What you can't see won't hurt you, they say. And they're right if they were talking about the see-through design of the Nothing Ear (Stick). At just 4.4g, their weightlessness and smooth surfacing allow them to slip into your ears effortlessly. The semi-open design means you won't be leaving your world behind though. The Ear (Stick) is a less dearer version of the Ear (1), but with less frills and more style. It’s lipstick case form factor notwithstanding, even the earbuds themselves are superbly designed for all-day werability without feeling claustrophobic or uncomfortable.
Nothing Ear (Stick) review
But it does lack the ANC feature from the Ear (1), which means a whole lot of ambience filters through, making them rather unuseable on flights, trains or anything that’s louder than a meat freezer. But Nothing tries to compensate with Bass Lock, a software algorithm that measures the loss of bass at the ear canal and adjusts the EQ accordingly. It might work better for some than others, all depending on how you wear your in-ears. Once you realise how much of an engineering nightmare it is to pack in so many elements in a tiny bud, let alone make it transparent and clean looking, your respect for Nothing grows. Just like the custom-made drivers did.
At a generous 12.6mm, they are large for this size and price category and Nothing has also thrown in a trio of mics and Clear Voice technology for better voice call clarity. Compared to the Ear (1), newer algorithms claim to improve wind-noise rejection and filter out louder background noises more effectively. There are passive measures taken too, like moving the antenna away from the face to minimize signal blockage.
The twist to open and shut mechanism is truly innovative, for a pair of TWS buds at least and Nothing has taken great care in the fit, finish and even typography. Attention to detail is impressive, even if the sound isn’t.
Sound quality is crisp, but most of the times, overtly so. There’s a hint of sibilance and the lack of deep bass only underscores the absence of “body”. Bass Lock works better in presentations than inside your ears apparently, but you can take control of the sound, to a certain extent. The EQ settings on the Nothing X app allow you to mix the mids, highs and lows to your preference, but it never really comes close to the best in this price range, like the Oppo Enco X for example. I kept trying to fit them deeper into my ears just to get more bass so that the overall tonal balance would sound more rounded and full-bodied, but the lack of silicon tips is sorely missed to provide the physical seal.
The upshot to this though is the ease with which you can wear the Ear (Stick) for extended periods of time. How well they stay in your ear again is a very personal subject, depending on your ear shape and fit. It makes for a great all-day in-office companion to listen to background music, watch videos or attend video calls.
Obviously, you get better and quicker access to EQ controls, auto low-lag mode during gaming and fast-pairing with a Nothing phone, but the battery life is the same on any phone. That’s up to 7hrs on a single charge a quick 10-min top-up gives you 2 hrs of run time. Controls like volume, track changes and play/pause are all control by pressing touch sensitive zones on the stalks of the Ear (Stick) and work well.
It may come in at a lower price tag than its predecessor, but the Ear (Stick) also forsakes wireless charging and ANC in the bargain. Although, Nothing has done well to make it “feel” even more high quality and modern than the Ear (1), especially with the lipstick-style case. The fact that it will be sold on Myntra along with Flipkart proves that this is more of a fashion accessory than something that aims to sway the audiophiles.
Highly refined design and fit, let down by lacklustre sound
|AAC and SBC
|Nothing X for iOS and Android
|7hrs + 22hrs w/case
|Bluetooth 5.2, Low-lag mode with Nothing (1) Phone