A little over a year after Nothing announced its debut pair of true wireless earbuds, the Nothing Ear 1, it’s following them up with the Nothing Ear Stick. The new earbuds are less of a successor and more of a stripped-down alternative, with a couple of absent features and a lower price tag. They are to the Ear 1 what Apple’s AirPods are to its AirPods Pro. The Nothing Ear Stick will be widely available starting November 4th, when they’ll cost $99. As of today, the Ear 1 earbuds cost $149, and they will remain on sale alongside the Ear Stick in Nothing’s lineup.
The big features the Ear Stick buds are missing compared to the Ear 1 are active noise cancellation (ANC) and the silicon ear tips that create an airtight-feeling seal in your ears. Combined, it means you’ll be able to hear a lot more background noise while using these earbuds, which might not be ideal if you’re hoping to use them while commuting on noisy public transit or airplane flights.
But that’s not to say that the specs of the Ear Stick are reduced compared to the Ear 1 across the board. In terms of battery life, for example, the Ear Stick offers seven hours of listening from the earbuds themselves or up to 29 hours when combined with their neatly-designed cylindrical charging case. In contrast, the Ear 1 offered 5.7 hours of listening from the earbuds (dropping to 4 hours with ANC on), though a slightly higher 34 hours from the charging case (dropping to 24 with ANC on).
The Ear Stick also features custom 12.6mm drivers compared to the “off the shelf” driver used in the Ear 1. “We actually made custom drivers instead of purchasing off the shelf drivers for the Ear Stick because we wanted to tune sound in the way that we wanted without resorting to the biggest driver,” Nothing CEO Carl Pei tells The Verge. “We chose to go for a balance between driver size and the right type of physical acoustic design inside of it to deliver the sound we want, rather than just going for bigger is better.”
Silicon ear tips don’t just block out background noise — the seal they provide inside the ear also improves bass response for a fuller, richer sound. Nothing’s workaround to the lack of ear tips on the Ear Stick is a feature it’s calling “Bass Lock.” This uses a microphone to measure the user’s ear canal and tune the earbuds equalizer to compensate for any lost bass.
There are three microphones in total on each earbud: one to hear your voice, one to listen to (and attempt to cancel out) background noise during calls, and a final mic inside the earbud to measure your ear canal. Nothing says the Ear Stick should be able to cancel out the sound of wind and crowds during voice calls. Other tech specs include support for both SBC and AAC codecs, though there’s no support for aptX.
Other changes include “press controls” rather than touch controls this time around, which Nothing says should work without issue with wet fingers. The earbuds have an IP54 rating for dust and water resistance, which suggests they’ll be okay with sweat but not with being fully submerged in water. Controls can be customized via the Nothing app on iOS and Android, while settings to customize the earbuds are available at the operating system level on the Phone 1.
As of today, the Ear Stick earbuds are priced more affordably compared to the Ear 1 ($99 versus $149), but that’s only because today is also the day the older Ear 1 earbuds are increasing in price. Nothing’s original pair of true wireless earbuds cost $99 when they debuted last year, but Pei announced earlier this month that their price would need to go up “due to an increase in costs.” The increase puts the Ear Stick in a slightly weird position. They’re technically a more affordable alternative to Nothing’s first pair of earbuds, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that they’re also a stripped-down model being sold at their Ear 1’s former price point.
Stay tuned for our full review of the Nothing Ear Stick.