Nothing's natty buds offer hi-res audio alongside a heaving feature set, but will they cut the sonic mustard?

Nothing Ear (a) in yellow
(Image credit: Nothing)

One of the nattiest brands in all of consumer audio is back again. Nothing, the makers of the rather decent Nothing Phone(1) and aesthetically out there 'Ear' line of wireless earbuds has returned with its new Ear and Ear(a).

The new Ear wireless buds act as the company's flagship model, while the Ear(a) are a more budget option hovering around the price of the Award-winning Sony WF-C700N (tested at £100 / $120 / AU$200). The Ear(a) do offer a brand new yellow colourway – Nothing's first departure from purely black and white schemes – which is a real bonus for anyone wanting a bit more sunshine in their life. 

Both the Nothing Ear and the Ear(a) offer support for standard AAC and SBC Bluetooth codecs alongside the Sony-developed LDAC protocol, the latter promising playback for hi-res files up to 24-bit/96kHz from a compatible source. Both buds boast active noise-cancellation (ANC), blocking out sounds up to 45dB for what Nothing claims is the company's "strongest noise cancelling yet".

Rather intriguingly (or scarily, depending on who you ask), Nothing plans to be one of the first brands to integrate Chat GPT into its ecosystem, with users able to access the AI platform directly from their earbuds via voice command. That will only be possible when the buds are connected to Nothing's own line of smartphones, though.

Nothing Ear on a white background

The flagship Nothing Ear are more highly specced than the Ear(a), but crucially, they don't come in yellow. (Image credit: Nothing)

Battery-wise, the cheaper Ear(a) offer up to 9.5 hours of playback from the earbuds and up to 42.5 hours overall, bettering the 8.5 hours (up to 40.5 hours overall) boasted by the flagship Ear buds. Both support fast charging, with a 10-minute charge promising to give around 10 hours of playback, but only the flagship Ear grant access to wireless charging.

The more premium Ear earbuds (Nothing's naming conventions are rather unconventional) are slightly smaller but are housed within a larger case, and while both pairs offer a strong IP54 water and dustproof rating, the cheaper Ear(a)'s case is only rated to IPX2 when compared with IP55 for the Ear. 

As far as further features go, there isn't much to separate the two. Both support Bluetooth multipoint and hands-free voice calls, and you'll be furnished with access to the Nothing app either way. That said, your customisation abilities are a little more extensive with the Ear, and while you can access your EQ settings from either model, only the Ear offer the chance to create a "Personal Sound Profile" tailored to your preferences. 

The Nothing Ear(a) will enjoy a full release on April 22nd, retailing at £99 / $99 in a black, white or yellow finish. The flagship Nothing Ear will be fully released on the same day for £129 / $129, in either a black or white finish.


Our pick of the best noise-cancelling earbuds: budget to premium

Read our Nothing Ear (1) review 

Plus our Nothing Ear (2) review

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Harry McKerrell
Staff writer

Harry McKerrell is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi?. He studied law and history at university before working as a freelance journalist covering TV and gaming for numerous platforms both online and in print. When not at work he can be found playing hockey, practising the piano or forcing himself to go long-distance running.