Nothing’s Tech-First ear (1) Headphones Are All The Buzz

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A quick search for headphones will leave one with two options: Apple AirPods and everything else. While I have been a loyal Apple customer for years, I recently began exploring other options. A little flirtation never hurts, right?

I discovered the brand Nothing while listening to a podcast. A London-based startup, Nothing combines stripped-down aesthetics and a focus on quality user experiences in its wireless earbuds. Initially, I was a bit skeptical of the too-cool vibe I got from the sleek branding, but I’m happy to say the brand has proven to be both stylish and substantive.

More on that shortly, but first, a bit of history. 

Nothing’s Design Director Adam Bates previously worked on design and UX at Dyson
Credit: @nothing

Nothing To See Here…

Nothing was founded in 2020 to reignite a market that has been lacking in innovation for years. In a short year and a half, the brand has raised tens of millions of dollars from investors who align with Nothing’s mission of creating barrier-free technology that, as the brand says, “just works.” In fact, Nothing raised over $22 million before ever taking a product to market. Now that is trust in a vision.

Nothing has become a viral name among audiophiles and tech junkies alike. While never explicitly calling out Apple, Nothing’s critique of the headphone industry spoke for itself. Interestingly, many who had become disillusioned by Apple’s constant product-churn bought into the vision and raised an addition $1.5 million in crowdfunding for Nothing.

Since then, Nothing has released its first product, ear (1) in white and black, reached carbon neutrality, and hired the head of design from Dyson. A pipeline of new initiatives are sure to follow. It is a David up against the Goliaths of tech – and yet Nothing holds its own.

First Impressions

From packaging to syncing, quality and troubleshooting, ear (1)’s seamlessly slip into any tech-heavy rotation.

The packaging itself is familiar, though impressive, as it resembles a bento box more than a $100 pair of headphones. Every nook and cranny houses a necessity: the charging cord, alternate silicone ear tips, and an instruction manual. 

Nothing’s companion app offers real-time updates on ear (1) performance and makes it easy to connect devices via Bluetooth

Bluetooth syncing is impossibly simple. While you do have to download a companion app (a sure deterrent to some), everything is set up for a fast pair. I also like that it provides a level of direct communication with the device itself, giving me real-time updates on its connectivity and battery life. Once downloaded, the app recognizes the charging case and serves as a seamless link between the ear (1)’s and the phone.

From there, pop in your earphones and go. 

Wearing the headphones offers a sleek silhouette while giving a look under the hardware’s hood

A Multi-sensory Experience

While I am no expert on audio quality (nor do I pretend to be), the sound experience seems to hold up to other popular models, such as Apple AirPods Pro and Samsung Galaxy Buds. According to the brand, the earbuds offer active noise cancellation (anc), up to 34 hours of listening, and an "11.6mm dynamic driver and spacious air chamber for advanced bass, mid, and treble performance." All of the brand’s tuning is done by Swedish consumer electronics company Teenage Engineering. This technology is packaged in a transparent design aimed to offer a look under the Nothing ear 1's hood. 

The real enjoyment comes in the responsive touch control technology. Double tap to play/pause, triple tap to switch songs, and sliding your finger controls the volume. 

Finally, the hardware on the headphones themselves and the case give it an additional sense of design consideration. The case, which offers wireless charging and syncing hardware, has magnets in the charging ports, giving me a satisfying click every time I pop the headphones back into place.

Nothing’s continuous firmware updates mean there’s no “bugs” in their system
Credit: @nothing

Hear For The Long Run

Overall, I am very satisfied with the ear (1) headphones from Nothing, but that’s not to say they are perfect. At times, I find the headphones to be confused, playing only out of one ear or defaulting to mute but playing the song. Further, the tapping mechanism, while novel, can be a bit of a handful when using these to workout. Three taps in quick succession until I found a song I liked on Daily Mix 3 was a bit laborious while huffing and puffing on the treadmill.

Nothing appears to be a wunderkind in the market and one that, while viral now, may have a sustained presence in the marketplace. As the Sound Guys put it best, ear (1) headphones are meant for “minimalists looking for earbuds that just work”. With its stripped down design and eco-conscious brand identity, Nothing seems to know the market is pulling away from Big Tech – and the brand is ready to greet those defectors with open arms.

Five more reasons to love Nothing:

  1. Three noise cancellation modes make this a great option for ambient to dead-to-the-world noise reduction with solid sound quality.
  2. Nothing’s “Find my earbud” technology is a standout feature that solves for the all-too-common misplacement issue.
  3. For working out or by the pool for Spring Break, ear (1)’s offer IPX4 water resistance.
  4. At $99, the brand’s price-point remains lower than many competitors while still enjoying the same amount of hype. 
  5. Nothing remains committed to carbon emission control and neutrality as it moves forward in product line growth.

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