In-ear headphones with TWS function (True Wireless Stereo) are all the hype. Almost 300 million such devices were sold worldwide last year. Ascending trend. There are models (e.g. from Anker) for as little as 30 euros. And then there are top-of-the-line TWS headphones, like the Sony WF-1000XM4, which have a price tag of just over 220 euros. In the field in between there are countless manufacturers with an incredible number of models. Also on board since mid-2021: Nothing. The fledgling company was founded by Carl Pei, the man who also brought the OnePlus smartphone brand to life. With the Nothing Ear 1, the start-up wants to get involved in the headphone market, but at the same time stand out. Especially with the design. But what is behind the transparent plastic of the headphones? Outstanding sound or nothing, as the company's name suggests?
Fit and operation of the headphones
In addition to good sound, everyone expects a perfect fit and high wearing comfort from in-ear headphones. The Nothing Ear 1 can offer both. They are light as a feather, can hardly be felt in the ears and do not fall out of the auditory canal even when headbanging. The shape of the headphones is reminiscent of the Huawei FreeBuds Pro. They also sit well and lightly in the ear. The problem: the shape prevents the headphones from being pushed too far into the ear. As a result, the rubbers do not seal properly. The result: sound quality falls by the wayside. If you push and twist the headphones into the ear canal and find the right rubber pads for your ears, the sound quality can be increased. Models like the Melomania 1+ can do this without violence.
The design with transparent plastic is – without question – an eye-catcher.
The operation matches the design. It is simple yet surprising. The volume can be adjusted by swiping up or down over one of the two cones on the earphones. A double tap pauses the music, a triple tap is used to fast forward. The commands can also be changed in the Nothing app. Good idea: Since there is no simple tap possible, there is also no reaction and therefore no execution of actions in the event of an accidental touch.
The sound of the Nothing Ear 1 and the ANC
As already mentioned, the shape of the headphones prevents a grandiose and direct sound. This probably differs from ear to ear. In our test, however, the Nothing Ear 1 sounded a bit compressed and homogeneous. If the volume is too high, it becomes somewhat undifferentiated. The basses are definitely present, but a bit too dull. The mids are unclean, the highs are not clear enough. If you jab the headphones a little deep into your ear, you can feel that there is more quality in them. But a short time later, they slip out again by a millimeter, so that the sound deteriorates.
The headphones deliver a solid, but far from great sound.
Active noise cancellation (ANC) is available and can be set to two levels or switched off in the app. A transparency mode is also on board, so you can listen to the conductor's announcements while Ray Luzier is pounding the heads and cymbals like there's no tomorrow. If you switch on the ANC mode after the announcement, some constant noises go silent. With the WF-1000XM4, Sony shows that noise suppression can be better with in-ear headphones. The ANC of the Nothing Ear 1 is passable, but lags a few steps behind top models.
Battery and chichi of the headphones
How long do you listen to music through in-ear headphones at a time? Five hours? In this case you can confidently reach for the Nothing Ear 1, because the two tiny batteries in the headphones last just as long. And should the Audioslave record be interrupted by empty batteries, a smoking break is enough and you can listen to the album to the end. Because: In just 10 minutes in the case, the headphones have enough juice to be able to listen to music for another 80 minutes.
Nothing Ear 1: in-ear headphones with a see-through design
The charging case also has an integrated rechargeable battery and supplies the headphones with power for 30 hours of music listening. In addition, and this is not a matter of course in this price category, the case can also be charged wirelessly via Qi. And then there's a bit of bells and whistles around it. With the "Find my Earbuds" function, for example, the headphones can be located if you can't find them. To do this, you press a virtual button in the app and a shrill beep sounds from the headphones. The prerequisite for this is of course that the headphones are still connected to the cell phone via Bluetooth.
For 85 euros there is one thing above all: an extraordinary design.
In addition, Nothing equips the headphones with IPX4 protection. This means that the headphones won't give up the ghost if they get a few drops of sweat or rain. A fall into the toilet or an excavator hole should silence the headphones forever.
For 85 euros you get one thing above all: design. The ANC of the Nothing Ear 1 is okay, but the sound could be better. The app and the equalizer with minimal function can hardly tease out more. We honestly expected more from the sound. The battery life is completely sufficient with 5 hours. Mainly because the headphones are recharged extremely quickly.
If you choose the Nothing Ear 1, you are choosing one thing above all: a design that is out of line. It is a pity that this is at the expense of the sound. But for 85 euros you can't expect both.
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