The “early adopter tax” is sometimes mentioned in relation to new technology. The concept is that a company’s initial attempt at an idea might not be flawless; it could be glitchy, poorly made, or otherwise fall short in some way. A good example is Nothing’s first-ever Ear 1 genuine wireless earphones. When we examined them last year, we discovered that they had various faults and lacked some software capabilities at launch due to a lack of polish.
The Ear Stick, on the other hand, has the impression of being earphones from a firm that is still growing. This time around, there have been significantly fewer connectivity and charging concerns, and Nothing has upgraded its app to give users more flexibility over their shortcuts and sound controls. Additionally, they come in a novel cylinder casing that is entertaining to use.
However, the Nothing Ear Stick is more of a simple substitute for the Ear 1 earphones than a replacement. There is no wireless charging, no silicone ear tips that passively mute out background noise, and no active noise canceling. The Ear Sticks are more reasonable than the Ear 1s at $99, but only because Nothing increased the cost of its first-generation headphones earlier this week to $149.
The Ear Stick is virtually a perfect illustration of Shrinkflation. The Ear 1 earphones are more polished than Nothing’s Ear Stick earbuds, which have fewer features. They are therefore a good set of earbuds, although for a specific listener. I really appreciate the strategy that Nothing used when designing the charging cover for the Ear Stick.
It has a cylindrical shape with a diameter of just under 3 cm and a length of just over 8.5 cm. On the right side, there is a wheel that turns to reveal the earphones. (The word “Stick” in the name seems to refer to the case’s resemblance to a lipstick tube.) The Nothing case is a little thick compared to Apple’s rather flat charging cases for its AirPods, but it fits well in my pants pocket next to a wallet.
The Ear Stick’s charging Case Is a Delight
With their abundance of translucent plastic and distinctive red, white, and black accents, the charging case and earphones are undeniably Nothing items. It looks fantastic right out of the box, but I can’t say how the clear plastic will hold up over time in terms of appearance. Here is a photo of Ear 1’s charging case following a week of quite heavy use for comparison.
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The transparent plastic of my coworker Becca’s Ear Stick cover managed to trap an eyelash, and there isn’t a clear way to pull it out. The silicone ear tips that give the earbuds a secure fit in your ears are absent, but otherwise, they appear quite similar to the Ear 1s. This has an effect on sound quality, which I’ll discuss shortly, but I believe the fit of the Ear Stick earphones is more crucial.
Although this fit is practical, not everyone may like it. They have an IP54 designation for dust and water resistance, so a little sweat shouldn’t be an issue for them. The Ear Stick earbuds were gladly kept in place throughout a 50-minute jog and at no point did they slip or fall out. To get the left earbud to rest a little deeper in my ear, I would nonetheless frequently push it toward the front of my face.
Although this isn’t a specific issue with the Ear Stick, if you don’t like how the conventional AirPods fit, you probably won’t enjoy how this pair fits. You hear a lot of background noise while wearing these earbuds due to their lack of ear tips and total lack of active noise cancellation. If you’re on a tight budget and need a pair of truly wireless earbuds for usage on public transportation, lengthy flights, or even just in a busy office, you might want to think about the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro as an alternative.
However, there are good reasons to favor a more open style, such as the Ear Stick earbuds’. While out running, you might want to remain conscious of your surroundings without having to rely on an earbud’s transparency mode. For voice calls, I also prefer this more open form of earbud because it improves my ability to hear my own voice. It simply seems more organic.
The Ear Stick’s three microphones per earbud perform significantly better in terms of microphone quality than the Ear 1’s single microphone. The Ear Stick did a much better job of keeping my voice audible with the loud sound of washing up happening in the background and was on par with Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live, despite sounding nearly identical to Nothing’s first earbuds in a quiet room with background noise (such as water running from a kitchen faucet).
The battery life is comparable to that of many other earbuds available today. With the case and Ear Stick earbuds, you can get up to seven hours of listening time (a modest improvement over the 5.7 hours the Ear 1 delivered with ANC off) (down from 34 hours with Ear 1). Although not exceptional, that is standard fare. On one end of the enclosure, there is a USB-C socket for charging, but there is no wireless charging option, which is another feature lacking from Ear 1.
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In contrast to the Ear 1 earphones’ tap controls, the Ear Stick’s shortcuts are activated by pressing the stem. While running with sweaty hands, the Ear Stick’s controls are far more dependable than touch controls, albeit it might be challenging to adjust the volume in small steps without unintentionally halting your music (the Ear 1 used a more distinct swiping gesture).
With the exception of the single push, all shortcuts may be customized in the Nothing companion app. This software also has EQ controls that let you choose how much bass, midrange, and treble is present in the earbuds’ audio. In all the time I used the earphones,
there was just one glitch that caused the music to play for a brief period solely from the left earpiece before reconnecting to both earbuds. But aside from that, I had no problems using the earphones when exercising, traveling around central London, or listening to music at home. I may also use the left or right Ear Stick earpiece on my own to listen to music.
No ANC and No Ear Tips Mean You’ll Hear Lots of Background Noise
As was already established, the absence of silicone ear tips affects sound quality in addition to allowing in additional background noise. A less secure fit allows more bass to leak, which results in a less powerful sound. Nothing’s “Bass Lock” feature, which aims to gauge the size of your ear canal and adjust the bass of the earbuds accordingly, attempts to make up for this. However, the technique only appears to function somewhat.
It was instantly noticeable how much punchier a set of noise-isolating ear tips can make earbuds sound when comparing the Ear Stick earbuds to Nothing’s earlier Ear 1 earbud. The Ear Stick makes up for its lack of bass in the overall balance, though. Less muddy, more even, and with less of a hissy sibilance sound in the trebles can be heard in the Ear Stick.
Despite not having the same level of detail as more expensive rivals, they are adequate for $99 in price. It shouldn’t be surprising that the Nothing Ear Stick feels much more refined than its predecessor as a second-generation device. During my time using the earphones, I only saw one minor connection snag.
The voice call quality has also significantly improved, and I love how the charging case has been updated. The Nothing Ear Stick, on the other hand, was created with a different target market in mind and is less of a replacement and more of an alternative to the Ear 1. The open fit is much more acoustically transparent and feels less snug in the ear.
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The earphones feel significantly less appropriate for use in noisy settings where you’d like not to hear what’s going on around you when combined with the lack of ANC. You might not want to use them for the commute to work, even though they might be much better for music listening and phone calls in a quiet office. Because of this, these are good earphones for the money but may not be suitable for everyone.