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Nothing Ear Stick earbuds: cheaper than AirPods, comfortable and bright sounding, but the bass lacks punch. Photo: Ben Sin

ReviewNothing Ear Stick wireless earbuds review: Apple AirPods rival’s comfortable open-ear design produces crisp mids and highs, but lacks decent bass

  • Transparent earbuds are stylish, cost half as much as standard AirPods, and will last for seven hours on a single charge
  • Their open-ear design makes them more comfortable, but they don’t block ambient sounds, and the bass is lacking punch

If the first set of wireless earbuds from Nothing, Ear 1 released in 2021, was meant to be an alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro, then the UK-based start-up’s latest buds, the Ear Stick, are aimed at the non-Pro AirPods.

Design and hardware

The Nothing Ear Stick features an attention-grabbing transparent design that’s been a signature look for the company headed by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei.

The case has a revolving-door-like covering that can be twisted open. The twisting action offers satisfying tactile resistance, and an audible click when the case is fully opened or closed.

The Nothing Ear Stick earbuds come with an attractive clear plastic case. Photo: Ben Sin

The earbuds use a design known as “open ear”, meaning they sit in the concha [the cavity next to the ear canal] of the wearer’s ears, but outside the ear canal – the way standard AirPods fit. This design is generally considered more comfortable than in-ear earbuds like the AirPods Pro or Nothing’s Ear 1. It helps that the Ear Stick buds are light at 4.4g each.

The open-ear design means the buds do not block out sound at all, unlike in-ear buds that naturally block out ambient noise because their silicon tips provide a seal around our ear canal.

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Nothing reps say the Ear Stick earbuds are not replacements or successors to the Ear 1, but rather companions. Consumers decide whether they want the in-ear or open ear fit, and the pros and cons each brings.

Software and features

The Ear Stick houses a custom-built 12.6mm driver, with three microphones for phone calls or summoning Google Assistant. At the edge of each stem is a touch-sensitive panel for controlling music playback and volume.

There’s no support for wireless charging; the Ear Stick uses a UBS port. Photo: Ben Sin

The earbuds can connect to any Bluetooth device out of the box without additional software, but Nothing has a companion app that allows users to customise the equaliser or touch controls. Neither makes too big a difference in my opinion.

Performance and battery life

Because of the open-ear design, the earbuds naturally lack the bass kick that good-quality in-ear buds can pump out. This means hip-hop tracks sound a bit flat compared to how they sound on Nothing’s Ear 1 or Apple’s AirPods Pro. The lack of bass is a problem for all earbuds of this type, not just the Ear Stick.

Otherwise, audio quality and connectivity are more than satisfactory, with clean highs and crisp mids. Battery life is about on par with other earbuds of this type – they can go seven hours on a single charge, with the case allowing for another four charges. Charging is done via USB-C only; there’s no support for wireless charging.

The earbuds are rated IP54: protected against splashes of water and dust.

The Nothing Ear Stick earbuds are stylish and half the price of standard AirPods. Photo: Ben Sin


Truth be told, whether for audio quality or battery life, the Nothing Ear Stick is fine but nothing amazing. But Nothing is banking on two factors to win over consumers.

The first is style – the Ear Stick looks distinctly different from the sea of wireless earbuds on the market, and it’s a set of earbuds that has attracted curious questions from strangers when I pulled it out at coffee shops.

The second selling point: at US$99, the Nothing Ear Stick is at least 50 per cent cheaper than the standard AirPods.