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Nothing Ear 1 Wireless Earbuds Review

An Apple AirPods Pro alternative that is good value and has a comfortable fit, but can come loose during exercise

Nothing Ear 1 sports headphones
(Image: © Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Our Verdict

The Nothing Ear 1 headphones largely deliver when it comes to sound quality and comfort, and do so at a good price – but for some the fit will be too insecure during sport or exercise.

For

  • Under £100
  • Comfortable

Against

  • Loose fit during exercise
  • ANC doesn’t do much
  • Sound is just OK

The Ear 1 headphones are the first product from London-based startup Nothing and arrive with a promising feature set and eye-catching design, with see-through sections on the buds revealing some of the tech within.

Unfortunately, while the headphones have strong points and offer good value, the fit is a worry for sports use, the sound quality is just OK, and the active noise cancellation just doesn’t do a great deal. They don’t reach the level of the best gym headphones and the best running headphones

Nothing Ear 1 Review: Price And Availability

 

The Nothing Ear 1 earbuds are priced at £99, but are available for £92.99 on Amazon (opens in new tab) at the time of writing.

Buy from Nothing (opens in new tab) | £99

Design

The Nothing Ear 1 buds have a distinctive look with see-through stems that allow you to see the tech within. The buds and ear tips are either white or black, and there is a red spot on the right headphone and a silver one on the left to make it easier to know which way they go into their carry case, which is also see-through.

Nothing Ear 1 sports headphones

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

At 4.7g apiece, the buds are lighter than Apple AirPods Pro, which have a similar design and weigh 5.4g. The Nothing headphones also have the same IPX4 rating as Apple’s buds, which makes them sweat- and water-resistant enough to use for exercise, if not fully waterproof like some sports headphones.

The stems on the headphones are touch-sensitive and you can control playback by tapping, change volume by sliding a finger up and down the stem, and switch between noise cancellation modes by holding a finger on the stem. These controls work well in general life but are fiddly to use when exercising, especially the volume slider. The buds can also sense when they are taken out of your ear and will pause automatically.

Fit

There are three sizes of ear tips included in the box, and one of the Nothing Ear 1’s best features is how comfortable they are to wear. However, that comfort is partly a result of the fact they have no wings or other protrusions that would make them more secure when exercising.

I found that while the buds never dropped out during my runs, I was constantly tinkering with them to make sure they stayed in place, and they would also come loose during energetic strength workouts. I had similar problems with the Apple AirPods Pro and other in-ear headphones that don’t have wings, so if you know that that kind of fit works for you while exercising, that will probably be the case with the Nothing buds, too.

Nothing Ear 1 sports headphones

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Sound Quality

The sound of the Nothing buds was fine, and broadly what I’d expect from headphones around the £100 mark. They are loud enough but the bass lacks punch, even when the increased bass mode is activated in the partner app, and distortion crept in at high volumes. 

The Jabra Elite 4 Active have notably better sound at £120 and there are cheaper buds than the Ear 1 that match them for sound quality, like the JLab Epic Air ANC and the Creative Outlier Air.

I was unimpressed by the ANC, which didn’t make much of an impression on external sound when travelling, and wasn’t noticeable on the run. There are Light and Maximum modes to pick from, but the Light is essentially pointless in my experience. There is also an awareness mode, which was handy on occasion when running on roads.

Battery Life

The Nothing Ear 1 buds last four to six hours on a charge depending on your use of ANC, and the total with the case is 34 hours, or 24 with ANC. That’s towards the lower end of what you can expect from truly wireless buds these days, though broadly in line with the Apple AirPods range.

Nothing Ear 1 sports headphones

(Image credit: Nick Harris-Fry / Future)

Are The Nothing Ear 1 Headphones Worth It?

Even for £99, the Nothing Ear 1 headphones left me underwhelmed. They are comfortable, sound OK and have an interesting design, but there’s nothing outstanding about them and for me the fit is too loose to use for sports reliably.

I would rather spend an extra £20 for the Jabra Elite 4 Active, especially since the in-ear design was more secure when exercising. If you are looking for a cheaper set of buds, the Tribute Flybuds 3 and JLab Go Air Pop are bargains at less than £50.

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.