The Ear 2 are the latest budget earbuds from London-based tech company Nothing, which hopes to lure shoppers away from the Apples and Samsungs of the world with novel see-through designs and great sound.
The noise-cancelling earbuds cost £129 ($149) and undercut rivals from OnePlus, Google, Samsung and Apple, but offer similar features and sound quality. They replace 2021’s outgoing Ear 1 and join the new £99 Ear Stick earbuds.
The buds have a more interesting look than most of the competition, but a similar shape with traditional silicone ear tips and a stem hanging down. They fit snugly in my ears and stay secure and comfortable for a couple of hours.
Press the lever for the built-in playback controls: once for pause/play, twice and three times for track skip. Press and hold to adjust noise cancellation and press and hold twice to adjust volume. They work well, but adjusting the volume is a bit fiddly compared to the swipe gestures of some of the competition.
The semi-transparent charging case looks and feels cool, but is slightly larger than the best on the market. The earbuds last four hours with active noise cancellation and take about 4.5 full charges through the case.
The earphones support Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint, so they can connect to two devices at the same time, e.g. B. a phone and a laptop to automatically switch between them – a feature that is still rare in the market.
water resistance: IP54 (splashproof)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3, SBC, AAC, LDHC5
Battery life: 4 hours with noise canceling (22.5 hours with case)
Dimensions earplugs: 29.4×21.5×23.5mm
Weight earplugs: 4.5g each
Driver size: 11.6mm
Dimensions of the charging case: 55.5×55.5x22mm
Charging case weight: 51.9g
Charging the case: Wireless charging via USB-C, Qi
Nothing estimates that the batteries in the earbuds and case will last at least 500 cycles while retaining at least 80% of their original capacity. However, they are not interchangeable, which ultimately makes the earbuds disposable. Out-of-warranty replacement earbuds or cases are available individually for £50.
The earbuds contain recycled tin, but Nothing offers trade-in schemes in the UK, nor does it use or publish environmental impact assessments, although the earbuds’ carbon footprint is estimated at 3.1kg.
noise and noise cancellation
The Ear 2 have great everyday listening sound that beats many at this price point. They are well rounded and can hit fairly low notes when pressed, with good separation of tones that handle complex tracks well. They do a great job on many music genres but can sound a little flat at times. They’re a vast improvement over their predecessors, but still won’t bother the best in the business.
The earbuds support Hi-Res audio with certain Android phones, but the difference between them in standard quality with an iPhone was marginal.
The Ear 2s have active noise cancellation, which when set to maximum did a good job of quieting engine roar and relieving commuting, but they let through higher-pitched sounds like voices or typing on office keyboards . Their Aware mode is one of the better ones and sounds pretty natural for having conversations or listening for traffic.
Call quality was excellent in quiet environments, but sounded a bit artificial in noisy environments, letting through only a few sudden loud noises like car horns.
The Nothing Ear 2 costs £129 ($149).
To compare, the Nothing Ear Stick was £99, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 £179, Google Pixel Buds Pro £179, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2 £279.95 and Apple AirPods Pro 2 £249.
The Ear 2 are a set of fairly refined Bluetooth earphones with great everyday listening sound and a more interesting look than most of the competition, especially for their competitive price point.
The noise-cancellation reduces rumble on the daily commute well enough, but struggles to compete with the best when it comes to deadening distractions like speech. They fit well and their squeeze controls are decent, as is their voice quality for calls. Being able to connect to two devices at the same time and having a cross-platform app for both Android and iPhone is very convenient.
The earbuds also have a somewhat short battery life: just four hours before needing to be charged in the case. The biggest problem is that the battery in the earbuds or the case is still not replaceable, ultimately making them disposable and losing a star.
Advantages: looks great, good sound, good value for money, reasonable noise cancellation, comfortable fit, great call quality, decent controls, Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint, cross-platform app.
Disadvantages: throwaway, battery life a little shorter and body a little larger than the best, noise canceling struggles with higher pitched sounds, no spatial audio support from head tracking.