Back in July last year, Nothing announced its arrival in the consumer tech market with the launch of Nothing ear (1) TWS. We reviewed the ear (1) as soon as it came out and were quite impressed by its unique design and the audio performance it delivered. This year, Nothing came out with their debut smartphone (review here) and another pair of TWS, the Ear (stick). The Ear (stick) is priced at Rs 8,499 and is currently sold alongside the ear (1), which is priced moderately at Rs 7,299. While both TWS stick to Nothing’s ‘transparent’ design philosophy, there are some significant differences between the two products. We used the Nothing Ear (stick) for almost two weeks, here is our in-depth review.
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Nothing Ear (stick) review: Design
The Nothing Ear (stick) ships inside a rectangular box with the charging case and earbuds on one end and the Type C cable, safety information, warranty card, and user guide on the other. The box requires peeling off the strips underneath the lids to access its contents. Once opened, the lids cannot be pressed shut.
The charging case is unlike anything we’ve seen before in a TWS product. The long cylindrical design resembles that of a lipstick case, and the rotating head further adds to that aesthetic. The transparent glass lets you see the earbuds resting in their pods, it wouldn’t be a Nothing product otherwise! The inner plastic tube is a bit of a dirt magnet, and it can get quite challenging to clean the case if the grime manages to slide between the transparent glass panel and the inner tube.
The case opens up with a quick swivel of the rotating head in either direction. If you find yourself fidgeting with lids far too often, you’re going to love this charging case. The rotating head also houses a Bluetooth pairing button and a USB charging slot. The glass cover has an oval cutout that lets you access the earbuds after you rotate the head of the case. We were quite apprehensive about the earbuds falling out as soon as we open the case, but the magnetic slots held up pretty well. The earbuds stay in place while facing the ground and do not drop out even after a few heavy jerks.
Pulling the earbuds out of their pods, you’ll notice that Nothing has opted for an open-ear design on the Ear (stick). This means you don’t get any silicone tips, and the audio isn’t directly delivered to your ear canal. But the most glaring issue for some users may be the fit (or lack of it). Unlike ear (1), you cannot simply put in the appropriate size ear tips for a better fit.
However, if the earbuds do fit in your ear, they are pretty comfortable to wear. The buds weigh just 4.4g and do not strain your ears even after they’ve been in there for hours. The transparent stem is pressure sensitive and allows you to control the basic functions with a pinching motion, completely eliminating those pesky accidental touches. Rated IP54, you can wear these earbuds while working out and not worry about any damage caused due to sweat.
Nothing Ear (stick) review: Performance
What the Ear (stick) lacks in its fit, it more than makes up in performance. The earbuds feature 12.6mm dynamic drivers that deliver a powerful sound that can match up with the best in this category. The earbuds only offer SBC and AAC codec support, which is pretty much the norm in this price range.
Connecting the Ear (stick) to your smartphone is a smooth process. There is a dedicated pairing button on the case that you need to press when connecting the earbuds to your phone for the first time. Once paired, you can customise the controls and equaliser using the Nothing X app.
When it comes to the sound profile, the Ear (stick) does not disappoint at all. With the open-ear design, we had our doubts regarding the audio performance but they were soon put to rest with the sheer quality of the dynamic drivers housed within the earbuds. The sound profile is very much bass-driven, but not at the expense of shrouding other frequencies. The overall output is a pleasant mix of highs, mids, and lows. You don’t need to crank the volume all the way up to enjoy the ideal mix. If you’re not satisfied with the audio profile, the custom equaliser in the Nothing X app will be of incredible help.
The Ear (stick) makes a significant improvement over the ear (1) in microphone quality. The TWS does a fine job of isolating the voice from any surrounding noise and relaying it to the receiver without a significant drop in quality. If you’re making a call in a quieter indoor environment, these earbuds perform just as well as any wired headphones. The touch controls on the stem are triggered by pinching motion. These controls can be customised with the Nothing X app as well. The biggest miss on the Nothing Ear (stick) is the lack of ANC. Even though it’s priced in the same bracket as the ear (1), the open-ear design of the Ear (stick) prevents it from featuring active noise cancellation.
Moving on, the Nothing Ear (stick) offers up to 29 hours of listening time, with 7 hours of charge in the earbuds and an additional 22 hours in the case. Unlike ear (1), the Ear (stick) does not come with wireless charging. However, you can fast charge the Ear (stick) to provide up to 9 hours of audio playback in just 10 minutes of charging.
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The Nothing Ear (stick) is inarguably one of the better-looking TWS in the market right now. The TWS makes no compromise on the performance, as the Ear (stick) delivers a rock-solid audio output, that punches above its weight in the midrange category. However, it misses out on wireless charging and ANC, which may leave some enthusiasts with some complaints. Overall, at Rs 8,499, the Nothing Ear (stick) is certainly a powerful contender in its category.
Great audio output
Pressure-sensitive touch controls
No wireless charging
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