Nothing Ear (Stick) test: our opinion

In line with the previous Ears (1) which made a good impression on us, Nothing continues to show its difference in the small world of nomadic audio with the Ear (Stick). After the first in-ear models, the British manufacturer this time offers us open headphones, of the open-fit type, which compete head-on with Apple AirPods and other Huawei FreeBuds 4.

Beyond the stylish look and the atypical case, the Nothing Ear (Stick) benefit from some notable improvements according to the manufacturer: more comfortable headphones, with optimized connectivity, increased autonomy of 29 hours since they have no active noise reduction and the promise of a “more intense son”. Available only in white, the Nothing Ear (Stick) were launched at €119. But unfortunately, the reality is a little different from the manufacturer’s promise.

A stylish design

If you like products with a different look, you’ll love it! The new Nothing headphones and their case feature a stylish design. Essentially, the Nothing Ear (Stick) represents the aesthetic of previous models with transparent parts on the uppers that show the material. The right and left ear cups are distinguished by a touch of color (a red or white dot).

But beyond the aesthetic choice, Nothing also stands out by offering open headphones, which do not fit into the ear canal, like Apple’s AirPods. A notable choice in a market for True Wireless headphones largely dominated by in-ear headphones which aim to attract the public allergic to models that are too intrusive.

Compact and light earphones (4.4g), the Nothing Ear (Stick) seemed rather comfortable to us, even in the case of prolonged use. Note, however, that the feeling of comfort is very random from one person to another. It depends on the morphology of each because these listening buttons are not suitable for all ear shapes. They can even be awkward or even not stay in place at all. This has happened to other people who have tried writing for CNET.

Headphones Nothing Ear Stick-Closed case

Without spoiling the part of our test on sound reproduction, we can say everything that their open format does not offer soundproofing, the headphones cruelly let the bass escape.

Rather well finished, the Ear (Stick) will offer you sufficient support for everyday use, but it is not recommended for sports sessions. Unlike the Ear (1), certified IPX4, they benefit from an IP54 certification. In addition to resistance to splashing water, this guarantees protection against dust.

A box in the shape of a lipstick

Box of Nothing Ear Sticks surrounded by lipsticks

The other novelty of its Nothing headphones is, of course, the charger in the shape of a “Stick” with lips, hence the name Ear (Stick). A tubular box that contrasts with the chargers that normally accompany Bluetooth headphones. Covered with a protective plastic window that rotates 360°, it opens easily with one hand to give access to the headphones. A successful design but that does not prevent it from also having some flaws.

Among the negative points, the glass like the case itself seemed to us to be a little fragile, messy and not very resistant to scratches. Its tubular shape and its size are also not the most practical to slip it into the pocket of jeans. And finally, the Nothing Ear (Stick) case is not compatible with QI induction charging.

Smooth controls

Unlike the ear (1), the management of the commands is done here with the apple, that is to say by pressing on the stem of the headphones. Efficient controls: a simple pinch to start the music or take a call, two presses to skip to the next track and 3 pinches to go back to the previous title or call the voice assistant. A fairly ergonomic system that works well with controls accessible on each earphone, as these are completely independent and can be used solo. The only problem with this system is that you may have to move the headphones in your ears when you issue a command.

Notjing Ear Stick headphones - back view

We are more reserved, however, on the volume control by long press on the headphones. Even if the controls react well, each volume change is punctuated by a series of somewhat unpleasant clicks. From this point of view, we prefer the sliding system of the Oppo Enco X2 which offers better comfort of use and a much more appreciable feeling.

Nothing Ear Stick-grip headphones case

A basic app

To accompany the release of the Ear (Stick), the British brand is giving us a brand new application, called Nothing X (available on iOS and Android). An app which in reality has nothing flamboyant with very limited settings.

Application Nothing X-Menu

It just allows you to update the headphones, customize (a little) the controls and activate the low latency mode for games. The app also includes an equalizer but only 3 bands and the possibility of finding lost headphones. In short, a basic application compared to what some competitors like Jabra or Sony offer.

Good autonomy

Autonomy was one of the weak points of the first Nothing Ear (1) which peaked at 4 hours of music before switching off. The manufacturer announces this time up to 7 hours of listening in a single charge, in particular thanks to the absence of active noise reduction.

In use, the Ear (Stick) completely keep their promise. We were able to enjoy it for a little over 7 hours, but with only one earphone because the other had given up the ghost long before! The positive point is that you can use one earphone as a mono pendant while the other is charging. Each earbud is also equipped with a wearing detector that mutes the music as soon as it is removed. A must-have feature in 2022!

Nothing Ear Stick headphones and case - profile view

For the rest it’s quite classic, the box offers 3 recharges to go up to 29 hours of autonomy and 10 minutes of fast charging allowing you to leave for 2 hours of music. Corrected performance that falls within the good average. Nothing specific, however, that the endurance of the headphones will largely depend on the volume at which you listen to music. Important data for “Open Fit” models which often turn up the sound in order to hear their favorite songs correctly or make calls in noisy environments.

A stable Bluetooth connection but without multipoint

The Nothing Ear (Stick) work in Bluetooth 5.2 and are limited to the usual audio codecs SBC and AAC. But the set offers a very stable wireless connection with a standard range of 10 meters. And as is now the practice on many headphones on the market, the Ear (Stick) are Google Fast Pair compatible for a quick connection with Android smartphones. Only the multipoint is missing. These headphones Nothing quickly reconnects to the last paired devices.

Headphones Nothing Ear Stick - Accessories

In video, on the other hand, the latency is quite pronounced. If it goes on Netflix and YouTube with a smartphone, it gets really complicated with a laptop because the image / sound lag can be annoying, without completely preventing viewing. This was already the case with the Nothing Ear (1), it is clear that there have not been many improvements on this side.

Only lucky Nothing (1) smartphone owners will benefit from preferential treatment with automatic low latency switching for gamers and other settings directly integrated into the phone without having to download the companion application. But even in low latency mode, the picture/sound lag persists when the player does not apply any compensation.

Very average audio quality

For the sound part, Nothing knows that he is expected at the turn with his headphones open. The Ear (Stick) therefore embed fairly large dynamic speakers (12.6 mm) promising good bass, which is often lacking in Open Fit headphones. The set also benefits from an intelligent “Bass Lock” system which is supposed to correct the equalization to avoid the loss of bass.

But in use, the result is far from being rendered, with very average audio quality for Bluetooth headphones at almost 120 €! Unlike the Ear (1) which delivered a relatively balanced sound, the Nothing Ear (stick) gives pride of place to high-mids with a sound signature that is sorely lacking in bass and depth.

Nothing Ear Stick earphone - grid view

On emblematic tracks like Another one bites the dust or Red Hot’s Give it away, the bass struggles to exist in the background. The sensation is the same on Hysteria by Muse, with an unmusical rendering that lacks precision. Fans of techno or hip hop will not find their account either with a generally disappointing sound experience.

Nothing X - Equalizer app

And we can’t count on the in-app EQ to improve things either, with just 3 bands having little impact on the sound and some basic presets. It will necessarily be necessary to turn up the sound on listening to them to recover a little roundness. Nothing has fallen into the open design trap, like many competitors before it. In this regard, only the AirPods offer decent audio quality.

Nothing Ear Stick Headphones - Open Case

As far as hands-free calls are concerned, it’s also a bit of a lottery with communications that can turn into a nightmare outdoors, despite the presence of 3 “High Definition” microphones. And worse, the built-in noise reduction system tends to further degrade call quality. In any case, it is better to call in a quiet place to avoid problems. Overall, we are not very far from the rendering ” gorgeous “ and “immersive experience” praised by the English manufacturer. Looks aren’t everything!

The competition update

In the segment of open-format Bluetooth headphones, the Nothing Ear (Stick) have some formidable competitors, starting with the AirPods 2 and AirPods 3 from Apple. We can also mention the Huawei FreeBuds 4. For a very reasonable price, the AirPods 2 offer better sound than the Ear (Stick) and remain a benchmark for call quality.

And if you want to go upmarket at Apple, the AirPods 3 are very good headphones for those allergic to intra but you will have to pay the price. More affordable, the Huawei allow a multipoint connection, good ergonomics and increased comfort of use. But if you really like the colorful design of the Nothing headphones, we advise you to opt for the Ear (1) which are much better than the new ones.


Despite its good intentions, the English manufacturer Nothing misses its target a little with its Ear (Stick), which is much less efficient than the previous Ear (1), and falls into the new trap of open headphones. The latter are dreamed of as alternatives to the AirPods but are clearly not at the level with sound performances sacrificed on the altar of design. Without a multipoint connection and with random fit and comfort, unfortunately they won’t suit everyone. Although they are sorely lacking in bass, the Nothing Ear (Stick) can still appeal to an audience that is not too demanding in terms of sound and provided by their original design. But if this is your case, we advise you to try them before, in order to check that they fit in your ears.

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