Nothing Ear (A) Reviews: Top 4 Common Critiques

A few years ago, the U.K. tech startup Nothing jumped into the AirPods competitor game with its first wireless earbuds. They weren’t amazing, but it sounds like things have changed since then.

Reviews went up for the new Nothing Ear (a) earbuds on Thursday — and these new $100 earbuds have earned high marks from just about everyone. Between a swanky new colorway, surprisingly great sound quality, and that shockingly low price, critics are really liking Nothing Ear (a).

Here’s what people are saying about these budget ‘buds.

1. Great sound qualityObviously, nothing is more important in a pair of headphones than how they sound. That seems to be a big win for Nothing’s new earbuds. Parker Hall of Wired had very kind words about the sound quality in Nothing Ear (a):

These third-generation Nothing earbuds have a very open midrange that makes it super easy to hear things like layered acoustic guitars and piano, which is especially noticeable when compared to their predecessors. The sound is neutral, which is to say that these buds don’t have a big scooped-out middle-frequency section to accommodate brighter highs and punchier lows; the sound is so much more clinical and robust than standard AirPods it’s hard to compare them.

The comparison to Apple’s baseline AirPods is noteworthy because those will run you $180 by default. For nearly half the price, Nothing’s earbuds seem to deliver much better sound.

2. Effective noise cancelationSpeaking of AirPods, the entry-level ones don’t have active noise cancelation at all. It’s a big sore spot on Apple’s earbuds lineup and has been for years. This isn’t the case with Nothing Ear (a); not only do they have ANC, but it’s apparently pretty good. Becky Scarrott of TechRadar mentioned that they were better at drowning out loud cooking noises than last year’s Nothing Ear (2):

The quoted improvement is 45dB over 40dB of ambient noise nixing and if that’s hard to quantify, let me tell you that when I sat down to do some work at home wearing Ear (a) with ANC on High, I didn’t realize the oven extractor fan was on (my other half was making breakfast), but as soon as I switched to Ear (2) it became perceptible. 

Multiple reviews noted that it’s not best-in-class ANC, but for $100, it’s hard to ask for more than something that will reduce everyday noises in the home or the office.

3. Decent battery lifeBattery is clearly another important factor when it comes to wireless earbuds. Nobody wants to be stuck on an airplane without enough juice to marathon a couple of podcasts.

While one shouldn’t reasonably expect 10-hour battery life from $100 earbuds, it doesn’t sound like the Ear (a) is a slouch in this regard. AndroidCentral’s Tshaka Armstrong performed battery testing with every bell and whistle turned on and got around five hours of playback, putting it on par with other earbuds in (or above) the price range:

Rated for 5.5 hours of continuous playback with ANC on, I drained them in five hours with mixed-use. That included 13 minutes on a phone call, 45 minutes of transparency mode during my walk through the neighborhood, and every feature activated that warns you it will deplete the battery faster when you turn it on, including LDAC support and multipoint.

I should mention that my beloved Beats Fit Pro last about that long with ANC turned on, and those cost twice as much as Ear (a).

4. One missing featureAlas, a $100 pair of earbuds can’t be perfect. It’s just not possible.

Multiple reviews, such as Samuel Gibbs’ in The Guardian, made note of the lack of Qi wireless charging for the Ear (a) charging case. That said, Gibbs’ take on the redesigned case in general was pretty positive:

Nothing has significantly improved the case for the Ear (a), too, shrinking it to roughly the size of the best in the business, such as Apple’s AirPods, slipping nicely into the watch pocket of a pair of jeans. It lacks Qi wireless charging, having only USB-C, which is a sacrifice well made for the size.

Overall, Nothing’s Ear (a) earbuds seem to be among the best you can get for the measly price of $100. I’d by lying if I said reading all these reviews didn’t have my finger hovering on the purchase button.