Nothing’s Ear A Wireless Earbuds Are Bright, Stylish, and an Unbeatable Value

A flashy new color, redesigned case, and near-parity with the more expensive Ear make the Ear A an incredible value.

Inverse senior editor James Pero holding the $99 yellow Nothing Ear A wireless earbuds in his hand f...
Lais Borges/Inverse; Photograph by Raymond Wong
Gear Reviews

Looks aren’t everything, but to Nothing, they’re a whole lot of something.

Take the Ear A, Nothing’s replacement for the original Ear 1 wireless earbuds that put the tech startup on the map just a few years ago. The new wireless earbuds are bright; they’re bold; they’re completely and utterly yellow.

Aesthetics may initially attract someone to a pair of Nothing wireless earbuds (or repel them depending on how you feel about buds that really pop), but it’s what the new look signifies that’s arguably more important than how it affects your sensibilities.

To me, and Nothing’s design team, the Ear A exudes confidence — and rightfully so.

Yellow, Not Mellow

Any chef worth their weight in black truffles knows that people “eat with their eyes,” and the same could be said for gadgets. Nothing’s designers in particular have always understood that looks matter, which is why they’ve gone to great lengths to develop a calling card: transparency. Nothing’s see-through design has shown up in all sorts of gadgets at this point, including multiple generations of phones (the Phone 1, Phone 2, and Phone 2a) and several wireless earbuds including the short-lived Ear Stick.

1 / 3

But this year, transparency isn’t the only design flourish that the Ear A is bringing to the table. As I mentioned previously, there’s the new yellow color, but also a completely redesigned, squatter, case. I personally find the case to be lunchbox-esque but (as I reported previously while speaking with Nothing’s Senior Industrial Designer, Frank Lin) the more compact design was actually inspired by pill packets like the kind you’d pop pain relievers or allergy meds out of.

From an aesthetic perspective, I’m a big fan. While the bright yellow, glossy, plastic catches the eye, the actual shape — a more oblong rectangle — fits nicely in the hand and slides in and out of my pocket with ease. Plus, like the color of the buds, I think the unique shape serves to catch the eye of anyone in the vicinity. I purposely kept the case visible when possible while testing the Ear A over the past couple of weeks and, though no one asked me about them outright, I definitely noticed some looks. The new, glossy plastic (the shiny material was a necessary shift given the color of the buds) really reflects when out in the sun, which is perfect for anyone wanting to show the Ear A off.

You’ll notice the plastic is slightly different from previous generations of Nothing earbuds.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Lin told me that working with color was a bit of adjustment for Nothing and its designers, and admittedly, I do have a couple of minor gripes with the Ear A that could be the result of that learning curve. One of them is that the right earbud doesn’t sit completely flush inside my charging case, which causes it to wobble slightly when it’s slotted in. The wiggle isn’t the biggest issue in the world, but it does stand in contrast to the premium Ear or Ear 2 buds, which fit completely snug once they’re magnetically snapped into the case.

Then there’s the (again, very minor) wobble of the case’s pairing button, which tends to wiggle around inside the hole where it rests. As far as I know, this doesn’t impact the button’s function or really any technical aspect of the case, but — at least for me — it does appear incongruous once you notice it, and it does detract from making the Ear A feel truly premium.

Luckily, looks aren’t everything, and when it comes to the nitty-gritty, the Ear A also shines.

Lesser, Not Worse

At $100 (as opposed to the Ear’s $150 price tag), the Ear A may occupy the lower end of the price spectrum for Nothing’s new generation of wireless earbuds, but from a sound quality perspective, it’s bringing a lot to the table.

While the Ear A may lack the new ceramic driver of the Ear, I didn’t find the clarity and dynamic range of the buds to be lacking in the slightest. I switched back and forth between the Ear and Ear A frequently throughout the past couple of weeks, and the Ear still has a slight edge on sound quality. When I say "slight,” I really mean slight.

There are some hard differences between the Ear A and Ear, however, and one of them shows up in the Nothing X companion app. Though the Ear can take advantage of features like Nothing’s personalized sound profile, which tailors the buds’ sound to your specific hearing, the Ear A doesn’t support that feature. Likewise, Ear A users won’t have access to advanced EQ in the Nothing X app. For me, these are far from dealbreakers, but for someone who gets really granular about their listening experience, it’s a difference worth considering.

The Ear A look stylish in the ears!

Photograph by Raymond Wong

Another hard difference is the lack of wireless charging, which again, isn’t a dealbreaker for me, but for anyone averse to plugging wires in (seek therapy, please), it should be on the radar.

Even with differences in some features, the Ear A actually still manages to eke out some wins when compared to the premium-priced Ear. For one, the Ear A has longer battery life than the Ear. According to Nothing, the case has 42.5 hours and 9.5 hours outside the case with active noise-cancellation (ANC) on, and without ANC, the buds have 5.5 hours of playback time. Those numbers — in my experience — appear to be about accurate.

The Ear A also has the same level of ANC as the Ear, which is slightly better than the Ear 2 at 45 dB of cancellation. That’s a 13 percent increase over the Ear 2. In my testing, I didn’t notice a huge, perceptible difference in the amount of sound blocked compared to the Ear 2, but in New York City with roaring subways and traffic, my standards may be higher than most.

Even with differences in some features, the Ear A actually still manages to eke out some wins when compared to the premium-priced Ear.

A new feature to both the Ear and Ear A this year is smart ANC, which automatically adjusts the buds’ level of noise-cancellation based on your surroundings. In theory, the feature sounds useful — especially if you’re someone who doesn’t like to be totally isolated from your surroundings — but I can’t say I noticed much of a difference in my day-to-day use.

For the record, I did try to test out the Ear A integration with ChatGPT that allows users to launch the AI chatbot as a voice assistant, but couldn’t quite figure out how to make the new feature work via the Nothing X app. I reached out to Nothing to troubleshoot, so expect more from Inverse on this feature soon.

The fact of the matter is, if you want one foot in your surroundings, you can turn ANC off, or (most likely) take an earbud out. And if this is a hugely important factor for you, there are buds that offer a blended approach to wireless audio, but they aren’t made by Nothing.

Who Should Buy the Ear A?

Yellow, but with some transparency.

Photograph by Raymond Wong

For anyone looking to pull the trigger on a product in Nothing’s wireless audio lineup, now is the perfect time. The Ear A are more-than-capable earbuds with a bespoke design that says, “I’m definitely not wearing AirPods.”

That’s not the highest priority for everyone looking for new wireless earbuds out there, but for me, and others like me, I see the fun in being different. Nothing took a risk with a bold color (the Ear A still comes in black and white if you’re feeling boring) and a redesigned case, and that risk paid off.

I see the fun in being different.

Maybe there are some people who can really, really hear the difference between the Ear and Ear A’s drivers, but to me, the Ear A feels like the obvious cost-to-quality choice in Nothing’s new lineup. You’ll make your own decisions on the look and quality of the Ear A, but these wireless earbuds have me excited for Nothing’s bright (and yellow) new future.

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