Is Nothing a tech brand, or a fashion brand that also does tech? Based on the first few launches, the answer seems to gravitate towards the latter. Nothing stole the limelight earlier this year with its Phone (1) and as the year draws to an end, it once again does the same with the Ear (Stick). The Ear (Stick) is unmistakably outstanding in the way it looks, and it sounds as good. In fact, it can make many consider it over the rather mundane pair of TWS earbuds you get for similar or higher prices.
At a price of Rs. 8499, the Nothing Ear (Stick) seems expensive, especially on paper. Ogle through the spec sheet and you will be disappointed to see the missing ANC and some clever tricks that we assume as standard. However, this could very well be the pair of earbuds most people out in the real world may prefer over the older ear (1), and even the Apple AirPods 2.
It is great to see Nothing pushing the boundary when it comes to design. We have had enough of those square or oval plastic boxes, and the Ear (Stick)’s cylindrical case design stands out like the brightest star. It has a semi transparent case, showing the smart looking earbuds in all their glory. You twist it open with a click to access the earbuds, and this is a highly satisfactory feel. The red element you see on the top is to mask the USB-C port, and a silver pairing button – both of these giving away the lipstick case look. While it looks stunning, I am concerned about the glossy plastic surface getting all scratched over time; my Nothing ear (1) case hasn’t held up well to denim pockets.
The earbuds themselves wear the iconic Nothing earbuds look, having the semi-transparent look revealing the silicon boards. The only change here is the lack of the silicon eartips, and that makes it go inside the ear easily. This is either very comfortable or extremely painful – it depends how your ear takes it. The earbuds have pinch controls, which I think helps prevent the dislodging.
The absence of the silicon eartips makes it sit comfortably in my ears, and it also keeps me connected to the ambient world. I can hear everything clearly, and the Nothing Ear (Stick) is making no effort to isolate me. Is this good or bad? That’s for you to decide. I find it useful while running outdoors, or while taking calls.
For a pair of earbuds that costs Rs. 8499, the Nothing Ear (Stick) sounds good enough. The soundstage is fairly wide, with deep emphasis on the mids and the low-end. The bass is strong and you can enhance it further via the Nothing X app. I am not sure about the Highs but for most people, the listening experience is great here. Be it punchy Bollywood numbers or classic retro songs, these earbuds keep the aural experience pleasant. Note that it only supports SBC and AAC codecs.
What about noise isolation? Well, there isn’t any. The Ear (Stick) lets everything in and that might be a downer for many. You can’t enjoy these while taking the metro trains, or while commuting, or while venturing out. Yes, you can bump up the volume for some isolation but it isn’t comfortable after a while.
However, the 3-mic setup on the earbuds helps with some noise isolation during calls. The mics do a decent job at voice reception and my callers were able to hear me clearly. That said, you need to position the stem towards your mouth for a better experience, otherwise you will get complaints of a faint voice.
Another area where the Nothing Ear (Stick) does the basics. The Ear (Stick) features wear detection, and there’s a low latency mode that activates automatically when playing a game on the Phone (1). You can use the Nothing X app to update the firmware, tweak the equaliser settings, and alter the controls. You can even assign a voice assistant to any of the pinch control gestures. And that’s it! None of the geo-location based ANC activation or fancy ear-fit tuning.
Battery Life on the Nothing Ear (Stick) has been good, although I expected it to last longer owing to its lack of ANC. With a mixed use of music and calls, the Ear (Stick) earbuds can last up to 3 hours before seeking a quick refill. The case can do 3 top-ups before it runs out of juice. Hence, I needed to charge the case every 4 days before going out with these earbuds. The cylindrical shape means no wireless charging here.
A quick glance at the Nothing Ear (Stick) and it immediately comes across as a product meant for fashion friendly users. The lipstick inspired case design is unique and certainly stands out. The interesting twist action to open the case feels durable and smart, while the USB-C charging port is cleverly masked with the red element on the top. The earbuds themselves look cute. All in all, this is the most attractive pair of TWS earbuds you can buy today.
However, it costs ₹8499 and for that price, the Ear (Stick) is missing a lot of the basics people expect at this price. I like the audio quality and the ease of tuning, but the lack of any kind of isolation, even as an option, could be a deal breaker for many. After all, we all want our earbuds to occasionally filter out ambient noise every once in a while. This half in-ear design also leads to a not-so-secure fit.
Hence, I would still recommend the Nothing Ear (1) over the Ear (Stick) for almost Rs. 1000 less, or the amazing Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 that offers lots of smart features and a great audio tuning. The Nothing Ear (Stick) is best for those who want fashion above the techie bits, and none of the ANC fuss.
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