The Nothing Ear (2) promises ANC at a low price, making it an attractive option against even Apple's AirPods Pro.
Nothing updated its personal audio offering in March by introducing the Nothing Ear (2). A follow-up to the Nothing Ear (1), the second-generation model refines the stylish accessory by making some small changes to the format.
Those changes are largely internal, with the bulk consisting of improvements in connectivity, battery life, and general audio features. Externally, the chief changes are an update to the labeling to show "2" instead of "1," as well as a price hike.
Nothing's inclusion of ANC means it's still trying to offer users AirPods Pro features but at a price bracket closer to AirPods. On paper, at least, it seems like the headphones have managed to get close to that goal.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Specifications
|Specifications||AirPods Pro (Gen 2)||Nothing Ear (2)|
Buy at Amazon
|Dimensions (inches)||1.22 x 0.86 x 0.94||1.15 x 0.84 x 0.93|
|Case Dimensions (inches)||1.78 x 2.39 x 0.85||2.18 x 2.18 x 0.87|
|Case Weight (ounces)||1.79||1.83|
|Battery Life (earbuds)||6 hours with ANC||4 hours with ANC|
|Battery Life (with case)||Up to 30 hours with ANC||Up to 22.5 hours|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.3||Bluetooth 5.3|
|Microphones||Dual beamforming microphones,|
|3 per earbud|
|Sensors||Dual optical sensors,|
|Press Controls, |
|Sweat and Water Resistance||IPX4||IP54|
|Active Noise Cancellation||Yes||Yes|
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Design and Dimensions
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro use the company's signature earphone shape, with a white earbud and dangling control stalk highlighted by black vents. A silicone section lodges the earbuds into each ear canal, and helps block out external sounds.
Much like Apple has a specific design aesthetic, Nothing has its own. Each earbud has a white main section, complete with a silicone earpiece, but the outer side and the descending stalk is transparent.
This does lead to a design that shows you more of the inside of the earbud than normal. White and red dots on the outside help indicate which is for the left and right ears, with the only other real notable element being the dot matrix-style branding.
In a physical comparison, it's fair to say that the Nothing Ear (2) earbuds are smaller than the AirPods Pro. At 1.15 inches by 0.84 inches by 0.93 inches, Nothing has made something ever so slightly smaller than the 1.22 inches by 0.86 inches by 0.94 inches AirPods Pro.
That difference in physical size also translates to weight, with each Nothing earbud weighing 0.16 ounces against 0.19 ounces for the AirPods Pro 2.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - ANC and Playback Features
Apple's AirPods Pro 2 stands out from the AirPods by having Active Noise Cancellation, a premium feature that the Nothing Ear (2) also offers to users.
With Apple's system, there are dual beamforming microphones and an inward-facing microphone used to detect external noises and to process them before playing a negating sound to the user. Nothing does the same thing using three microphones per earbud.
According to Nothing, its system offers up to 40 decibels of ANC, and with three different levels of ANC on offer, though users can let the earbuds work out what mode they may need in a situation.
A built-in Transparency mode acts like Apple's Transparency, in that it detects distractions and plays them back to the user. An Environment Adaptive ANC is also available to adjust the noise reduction level in real-time.
A Personalized ANC is also provided, which allegedly tailors the system to the "exact shape of the user's ears."
Audio in the Nothing Ear (2) is provided via a dual chamber design with an 11.6mm dynamic driver. Apple uses a custom high-excursion driver, as well as a custom high dynamic range amplifier, for its audio production.
Both also boast adaptive systems for improving the audio for the user. Apple names its own as Adaptive EQ, while Nothing refers to it as a Personal Sound Profile.
Nothing also allows users to create their own "Hearing ID" in the Nothing X app, complete with a personal sound test. The app also handles switching between noise cancellation modes, customizing controls, equalizer settings, and other elements.
One trump card Apple has is Spatial Audio support with Head Tracking, which enables you to listen to music that has been engineered using Dolby Atmos.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Cases
Apple uses a squat charging case for its AirPods Pro, with an opening at the top allowing users to slot in their earbuds.
Nothing goes for a square case that opens up on the front. One that's also partly transparent and partly white, like the earbuds.
As they are different shapes, they're also different in terms of dimensions. Nothing's case is 2.18 inches square and 0.87 inches thick, while AirPods Pro uses a 1.78 inch by 2.39 inch by 0.85 inch case.
The AirPods Pro case is shorter, while also wider and thinner than Nothing's effort.
Apple also has the physically lighter case at 1.79 ounces against 1.83 ounces for Nothing.
To get power back into the cases, Nothing opts for Qi certification and USB Type-C. Apple opts for Lightning and MagSafe, though it will also work with Qi-certified chargers too.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Battery Life
A long battery life is useful, but given that we are dealing with batteries in the earbuds and the cases, there are many ways to ultimately compare battery life. Add in ANC being on and off, and it can get bewildering.
Earbuds alone, AirPods Pro manages up to 6 hours of listening from a single charge with ANC, or 5.5 hours with Spatial Audio and Head Tracking enabled, or 4.5 hours of talk time.
Nothing claims up to 6.3 hours with ANC off and 4 hours with ANC on for music playback. For talk time, ANC on is 3 hours, and ANC off is up to 3.5 hours.
Taking the cases into account, the AirPods Pro manages up to 30 hours of ANC listening time, and up to 24 hours of talk time.
Nothing says the case boosts playback to 36 hours with ANC off, 22.5 hours with ANC on. Talk time goes to 17.5 hours with ANC on, 20.5 hours with ANC off.
To recharge the earbuds, Nothing says you can get up to 8 hours of ANC-off playback from a ten minute charge.
Apple says you can get around an hour of listening time or talk time from a five-minute refresh in the case.
Apple certainly leads on earbuds-alone listening time, especially with ANC enabled. Sure, Nothing can boast the 36 hour figure with the case, but really Apple still wins when you look at it from a perspective that you're gonna use ANC.
Recharging is certainly Nothing's strong suit here at face value, but again the usage time is based on ANC being disabled while Apple's is enabled.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Connectivity and Other Details
Both Apple and Nothing rely in Bluetooth 5.3 for the connection. Both can also connect to multiple devices, with Nothing's second-generation earbuds now including Dual Connection, while Apple offers seamless switching between ecosystem devices.
Where the Nothing Ear (2) excel is in connecting to other platforms, with it supporting Google Fats Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair. This makes it useful for Android users who want fast-switching and other quality-of-life elements that Apple provides AirPods users via deep OS integration.
Nothing is also Hi-Res Audio certified, meaning it can playback audio at up to 1Mbps and at frequencies up to 24bit92kHz. That includes support for the LHDC 5.0 codec for high-resolution Bluetooth streaming.
The Nothing X app also enables a mode called Find My Earbuds in the Nothing Ear (2), allowing you to easily recover the personal audio accessories. Apple does something similar, with its own Find My system.
If you're keen to work out, Apple includes IPX4 sweat and water resistance in its AirPods Pro and charging case. Nothing goes a step further with IP54 ratings for the earbuds, IP55 for the case.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - Pricing
Apple prices the AirPods Pro 2 at $249.
Nothing Ear (2) vs. Apple AirPods Pro 2 - What to buy
Nothing has carved out a niche for itself with a heavily stylized hardware line, one with a distinctive aesthetic that is quite unmistakable for anything else. That is pretty much what Apple does for itself as well.
Like Apple, Nothing is also offering all of the headline personal audio features you want in a pair of earphones, albeit at a price that beats even Apple's ANC-less AirPods, let alone the AirPods Pro.
Where Nothing's strengths lie is in its support for Android as well as iOS, with it being a great choice for those living a multi-platform lifestyle.
For Apple-only users, there's a lot to tempt here with the Ear (2), especially with the price. But for that $100 saving, you're not going to get the deep integration with iOS and the Apple ecosystem at large that AirPods Pro can offer.
Battery life is also something Apple excels at, if you're willing to look at the audio accessories on a like-for-like usage basis.
The Nothing Ear (2) is a very attractive option, especially if you happen to own an Android device and want one set of earbuds to work with all your hardware. Apple purists may save a bit of cash with Nothing, and even discover a new hardware aesthetic they like, but it's a tough draw from what AirPods Pro already offers users.
Where to buy
The Nothing Ear (2) can be bought on Amazon.com for $149.