The Nothing ear (stick) is the newest wireless earphone from Nothing, and it may have grabbed your attention due to its fashion-driven design. It's an alternative to last year's Nothing ear (1), but is it any better?
For starters, the Nothing ear (stick) earbuds design is the same as the Nothing ear (1) but has slight improvements in specs and different features. Besides Huawei's own FreeBuds Lipstick design, the ear (stick) is indeed a rare and unique design in the tech industry. The ear (stick) retains its unique translucent plastic body just like the rest of the Nothing products so far.
Everything you get inside the box
The overall look
The ear (stick) casing can be opened up and it's simple for users. It has a well-designed mechanism for rotating parts and a USB C port for charging at the bottom. Interestingly, there is a silver-coloured button beside the port. But it doesn't really do anything except prevent the user from accidentally pressing it.
Holding the casing is easy since it has a cylindrical shape, and the grip is good thanks to the matte finish with a fine dotted texture. Opening the case with one hand is easy as well. The locking mechanism moves smoothly and feels satisfactory when doing so. However, dust would enter the sides, which can be annoying.
Holding it in your hand is nice, but not when it's in your pocket
On that note, the case is not water-resistant even though the earbuds are. The translucent plastic also makes it prone to fingerprint smudges and can be easily scratched if you're not careful. It's best that you don't place the Nothing ear (stick) casing together with your keys in your pocket or handbag. Since the casing's cross-section is round, it doesn't feel comfortable in your pocket. It can also roll off from an unstable table.
As mentioned, the ear (stick) earbuds design is the same as the ear (1). Nothing also provided different silicone ear tips but only in one size. Depending on your ear size, wearing them for long periods could add pressure on your ear canal, so you may need to take them off once in a while.
What wearing it looks like
Compared to ear (1), the ear (stick) has no Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) features at all. ANC is one of the essential features for a pair of wireless earbuds, but it can't be found within the Nothing X app. However, the ear (stick) supports pinching gestures instead of tapping, so that's a nice change. But still, the lack of ANC was quite disappointing.
The app also comes with some additional features. You can still set your preferred equaliser, but there's now a custom mode to adjust the sound profile to your preference. Of course, the Nothing X app is not only available for Android users. You can also download it from the Apple App Store, which means you can pair the device to your iPhone.
The Nothing X app UI
Now, onto the sound performance. While testing it, we didn't experience any issues with the ear (stick). There was no lag when we played mobile games, and the ear (stick) didn't suffer any connection instability like the ear (1). This is all thanks to Bluetooth 5.2, as well as the SBC and AAC codecs. The 12.6mm dynamic drivers provide decent audio quality. But since the sound range is set to the upper-midrange (focusing on the treble), the sound is a little aggressive.
For example, the treble on the song Treasure by Bruno Mars feels sharp. The beat of this disco-era song sounds more like a 'click' sound than a jolt, with the low notes feeling less noticeable. The vocals sound pretty good on the ear (stick) with songs like Take Me Home by John Denver and even some podcasts whereby we didn't have to amplify the volume.
Sounds nice on certain songs only
Many details can be heard if you turn on the volume higher but setting it at 50% level is just nice and comfortable. Most people will crank up the volume to drown out background noise due to the lack of ANC, but this makes the volume too high and affects your music-listening experience. Moreover, it might not be suitable in public places where you must pay attention to the traffic or people talking to you.
On the other hand, the network call quality on this wearable is good, with a clear microphone and no voice interference. The battery life is great since there's no ANC. The earphones can last approximately 7 hours on a single charge, plus three full recharges via the charging case for a total listening time of 29 hours. Note that there is no wireless charging for this case, but there is fast charging.
Nice attempt, but could be better
All in all, the Nothing ear (stick) looks really cool. But in practical terms, the earbuds aren't that impressive. For RM469, it might not be worth the price tag because there's no ANC and the charging case is not durable enough against potential damages. Granted, the ear (stick) sounds good for selected music genres, but audiophiles would likely disagree.
If anything, the OPPO Enco X2 or Sony WF-1000XM3 are better choices, albeit with higher price tags of RM799 and RM949, respectively. Heck, you might as well go for the Nothing ear (1) because it has ANC and a pretty good overall sound quality and performance for RM499. Still, if you prefer style over sound quality, there's nothing wrong with getting the Nothing ear (stick). The choice is yours.
Nothing ear (stick) features
- Custom 12.6 mm dynamic driver
- 4.4 grams (per earphone)
- Features IP54 sweat resistant, Clear Voice technology, press controls
- Battery life: Up to 7 hours of listening time, 3 hours of talk time, charging case gives an extra 22 hours producing 29 hours of standby time
- 10-minute charging gives up to 2 hours of listening time
- Bluetooth 5.2
Pros: Rare, cool and futuristic design, fast charging and lightweight
Cons: No ANC, not comfortable when placed inside a pocket, music quality is alright but doesn't justify the price
Conclusion: Suitable for users who care more about style over sound quality