC, but at this price, they're surprisingly potent. 

You want reliable touch controls
Touch controls are frequently temperamental but the Nothing Ear (1) are well designed and responsive.

Don't buy them if...

You love strong bass
The Nothing Ear (1) offer decent sound for the price but you still won't get great bass.

You need plenty of battery life
With fine if unremarkable battery life, the Nothing Ear (1) won't blow your mind if you need lots of battery.

You like to tweak settings
It's great there's a Nothing app but not being able to tweak the equalizer fully isn't ideal.

Jennifer is a roving tech freelancer with over 10 years experience. Having graduated from Swansea University with a degree in Media and Communication Studies, and later with a diploma from Staffordshire University with a post graduate diploma in Computer Games Design, she's written for a huge number of publications, including T3, FitandWell, Top Ten Reviews, Eurogamer, NME and many more. 


Her main areas of interest are all things B2B, smart technology, wearables, speakers, headphones, and anything gaming related, and you'll find her writing everything from product reviews to buying guides. In her spare time, she enjoys the cinema, walking, and attempting to train her pet guinea pigs. She is yet to succeed.