Nothing Ear (a) Review: Is It Worth the Price?

The TWS market is so saturated right now that anytime we get another one of those at Beebom, I involuntarily roll my eyes. This time, I couldn’t. Especially since the latest from Nothing looks like an ultra-portable and transparent basin, and plays music? I’m talking about the new Nothing Ear (a), and I have been spending some time with it lately.

We received the yellow color option (it comes in black and white too), and I had to see if the earbuds sounded as ridiculous as they looked. Or, maybe I turn out to be completely wrong and these are one hell of a transparent pair to recommend. I think it’s time to find some answers to these questions in this in-depth Nothing Ear (a) review.

Note: Below, we have reviewed the Indian unit of Nothing Ear (a) and our judgement of the product is based on its Indian pricing.

Unique Design But Too Plasticky

Nothing Ear (a) Case and Buds design
Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom

Don’t judge a book by its cover they say. Well, if that cover is too plasticky, it’s hard not to. The Nothing Ear (a) left a similar first impression on me. As I picked it up, while I applauded its unbelievable lightweightness at 39.6 grams, its evidently cheap build quality left a bad taste in my mouth. Oh, and the case creaks a lot.

I did squeeze and land hard presses on the other TWS charging cases in a similar budget segment. Neither did they creak as much, nor did they feel like a toy in my hand. The Ear (a) did and, to make matters worse, it doesn’t open with one hand as easily. Right off the bat, you can’t even tell the opening side of the case from the hinge, and it got me way too many times. Why, Nothing, why?

Nothing Ear (a) Opened
Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom

Ignoring the design and build quality of the case, the earbuds aren’t bad at all. The plasticky feel extends to them too. But, the exceptional fitting and airtight seal make up for it. As soon as I put them on, I knew they wouldn’t fall off. Some serious headbanging confirmed the feeling. On the daily, I use the OnePlus Buds Z2, and the Ear (a) fits better for sure.

Nothing Ear (a) fit in ear
Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom

I tried the Oppo Enco Air 3 Pro as well, and they were slippery in my ears in comparison. When I tried the OnePlus Buds Pro 2R though, I fell in love with the fit. It was the best of the lot, for sure. The Nothing Ear (a) comes second to it in this regard.

Oh, you also get two additional ear tips in the box. One, a size smaller, and the other, a size larger. Well, all wireless earbuds bring that to the table, so nothing new there.

The Ear (a) case also comes with a dedicated reset button, which the Enco Air 3 Pro misses out on. Now, while I do understand that the transparent design theme is Nothing’s thing, it highlights even minor scratches on the Ear (a). And our case did get some minor scuffs over the two weeks that we have had it for.

Nothing Ear (a) box contents

It’s All About That Bass – Maybe Too Much

Nothing Ear (a) Audio Quality
Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom

It’s time to get to the most important bit now, the audio quality. I chose these five tracks to drive my conclusion bus, while I sat in the back, testing these earbuds:

  • Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  • Ankhiyaan Gulaab – Mitraz
  • Paper Trail – Darkside
  • Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
  • Cornfield Chase (Interstellar) – Hans Zimmer

Now, these are not easy-to-play tracks and require the mids, lows, and highs to be distinct enough. Right out of the box, the Nothing Ear (a)’s sound quality rubbed my eardrums the wrong way. All the tracks sounded flat and I was disappointed, to say the least. However, once I downloaded the Nothing X app, it miraculously fixed it all and made the Ear (a)’s 11mm drivers sound 5x better.

But, there was a different problem now. The bass was too heavy and I had a mild headache after using them for about 20 minutes. If you prefer turning on the Bass Enhance functionality on these, you are a lunatic.

I had turned off every possible setting that could give the bass a push I didn’t need. That didn’t do much and even in Balanced mode, the bass felt like it was sitting right on top of my eardrum. If you’re a basshead, this is undoubtedly the best choice for you.

Nothing X App Interface and tweakable settings

However, the good thing is that, even though the bass is heavy, it doesn’t overpower the mids or treble much. As a result, you get some solid output through these. Even the trebles are handled well, and the highs are well-detailed. Overall, if you look past the bass overboard, the soundstage is pretty good. But, the Oppo just does it all a bit better and also goes low-key on the bass.

Moreover, advanced EQ would have been nice and would have allowed me to tweak further. The EQ profiles are also pretty basic, but the Custom profile lets you tweak the Mids, Treble, and Bass. So, not much happening here either. You’ll get a lot more utility out of Oppo and OnePlus’ earbuds with the HeyMelody app.

While the OPPO Enco Air 3 Pro doesn’t let you create a custom profile, it makes up for it with much more. You get to enjoy OPPO Alive Audio, which brings that spatial effect to your audio, and I like it honestly. Most importantly, you also get to use the Golden Sound feature, which further offers you a very personalized hearing experience. It works wonders!

OPPO Enco Air 3 Pro Golden Sound and Alive Audio

Furthermore, the Nothing X app allows you to get a dedicated widget right on your home screen to switch between the ANC and transparency modes. A nifty little feature.

You also get LDAC on this, which does bring quite a difference in audio quality. If you are coming from an AAC or LHDC-tuned earbuds, you’ll instantly find it refreshing.

Talking about the ANC next, I was quite taken aback by it. While the on-paper ANC of the Nothing Ear (a) is claimed to be 45dB, it’s strange that it performed better than earbuds featuring 50dB ANC. Even in heavy traffic, the sound seal coupled with ANC never let the honks and shouts crawl through the cracks. The Transparency mode also works pretty well, and the external noises are decently clear. Nothing to write home about, but it gets the job done.

The OPPO Enco Air 3 Pro packs 49dB of ANC but is slightly inferior to that of the Nothing Ear (a)’s ANC performance. Still, it is one of the best ANCs out there, for sure.

Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds Pro 2R

Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom
Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds Pro 2R

That brings me to talk about the microphone quality next. Even in such noisy environments, no one that I talked to complained about my voice being inaudible or the background noises dominating it in any way. But, in my experience, of all the earbuds I tested in the segment, the OnePlus Buds Pro 2R features the best mic setup. Ear (a) comes second, followed by the Enco.

The gestures are also fluid and work without requiring a second try most of the time. Furthermore, you can also customize the triple and double pinch, pinch and hold as well as double pinch and hold gestures on the Nothing X app. Having volume control is a relief and that’s something I miss having on my Buds Z2.

Nothing Ear (a) Review: Is It Worth the Price?

Good Connectivity Options, But…..

Moving on to the connectivity options of the Nothing Ear (a), it supports Bluetooth 5.3 like all the other earbuds in and around the segment. However, it is the all-too-evident 120ms latency where the Ear (a) can drag you down. Here, the Enco Air 3 Pro’s 47ms latency emerges to be way more versatile.

When gaming, I could feel the lag, and it did come in the way of hearing those footsteps right. The range is phenomenal though, and I could go to the other end of our big enough office without the sound stuttering. My Buds Z2s can’t handle that.

In addition, there’s also in-ear detection, which is common for earbuds these days. You also have Dual Connection, which allows you to connect the earbuds to two devices at once. That’s also pretty common for earbuds in the segment. You also get Swift Pair alongside, which can come in handy if you have a Windows PC.

Nothing’s Earbuds are Kinda Juiced!

Nothing Ear (a) Charging
Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom

The 500mAh battery of the charging case is on the higher spectrum of things. The 46mAh battery unit of the earbuds is also decent enough, on paper. However, these translate well in real life too, delivering over a day of backup on a single charge. 35 hours, to be specific, with ANC off.

Without the case, you can squeeze out around 5 hours of backup from the Nothing Ear (a), which is commendable. My Buds Z2s give me around 3.5 hours of backup. All these numbers are with ANC turned off. With ANC on, the Nothing Ear (a) will give you around 4 hours of backup without the case and roughly 22 hours with it.

All in all, the Ear (a) mops the floor with the competition in terms of sheer battery backup. The only other earbud that delivers similar backup is the OnePlus Buds Pro 2R. Even the Enco Air 3 Pro isn’t too far behind and delivers just 30-45 minutes less of backup.

As for charging, just 10 minutes of charging gave me around 7-8 hours of backup with the case. So, if you are someone with a fast life, it will have you covered on that front. The Oppo Enco Air 3 Pro also delivers around 5.5-6 hours of backup with the same amount of charge.

Nothing Ear (a): Should You Buy It?

Nothing Ear (a) vs OPPO Enco Air 3 Pro

Image Courtesy: Mohit Singh/Beebom
Nothing Ear (a) vs OPPO Enco Air 3 Pro

The Nothing Ear (a) comes with a price tag of Rs. 7,999 in India. So, keeping that very pricing in mind, here’s what I honestly think.

If you ask me, I’d rather get the Oppo Enco Air 3 Pro, which usually sells for Rs. 4,499 in India. You can even get it for less with discounts and offers. For Rs. 3,000 less, you don’t miss out on anything major, apart from the extra battery life and transparent design. However, what you gain with the Enco Air 3 Pro is a balanced audio signature, which I really like and matters the most to me. So, if you want a better-sounding pair of earbuds, Enco Air 3 Pro should be your pick.

However, if you prefer more bass, extra juice, better microphone quality, and slightly better ANC, the Nothing Ear (a) may seem worth it to you. To me, these feel overpriced for the average Indian consumer. Had they launched for somewhere around Rs. 6,000 or 6,500, they would have been a value-for-money package I’d recommend in a heartbeat. By paying almost half the money, you get the Enco Air 3 Pro, which seems a better choice to me.

The Nothing Ear (a) will go on sale in India on April 22, 2024, via Flipkart, Croma, and Vijay Sales.

Pros and Cons
The Pros
Commendable battery backup
Pretty good ANC
Amazing microphone quality
Provides great fit
The Cons
Build quality feels cheap
Audio output is too bass-heavy
Slightly overpriced
120ms Latency
Final Verdict
Design and Build Quality
Sound Quality
Microphone Quality
Battery Backup and Charging
For Rs. 7,999, the Nothing Ear (a) feels overpriced. Yes, they offer a commendable battery life, an excellent fit, a whole lot of bass (if you're into it), and even one of the best ANCs in this segment. But, for much less, you get the OPPO Air 3 Pro, which doesn't make you miss out on anything major, making it hard to recommend the Ear (a) instead.
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