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Nothing Ear Stick unboxing and hands-on review: Wireless earphones with a twist

Too glam to give a damn.

Nothing Ear Stick unboxing and hands-on review: Wireless earphones with a twist
Nothing to kick off Ear Stick ‘limited drop’ sale in India today with up to Rs 1,000 discount for select customers (Photo credit: Saurabh Singh/Financial Express)

Look, we’ve got to be honest with you. We don’t do a lot of “unboxings” at FE. Maybe we would do that, someday, but as of now we try to focus our energy elsewhere. Say for instance, on in-depth reviews so you can— hopefully— narrow down on products that work best for you depending on budget and use-case. There’s a lot of noise and clutter out there and we would like to help you, dear reader, make some sound buying decisions.

Nothing echoes similar sentiments, or at least that is what its marketing speak is at the time of writing anyway. The London-based tech start-up with the charismatic – OnePlus co-founder— Carl Pei at its helm wants to bring artistry and passion back to the industry because apparently, there’s no fun in tech anymore. But we digress.

Also Read | Nothing Phone 1 review: Lights out for competition?

Nothing’s (still) young. Pei announced the brand in early 2021 followed by the launch of their first product – the Ear 1 wireless earphones— soon after. Then came the Phone 1 in (early) 2022. It was –in the words of Nothing— one of the most anticipated smartphone launches of the year. It’s following up that blitzkrieg, now, with its second product of the year – the Ear Stick. They are the brand’s second wireless earphones.

Whether it be the Ear 1, Phone 1, or Ear Stick, the song has remained the same. Nothing’s tried to do something different, from what others have been doing, in design. The unboxing experience, too, is fairly unique. Gadgets are supposed to spark wonder and joy. They can be an ice-breaker. (Sometimes, they can break stereotypes too.) And Nothing’s got that right, consistently.

The Ear Sticks are no different. Which is why, we couldn’t help but share some of that wonder and joy with you. (Hopefully, this brings a smile to your face.) We’re in the middle of reviewing the Ear Stick, putting the wireless earphones through their paces to give you a better picture of whether or not you should buy them. So, be sure to stay tuned for that. For now, just sit back and let us unbox the Nothing Ear Stick for you.

Nothing Ear Stick hands-on review

It’s amazing how Nothing has used the same core design template as the Ear 1 and yet, produced earphones that are markedly different in comparison. Everything from the charging case to how you use them, is different. The charging case is tubular – not squarish— and it opens with a twist. There are two sides to that. The good thing is, you don’t –ever— have to worry about your earbuds being dislodged when you accidently drop the case. The flip side is, the case can be a bit awkward to lug around (and it is certainly not as pocketable as the Ear 1).  

Nothing’s made a big deal about the form factor, especially with the earbuds and for good reason. They are very light-weight and comfortable to wear. They are in fact lighter than the Ear 1s, overall, and weigh very nearly the same as the AirPods (third-gen). Their styling is different. Unlike the Ear 1s which have silicon tips and plug into your ears completely, the Ear Sticks are half-in-ear (like the AirPods). This means, they are also a one-size-fits-all deal. For what it’s worth, they worked well for us, sticking around solidly for the most part without any major fumbles unless we really put in some conscious effort to drop them – but your mileage may vary. Rounding off the package is IP54 dust, water and sweat resistance.

As opposed to the Ear 1s which pack off-the-shelf hardware, the Ear Sticks come with custom-built 12.6mm drivers (up from 11.6mm in the Ear 1). There are also some software tweaks, like Bass Lock –and a new equaliser— to ensure minimum sound leakage for a seemingly more immersive experience, a feat not easy for semi-in-ear earphones like these. Nothing has gotten rid of touch sensors and replaced them with press controls so as to cut down on accidental triggers. There are three microphones, like the Ear 1, but Nothing says it is using updated algorithms to “filter out louder background noises, amplifying your voice for wind-proof and crowd-proof calls.” (There is no active noise cancellation or ANC, like the Ear 1.) The antenna has also been repositioned to ensure more stable connectivity, compared to the Ear 1.

The Ear Stick earphones are naturally designed to work best with the Phone 1 with automatic pairing and lag mode, in addition to controls accessible straight from the quick settings. Others will need to install an app called Nothing X — the earbuds work with both Android and iPhones.

The earbuds are rated to deliver up to 7 hours of music playback (or up to 3 hours of talk time) while the case packs another 22 hours of charge. Fast charging is supported (10 hours of playback with 10 minutes of charge) though there is no wireless charging like the Ear 1.

Nothing says the Ear Sticks are not replacing the Ear 1s. They’re not a direct sequel and their pricing seems to suggest, they’re not really a lite version either. The Ear Stick will sell for Rs 8,499 which is same as the Ear 1 black variant (the white version sells for less at Rs 7,299). Even though the Ear 1s are technically the more premium offering, the Ear Sticks offer more polish whether it be in sound or connectivity, at least that is what we can tell from using them so far. They do lack a certain surpsrise element of the Ear 1 in pricing (at launch) but presumably, the Ear 2s are likely on the horizon. That should hopefully balance things out. Watch this space for our full review of Nothing Ear Stick coming soon.

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First published on: 30-10-2022 at 14:43 IST