Nothing is back with a new pair of earbuds — the Ear (stick). These provide a half in-ear alternative to those who don’t like the invasive feel of the Nothing ear (1)’s rubberized tips, but pack new features and a fascinating new case design.
They launch on November 4 and, as you may have seen on the announcement stream, we’ve got a lot to talk about.
Fuelled by fashion
First off, let’s tackle this new design. If you’re thinking “it looks like a cosmetic case,” that’s good because this is what the company was striving for. It’s what makes the company’s decision to sneakily show its product during London Fashion Week so apt.
This compact cylindrical case should be far more easily pocketable than the larger square slab of the ear (1), and the unique opening mechanism of rotating the case is a really cool piece of mechanical design.
As for the earbuds themselves, without rubberized eartips, these are designed to sit less intrusively in the ear, for a nicer fit for those that don’t like the depth the tips go into your canals (get your mind out of the gutter).
This is backed up by a 4.4g weight, which makes them super lightweight too — lending itself to all-day wearability, alongside that listening time of up to 7 hours with the case upping that battery life to 22 hours of charge.
Giving and taking away
There are some interesting new features on hand here, which do give these a slight leg up over the ear (1). The drivers are now 1mm bigger at 12.6mm and come with a new Bass Lock technology, which measures your ear canal shape to see how much bass is lost during wear, and alters the equalizer to deliver an optimal level of punchy lows without compromising the highs and mids.
Alongside this, the way you control these buds have been changed to surface taps to pinching the stems. This should eliminate the problem of unintended touches, but I gotta say I do miss the option to swipe on the buds to alter the volume, which has been reploaced with a press and hold.
Finally, with new earphones, the dedicated Nothing ear (1) app doesn’t really make sense anymore, so you now have the Nothing X app, which adds additional features such as a fully customizable EQ. Some of these features are also embedded into Nothing OS, which means seamless integration between these buds and the Nothing phone (1).
But with these new features and the new design, there are two key things that Nothing has taken away from the Ear (stick). Namely, there is no wireless charging and no Active Noise Cancellation. The case does have fast charging, which delivers two extra hours of listening with a 10-minute charge, but for that former point, we’ll have to see how the sound of these buds can contend with outside interference.
Let’s talk about the price
All of this comes at a cost of $99/£99, which just a few short weeks ago would have been the same price as the Nothing ear (1), which comes with the additional benefits of wireless charging and ANC.
I was curious as to why the company feels it could get away with this, and while there are other new features that we’ve spoken about here, the answer became clear through a tweet from Carl Pei — announcing that the cost of ear (1) is going up by 50% to $149/£149.
The reasons for this rise come down to an increase in production costs and (potentially) the increased cost of the many more engineers the company employs. I say potentially on that latter part because while Carl did not directly connect this as a reason, it was highlighted in his twitter thread.
On October 26, we'll be raising the prices for Ear (1) to $149 due to an increase in costs. pic.twitter.com/jJDlaXzzJ6October 18, 2022
So now, the ultimate question is simple: beyond the attention to design and aesthetics, are these a good pair of half in-ear earbuds? That’s something we’ll need to answer with a proper hands-on review.
It’s certainly an eye-catching pair of buds, which is what Nothing certainly specializes in, and I can see myself rotating them open and closed much like the habitual fidget spinner dimple in the ear (1)’s case.
If you’re sold on them, you can pick up a pair starting at 5:30am ET / 10:30am GMT on November 4 at nothing.tech.
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Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.