Nothing Ear Stick evaluation: fewer options, extra polish


With new devices, you generally hear concerning the “early adopter tax.” The concept is that an organization’s first swing at an concept won’t be good; it is perhaps buggy, badly designed, or in any other case miss the mark not directly. Nothing’s debut Ear 1 true wi-fi earbuds are a living proof. When we reviewed them final yr, we discovered they suffered from a scarcity of polish at launch, together with some software program bugs and a scarcity of software program options. 

In distinction, the Ear Stick really feel like a pair of earbuds from an organization that’s studying its classes. The consumer expertise is much better this time round, with far fewer connectivity and charging points, and Nothing has up to date its app to supply extra management over their sound and shortcut controls. They additionally are available in a redesigned cylindrical case, which is quirky and enjoyable to make use of. 

But the Ear Stick are much less of an easy successor to the Ear 1 earbuds and extra of a stripped-back various. They don’t supply energetic noise cancellation, there are not any silicone ear tricks to passively block out background noise, and there’s additionally no wi-fi charging. At $99, the Ear Stick are extra reasonably priced than the Ear 1s, although that’s solely as a result of Nothing hiked the worth of its debut buds to $149 earlier this week. You may virtually name the Ear Stick a first-rate instance of shrinkflation.

Nothing’s Ear Stick earbuds supply fewer options however the next stage of polish than the Ear 1. That makes them pair of earbuds, albeit for a specific type of listener. 

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I actually just like the strategy that Nothing has taken with the Ear Stick’s charging case. It’s a cylinder, somewhat below 3cm in diameter and somewhat over 8.5cm lengthy, with a wheel on the suitable aspect that spins to disclose the earbuds. (The “Stick” within the identify seems to be a reference to the case having the form of a tube of lipstick.) Compared to Apple’s flat-ish charging circumstances for its AirPods, Nothing’s case is somewhat thick, but it surely slid simply into my denims pocket subsequent to a pockets. It was additionally precisely the suitable form to slot in my operating shorts in a pocket usually meant for energy gels, which was nice for me personally.

The Ear Stick’s charging case is a delight

Both the charging case and earbuds are unmistakably Nothing merchandise, with plenty of clear plastic and white, black, and crimson detailing. It appears nice out of the field, however I can’t communicate for a way the look of the clear plastic will climate over time. For reference, right here’s how the Ear 1’s charging case looked after a week of pretty intensive use. My colleague Becca additionally managed to get an eyelash caught beneath the clear plastic of her Ear Stick case, and there’s no apparent strategy to get it out.

The earbuds have the same look total to the Ear 1s however with out the silicone ear ideas that create a cosy slot in your ears. This has an affect on sound high quality that I’ll get into in somewhat bit, however I feel what’s extra vital is what it does to the match of the Ear Stick earbuds. 

This match is practical however won’t be to everybody’s tastes. The Ear Stick earbuds fortunately stayed put over the course of a 50-minute jog, and at no level did they slip or fall out (they’ve an IP54 score for mud and water resistance, so somewhat sweat shouldn’t be an issue for them). And but, I used to be usually nudging the left earbud towards the entrance of my face, making an attempt to get it to sit down somewhat deeper in my ear. This isn’t an issue that’s distinctive to the Ear Stick, however if you happen to don’t just like the match of the common AirPods, you then’re unlikely to love the match right here.

The Ear Stick (left) in contrast with the unique Ear 1 (proper).

Nothing Ear Stick case showing USB-C charging port.

The case expenses by way of USB-C, with no wi-fi choice.

The lack of ear ideas, to not point out the entire absence of energetic noise cancellation in these earbuds, signifies that you hear a lot of background noise whereas sporting them. If you need a pair of true wi-fi earbuds to be used on public transport, lengthy airplane flights, and even simply in a loud workplace, you then would possibly wish to contemplate an alternate just like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro if you happen to’re on a funds. But there are legitimate causes to choose a extra open design just like the one provided by the Ear Stick earbuds. You would possibly need to concentrate on your environment whereas out operating with out having to depend on an earbuds’ transparency mode. 

I additionally like this extra open model of earbud for voice calls because it permits me to listen to my very own voice extra clearly whereas talking. It simply feels extra pure. In phrases of microphone high quality, the Ear Stick’s three microphones per earbud do a significantly better job than the Ear 1. Although they sound just about equivalent to Nothing’s first earbuds in a quiet room, with background noise (corresponding to water operating from a kitchen faucet), the Ear Stick did a significantly better job at maintaining my voice audible with the loud sound of washing up occurring within the background and have been on a par with Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live. 

Battery life is according to what you get from many different earbuds as of late. The Ear Stick earbuds supply as much as seven hours of listening time (a slight enchancment over the 5.7 hours the Ear 1 provided with ANC off), and mixed with the case, you get 29 hours (down from 34 hours with the Ear 1). That’s not class-leading, but it surely’s par for the course. There’s a USB-C port on one finish of the case for charging, however no wi-fi charging choice — one other lacking characteristic in comparison with the Ear 1.

A woman wearing Nothing Ear Stick earbuds.

The earbuds didn’t fall out once I took them on a run, however the match didn’t really feel good.

As against the faucet controls discovered on the Ear 1 earbuds, you activate the Ear Stick’s shortcuts with a press of the stem. The Ear Stick’s controls are much more dependable than contact controls whereas out operating with sweaty arms, though it may be tough to boost or decrease the quantity in small increments with out by accident pausing your music (the Ear 1 used a extra distinct swiping gesture). You can customise each shortcut apart from the one press in Nothing’s companion app, which additionally presents EQ controls that permit you to alter the earbuds’ mixture of bass, mids, and trebles.

In my time utilizing the earbuds, I encountered exactly one bug when the connection appeared to get confused and performed solely out of the left earbud for half a second earlier than resuming its connection to each earbuds. But in any other case, I didn’t run into any points whereas listening to the earbuds at house, whereas operating, or whereas touring in central London. I may hearken to both the suitable or left Ear Stick earbud by itself, as properly.

No ANC and no ear ideas imply you’ll hear plenty of background noise

As talked about beforehand, together with letting in additional background noise, the shortage of silicone ear ideas additionally has an affect on sound high quality. The much less cosy match means extra bass can leak, resulting in a much less punchy sound. Nothing is making an attempt to compensate for this with a characteristic it’s calling “Bass Lock,” which makes an attempt to measure your ear canal and compensate the earbuds’ bass accordingly.

The know-how appears to work, however solely to an extent. Listening to the Ear Stick earbuds side-by-side with Nothing’s earlier Ear 1 earbuds made it instantly obvious simply how a lot punchier a pair of noise-isolating ear ideas could make earbuds sound. But the place the Ear Stick can’t sustain by way of bass, it makes up for in total steadiness. The Ear Stick sounds much less muddy and extra even, with much less of a hissy sibilance sound within the trebles. Their total element can’t match as much as costlier rivals, however they’re succesful sufficient for $99. 

Nothing Ear Stick charging case.

The charging case whereas closed.

Woman wearing Nothing Ear Stick earbuds, pressing their controls.

Controlling the earbuds with a squeeze of their stem.

As a second-generation product, it ought to come as little shock that the Nothing Ear Stick really feel much more polished than their predecessor. I solely skilled one transient connection hiccup in my time with the earbuds, voice name high quality is vastly improved, and its redesigned charging case is pleasant. 

But the Nothing Ear Stick are much less of a successor and extra of a substitute for the Ear 1, designed with a special viewers in thoughts. The open match feels much less cosy within the ear and permits a ton of background noise. Combined with the shortage of ANC, the earbuds really feel a lot much less suited to make use of in loud environments the place you’d reasonably not hear what’s happening round you. They is perhaps much better for listening to music and making calls in a quiet workplace, however you won’t wish to use them on the commute into work.

That makes them pair of earbuds for the worth however not pair of earbuds for everybody. 


Every good gadget now requires you to comply with a collection of phrases and circumstances earlier than you should use it — contracts that nobody truly reads. It’s inconceivable for us to learn and analyze each single one among these agreements. But we began counting precisely what number of occasions you need to hit “agree” to make use of gadgets once we evaluation them since these are agreements most individuals don’t learn and positively can’t negotiate.

The Nothing Ear Stick earbuds will be paired over Bluetooth and used with none software program agreements. But by utilizing the cell app to regulate settings, you comply with:

The app additionally consists of an opt-in toggle to affix the Nothing “improvement program,” the place you’ll be able to present suggestions and share utilization information with the corporate. 

The remaining tally isn’t any obligatory agreements, and three non-compulsory ones.

Photography by Becca Farsace and Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge


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