Nothing returns to the charge. The British company has presented this Wednesday the Nothing Ear (2)the successors to the Ear(1) that hit stores nearly two years ago.
These headphones, let’s remember, not only marked the debut of the brand; they also quickly established themselves as one of the most recommended options in their segment.
Will this new model be able to repeat the good reviews its predecessor got? What has changed compared to the previous generation? Is it the headset you should buy?
Those are some of the questions that I have asked myself during the last days in which I have lived with the Nothing Ear (2). And, of course, I will try to answer them in this analysis.
The design of the Nothing Ear (2): what has changed?
On the outside, the Nothing Ear (2) are practically identical to the Nothing Ear (1). They combine the shape of the AirPods Pro –although with a more rectangular stem– with a translucent finish that allows a good part of the interior of the headset to be seen. It is a striking design, without a doubt different and that, by the way, entails some work behind it, since it forces the brand to pamper the appearance of the interior of the product.
The box is also quite similar to that of the previous model, although in this case some variations can be identified: the case is a little smaller, the corners are more pronounced, the bottom part exposes pieces that were previously covered by a translucent plastic sheet, the hinge and the magnets are also a little different… In any case, these are minor details that, except a direct comparison, do not jump to the eye.
Between both recharging cases, yes, I have noticed a small difference that has caught my attention: the top cover, when closed, has a minuscule gap that is not repeated in the previous model. It is enough to exert some pressure on the sides of the upper cover to reproduce this behavior that, in the previous model, as I said, does not occur. Why happens? Everything points to a tiny step that did exist on the edge of the Ear (1) cover but has been removed on the Ear (2).
This slight differenceor does it mean that the new case is more fragile. What’s more: if you consider buying the Nothing Ear (2), this should not influence your purchase decision at all. However, I did want to comment on it in this text because it has struck me that a second-generation product takes less care of this detail.
Beyond the mentioned the aesthetic of the Nothing Ear (2) is undoubtedly fresh and recognizable. And it is appreciated that it is so. With few exceptions, all technology brands converge towards similar designs in their products. We have seen it for years in mobile telephony and, now, also in headphones. That Nothing strays from that line is undoubtedly commendable. And if, in addition, they achieve a result as attractive as this, then the combo is undoubtedly a winner.
Sound quality in Nothing Ear (2): an indisputable step forward
The Nothing Ear (1) has never lived up to the best headphones in the business when it comes to audio quality. But that, honestly, wasn’t a realistic goal either. The Ear (1) had a launch RRP of 99 euros; while the AirPods Pro or WF-1000XM4 are around between 250 and 300 euros. Of course there were differences.
What the Nothing Ear (1) did offer, however, was good sound for the price. That, added to other additions –such as noise cancellation or price– made the Ear (1) a really interesting combo.
With the Nothing Ear (2) We could state that same conclusion, although with a nuance: this model delivers an undoubtedly better sound. If you know the behavior of the previous generation, just use them for a few minutes to see the jump. Everything, in general, feels more refined, sharp and balanced.
For it to be possible, the brand has made several changes. For example, they have incorporated a new diaphragm custom (made with a combination of polyurethane and graphene), a dual-chamber design, and have also achieved Hi-Res Audio Wireless certification.
The latter is possible thanks to the LHDC 5.0 codec, which promises to stream music at a maximum of 24-bit/192 kHz. To enjoy this last virtue, yes, it is necessary to have a compatible phone (such as the Nothing Phone (1), which will be after an update of software).
That the Nothing Ear (2) have this Hi-Res certification is welcome, as it means they can work with richer material and extract certain nuances. Yes indeed: don’t expect this particular to be a turning point. And you don’t even need to test it, just go to the theory:
- It has been shown that bitrate increases, after a certain point, are difficult for the human ear to detect. Even less if, to reproduce the audio in question, far from high-end equipment is used.
- The most popular streaming service (Spotify) falls short of the 24-bit / 192 kHz that LHDC 5.0 promises. You would have to resort to alternatives like Tidal or Apple Music to get a streaming at the height.
- To reproduce the promised 24-bit 192 Hz without compression would require a connection between the source and headphones of more than 9 Mbps. However, LHDC 5.0 reaches, at most and under ideal conditions, 1 Mbps. Therefore Even with efficient compression involved, it is impossible to transmit that information losslessly. A more realistic goal is CD quality (16-bit, 44.1 kHz), which requires 1.4 Mbps of bandwidth (before any compression is applied).
Beyond behavior Nothing has implemented in the Nothing X application a function that analyzes the hearing capacity of each person to dynamically adapt the behavior of the headset. An excellent idea considering that people’s hearing worsens as they age (reducing their ability to discern higher frequencies).
The brand also offers several equalization presets, as well as the option to manually modify each of the parameters to suit the consumer.
How does noise cancellation work on Nothing Ear (2)?
The Nothing Ear (2) offer three modes of operation:
- One in which no cancellation algorithm is involved – only the passive isolation of the pads.
- The noise cancellation mode, which combines passive isolation with the work of algorithms and can be regulated both manually (offers three levels) and adaptively based on the exterior.
- And one of transparency in which external sounds reach the auditory pavilion naturally. This one works really well. It doesn’t quite reach the level of refinement found in higher-end headphones, but it’s good enough that you want to use it often.
The overall impression regarding noise cancellation of the Nothing Ear (2) is also better than the previous model. We are not before the new reference of the sector, but yes effectively attenuates what is happening around you. More than enough to listen without problems in a noisy environment such as an office, the subway or a crowded square.
The brand also has implemented a system that adapts the noise cancellation to each auditory pavilion. To do this, all you have to do is put on your headphones, be in a moderately noisy environment and start the automatic analysis from the application. Once the process is complete, the algorithms slightly vary their behavior to achieve a better final result.
Other interesting details
- Support dual connection. You can simultaneously connect the headphones to two sources (a computer and a mobile, for example). This is extremely useful if you are constantly switching between devices.
- They are compatible with both Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair. So linking with Windows computers, Android devices or Chromebooks is really easy. In addition, they integrate with Google’s Find My Device network, which can be useful for finding lost headphones.
- Zero connection or stability issues. The first model was the victim, especially at the beginning, of a certain instability in its behavior. Something I have not experienced at all with the Nothing Ear (2).
- A battery that complies but does not shine. Theoretical autonomy is 6.3 hours with noise cancellation inactive, while the figure drops to 4 hours with it in operation. These are figures that more or less fit reality. And, although they are sufficient for the bulk of situations, it is true that other headphones manage to extract a few more hours.
- wireless charging. To recharge the headset, we have both the Qi (wireless) standard and a USB-C port.
- Imperceptible in the ear. When it comes to comfort, I once again applaud Nothing for a job well done. These headphones combine great fit with fantastic comfort. Many competing headphones can’t say the same.
Is it a recommended purchase?
One more time, the Nothing Ear (2) are a very interesting option considering the benefits and the price for which they go on the market (149 euros). They offer even better sound than the previous generation, effective noise cancellation and a design that leaves no one indifferent.
Despite this, this new generation faces a slightly more complex situation than the previous model. Mainly for two reasons:
- First of all, the price has increased by 50 euros. And, although it does not clash with its benefits, it does mean losing a competitive advantage that they did have before.
- Second, the number of competitors has increased. Among them we find the Sony LinkBuds S, which offer a great experience, have a similar price and, in addition, play with the trick of the Sony brand to seduce consumers.
Luckily, Nothing has an important asset in its favor: design and personality. And that, although the panorama is more competitive than two years ago, can help them tip the scales in their favor on more than one occasion.