Two years after their first wireless earbuds and releasing models without in-ear tips or noise reduction in the meantime, Nothing is back in the audio field. The British manufacturer has unveiled its new Nothing Ear (2). While the earbuds largely retain the design of their predecessors, they offer significantly more advanced features. Is this enough to justify the higher price? Let’s find out in this comprehensive review.
Nothing Ear (2) Specifications
This review was conducted using earbuds provided by the manufacturer.
Nothing Ear (2) Design
Transparency has been a key design element for Nothing since the brand’s inception two years ago, and the new Nothing Ear (2) is no exception. These earbuds closely resemble the first models, launched in summer 2021.
Both the case and the earbuds themselves feature transparent plastic, revealing some of the components inside. While the stems are transparent, the earbud shells that rest inside the ear are made of glossy white plastic.
The design choice was appealing for the first Ear (1) and remains relevant for the Nothing Ear (2). Despite the aesthetic choice, the earbuds are well-assembled and the shells are securely attached. With dimensions of 29.4 x 21.5 x 23.5mm and a weight of just 4.5 grams per earbud, the Nothing Ear (2) is quite comfortable in the ears and does not put excessive pressure on the outer ear or ear canal. I was able to wear them for several hours without any discomfort.
These are in-ear earbuds, and they benefit from passive isolation provided by the supplied silicone tips. Three pairs of tips are included with the Nothing Ear (2): S, M, and L.
The Nothing Ear (2) Case
Nothing has used the same approach for the Nothing Ear (2) case as with their first model. The transparent square case design is retained, but with a few differences. One such difference is the white block inside the case that houses the battery. While it was embedded in the case in the first version, it is more visible in this new iteration.
The white plastic is now in direct contact with the exterior. The case is also less textured, for a more understated look. Overall, it follows the same design principle as the Nothing Ear (1) but is slightly smaller, measuring 55.5 x 55.5 x 22mm and weighing 51.9 grams, compared to 58.6 x 58.6 x 23.7mm in the first generation. This makes it easy to store in a purse or small pocket. However, be aware that the Nothing Ear (2) case still doesn’t pass the watch pocket test.
Regarding buttons, connectors, and indicators, there is a USB-C port on the right side next to the pairing button. A single indicator light inside the case shows the battery level and pairing status of the earbuds.
Water Resistance and Sports Usage of Nothing Ear (2)
The Nothing Ear (2) is protected against splashes, rain, and sweat with its IP54 certification and is also dust-resistant. The case is similarly protected with an IP55 certification.
The earbuds hold up well during sports activities and stay securely in place during your workout sessions, even during high-impact activities like running. Their stem design helps keep them in place.
Nothing Ear (2) Usage and App
Connecting the Nothing earbuds to an Android smartphone is simple. Compatible with Google Fast Pair protocol, the Nothing Ear (2) will prompt a small pop-up at the bottom of the screen the first time you open the case nearby. The Microsoft Swift Pair protocol enables a similar connection experience with a Windows PC.
If your device isn’t compatible with these protocols, you can still open the case and press the pairing button for a few seconds until the LED flashes. The Nothing Ear (2) will then be visible in your phone, PC, TV, tablet, or music player’s Bluetooth settings.
Touch Controls for Nothing Ear (2)
For the Ear (2), Nothing has revised the touch controls and the way users interact with the earbuds. While you can still manage the earbuds using the stems, Nothing has switched from tap controls to pinch controls. By default, the following controls are available on both Nothing Ear (2) earbuds:
- Single pinch: Play/pause
- Double pinch: Next track
- Triple pinch: Previous track
- Long pinch: Noise reduction mode
The Nothing X app from the manufacturer allows you to modify the controls assigned to each type of pinch and even decouple a gesture on the left earbud from the same gesture on the right. For example, a double tap on the left can be used to activate the voice assistant, while a long press on the left lowers the volume and on the right raises it. The only control that cannot be assigned to another function is the play/pause.
Unfortunately, this change in control eliminates the volume management by sliding. However, you can still manage the volume using a gesture not assigned by default: a double pinch followed by holding your fingers on the earbuds. This allows for managing all possible controls on the earbuds, from playback to noise reduction, voice assistant, and volume control.
The Nothing X App
To control the Ear (2) from your smartphone, you can use the Nothing X app (Android & iOS) from the British manufacturer, or the Bluetooth settings on your phone if you have a Nothing Phone (1).
The app is user-friendly and allows you to easily view the battery level of each earbud. Below that, three options are highlighted: the equalizer, command management, and noise reduction control. You can also manage the controls for the left or right earbud by tapping on their illustration on the home screen.
In the top left corner, a settings wheel gives you access to additional controls. Here, you can enable or disable the wearing detection, switch to low-latency mode, activate the LHDC audio codec, set a personal audio profile, configure double Bluetooth connection, perform an adjustment test, or update the earbuds.
In terms of features, the Nothing X app is rich enough to cover the main expected uses for this type of app, allowing you to configure the Nothing Ear (2) to your preferences.
Bluetooth Connection for Nothing Ear (2)
To ensure the Bluetooth connection between the earbuds and a smartphone or computer, Nothing uses Bluetooth version 5.3. The manufacturer also claims to have used larger and better-positioned antennas compared to the first Nothing Ear (1), ensuring a more stable signal in principle.
The previous earbuds from the brand could experience connection drops quite regularly. This is no longer the case with the Nothing Ear (2), which manages to maintain a stable signal even in conditions that troubled their predecessors, such as running with the smartphone in an armband or walking with the phone in a pocket and a hand covering it.
The earbuds are not only compatible with Bluetooth LE Audio but also support multipoint Bluetooth. As a result, they can connect simultaneously to a smartphone and a computer, allowing you to attend a video meeting on your PC while answering a call on your smartphone. To activate this mode, go to the “double connection” option in the Nothing X app. Note that the last played source may not be prioritized, so you’ll need to pause the music on one source to enjoy sound from the other. However, phone calls will take precedence.
Regarding Bluetooth audio latency, Nothing performs averagely. With a Pixel 6 Pro, I measured a latency of 197ms in AAC and 198ms in SBC. Unfortunately, low-latency mode didn’t provide any noticeable improvement, with a measured delay of 199ms for both codecs.
Nothing Ear (2) Noise Reduction
Like the previous version, the Nothing Ear (2) features active noise cancellation, which relies on three integrated microphones in each earbud—two outside and one inward-facing—as well as passive isolation from silicone tips. The manufacturer claims this can reduce certain sound frequencies by up to -40dB. However, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt, as they only reflect a single frequency and don’t consider all audible frequencies around you.
To manage noise reduction, Nothing offers three levels: low, medium, and high. An adaptive mode is also available, automatically adjusting noise reduction based on your sound environment. A “customized noise suppression” mode adapts to your ear canal.
In practice, the noise reduction provided by Nothing Ear (2) is quite convincing and comparable to mid-range or even high-end earbuds with similar features. While not as effective as AirPods Pro 2 or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, the Nothing Ear (2) adequately reduces predictable noises such as subway rumbling, distant traffic, or fan sounds. However, they only diminish the sound of voices, keyboards, or nearby vehicle engines. The noise reduction is effective for constant sounds but less so for sporadic ones.
Nothing Ear (2) Transparency Mode
Nothing’s earbuds also offer a transparency mode to better hear your surroundings or people around you. The result is very effective, with a natural rendering and faithful reproduction of sounds you’d perceive without wearing the earbuds. It’s well-executed.
Nothing Ear (2) Audio
Nothing has largely revised its wireless earbuds’ audio component. The manufacturer still uses 11.6mm diameter transducers designed in-house and in partnership with Teenage Engineering. However, Nothing has not only revised the calibration of its earbuds but also the materials integrated into the transducers. There are two materials in the diaphragm used for the speakers: graphene for the treble and more flexible polyurethane for the bass.
Nothing has also incorporated two echo chambers within its earbuds to better circulate sound waves and provide a more expansive sound.
Regarding Bluetooth audio codecs, Nothing Ear (2) is compatible not only with the most common codecs on the market, AAC and SBC, but also with LHDC 5.0 codec. Supported by Nothing Phone (1) as well as Huawei, Oppo, OnePlus, and Xiaomi smartphones, LHDC allows Hi-Res Audio compatibility with bandwidth up to 900 kbps, 24-bit depth, 96 kHz sampling rate, and a 144 dB dynamic range.
To test the sound quality of Nothing Ear (2), I used an Oppo Find X5 Pro and listened to files on Spotify at “very high” quality (320 kbps ogg vorbis files) and Tidal HiFi for HD quality files.
Nothing’s earbuds offer a high level of detail with prominent midrange and a pleasing W-shaped sound signature. The earbuds effectively highlight vocals, although this can sometimes result in noticeable sibilance. Importantly, despite the emphasis on midrange, the sound is not fatiguing, thanks to the presence of bass. The earbuds are particularly convincing on Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” producing a pleasant sound.
While treble is slightly subdued, Nothing Ear (2) still creates small peaks at 6,000 and 15,000 Hz to increase detail without sounding harsh. Overall, it’s well-executed and successful.
If the sound signature isn’t to your taste, the Nothing X app allows adjustments via a three-band equalizer (mid, bass, and treble) with frequency ranges adjustable from -6 to +6 dB. The app also offers four presets: balanced (default), more bass, more treble, and vocals.
You can also generate a personal audio profile based on a 5-minute test, which automatically adjusts the equalization according to your perception of different high frequencies.
I particularly appreciated the dynamic range and soundstage width of Nothing Ear (2). The earbuds effectively provide intensity variations and a good stereo soundstage for immersive listening.
Note that, like OnePlus Buds Pro 2 and Google Pixel Buds Pro, Nothing Ear (2) is compatible with Google’s spatial audio standard and can utilize Dolby Atmos content from compatible video apps like YouTube or Netflix, but not on audio streaming services.
Nothing Ear (2) Microphone
The Nothing Ear (2) can be used as microphones for phone calls. Each earbud is equipped with three microphones to capture and reduce ambient noise while recording your voice. Nothing also uses its noise reduction algorithm, “Clear Voice Technology,” for calls.
However, the Nothing Ear (2) struggles to reduce background noise effectively. While they perform moderately well with constant noise, such as an open faucet, this comes at the cost of voice clarity, which becomes heavily compressed for the listener.
Moreover, the earbuds have difficulty filtering noise in louder environments, like busy streets, tending to let everything through, including vehicle sounds, honking, and surrounding voices, as if it were your own voice.
Overall, using Nothing Ear (2) in noisy environments can be frustrating, and your conversation partner may feel frustrated after just a few minutes.
Nothing Ear (2) Battery Life
Nothing has incorporated a 33 mAh battery in each earbud and a 485 mAh battery in the charging case. For comparison, the first models had a 31 mAh battery in the earbuds and a 570 mAh battery in the case.
According to Nothing, this battery should provide 4 hours of use with noise reduction (22.5 hours with the case) and 6.3 hours without noise reduction (36 hours with the case).
In my experience, with 60% volume and maximum active noise reduction, I could use the Nothing Ear (2) continuously for 3 hours and 6 minutes. This falls short of the promised 4 hours and is on the lower end of average for wireless earbuds in 2023. For comparison, AirPods Pro 2 lasts a little over 5 hours in the same conditions, while the slightly cheaper Huawei FreeBuds 5i lasts just over 4 hours.
To recharge the earbuds in the case, it takes 35 minutes to go from 0 to 90% and an additional 52 minutes to reach 100%, totaling 1 hour and 27 minutes for a full charge. This is far from the standards observed in the past two years.
The Nothing Ear (2) case can be recharged using a USB-C port (a short USB-C to USB-C cable is included) or wirelessly with its Qi inductive charging standard compatibility.
Nothing Ear (2) Price and Release Date
The Nothing Ear (2) is already available on Nothing’s website for $149. They will be available at other retailers starting March 28th. Only one color option is offered, with black and white earbuds.
Where to Buy Nothing Ear (2) at the Best Price?
No special offers are available for now! It is available for pre-order on Nothing Website for $149
Our Opinion on the Nothing Ear (2)
The Nothing Ear (2) features a unique and comfortable design. Its IP54 water resistance ensures good protection against splashes, rain, and dust.
Nothing’s companion app effectively controls the earbuds with numerous features. However, a more advanced equalizer with additional frequency bands and volume control by sliding gestures would have been appreciated.
This is the main weak point of the earbuds. With noise reduction, 50% volume, and using the earbuds alone, the Nothing Ear (2) barely lasts over three hours. We expect better in the 2023 market.
The Nothing Ear (2) delivers quality sound, assisted by responsive transducers and LHDC 5.0 codec management. The soundstage’s width and depth are appreciated for its precision, detail, and expansiveness. However, slight sibilance is noticeable on certain sounds.
At $150, it’s difficult to be as demanding as with premium earbuds launched around $300. Nonetheless, the noise reduction of Nothing Ear (2) is effective. Although not on par with Bose or Apple models, the noise isolation is sufficient, so you don’t need to increase the volume too much to enjoy your content.
Pros of Nothing Ear (2)
- Multipoint Bluetooth compatibility
- Comprehensive Nothing X app
- Customizable pinch controls
- Effective active noise reduction
- Appealing and unique design
Cons of Nothing Ear (2)
- Insufficient battery life
- Average call quality
- Slight sibilance
Two years after its first earbuds, Nothing strikes hard with its Ear (2). The manufacturer has improved almost every aspect of its wireless earbuds, delivering excellent mid-range wireless earbuds.
We particularly appreciate the ergonomic improvements, such as multipoint Bluetooth management and pinch controls, as well as the more stable Bluetooth connection. The earbuds also excel in sound reproduction, with precise, pleasant, and warm output.
However, at $149, the Nothing Ear (2) is no longer an entry-level product like its predecessor. They still suffer from some notable shortcomings, such as limited battery life with active noise reduction, forcing users to place them in their case during a long trip over three hours or a workday. The call quality is also average.
At $149, the Nothing Ear (2) is highly recommendable, but they may struggle to stand out against some competitors offered at lower prices.
|Driver||11.6 mm dynamic|
|Diaphragm||Graphene + PU (Polyurethane)|
|Bluetooth codec||AAC, SBC, LHDC|
|ANC||Up to 40 dB, Personalized ANC, Environment Adaptive ANC|
|Frequency range||5000 Hz|
|Earbud||Height: 29.4 mm, Width: 21.5 mm, Depth: 23.5 mm, Weight: 4.5 g|
|Case||Height: 55.5 mm, Width: 55.5 mm, Depth: 22 mm, Weight: 51.9 g|
|Type||Rechargeable li-ion battery|
|Capacity||33 mAh (buds) / 485 mAh (case)|
|Playback (ANC off)||Up to 36 hours with case, 6.3 hours with buds only|
|Playback (ANC on)||Up to 22.5 hours with case, 4 hours with buds only|
|Talk time (ANC off)||Up to 20.5 hours with case, 3.5 hours with buds only|
|Talk time (ANC on)||Up to 17.5 hours with case, 3 hours with buds only|
|Fast charging (ANC off)||10 mins for 8 hours|
|Wired charging||USB Type-C|
|Wireless charging||Qi Certified up to 2.5W|
|Resistance||IP54 buds / IP55 case water and dust resistance|
|Google Fast Pair||Yes|
|Microsoft Swift Pair||Yes|
|Clear Voice Technology||With 3 mics per bud|
|LED charging status||Yes|
|Low Lag Mode||Nothing X & Phone (1)|
|In the box|
|Contents||Earbuds, Ear tips (S, M, L), Charging case, Type-C cable, Safety information, Warranty information, User guide|
|Bluetooth version||BT 5.3|
|Bluetooth profiles||BLE, SPP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP|
|Android||5.1 and above|
|iOS||11 and above|