Making good on its initial promise, smartphone company Nothing has officially revealed its second audio product: the mid-range Ear (stick) earbuds.
In the leadup to the reveal, there were some leaks that showed off the cosmetic-inspired design of the Ear (stick), which admittedly looks pretty cool. Charging cases for earbuds typically have a boxy design, but Nothing went for a more cylindrical look with a splash of red. Apart from its design, not much was known about the device internally apart from the company’s claim of the Ear (stick) being its “most advanced audio product yet.” However looking at the announcement (opens in new tab), that really isn’t the case.
The $99 Ear (stick) might not be a bad product. But it certainly isn’t Nothing’s most advanced audio product since it lacks active noise cancellation, an in-demand feature present in last year’s Ear (1) device. The earbuds also lack the older model’s silicone ear tips to seal in sound. Instead, it opts for a more AirPods-esque design: a hard plastic that sends sound directly into your ear canal. As a result, more background noise will leak likely in.
So what does the Ear (stick) have that sets it apart?
For starters, the Ear (stick) sports a new feature called Bass Lock, it’s software that detects if any bass has been lost in the audio and tunes the internal equalizer to compensate. That way, the audio sounds as it ideally should.
Three microphones are present on each earbud that each have their own role to play, according to TheVerge (opens in new tab). You have one that simply hears your voice, the other filters out background noise for calls through “intelligent algorithms,” and the last one apparently listens to audio feedback and tailors the device’s sound to your ear canal.
Audio output is handled by a pair of custom-made 12.6mm speakers, contrasting the “off-the-shelf drivers” found on the Ear (1). CEO Carl Pei told TheVerge that Nothing went with custom speakers because the company wanted a good balance of size and acoustic design, instead of just sticking a big driver inside the earbuds.
You can pair the Ear (stick) with Nothing’s Phone (1) to unlock additional features. The device’s equalizer can be adjusted through the Quick Settings menu right on the smartphone. On Android and iOS, you have to first download the Nothing X app. And if you ever experience lag while gaming on the Phone (1), the earbuds will automatically enter a low lag mode to match gameplay.
Battery life on the Ear (stick) has been improved slightly: up to seven hours on one charge versus four on the Ear (1). With the charging case, that time gets bumped up to a maximum of 29 hours. Other notable features include a resistance rating of IP54 to protect against dust and water, plus Google Fast Pair support for quick Bluetooth pairing.
We reached out to Nothing for clarification on some of its features. The announcement mentioned something about “press controls” but doesn’t really elaborate on what they are or how they work. We also asked for more detail on how the microphones work. This story will be updated if we hear back.
You can pre-order the Ear (stick) for $99 (we’ll update this when we get international pricing) on Nothing’s website with its launch date set for November 4. Upon seeing that price tag, you may think it’s strange that the mid-range earbuds have the same price tag as the flagship model. As it turns out, CEO Carl Pei recently took to Twitter to announce that the Ear (1) (opens in new tab) will be getting a price hike, up to $149 “due to an increase in costs.”
If you’re in the market for something cheaper, be sure to check on TechRadar’s best budget earbuds for 2022.