Nothing’s Great Cheap Earbuds Just Got a Fresh Coat of Paint

Nothing’s Great Cheap Earbuds Just Got a Fresh Coat of Paint
Photo: Andrew Liszewski - Gizmodo

Unless you spent most of 2021 in a cave — a choice that no one would judge you for — escaping news of former OnePlus cofounder Carl Pei’s startup Nothing and its first product was impossible. The Ear (1) wireless earbuds were one of the most hyped gadgets of the past few years, and if you thought the hype train had run out of steam, Nothing’s found a way to make them newsworthy again: This time, they come in black.

As is quite often the case, hyping a new product with months of teases and random product shots can backfire on a company when it becomes impossible for the product to live up to consumers’ endlessly elevated expectations. But that wasn’t the case with the Ear (1) wireless earbuds. Despite being tired of the hype, we found the Ear (1) were some of the best wireless earbuds released in 2021, delivering useful features, excellent performance, and a premium design that rivaled other, far more expensive offerings.

The original Nothing Ear (1) wireless earbuds (left) next to the new Ear (1) black edition (right). (Photo: Andrew Liszewski - Gizmodo) The original Nothing Ear (1) wireless earbuds (left) next to the new Ear (1) black edition (right). (Photo: Andrew Liszewski – Gizmodo)

Even the Ear (1)‘s boxy charging case was like nothing we’d seen before, putting the earbuds on display through a transparent lid. But the clear plastic aesthetic, borrowed from gadgets like corded phones and cassette players born of the ‘80s and ‘90s, didn’t appeal to everyone. So a few months after the Ear (1)’s official debut, Nothing has revealed a new option that’s a little more understated: the Ear (1) black edition.

If you're not a fan of the shiny white Apple AirPods aesthetic, the Ear (1) black edition might be a better fit. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski - Gizmodo) If you’re not a fan of the shiny white Apple AirPods aesthetic, the Ear (1) black edition might be a better fit. (Photo: Andrew Liszewski – Gizmodo)

There’s still lots of clear plastic on the new Ear (1) earbuds and charging case, but the new version features a smoky translucent finish that makes the see-through effect less obvious. The shiny white plastic parts on the earbuds themselves are now finished in matte black, and the same goes for the white silicone ear tips. The white plastic inside the charging case is gone, too, replaced with black components that, when paired with the smoky translucent outer shell, produce a satisfying mirror finish that surprisingly isn’t a fingerprint magnet.

There's no difference between the original Ear (1) earbuds and the new black edition when it comes to functionality or price; they're still $US99 ($140). (Photo: Andrew Liszewski - Gizmodo) There’s no difference between the original Ear (1) earbuds and the new black edition when it comes to functionality or price; they’re still $US99 ($140). (Photo: Andrew Liszewski – Gizmodo)

Functionally, the new Nothing Ear (1) Black Edition earbuds are exactly the same as the originals, with 34 hours of battery life in total, wireless charging, active noise cancellation, an IPX4 water resistant rating, and 11.6-millimetre drivers that deliver excellent sound thanks in part to contributions by the folks at Teenage Engineering who collaborated on the design. The price hasn’t changed either, with the new black edition still selling for $US99 ($140).

To keep the hype fires burning, the first 100 pairs of the Ear (1) black edition will be numbered and engraved and only available at a Nothing pop-up that officially opens on Dec. 4 at Seven Dials, Covent Garden in London, England. The rest of the world will have to wait until Dec. 13 at 6 a.m. ET to buy the Ear (1) black edition through Nothing’s website.