The Nothing Ear (2) as its “first ever second generation product,” which is unquestionably one of the assertions ever made. The new model offers a number of enhancements but places the greatest emphasis on enhancing the music quality over the previous model. The Ear (2) is priced at $149, which is the same as the Ear (1)’s present price, which was initially set at $99. Let’s just get started since there is a lot to cover.
A few modifications have been made to the Ear (2)’s appearance, mostly to the case. The new case is smaller in all respects, but you won’t really notice the change unless you’re holding it next to the previous one.
In contrast to the predecessor’s slopes, the new case’s sides are more angular. The big center dimple that kept the earbuds in position has been reduced in size, but the lid still has a similar look.
The case’s underside appears to have had its lid removed. The bottom cover of the Ear (1) case covered all of the dark plastic components inside, but the Ear (2) case leaves the white plastic components exposed. You can even feel the curvature of the headphone receptacles. Since there are no glossy polymers on the bottom, scratches should be less noticeable there than in the prior case.
Speaking of white plastics, this time around they don’t have the dimpled finish of their precursor; instead, they have a simple white texture that you can actually touch because they are no longer protected by transparent plastic. It is unknown how long they will continue to be white after being in contact with the outside world.
The Ear (2) case has a certain aesthetic that gives it the impression that it is a step backward. To cut expenses, it seems like they removed large pieces of transparent plastic from all over and blanded and simplified the opaque plastic. The replacement lid, which had a narrower hinge than my two-year-old Ear (1) versions, moved much more side to side. The Ear (1) case cover also closed with a much more gratifying thump than the Ear (2) lid, which always clanks shut.
Additionally, the new style is less appealingly consistent on the outside. It was simple to distinguish one side from the other in the Ear (1) container due to its narrower opening and smaller magnet. The shape and height of the hinge and magnet on The Ear (2) make it difficult to determine which way it opens without giving close attention every time.
The real earbuds resemble their forebears very closely. The only discernible change is that the side-mounted touch-sensitive motion area has been replaced with pressure-sensitive controls.
The earphones and container are both water-resistant. The earphones are IP54 certified, while the case is marked IP55. This variant is an upgrade over the prior one, which only gave the earbuds an IPX4 classification.
Overall, the Ear (2) feels inferior in terms of design, which is strange given that it was the Ear’s most widely lauded feature. (1). Although the use of plastic in the initial model might have been considered excessive and possibly wasteful, it is what gave it its distinctive appearance. The Ear (2) appears to be attempting to replicate that look on a third of the price, but it just comes off as a knockoff. Even though it’s not as excellent as the first design, it’s still very attractive and original.
The Ear (2) are a nice set of earphones. The majority of the pattern is hidden inside your ears, with only a tiny portion visible outside. The inner ear form is subtle, and the silicone ends are soft and comfortable on the ear.
The new pressure-sensitive gesture region on the earphones is the problem. These are very simple to push even when you are just grasping the stem to take them out of your ears, but they work well when you are purposefully using them. Since activating the motion requires absolutely no effort, it occurred almost every time I removed them.
I eventually had to use unconventional grips, like drawing them out while gripping the stem at the top and bottom. Although handling the earphones in this manner increases the likelihood that I will lose them, I’d rather take that risk than hit the button each time I pull them out.
Features and Software :
The Nothing X software for iOS and Android, as well as the Bluetooth options on a phone, can be used to operate the Ear (2). (1). You can adjust the ANC settings, touch motions, audio effects, and access features like low latency mode, customized ANC and sound profile, and locate my earphones from here.
The ANC has four adaptive settings that change automatically based on your circumstances in addition to three human degrees of modification. Additionally, there is a customized ANC choice that performs a test to modify the ANC frequency reaction to your ears and the surrounding environment. Only when there is enough background sounds around you can you perform this test; otherwise, it will not.
The issue with customized active noise cancellation (personalized ANC), which I also observed with the OnePlus Buds Pro 2, is that the profile it creates is extremely tailored to your particular ambient noise pattern. If you’re, say, in an aircraft and the ambient noise pattern is fairly consistent, this could lead to excellent outcomes. However, you might not get excellent outcomes if the noise fluctuates widely. Additionally, using a profile created in one setting in another can lead to less desirable outcomes. In these circumstances, it is preferable to simply turn off customized ANC and use the default one.
In addition, the software includes an ear tip fit test. Previously, the test tone used to verify this was similar to the one found on OnePlus and Oppo earphones. A subsequent update to the earbuds altered the tone, but given the relationship between the aforementioned companies and Nothing’s creator, I found the situation amusing.
The Ear (2) also has a unique EQ in the software, which the Ear (1) does not have. It’s not much; you get a 3-band adjustment spread out in a confusing circular design, but it’s better than the Ear (1)’s four settings.
You can also select a unique aural configuration using The Ear (2). This calibration test method is a little different from what we’ve seen with other models. The volume of a white noise sample, which will be played in the backdrop, must first be determined. After that, each earbud will play a test tone that progressively gets quieter; when you cease hearing it, that level is considered to be reached.
I didn’t anticipate how awful this procedure would be. It isn’t enjoyable to have the relatively noisy white noise sample play continuously in one of your hearing, and the test can take a while to complete. Anyone could become restless and end the exam early, and I wouldn’t hold it against them.
Additionally, you have the ability to modify the pinch motions. The same set of choices are available for both earbuds, but you can select separate settings for the left and right. Not all motions have all the possible choices, and the single pinch action is unchangeable. Since you can’t even turn off the single press motion like you can on some other earbuds, the aforementioned problem of unintentional presses is made all the more irritating.
During testing, the Ear (2) had a few small problems. The ear recognition frequently failed, and the earbuds did not respond when withdrawn from the ear. This implies that there was no automatic pausing and the music would continue to play. This would normally only happen to one earbud at a time, so if you removed the other, the music would stop as expected. Returning the earphones to their case restores regular operation.
The most recent firmware version accessible at the time of testing, version 188.8.131.52, is used for all findings in this evaluation.
The motors in the Nothing Ear (2) are an improvement over the first version. The diaphragm has been updated with a new material that utilizes graphene and polyurethane, but they still have the same 11.6mm dynamic construction. A novel dual-chamber construction has been added to the earphones’ interior. In addition to SBC and AAC, the earphones enable LHDC 5.0 (also known as LHDC-V). LHDC 5.0 now allows up to 192kHz sampling frequencies and up to 1Mbps bitrate, despite the fact that it is still a lossy encoder.
Before discussing the audio, I should point out that using LHDC 5.0 in its normal settings with our Nothing Phone (1) review device resulted in discernible high-frequency distortion. The bandwidth numbers could be changed to resolve this, but doing so created other issues that are covered in the Connectivity part. Instead of using SBC and AAC, the majority of the audio testing was conducted using LHDC 3.0.
The Ear (2) is an excellent set of earbuds that vastly improves on its forerunner. It has the same v-shaped setting as the original but sounds noticeably superior in many ways.
The low-end still has a bass boost shelf, but it appears to halt lower in the frequency range than before, making it more focused on the lower bass areas. The bass also has less bloat and a much quicker onset and decay, making it sound punchier and more accurate. It’s one of the more pleasant bass tunings I’ve heard in this section, and it’s never bloated or overpowering.
Additionally, the mid-range on the ear exhibits significant increase. (2). The mid-range of The Ear (1) was a little crowded and fuzzier in sound, but it only supported the bass and high ranges. On the Ear (2), the mid-range sounds much fuller and more in tune with the other frequencies. Here, there is a lot more division and intricacy than there was before.
Despite this, the mid-range on the Ear (2) is still far from ideal. Some masculine voices lose all weight and power in the mix due to a dip in the mids. Given that the dip has a relatively narrow range in character, neither deeper male nor female voices are impacted by this.
Regrettably, the treble area is still up for debate with the Ear. (2). The midrange is now excessively heated in three consecutive Nothing audio products. This isn’t always a problem because it makes some of the songs’ feminine voices and instrument detail and air frequencies stand out more. Then, on the very next song, you’ll hear a high-pitched feminine vocal or a cymbal crash.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about it with the EQ. The three adjustment bands provided here leave very little space for fine-tuning. Furthermore, applying bigger EQ adjustments causes the sound to shift considerably across the spectrum. When you raise any of the three bands, the overall sound becomes significantly muted, and the emphasis appears to move to the band you are changing. Instead of just increasing the volume of one band, the remainder of the music becomes strangely quieter.
The efficacy of the microphone was mediocre. Although the voice sounds realistic, the aggressive background noise cancellation method interrupts your speech too frequently, even in calm settings. The voices would be much clearer if they could just slightly lower the background reduction.
Sadly, The Ear (2) has a few problems and only mediocre noise cancellation efficacy.
For some reason, the ANC’s performance is constantly changing, which is very obvious when nothing is playing. Even when directly set to the High option, the ANC continues to make very noticeable level adjustments every few seconds. It doesn’t even appear to be adapting to the environment; rather, it seems to be doing so in a random manner. When everything appears to be running smoothly one moment, abruptly more low-frequency disturbance starts to enter the system. While it is more obvious outside, it also occurs in more sedate settings. Just as with music playing, you’re less apt to detect it there.
As previously stated, customized ANC is not the panacea it appears to be. The tuning it produces is unique to your present ambient noise levels, and does not work well in other locations. In truth, even after numerous manual personalized ANC calibration tests, the general ANC simply gave superior findings in many circumstances. I would still suggest using it on an aircraft so that it adjusts to the noise level, but then switching it off to see if things improve or worsen.
The Ear (2) performs poorly in terms of delay. The default latency in the Nothing X app is terrible without the low lag setting, coming in at around 300ms. This renders it inoperable on platforms that do not support the Nothing X app, such as computers and video players.
With the low lag option set, the latency remains a little low but should be adequate for casual gameplay or applications that allow you to perform instruments, for example.
The latency is obvious even when you’re just viewing videos on your phone. However, the delay on the Ear (2) is so large by default that the sync is still imprecise. Normally, phones will automatically sync the video to account for the audio delay. I would advise turning on the minimum lag option even for video to get excellent synchronization.
During testing, the Ear (2) experienced a number of communication problems. For starters, LHDC 5.0 does not function properly. When set to the maximum 1Mbps bitrate on the Nothing Phone (1), it begins to stutter after a few seconds and becomes useless. Even 900kbps is insufficient. Only when you reduce the bandwidth to 500kbps does it function reliably. All of these observations were made while seated still, with the phone less than an arm’s reach away on a desk. If the phone was in a backpack or pocket, the situation would be much worse.
Because the LHDC 5.0 testing was done completely with the Nothing Phone (1), it was impossible to pinpoint the problems to the earphones, the phone, or both. In any case, they both work for the same business, so it’s up to them to find out what’s wrong.
When using LHDC 5.0, there was also distortion, as stated in the audio quality part. This only showed itself at bitrates of 500kbps and lower, which, as previously stated, are the only ones useable. You could go higher, but the distortion would cease and the music would stutter.
Because of these problems, LHDC 5.0 was entirely unusable on our evaluation unit. Dropping to LHDC 3.0, the next possible choice on the Phone (1), fixed the distortion problem, but I could still experience audio stuttering if I went too bold with the bitrate.
I also had difficulty getting LHDC to function with some non-Nothing phones. It worked perfectly with Xiaomi phones but not with OnePlus phones equipped with Qualcomm chipsets. The Bluetooth menu on OnePlus phones with MediaTek chipsets would indicate it was using LHDC, but the developer options revealed it was actually just AAC unless you switched explicitly.
Fortunately, if your device does not support LHDC, both AAC and SBC sound excellent, so you do not need to worry about FOMO.
The Ear (2) does allow for simultaneous connections to two devices. It’s not difficult to do this, and if both connected devices enable it, the earbuds can use LHDC. As with other problems, this one was resolved by putting the earphones in the case and attempting again. It also worked well, with the exception of one instance when one of the paired devices could connect to only one of the earbuds while the other was attached to both.
The Ear (2) has a reported power life of 6.3 hours with ANC turned off and 4 hours with ANC turned on. I was unable to test ANC-on performance because the ANC is only triggered when the headphones detect being put in your ears, which means it could not be activated because the earphones were not worn during the battery test run.
So I tested with LHDC and AAC for the ANC off findings. The AAC run gave 5.7 hours of battery life, which is near enough to the 6.3 hours figure given by Nothing to indicate that it was tested with either AAC or SBC. However, the LHDC test lasted only 4 hours, which is far too short and inadequate in general. And, once again, this is with the ANC turned off.
So, if you use the Ear (2) as designed, with LHDC and ANC, you’re looking at 2-3 hours of battery life, which is awful for a set of modern earbuds.
Our evaluation version also had a significant difference in battery life between the two earbuds, with the left one having significantly less. To give the product credit, the numbers above are from the correct unit, which endured longer. The left one was usually deceased an hour earlier.
I mentioned at the start of the evaluation that the Ear (2)’s emphasis was on increasing audio clarity, and that’s pretty much what I found. The audio clarity on the Ear (2) is undeniably superior to the prior iteration. Despite the fact that the treble is a little too bright, it is one of the best-sounding Bluetooth earphones in its price category.
The Ear (2) is a lackluster continuation aside from that. The style, which was praised last time by everyone and their chihuahua, looks dated and degraded. The customizability of the Nothing X app is still constrained, and the program can occasionally be glitchy. Both the delay speed and battery life are very poor. Additionally, things simply don’t operate as anticipated; both the ANC and the sophisticated new LHDC 5.0 codec have bugs.
There is much space for growth in this situation, which can be accomplished through updates. The Ear (1) also got off to a shaky start, but they finally managed to get it functioning properly. The Ear (2) won’t be perfect right away, but we don’t evaluate products based on their promise in the future, so for the time being we cannot suggest the Ear (2).
- Its form is still unique.
- Overall, the recording clarity is excellent.
- IP rating for container and earphones with dual link
- Tight treble setting
- ANC effectiveness that is inconsistent
- There are numerous problems with the LHDC 5.0 version.
- Pinch movements are far too delicate.
- Inadequate battery life
- Gaming delay is inadequate.
- Nothing X software allows for much customization.
- The Case appears and feels worse than the Ear. (1)