Nothing, an upstart company backed by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, has finally launched its first product, the Nothing Ear 1 true wireless earphones. Entering the crowded mid-range true wireless segment in India, the Nothing Ear 1 is priced at Rs. 5,999, and promises a lot. From its bold design to its impressive feature set, there’s a lot to like about the Nothing Ear 1 on paper, but just how good are these earphones compared to the competition?
The design, with liberal use of see-through plastic, is what immediately stands out, but there is much more to the Nothing Ear 1. I’ve had a chance to use these true wireless earphones for a few days now, and have tried some of the key features on offer. Here are my first impressions.
There’s Nothing to hide
Early concept renders of the Nothing Ear 1 teased the liberal use of transparent materials, and the finished product largely sticks to that idea. Not only are the earpieces transparent at the stems, but the charging case is also completely see-through. This obviously isn’t the first time that transparency has been used as a design element, but Nothing has executed it well on the Ear 1.
Although internal components can sometimes look a bit odd, the bits that you can see through the stems of the Nothing Ear 1 earpieces are quite nicely put together. The driver casings aren’t transparent, but are designed to provide a secure and comfortable in-canal fit. Three pairs of ear tips are included in the box for fit customisation.
The stems are touch-sensitive, letting you control playback, volume, and noise cancellation modes using taps and swipe gestures. The earpieces are IPX4 rated for water resistance, and should be able to handle light splashes of water or rain.
The top of the case has a small indentation, which apart from offering a bit of grip, also holds the earpieces down in place when the lid is closed. Down the middle of the case is the battery. There’s also the hardware for Qi wireless charging. The side of the case has the pairing button and USB Type-C port. Inside the case is a small indicator light, which can usefully be seen even when the case is closed. The charging case is quite large, and not very pocketable as a result.
The Nothing Ear 1 earphones have 11.6mm dynamic drivers, and use Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity with support for the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. There is active noise cancellation with two levels of intensity, and app support for both iOS and Android. The controls can be customised using the app, and you can also toggle between a milder level of noise cancellation and the full intensity. You can also see the battery levels for the earpieces and the charging case in the app.
Nothing to complain about when it comes to sound
While my upcoming full review will have much more to say about the sound quality and active noise cancellation performance, my initial impressions have been favourable. The Nothing Ear 1 has a somewhat balanced sonic signature that doesn’t overtly favour the bass and treble like most consumer-grade earphones do, instead giving the mid-range sufficient emphasis alongside the rest of the frequency range.
The sound is clean and enjoyable, and is helped along by the effective active noise cancellation. While some people might prefer the milder ANC level for indoor use, I preferred the full intensity as it made for a more focused and precise listening experience indoors, and in relatively quiet outdoor environments. There’s also a transparency mode for hear-through, which offers a fairly natural sound.
Although the advertised Google Fast Pair capability didn’t work for me, pairing was reasonably quick, and the connection was stable on both Android and iOS. The SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs are supported; while support for more advanced Bluetooth codecs would have been nice for users on Android, the AAC codec will at least ensure a decent level of performance with most compressed audio, including streaming music.
After months of hype, the Nothing Ear 1 has lived up to most expectations, particularly when it comes to the design and features on offer. At Rs. 5,999, the earphones are also priced considerably more competitively in India than in global markets, giving the Ear 1 a further advantage here.
There’s more to be said about the Nothing Ear 1 when it comes to audio quality and battery life, which I’ll cover in my full review. However, for now, I can say that sound quality is good enough for everyday listening, and the active noise cancellation works well in most indoor and urban outdoor scenarios. The Nothing Ear 1 is a promising pair of true wireless earphones that might be worth looking at if you have a budget of under Rs. 10,000.