I’ve never really followed needlessly and well-hyped popular gadgets over the years and Nothing Ear(1) is one of the most hyped products in recent memory. Designed by Teenage Engineering and aimed at Android users, the product is a low-cost, middling-quality pair of wireless headphones with active noise canceling that is more than acceptable. While the earbuds aren’t great — the sound isn’t amazing and they often futz out when Bluetooth connectivity is lost — these are well worth the price if you’re looking for a budget set of noise-canceling earbuds.

What are they?

These are basically ANC wireless headphones in a transparent case. The design is highly stylized and features what appears to be an LCD readout on the side of the buds. This readout, as you might suspect, is fake. The entire package is highly glossy and futuristic, from the square case to the dark matte earbud casing. When you put in the earbuds they immediately begin working and pairing is as easy as opening the case and connecting to them via your Android or iOS device.

The earbuds are rated for about 30 hours on a single charge although, in reality, your performance will vary. The audio quality is solid with a bit of focus on bass which mutes the sound but there isn’t much muddiness or other traditionally messy ANC sound quality. Compared to the ANC in the Airpods Pro there’s not much difference between Apple’s offerings — a nearby air filter was drowned out immediately by both sets of earbuds, with the same effect.

How do they sound?

As with most earbuds you’re not going to get the best sound out of these things. They’re good and at higher volumes you get enough clarity to notice little things in the mix that you might have mixed on lesser earbuds. That said, you’re spending $99 on a pair of commodity earbuds with a little window dressing. The branding, the styling, and the sound all come together to offer a flat package for the discerning Android user.

I tried a few types of music on these buds and found them adequate. They don’t have the punch of Airpods and they definitely don’t have the definition of wired buds or headphones. You’ll notice a difference if you’re upgrading from lower-cost “athletic” headphones but these are instantly comparable to even more expensive Apple, Anker, Bose, and Microsoft offerings.

The Nothing Ear(1)s work well. They’re small, they’re powerful, and they’re cheap. They’re also very good-looking and they pair with nearly every device. Ultimately your decision regarding these shouldn’t be defined by their look and feel but if you’re into something a little more high-tech and futuristic, you could do worse than these. They’re not amazing but they’re good enough and they’re cheap. At this point in the commodity headphone game that’s probably enough.

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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