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It’s Time for Nothing to Do Something

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It’s worth noting that while others might not be using ceramic (an uncommon material in headphone drivers), many competitors also use custom drivers of one claimed miracle material or another. So while Nothing might indeed have something special, it’s by no means guaranteed.

Musically, I have a hard time believing the 12-mm dynamic drivers and increased airflow in either pair of Nothing’s new buds will compete with the xMEMS solid state drivers inside the $150 Creative earbuds I just tested, which also look like AirPods and might be the best wireless earbuds I’ve ever heard.

Until I’ve heard them side-by-side, I have to assume the Nothing drivers could, but solid state drivers are a fundamentally better technology in my opinion, and one that Nothing could readily license.

Come On, Carl

None of this is the kind of thing I’d clamor to watch a keynote about. The minutiae of better headphone drivers and a bit more silence is what everyone else is also selling.

That’s the difficulty in trying to dramatically impact a well-funded, well-marketed field like mobile with little more than marketing hype: Nothing is announcing its third-gen earbuds months after Apple has released an entire new genre of mobile device in the Vision Pro. In terms of innovation, it’s clear who is really trying to be “so much more.”

Can Nothing develop enough beyond clear plastic designs and a few in-house components and ever compete at the true cutting edge? I think it could, if it raises enough cash to make those investments. It’s fair to say brands such as Samsung, Google, Apple, and others have significantly more than 300 employees in their audio departments, and budgets to match.

For now, I am excited to try any pairs of new earbuds with a dedicated design team, these new Nothing buds included, even if the progression is iterative. I’m a headphone reviewer, and I like competition and dreamers, even if Pei’s promises at Nothing still haven’t been delivered. I appreciate that Nothing continues to chase Apple-tier performance at reduced cost, just like I admire other brands that do the same thing.

The same, honestly, could be said about how we feel about Nothing in the smartphone space. We enjoy the clean user interface and design language of the Nothing Phone (2a) (9/10, WIRED Recommends) put on top of stock Android OS, and we appreciate that it is one of the best Android phones you can buy at the $350 price point.

If Nothing remains focused on making affordable products with quality designs and customized versions of proven technology, it could continue to grow, and grow large.

But I also think, at least for now, that we need to stop talking about Nothing as some game-changing tech company. It’s a really good mid-tier competitor. That’s a fine enough place to be.

Updated 4/5/24: The initial piece listed the new Nothing Ear (a) as the more expensive model than the Nothing Ear. This piece has been updated to reflect the fact that the new Nothing Ear is the higher-end model.



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