The main thing from the reviews of the new device by Karl Pei, who used to produce flagship smartphones with a low price.
On August 18, sales of Nothing ear headphones (1) began in the USA, England and a number of other countries — they cost $99, £99 and €99, respectively. This is the first product of the Nothing startup, which was launched in early 2021 by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.
The features of the headphones are an unusual design and the function of active noise reduction. This will allow you to compete with the AirPods Pro worth $249 and other devices, Pei believes. In February, Nothing raised $15 million from Alphabet.
We chose the main thing from the reviews of Nothing ear (1) — whether they can really compete with more expensive headphones and what disadvantages they have.
The main thing
The general opinion of journalists and observers: Nothing turned out to be successful and high-quality headphones for their cost.
Nothing ear (1) offers an unusual design, good sound quality, active noise reduction, “transparency” mode and many other features that are not often found in headphones for $99. Although, as The Verge writes, they “do not reach perfection”.
They can be recommended as an inexpensive alternative to AirPods Pro. But, for example, in terms of noise reduction quality, Nothing ear (1) is far from Sony XF-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort, PC Mag notes.
And the Forbes journalist was delighted: “These headphones look and sound great, excellent build quality and value for money, and the noise reduction is surprisingly effective. If you are thinking of buying AirPods Pro, take a look at Nothing ear (1) — you will clearly choose them.”
What is being praised
Unusual “transparent” design and convenience
The main feature of Nothing Ear (1) is a retrofuturism — style design with transparent parts of the case. Electronic components can be seen through them: microphones, contacts, microchips and sensors.
The Nothing font is engraved on the earphone in the style of characters on a printed circuit board — the company also uses it in a mobile application, on the website and in paper materials.
Due to the abundance of small parts, Nothing postponed the launch of headphones for several months: some enterprises refused to produce them due to the difficulty with fitting parts. The Swedish audio equipment manufacturer Teenage Engineering became a partner of Nothing.
The Nothing Ear (1) form factor is common for wireless headphones. If their leg was white, and not transparent, they would look like AirPods Pro and many of their alternatives, writes TechCrunch.
You can control playback, calls and volume via the touch panels on the leg. When you remove one earphone, the playback is automatically paused.
The headphones are light, each weighs 4.7 grams, fit well and tightly in the ear and do not hang out while jogging or eating, The Verge, Radio Times, TechCrunch and other publications note.
Silicone ear pads, there are three different-sized options in the kit. To avoid pressure on the ears, the headphones are equipped with ventilation holes. Nothing Ear (1) is protected from sweat and splashes according to the IPX4 standard.
The charging case is also transparent, the headphones are fixed on magnets and recesses in the case cover. The case is charged via USB Type-C, there is a wireless Qi-charging.
Due to the large battery of 570 mAh, the case case is quite large — it is not very convenient to carry it in your pocket along with other things, Gadgets 360 writes. But in general, it fits in your pocket.
The main aesthetic problem of the headphones and the case is that they scratch quite quickly and easily collect fingerprints. For example, a TechCrunch columnist got a long scratch on the bottom of the case in a few days.
It is unclear how much weakness and fragility will spoil their appearance after several months of use. However, Pei believes that ” battle scars will become part of the charm.” Journalists doubt this.
Instead of the usual “left” and “right” Nothing marks, we chose red and white dots — they are both on the headphones and on the case. This makes it easier to return the headphones to the case.
Good sound — but not everyone liked it
Nothing promises a “balanced” sound at medium, low and high frequencies: Nothing Ear (1) is equipped with 11.6 mm drivers, their optimization was carried out by Teenage Engineering.
Most reviewers confirm that the sound quality is very good, especially in the “balanced” mode of the built-in equalizer. Nothing ear (1) is suitable for most scenarios — from listening to music and podcasts to watching movies.
“The bass is dense, the middle ones are bright, and the tops are clear, I constantly had to remind myself that the headphones cost $99, not $199,” says the Android Authority journalist. He compares the quality of the headphones with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, which cost twice as much.
There is an excess of high frequencies, which is why the GSMArena journalist heard a hiss in some tracks. But he admits, even taking into account the inflated “tops”, Nothing ear (1)”far surpass most devices in this segment.”
This is also confirmed by The Verge: “the headphones sound nice, although they do not reach the devices for $200-300.” SoundGuys praises the sound quality: “most buyers will enjoy the sound of Nothing ear (1).”
TechRadar and What Hi-fi liked the sound less: the reviewers did not have enough bass, and the headphones themselves were called too quiet, while the high frequencies, according to them, are “detailed and clear”, sometimes even excessively.
Nothing ear (1) does not support high — quality audio codecs-aptX and LDAC. But this is a minor problem, since their target audience will listen to music in streaming services, writes Android Authority.
Good battery life
Journalists confirm Nothing’s statements about the working hours of headphones:
4 hours of operation with noise reduction enabled.
5.7 hours of operation without noise reduction
With the case — another 24-27 hours of work with noise reduction turned on and 28-34 hours with it turned off.
The headphones and the case support fast charging: 10 minutes is enough to charge the headphones for 60 minutes of playback, and the case — up to 8 hours. Fast charging is limited to 5W.
What is being scolded for
Active noise reduction for $99 is passable: it’s great that it exists, but it does not always get rid of noise
Journalists call noise reduction (ANC) tolerable. It copes with low-frequency hum and reduces noise from fans, air conditioners and engines, which are often heard at home and in the office.
But the sound from the surrounding people, the rattling of the keyboard and the sound of rain remain untouched. You can not hear the hum of the air conditioner, but you can hear the air blowing out of it, writes GSMArena.
At the maximum ANC level, the Techradar reviewer could easily communicate and hear the tapping of keys on the keyboard, and at the minimum it was not clear at all that noise reduction worked.
TechCrunch also notes that the noise reduction of Nothing ear (1) copes with “a fair share of city noise”, and The Verge got rid of the hum in the coffee shop.
The “transparency” mode also worked moderately — there was no feeling that the sound of the environment was fed into the headphones, although the high-frequency sounds became clearer, writes TechRadar. ANC does not affect the sound quality, but it adds a slight hiss, characteristic of headphones with noise reduction.
In general, the noise reduction and” transparency ” of headphones are far from premium from Sony and others. But ANC allows you to reduce the ambient noise and create a quiet environment to work or focus on music.
“The difference between ANC turned on and off is definitely felt,” writes the Android Authority.
Firmware problems and other disadvantages
Journalists from The Verge, GSMArena and other publications encountered several software problems when testing Nothing ear (1) in July. Now it is unclear whether all the problems were fixed by the time the headphones went on sale.
The transparency mode could be triggered randomly: it was activated during a call or periodically amplified the surrounding sounds when turning the head.
The headphones sometimes switched noise reduction modes or amplified external noise.
The fast connection function of Android Fast Pair did not work — I had to connect headphones via Bluetooth, as on iOS.
Changes in the application were sometimes not applied — although it is very convenient, simple and thoughtful.
Sometimes the sound would pause for a second.
There were connection breaks.
From other noticed problems:
Some journalists complained about the quiet sound of both microphones and speakers.
There is no built-in voice assistant or voice control.
The equalizer can not be fine-tuned — only choose from pre-created presets.