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The Nothing Ear (1) wireless earbuds perform well on and off the bike. As an iOS user, switching between devices isn't as smooth for me as with the Air Pods Pro, but the significantly lower price combined with the secure in-ear fit, decent noise cancellation and classy design makes these a good option.
The headline features suggest these are going to be a good set of earbuds. You're getting wireless charging, noise cancellation and a smart design for under £100. While they can't compete with earbuds like the Air Pods Pro on sound quality or noise cancellation, they do well for the money.
Okay, cycling out on the road with headphones might not be for you, but I'm happy to have my tunes going into my left ear and using my right ear for hearing passing traffic. For this, and while sweating away on the indoor trainer, the Nothings have been great in-ear wireless headphones.
The fit is snug and secure, and the noise cancellation is, for me, good enough, blocking out wind noise or a whirring turbo. You can set it via the app to 'low' or 'max', with the latter being my preference. It isn't the strongest out there, and I wouldn't pick these if I was regularly wanting peace on a train or plane, but it is good enough to help me concentrate as I write this in a cafe. All in, it works well for the money, though my over-ear Sennheiser HD4.50 headphones will still be the ones I reach for when boarding an aircraft.
Transparency mode is useful for situations like going shopping or walking around town, and you can also simply turn them off.
Judging sound quality is tricky as we're all different, and while I was impressed, I wasn't blown away. The bass is pretty solid and everything is perfectly audible, but there is a lack of richness to the sound that you'd find in more expensive options. However to my ears, Taylor Swift still sounds like the queen of country that she always has been.
The in-ear fit is good for me, and as with many earbud designs you get a few different sized tips so you can get the fit right.
I haven't had any issues with either side falling out, though the only running that I've done while wearing them was for a plane. I got a knee injury the very next day. Coincidence? I think not.
There is a neat feature with the Ear (1) and that is the auto-pause. If, to your horror, someone comes to ask you a question in public and you're bopping along to your favourite Swifty classic, simply removing one of the buds from your ear will pause your music.
The Ear (1) buds can also be customised to allow touch controls, which you do from within the app. For example, I've made both left and right buds skip forward a song with a triple tap, should a track or a podcast come on that isn't to my taste. That's generally all I ever do, but you can also set up a press and hold to toggle noise-cancelling profiles. A double-tap will play/pause, but I found this function to be a little flaky.
One thing you might wish to consider is how long the battery lasts. For occasional use, such as listening to a podcast as you walk home from work, the battery life is fine. But I did have a couple of longer rides around the four-hour mark where my favoured left earbud would die and need to have a snooze in the case to recharge. If you turn the noise cancellation off you'll get about six hours.
If you work on iOS all day, as I do with a Mac, a MacBook and an iPhone, you might wish to fork out the extra cash for the Air Pods Pro as they switch very smoothly between devices. The Nothings will connect quickly to a device you've paired them to, but the first device they were paired to is considered the primary one and they will always default to that device.
The main frustration with the Nothings comes when using them with one device and then wanting to quickly transfer them to another. You'll need to manually disconnect them from, say, your laptop and then connect them to your phone if you want to use them to take a call.
Is it a minor inconvenience? Yes. But it does show the benefits of using products that work in an ecosystem. Going away from that feels rather old school.
The £99 price tag is what really makes these an appealing choice, especially when compared with premium options such as the Apple AirPods Pro. But that isn't to say there aren't other options at this price point, or that the Nothings are the cheapest set of wireless earbuds out there.
At £98.97, the Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds are highly regarded when it comes to noise cancellation and sound quality. You don't get quite as appealing a design as you do with the Nothings, though.
If you can stand to spend an extra £140, the Apple AirPods Pro provide slicker integration for iPhone/iOS users.
All in, if you're looking for a compact and powerful wireless option for entertainment on training rides or turbo sessions the Nothings are certainly worth considering.
A very smart design supported with good sound quality and decent noise cancellation
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Nothing ear (1)
Size tested: N/A
Tell us what the product is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
From Nothing Tech:
"Switch your look. Go minimal in original white or get moody with black. We believe in windows, not walls. We gave ear (1) transparent veneers to highlight and celebrate the craftsmanship underneath, and reveal the raw beauty of our technology."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Nothing Tech lists:
Ultra light at 4.7g
Powerful 11.6mm speaker driver
Sound by Teenage Engineering
Active Noise Cancellation
Up to 34 hours of listening
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They were good for on the bike, working best for occasional podcast listening or taking calls while my hands were full.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The design is really tidy. Nothing Tech obviously spent a lot of time making the internals look good.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The performance doesn't quite match the looks; it's good, but the sound and noise-cancellation quality could be better.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
These are the cheapest earbuds we have reviewed, but you have a plethora of options from the likes of Google, Samsung, Sony and more at this price point.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
For the money, this is a good set of earbuds – the design particularly, plus decent sound quality and effective noise cancellation for cafes.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!