Along with the Nothing ear, which is the successor to the Nothing ear (2), Nothing also released the ear (a), a cheaper model last week. These feature a new design, come in an attractive new yellow color, but only the top of the box is transparent.

This one has Bluetooth 5.3 and ANC of 45 dB, which is present in the Nothing ear. Although they have LDAC code, they lack the LHDC 5.0 audio codec that is present in the Nothing ear.

Battery life has improved and the launch price is lower than the ear (2). So are true wireless headphones with ANC worth the price? Let's dive into the review to find out.

Contents of the box

  • Swimming ear (a) in yellow color
  • Ear tips in small and large sizes (medium pre-installed)
  • Braided USB Type-C cable
  • User Guide

The ear (a) has a new bubble design with raised contours for the case that is different from older models. The design team says it was inspired by daily pill packets.

The case has magnets, so the buds stay securely locked and won't fall out easily. The glossy finish on the bottom is easily scratched with day-to-day wear.

The metal hinge seemed loose, and when I tried to get it inside, the top plastic cover easily came off and I could no longer seal the box properly. It could be a problem with the glue applied to our unit or a manufacturing fault. I've been using the headphones for a week now. Since the case doesn't close properly, the buttons are always attached to my phone.

The charging case measures 47.6 x 63.3 x 22.7 mm and weighs 39.6 grams, making it smaller and lighter than the ear even with the same battery. There is a small LED light on the housing that glows white. The case is also IPX2 rated for splash resistance compared to the IP55 rating on the Nothing ear.

The in-ear headphones still have a transparent design for the tip as usual, and the yellow color for the headphones is eye-catching. The headphones weigh about 4.8 grams. Measuring 30.9 x 21.7 x 24.3 mm, they are larger. You can see the microphones.

There's an optical sensor for wear detection so it can automatically pause audio when you take it off your ears and play it when you put it back on.

You can also see the NADA earmark (a) on the outside where the touch sensitive area is present which allows you to control play/pause, ANC and volume. The headphones are IP54 rated for dust and water resistance. It can withstand splashes or light rain, but you can't use it when swimming.

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The fit was perfect and it doesn't come off easily, even during strenuous activities like running or training. The headphone fit test option plays music to ensure that the ear tips make a good seal with the ear canal for better noise cancellation.

Connectivity, pairing and controls

The Nothing Ear (a) supports Bluetooth 5.3 with LDAC sound codec for HD sound quality on compatible devices, it also supports AAC codec which works on phones that have it. LDAC offers transmission speed of up to 990 kbps at 32-bit/96 kHz.

The Nothing Ear has LHDC 5.0 which offers a transmission speed of up to 1 Mbps and transmission frequencies of up to 24 bit/192 kHz.

The pairing process is very simple. Just turn on Bluetooth on your phone, open the button charging box, place the charging box near your phone and follow the prompts. To connect with other devices, place the Buds in the charging case with the lid open. Press and hold the settings button on the case for 2 seconds to access Bluetooth settings. Then select the Nothing Ear (a).

There is a quick pairing option that works on the latest Android phones. We tested it on Pixel 8 and OPPO Find X7 Ultra and never faced any pairing or disconnection issues. There is also Microsoft Swift Pair to connect it to Windows. Since the phone pairs with the case and not the headphones, you'll need the case if you want to reconnect it or even turn on the headphones if they're disconnected from the phone.

You can enable the dual connection option that allows you to connect to two devices at the same time and switch the audio playback between them. But the headset will restart every time you need to turn the feature off or on.

The headphones have press controls to prevent any accidental touch and discomfort when touching the ear canal. This allows you to skip tracks, switch between noise canceling modes and adjust the volume, all with the click of a button. Controls can be customized in the Nothing X app.

function Left earpiece (L) Right earpiece (R)
Play / pause or answer calls / hang up calls Single click
Skip forward/Reject incoming call Double pinch
jump back Triple Pinche
Switch between ANC mode and transparency mode Pinch and Hold
Volume control Customizable with Pinch and Hold / Double Pinch and Hold

The company wants us to bring back the swipe option for volume control, so you have to customize them with the Nothing X app turned on Android e iPhone. You can change the Triple Pinch, Pinch and Hold, and Pinch and Hold actions for each gem, but you can't customize a single or double pinch.

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You can turn off in-ear detection from the settings. The company has also added ChatGPT integration when you use it with Nothing phones.

Audio quality

The Nothing Ear (a) has an 11mm dynamic driver with a PMI + TPU diaphragm. There's extra space in the buds that gives sound waves more room to vibrate, and with two new vents, airflow is improved inside the bud, the company says.

The audio quality is crisp with clear vocals, deeper low frequencies and clear high frequencies, thanks to the design. Midrange and upper midrange are decent, but I felt the ear did a better job. LDAC worked with the OPPO Find X7 Ultra and the Pixel 8.

It has four equalizer presets: balanced (default), bassier, treble and voice, so that every song can be heard as it should be. You can also create a custom equalizer.

This one doesn't have the 8-band custom equalizer option and the personal sound profile that the ear has. There is a bass enhancement feature that allows you to set levels from 1 to 5. I don't care for the 8-band custom EQ, but the personal sound profile was useful in the ear (2) as it fine-tunes the audio based on the ear canal . .

Noise cancellation and call performance

As for noise cancellation, the active noise cancellation (ANC) blocks ambient sound up to 45 dB with a frequency range of 5000 Hz, compared to 40 db in the ear (1) and in the ear (2). The quality is good compared to older models. You can feel the difference when listening in doors and outdoors.

There are four modes, low, medium, high and adaptive mode which automatically adjusts the level of noise reduction based on your environment in real time. This has no custom ANC options, which the Nothing ear has. You can switch between noise cancellation, transparency, and no noise cancellation with a pinch and hold on the headphones.

It also has the transparency mode that allows you to hear the surrounding sound so that you can recognize the surrounding situation and potential hazards. The low-latency game mode, which is called low-latency mode, works automatically with Nothing phones in game mode, but you need to enable it from the settings of other devices. Without low-latency mode, latency is too high, but it's decent with the mode enabled, which the company claims is 120ms.

Coming to call noise cancellation, it uses Clear Voice technology for calls that uses three high-definition microphones to cut out external noise. The company says it has a conversation microphone and an extra airway in the stem for wind to pass through, so interference is reduced by 60% compared to Ear (2).

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According to my use, the call quality improved a lot, the wind noise was completely eliminated for the receiver and the traffic noise was barely audible.

Battery life

The headphones come with a 46mAh battery that promises about 9.5 hours of autonomy without ANC and 5.5 hours with ANC. During my use with LDAC and noise cancellation on, I got just over 5 hours at about 60% volume, which is good. With AAC and noise cancellation fully disabled at 50% volume, it lasted about 9 hours, which is the best. For calls, it lasts only 4 hours with ANC as it uses call noise cancellation technology.

With the 500mAh charging case, smaller than the 570mAh in-ear (1) and larger than the ear (2), it promises up to 42.5 hours of total battery life without ANC and 23 hours of total battery life with noise cancellation on. The battery life is the best of the headphones. This one has no wireless charging support.

Conclusion

Overall, Nothing ear (a) is a decent Active Noise Canceling (ANC) TWS for the price. The new design is attractive, the case is compact, the audio quality and the ANC are good.

Although the launch price is cheaper than the ear (2), it's still on the higher end of the range for headphones without features like wireless charging and the LHDC codec.

Price in Rs. 7,999, the Ear (a) is available on Flipkart online as well as Croma and Vijay sales.

alternatives

At a cheaper price, OnePlus Buds 3 offers dual drivers and LHDC 5.0. If you spend a little more, you can even get the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 which will be cheaper during the sale.

Pros

  • Attractive design
  • Good audio quality, LDAC audio codec
  • Brilliant call quality
  • Good ANC with customizable modes
  • IP54 for buds and IPX2 for case
  • Good battery life

Cons

  • No LHDC audio codec
  • The glossy case is prone to scratches
  • The hinge is not sturdy
  • No profile sharing, personal sound profile and custom ANC


Author: Srivatsan Sridhar

Srivatsan Sridhar is a mobile technology enthusiast who is passionate about mobile phones and mobile applications. Use the phones you review as your primary phone. You can follow it Twitter e Instagram
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