There are many active noise reduction (ANC) earbuds on the market, so you actually have to stand out a lot to be noticed.
Personally, I reckon that the sound on earplugs for £100 and over should be fully acceptable – which it usually is. Manufacturers can then get extra points for packaging, material selection, comfort, ease of use and small details that give a smile on the lips. That kind of thing I really like. When someone has thought about!
Sometimes, of course, what you have in mind does not turn out so well in reality, and then you have to change it and do it right.
After reading my colleague John Alex Hvidlykke’s acerbic review of Notting’s 42-minute presentation and unboxing video, I must admit that I was curious to try the mentioned Ear (1). And no, I’m not actually watching the video! I wanted to “unbox” myself.
It’s all about the details
Yes, it’s true that the charging case is transparent. And it is true that the microphone rods are also made of transparent plastic, but since they are not there to just look smart, but actually contain electronics, you can of course not see straight through. Whether the transparent is a cool thing is up to the individual to decide, but it definitely makes them stand out.
After testing a series of earplugs with more or less voluminous cases, e.g. Sudio T2, I can easily see the advantage of a flat one of its kind – it can fit in a pocket without it looking strange! And it also fits in a small purse with lipstick and mobile – to the extent that restrictions, corona passes and other things will allow you to go out with a purse and high heels.
We all have our challenges, and one of mine is that I usually do not manage to get the right earbud in the right ear or get the earbuds back in the right places in the case. Yes, just shake your head – there is probably something else, you are not a world champion at…
Getting the right bud in the corresponding ear goes well with the Ear (1), as the design with the microphone rod makes it easier. Or I have suddenly become wiser! We have to wait and see for the next earbuds test…
So there is actually someone who has thought a little extra about and put a red mark on the right earbud and a similar one in the case where it is to be charged. Hallelujah! It does not make the sound better, but it is a small, but important advance in usabilty for this reviewer.
Sound and ease of use
Unlike the recently tested Sudio T2, Ear (1) has an associated app. It is very simple, clear and user-friendly, but does not have nearly as many settings and customization options as e.g. Jaybird Vista 2 (which is admittedly also more expensive).
You can select ANC on/ off or ambient sound transmission. You can also choose whether the noise reduction should be Light or Maximum. The active noise reduction is unfortunately not something that makes me cheer, except that I do prefer to keep in on because the sound itself gets better. But as a silencer in noisy environments? Well, I’ve heard better.
Under Equalizer, you have four options: Balanced, More Treble, More Bass and Voice, where the first and second are the ones I personally prefer along with maximum noise reduction. Although it significantly reduces battery life.
More Bass gives extra weight to the instruments, but at the same time limits the airiness, so the overall experience is somewhat limited compared to the first two alternatives. As an audiobook fan, I thought Voice might be an alternative (it sounded completely wrong on music), but it just made the speaker’s voice sound weird.
The touch control is one thing in itself. Usually it requires some learning, and it does here too. In the app you can set which touch command should do what, so choose the one that suits you best. An extra plus in the grade book, because you can actually touch the earplugs when they are in the ears without them suddenly changing track or turning off completely.
None of my interlocutors have complained in the slightest about the sound quality when I have used the earbuds for mobile calls. The voice is heard clearly and distinctly as long as you are in a quiet environment. If there is a lot of activity around – or wind – it gets more tricky, but that seems to be the curse of earbuds in general.
If you’ve read some of what I’ve written before, you know I’m not a big fan of in-ear headphones. I easily get sore ears from them. But the soft, flexible ear pads (which come in three different sizes) fit me perfectly, and the fact is that Nothing Ear (1) fits like they were cast for my ears! Among other things, they were tested during cooking on a Friday night, where the captivating soundscape of the earplugs inspired a real dance in the kitchen.
Although Nothing Ear (1) got a lot of publicity before they came on the market, you have to remember that they cost less than £100, and that you can therefore not expect revolutionary things. That’s just not fair.
Unfortunately, the noice cancellation needs to be worked on. If that particular detail is crucial, throw your money after some other earbuds.
But having said that, I definitely think that Nothing Ear (1) are good, solid earbuds with a captivating sound that will not disappoint anyone as long as you align your expectations with the price range.