Nothing’s revealed its second-generation Ear wireless buds. The eye-catching design sticks around and the company has tried to address some of the issues that bedeviled the original, with some much-needed improvements to connectivity and setup. Fortunately, the price of the Nothing Ear 2 is the same as the Ear 1: $149, which undercut a lot of the established true wireless competition.
Nothing hasn’t redesigned its buds and case – they look very similar side-by-side – but it’s made a handful of incremental changes. Most of them focus on the case, which is smaller and slimmer. The outer part of the case is still transparent, but part of the white structure is now exposed. There’s no textured surface, just a soft-touch panel. Nothing claims the see-through plastic is harder to scratch and damage than the original Ear 1. In my pockets and bag, getting shuffled around with keys or other objects has already left a noticeable scratch on the case. I also worry that this exposed panel could get muckier easier – the curse of all white gadgets.
Tackling one the bigger complaints I had with the Ear 1, Nothing moved the microphones and antenna inside the buds to improve connectivity and stability – something it also did with the cheaper Ear Stick. The company’s first wireless buds were often finickity when pairing. The company has also changed the antenna structure for better reliability, and the initial pairing process seems to be less fussy and smoother than its predecessor. It’s also, finally, added dual connectivity, making it easier to switch between your phone and laptop.
Microphone placements have also been repositioned to reduce wind noise on calls, but I didn’t notice major improvements over the Ear 1. Nothing said its Clear Voice tech was tuned to just shy of 2 million sounds on the Ear 1 in order to filter them out, while that was closer to 20 million on its newest buds. However, I made several test calls, and I was still difficult to hear when it was windy.
Nothing says it improved sound detail with polyurethane components for clearer low frequencies (it’s been a while since a company has sold polyurethane as a feature), and graphene for brighter highs. There’s also a dual chamber design for a wider soundstage.
The Ear 2 will also be compatible with Hi-res audio at launch, although they weren’t at time of writing, and are compatible with the LHDC 5.0 codec, which all means they should work with premium audio standards where you can find them.
But does it sound all that different? Swapping between the Ear 1 and Ear 2, the newest version does offer clearer sound in the trebles and the bass has more oomph than before. But, compared to wireless buds that are often hundred dollars more expensive, like the AirPods Pro or Sony’s latest flagship buds, they don’t quite stand up, coming off a little flat.