Nothing Ear (2) review - Clearly excellent

Good things come in new smaller packages.

Nothing Ear 2
(Image: © Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

iMore Verdict

The Nothing Ear (2) are an excellent pair of true wireless earbuds with some great features to match. The pressure-sensitive touch controls are refreshing to use, and the vastly improved sound profile makes them great to stick in your ears.


  • +

    Much improved sound quality

  • +

    Very cool design

  • +

    Comfortable fit


  • -

    Noise-canceling could still be better

  • -

    The case can be uncomfortable in the pocket

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    EQ customization doesn’t work very well

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There are an unreasonable number of options if you’re looking for a pair of true wireless noise-canceling earbuds, all trying slightly different things to stand out from the crowd. Some have highly customizable apps, some have the names of massive audio brands etched into their aluminum cases, and others have multi-driver setups to make them sound good. The Nothing Ear (2), alternatively, look to shake things up with a fancy design.

Not that it’s a new fancy design – it’s almost the same as the design of the Nothing Ear (1), the London-based company's first earbud outing. That design still looks great, however, and there are loads of improvements under the hood to justify their slightly higher price point.

Nothing Ear (2) – Price and availability

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

The Nothing Ear (2) cost $150, and you can get a pair directly from Nothing’s website. That’s a pretty competitive price, being only just above the official price of the AirPods 2, and $100 lower than the AirPods Pro 2. They share a feature set with the more expensive Apple offering as well, making them a compelling option against the little white alternative.

You can also get them from Amazon for the same price that you’ll find on Nothing’s website, and there you’ll benefit from a Prime shipping option. Either option is a good way of getting the Ear (2), and given you’ll be paying the same, it all comes down to personal preference.

Nothing Ear (2) – What I liked

Nothing Ear (2)

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

The Nothing Ear (2) look great. They’re made out of a kind of clear plastic, letting you see some of the internal workings of the buds. It’s not chincy and brittle like the plastic from those dreadful old 3rd-party game controllers you could get in the days of the Xbox and the PS2, but a classy look and feel instead. It lets you see how densely packed the stems are, giving you a glimpse into the inner workings of your earbuds. The main bit that goes into your ear is white on my pair, but it will be black if you go for the black option. Obviously.

That look extends to the case as well, with a really solid clear acrylic case. There are fewer interior gubbins to look at here, given that the Bluetooth guts, battery, and other circuitry is encased in a colored plastic box, but the earbuds are visible as they sit inside. It looks great, and most importantly, feels good in the hand as well. It’s small enough to fit even the most diminutive of pockets, and the hinge in the upper left is made of metal and feels built to last. It all makes for a very premium feeling package and one that looks different from anything else you might be looking at for the price point. Crucially, they look completely different from AirPods. Or as different as a pair of in-ear buds can look different to AirPods, anyway.

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

Connection is super easy. Download the Nothing X app, and open the case. They appear on the screen like magic, and you can connect with a tap. Once they’re connected up, it’s likely there’s a software update ready to go, but just a couple of minutes later you’ll be good to go. It’s not quite the seamless experience of connecting a pair of AirPods, but it’s as close as a pair of non-Apple-made earbuds can be.

The Nothing X app itself is pretty good. It’s slick, easy to use, and there are some helpful features on board. You can choose the level of noise canceling that you want, change the EQ, and even change the name of the Ear (2). It’s a nice app with its own unique style.

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

Once you’ve had a play around with the app, you’ll want to listen to some music. Thankfully the Ear (2) are good at making your music sound great, with significant improvements on the previous model. Where the Ear (1) were bassy to the point of being hilarious, the Nothing Ear (2) are a great deal more subdued in the lower register, while boasting some great clarity in the highs. The mids are thick and pleasing, and the bass is now tighter, and more controlled. It’s a more mature listening experience and one that's far less fatiguing over time.

Igorrr’s Polyphonic Rust is an eclectic track that can really test a pair of headphones, with a layered distorted sound, overlaid with an intimidating and haunting ethereal choir. The Ear (2) do a great job of picking out all the details of the nuance of the track, with nothing losing out to anything else in the soundscape. The quietest parts of the track remain exactly where they should be, in particular, the final multi-voiced section, where each singer is perfectly legible over the others. They struggle a little with the soundstage, but most in-ear buds do so we’ll let them off.

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

For something with a little more low-end bounce, the Nothing Ear (2) manage New Jeans OMG with prowess. While reduced from the previous version, the Ear (2) still deliver all the bassy fun you need, albeit more controlled. The track's bassline is fun and engaging, and the Ear (2) replicate the experience as well as some more expensive headphones. The vocal replication is good, although there is a little sibilance that creeps in the higher registers that can mar the otherwise stellar performance.

For something a little jazzier, the Nothing Ear (2) are plenty articulate enough for a great listen. Putting the Pat Metheny Groups Last Train Home through them reveals a surprising level of high-end detail, the chuffing of the drum cymbals perfectly crisp and train-like. The twisting guitar line over the top is picked out very well, and the strings that underline the track are smooth and pleasing to the ear. The Piano sits in the left ear, and the vocal lines are layered well. There could be a little more thickness to the mids perhaps, but they otherwise put the track across well.

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

All these improvements are thanks to some big work that Nothing has put into the bud's construction. There’s a new dual chamber design to go with some new drivers that are supposed to widen the soundstage while giving the sound more room to stretch. It seems to work, and the support for hi-res is always nice to see. Remember, however, that those hi-res tracks won’t be max bit-rate, they’ll be limited by the Bluetooth connection.

You’ll be listening to those tracks for a reasonable amount of time as well. Nothing says that the buds themselves will last for 8 hours, with a further 28 hours in the case. Pop the buds in the case for just ten minutes to get another 8 hours as well, so you’ll not have to wait long to get them back up and running. I’ve had a great time with the battery, and I have no reason to doubt Nothing's battery life claims.

They’ll be comfortable within your ears over that time too. The options for the silicon tips are good, with three options for fit. They don’t fit all the way in the ear, with a fit more like the AirPods Pro 2 rather than some more… invasive options. They stay in well, and after a while you’ll forget you’re wearing them.

If you do forget you’re wearing them and take a phone call, you’ll be impressed with the call quality.

If you do forget you’re wearing them and take a phone call, you’ll be impressed with the call quality. Nothing has further improved the Clear Voice technology it uses, and all those I had calls with had no complaints about how I sounded during calls. I had no complaints about how they sounded through the earbuds, with the call coming through crisply and cleanly. They may not have the same mic quality as a pair of wired headphones, but they still sound plenty good.

Nothing Ear (2): What I didn’t like

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

The case looks great and fits anywhere, but the slightly angular design can make them a little uncomfortable when put in the pocket of a pair of tighter trousers. If the case is going into a bag or a pair of cargo pants, then you’re not likely to notice, but I like skinny jeans, and I noticed it the moment I put them in my pocket. It digs into your leg, not quite hurting, but you’ll always know that they’re there. If the edges were more rounded it could be better, but as it stands, it can be uncomfortable to pop them in a pocket when I just want to go for a walk and can’t be bothered to take my bag.

Noise canceling is the biggest problem, unfortunately, with the Nothing Ear (2). It’s not bad, but considering how much noise there was around how good it was going to be, it’s disappointing. When listening to music, I expect noise-canceling headphones to block out the noise of my very loud and clacky mechanical keyboard, reducing each keypress to nothing. Alas, the Ear (2) don’t seem to be able to do this. They appear to cut out a big chunk of the lower-frequency noises, while not blocking out as much of the higher-frequency noises that you might encounter. 

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

Engine noise, for example, is gone, but the sound of tires rolling over the road remains. Get on a bus, and the rumble from the rear of the vehicle becomes silent, but chatter amongst other passengers remains. While music is off, they don’t do the best job of blocking out much of your surroundings at all, only managing to dampen it at best. It’s not bad noise canceling, but it could be better. I’ve even tried to increase the noise canceling with the app, but it doesn’t seem to do much. Noise canceling is a nice addition over the likes of the AirPods 3, but It feels like it could be better.

The personalized audio and EQ mixing in the app are strange. For me, the audio setting only boosted the low end and made the headphones sound flabby and uncontrolled, obviously worse than the stock profile in the box. Playing with the EQ in the app was no good either, with very little in the way of actual customization. Neither of these is necessary either, with the stock sound being so good.

Nothing Ear (2): competition

Airpods 3 With Case Right Earbud Lying In Front Of Case

(Image credit: Luke Filipowicz / iMore)

There are loads of options out there, but the Nothing Ear (2), are some of the best for the price. There are the AirPods 3 for only a little more, but the Nothing beat them out in price, fit, features, and sound quality. The Nothings notably feature noise canceling over the AirPods 3, and even though it's not perfect, it's something the AirPods don’t have.

AirPods 2 and AirPods earbuds side-by-side

(Image credit: iMore / Future)

The AirPods 2 are cheaper, but they don’t feature noise canceling, and they barely even sound acceptable, let alone good. Some options from our testing table are the Sony Linkbuds S which cost around the same and have the same feature set. They don’t sound anywhere near as good, however. 

The closest are the Denon AH-C830NCW, and it’s close between the two. If you want an app, then go with the Nothings. The Denons, meanwhile, sound a little better, and they are much more conventional in use and look. That, and the noise canceling is better.

Denon AH-C830NCW

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

Nothing Ear (2): Should you buy these?

You should buy these if:

  • You want something that looks a little different
  • You want solid-sounding earbuds
  • You want comfortable earbuds

You shouldn't buy these if:

  • You want the best noise canceling
  • You want a smooth case
  • You like to play with the EQ

Nothing Ear (2): Verdict

Nothing Ear 2

(Image credit: Tammy Rogers/ iMore)

The Nothing Ear (2) are a very proficient pair of earbuds. They sound good, look amazing, and have some premium features at a good price. They are far better than the two similarly priced Apple options, with better sound quality and additions like noise canceling. They look better too, if that’s important to you.

They aren’t perfect; the noise canceling could be much better, and the EQ-changing software is lackluster. In the long run, however, for $150 these are still very much some of the best in-ear Wireless earbuds you can buy.

Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.