The London-base Nothing, made famous partly because it was founded by Carl Pei, the co-founder of OnePlus definitely, who knows how to make waves. For a company that was established during the pandemic, it has managed to make a splash with just two products - the Nothing Phone 1 smartphone and the Nothing Ear 1. The third and latest launch from the company is the Nothing Ear Stick which I’ve been glued to for a week now and here’s the low-down.
Nothing has rocked the boat of TWS case design with the ear stick. Shaped like a big, happy pill or a lipstick case - take your pick - a partly-transparent box houses the two earbuds.
You can twist the case endlessly in either direction, to access the earbuds or to shut the case close. When closed you can see the branding on it and twist to open it and the earbuds immediately go into pairing mode.
A red dot distinguishes the right earbud from the left and what seems like a significant departure from the norm are the no-silicone eartips. This might a win for some who find in-ear silicone tips a little too invasive for their liking, unfortunately I’m not one of them. I prefer the seal-in with silicone tips and their ability to shut out as much background noise as possible to maximise the audio experience.
Having said that the sound quality that the ear stick offers is fairly decent. I cue up YouTube creator Bobby Nsenga’s RnB and Soul playlist, and on numbers like Frank Ocean’s Seigfried and Mac Miller’s Circles the vocals come across with clarity, and the music acoustics are also quite nice, not exactly mind-blowing. This could be partly ascribed to its non-sealed earbud design, although Nothing seems to have done its best to compensate for the loss of sound. The company says they’ve included three high definition mics and accompanying software algorithms to pick up and filter out louder background noises. However, I notice that although listening to music is fairly enjoyable on its own, the experience is ruined when I’m in public transport with the loud, constant rumble of the metro seeping in and distracting me from my favourite T-Pain tracks.
I open up the Nothing X app to tweak the acoustics, pump up the bass a bit more and reduce the treble a smidge, to get slightly better results. The app itself is minimal and quickly takes me through the different on-headset control functions during set up.
Most of the pinch-based controls are along the usual lines - a single pinch to answer to hang up on calls and to play and pause a track, double-pinch to skip a track or decline an incoming call, triple-pinch to go to the previous track. Only the volume up and down are divided across the earbuds where a press and hold on the left decreases volume and the same gesture on the right increases it. As of now, the stem isn’t built to be touch-based and needs a firm press to activate all of these functions.
If brands could be personified, Nothing would be an edgy, low-key impressively impertinent young adult, who’s going through an experimental fashion phase, and wants every aspect of its being to convey that it is here to stand out from the crowd!
My issue with the Nothing ear stick is that while it manages to stand out with its design, if I were to focus on its function more than its form, it doesn’t make enough of an impact with its audio quality to be a resounding winner. It’s good enough, and that’s just about it for now.
The Nothing ear stick is available for purchase starting tomorrow (Nov 17) on Flipkart and Myntra.
Pros - Decent audio quality, unique design
Cons - No active noise cancellation, fixed earbud design might not suit everyone