Nothing Ear (a) Review: Great Wireless Earbuds for the Money
July 2, 2024 Andrew Cheng

The Nothing Ear (a) was released alongside the costlier Nothing Ear as a more affordable alternative. But despite its budget-centric positioning, the Ear (a) is still an excellent pair of wireless earbuds with a pleasant sound signature that will appeal to most folks.

Granted, there are still some aspects of the Ear (a) that are not particularly great, especially when it comes to the performance of the active noise cancellation (ANC). Nonetheless, for wireless earbuds that retail at RM479, it’s an easy product to recommend; even more so if you like Nothing’s signature transparent design.

What It Is

Three different colours of the Nothing Ear (a) are offered: Yellow, Black, and White; the latter is the colour featured in this review. Regardless of which colour you pick, you still get the transparent design, which I personally quite like. It really gives the earbuds a unique, “fun” aesthetic, in my opinion.

Design aside, the Ear (a) offers all the features you’ve come to expect for a competent pair of wireless earbuds. These include ANC – more on this further down the review – 11mm dynamic driver, and up to 42.5 hours of battery life when paired with the charging case. On a single charge, the Ear (a) can either last up to 9.5 hours (ANC disabled) or 5.5 hours (ANC enabled).

As for pricing, the Ear (a) is priced at RM479, so it’s not an awfully expensive pair of wireless earbuds. For that kind of money, it offers a number of qualities that I personally quite like – let’s talk about them in the next section.

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with the sound signature of the Nothing Ear (a). Unlike last year’s Nothing Ear 2, the Ear (a) doesn’t sound quite as bright. I would even say it has a warm sound profile, which is right up my alley. But this does come at the expense of less pronounced highs, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing depending on your sound preference.

Anyway, straight out of the box, I’m also quite impressed with the amount of bass that the Ear (a) can produce. It’s not overwhelming by any means – to my ears, anyway – and it is quite well-controlled with a good amount of texture to the bass. There’s also a “Bass Enhance” option to further boost the bass of the earbuds, though it does result in more muddled bass.

In terms of battery life, the Ear (a) is relatively long-lasting. Nothing quotes up to 5.5 hours of use on a single charge with ANC activated, and I can achieve this figure quite easily. It’s worth noting that I set the volume reasonably high as well to get this level of battery life.

Aside from that, I’m happy that the controls of the Ear (a) remain as good as the Ear 2. I have absolutely no issue activating the different pinch controls of the earbuds, and they are still customisable too. This allows me to easily adjust the volume or activate ANC with different pinching actions.

And then there’s the overall design of the Ear (a). The transparent earbuds and case remain very…Nothing-like, which is a good thing in my books. But if I were to nitpick, I’d say the case design could be better. It can get a bit tricky to open the case, especially with only one hand.

Finally, there’s the Transparency Mode of the Ear (a), which is surprisingly good! While it doesn’t sound quite as natural as the AirPods Pro – though that is also much more expensive – it’s still better than most wireless earbuds I’ve previously reviewed.

The Bad Stuff

The one thing I’m not thrilled about the Nothing Ear (a) is its ANC performance. While it can minimise low-end rumbles like bus engine reasonably well, it can’t do the same for higher frequencies like human speech. To be fair, this is a pair of RM479 wireless earbuds, so this level of ANC is within expectations.

And then there’s the oval nozzle of the Ear (a), limiting aftermarket ear tips – which are designed for earbuds with round nozzles – that can be used with the earbuds. While it’s great that three different ear tip sizes are provided with the Ear (a), there’s always a chance that some folks won’t get the best fit with any of them.

Is It Worth It?

For only RM479, the Nothing Ear (a) is still a very good buy despite some of its drawbacks. Its ANC performance certainly leaves much to be desired, but again, expectations have to be managed for a pair of wireless earbuds at this price point.

It sounds good, it has reasonably long battery life, and it also looks unique, which could be the best reason to get the Ear (a) for some folks. While it may not excel in any particular aspect, it does everything well enough to warrant a recommendation.