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Nothing Ear (stick) review: The $99 earbuds for silicone ear-tip haters

The Nothing Ear (stick)'s unusual cylindrical case twists to open. It's very cool, though be careful it doesn't roll away on you. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)
The Nothing Ear (stick)'s unusual cylindrical case twists to open. It's very cool, though be careful it doesn't roll away on you. (Photo: Rick Broida/Yahoo)

Wireless earbuds are great, but anyone new to them may cry foul at the fit. See, most of these things (including Apple's beloved AirPods Pro) employ silicone ear tips that you have to sort of screw into your ear canals so they stay in place and create a noise-blocking seal.

This is fine for some users, but others just aren't comfortable with it — physically or mentally. ("I'm not sticking those things in there!") Thankfully, there are earbuds designed to be a little less invasive. Apple's standard AirPods, for one, but also the new Nothing Ear (stick).

Let me clear up your inevitable confusion: "Nothing" is the name of the company. "Ear (stick)" is the grammatically iffy product moniker. And if you think that's different, wait till you see the product itself.

Rick Broida/Yahoo

Nothing Ear (stick) Wireless Earbuds

$99$119Save $20
Currently priced at $99 after clipping a $20 on-page coupon, the weirdly named Ear (stick) offers a cool design, very good sound and, for some, a more comfortable fit than noise-cancelling earbuds.
$99 at Amazon

A note about the price: UK-based Nothing sells the Ear (stick) for $99, but doesn't currently offer it via Amazon. Instead, there's a third-party seller (Huanyi-Tech) listing the earbuds for $119, with a $20-off coupon you can clip. Same end result, but I'm not sure how long that deal will be available. The key takeaway: Don't pay more than $99.

In a world awash in AirPods lookalikes, the Ear (stick) stands out in every way, from the packaging to the charging case to the earbuds themselves. It all makes for a dramatic first impression.

The long, rectangular Ear (stick) box contains a clear-plastic tube that contains the earbuds. About the size of a pill vial, that tube is also the charging case (which supports USB-C but not, alas, wireless). To get the earbuds out, you twist the tube 180 degrees so an opening lines up with the earbud dock. The whole thing is just different and cool and fun, and I like that the tube can stand on end (though it can also roll away if you set it down on a flat surface).

The earbuds themselves have clear-plastic stems, giving you a peek at the electronics inside. Again: cool. There's no practical value to this, but I sure do love the look.

Nothing describes these as "half in-ear" earbuds, meaning they don't jimmy into your ear canals but do nestle into that area just outside. As noted above, standard AirPods (not Pros) fit similarly. Whether or not this will prove comfortable for you depends on the size and shape of your ears. I found them barely noticeable, even after hours of wear. Your mileage may vary.

The downside to this design is that the earbuds provide neither active nor passive noise-canceling. What's more, the seal afforded by silicone ear tips typically translates into much stronger bass. The Ear (stick) employs something called Bass Lock, which attempts to compensate for the bass that's lost to the half in-ear design.

Verdict: There's definitely a bit of punch here — some would say enough — but nowhere near what you get from most in-ear earbuds. If you love really thumpy bass, you probably won't love the Ear (stick).

Indeed, although the earbuds deliver extremely good sound overall — crystal-clear and nicely balanced — they can't quite match the presence, the fullness, of their in-ear counterparts.

But not everybody cares about that. If you prize a comfortable fit, unique design and affordable price tag, I think you'll be very pleased with the Nothing Ear (stick).

Rick Broida/Yahoo

Nothing Ear (stick) Wireless Earbuds

$99$119Save $20
Currently priced at $99 after clipping a $20 on-page coupon, the weirdly named Ear (stick) offers a cool design, very good sound and, for some, a more comfortable fit than noise-cancelling earbuds.
$99 at Amazon

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