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Nothing Ear vs Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

A difficult choice for iPhone owners.
By

Published onMay 2, 2024

Nothing Ear
MSRP: $149.99
8.1
Check price
Positives
Comfortable
Great sound
Awesome companion app
LDAC and LHDC support
Negatives
Mediocre noise canceling
ANC changes sound quality
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
MSRP: $249.00
7.6
Check price
Positives
Effective ANC
Great sound quality - Lossless Audio
Great auto-wear detection
Water-resistant buds and case
USB-C charging
Good fit with four ear tip options
Negatives
Many Apple-exclusive features
No way to customize the EQ without third-party app

The latest earbuds from Nothing aim to deliver premium features at a price that undercuts the top earbuds from Apple. In this Nothing Ear vs Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) article, we’re finding out whether or not iPhone users should save a few bucks or stick to the tried and true.

Editor’s note: this article was published on May 3, 2024, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

What’s it like to use the Nothing Ear compared to the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?

A hand holds a Nothing Ear earbud over a table with the charging case, extra ear tips, and charging cable.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
You get the earbuds, charging case, three ear tips, a USB-C charging cable, and nothing else.

Nothing seems to take some inspiration from Apple when it comes to earbud design, but I’m not complaining. The Nothing Ear earbuds share a similar shape and feel as the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) earbuds, and both are extremely comfortable to wear for hours at a time. Each AirPod weighs 5.3g, while each Nothing earbud only weighs 4.6g. You get four sizes of ear tips with the AirPods Pro, and three sizes of ear tips with the Nothing Ear.

The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) comes with ear tips, a USB cable, and a charging case.
The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) comes with ear tips, a USB cable, and a charging case.

When it comes to durability, the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are also evenly matched. For the Nothing Ear, the earbuds have an IP54 water and dust resistance rating, while the charging case has an IP55 rating. For the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation), both the earbuds and charging case have an IP54 rating.

How do you control the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?

When it comes to controls, Nothing also takes a page out of Apple’s playbook. Both the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) have pressure sensors on the stems. Squeezing the stem controls music playback, calls, and listening modes. The AirPods also support “Hey Siri” functionality and swipe controls for volume.

Nothing Ear controls

Left earbudRight earbud
Single pinch
Left earbud
Play/pause, answer/end call
Right earbud
Play/pause, answer/end call
Double pinch
Left earbud
Skip forward, decline call
Right earbud
Skip forward, decline call
Triple pinch
Left earbud
Skip back
Right earbud
Skip back
Pinch and hold
Left earbud
Noise control
Right earbud
Noise control

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) controls

INPUT (stems)ACTION
One press
Play/pause/answer call
Two presses
Next track
Three presses
Previous track
Press and hold
Toggle ANC/Adaptive Transparency modes
Swipe up/down
Increase/decrease volume
"Hey Siri"
Change volume, request directions, playback control, receive messages, and more

Both earbuds have ear detection which automatically pauses your music when you take an earbud out, and resume playback when you put the earbuds back on.

Should you use the apps of the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?

The Nothing X app provides great customization options for the Nothing Ear. Audio enthusiasts will appreciate the advanced equalizer, which makes it easy to boost or attenuate specific frequencies. Nothing also partnered with Mimi Hearing on a hearing test feature that boosts frequencies that you may have trouble hearing otherwise. If you enjoy bass, you’ll appreciate the Bass Enhance setting, which dynamically analyzes and boosts low frequencies in real-time. You can also use the Nothing X app to install firmware updates, adjust noise canceling, and find your lost earbuds.

An iPhone 12 mini displays the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) spatial audio modes with the case and a smart watch next to it.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
The iPhone Settings app and Control Center is where you go to customize the listening experience.

Apple takes a different approach to software functionality. Rather than a separate app, the AirPods controls are baked into the Apple ecosystem. If you have an Android phone, you won’t get access to any software features.

Most of the customization settings for AirPods are found within the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad. This is where you can customize controls, adjust listening modes, and take an earbud fit test. You can access some other features such as spatial audio listening from the control center on your Apple device. To find a lost earbud, you can open the Find My app on your Apple device.

How do the Nothing Ear and AirPods Pro (2nd generation) connect?

Nothing Ear earbud in a man that is looking left.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
You get more connection options with the Nothing Ear.

The Nothing Ear has Bluetooth 5.3, with extensive Bluetooth codec supporting included SBC, AAC, LHDC, and LDAC. This means that the Nothing Ear is capable of very high-quality streaming with a variety of Android phones. On the other hand, we experienced some connection stutters when using the earbuds with an iPhone.

Screen shots of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) pairing pop-up cards on an iPhone.
Lily Katz / SoundGuys
When you first pair the AirPods Pro (2nd gen) to your iPhone, you’re met with a few pop-up cards.

As expected, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) works very well with Apple devices, and we haven’t experienced any connection stutters when using the earbuds with an iPhone. Bluetooth 5.3 with AAC and SBC means the AirPods work with an Android phone, but you don’t get as high-quality streaming as the Nothing Ear.

If you have a lot of Apple devices, you will appreciate the instant pairing process to all of your devices. Once you pair AirPods to your iPhone, you can also start using them on your Macbook. The Nothing Ear has a work-around by including Bluetooth multipoint support, so you can connect to multiple devices at the same time, although you will need to pair the earbuds to each device first.

Is battery life better on the Nothing Ear or Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?

A hold holds the Nothing Ear charging case showing the USB-C port.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
The USB-C input on the Nothing Ear supports fast charging.

In our battery testing, the Nothing Ear lasted 8 hours and 4 minutes of playback time on a single charge, whereas the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) only lasted 5 hours and 43 minutes. The charging case of both sets of earbuds provides a few extra charges, with the Nothing Ear capable of 40 hours of total use and the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) capable of up to 30 hours of total use.

You can charge either case wired over USB-C or wireless on a Qi charging mat. The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) also support MagSafe and Apple Watch charging mats. The charging case of the Nothing Ear supports fast charging for 10 hours of playback time from only 10 minutes of charging. On the other hand, the AirPods Pro (2nd generation) earbuds support fast charging for 60 minutes of playback from 5 minutes of charging.

Do the Nothing Ear or Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) block noise better?

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The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) have better active noise canceling than the Nothing Ear. If you plan on frequently wearing your earbuds in a noisy environment such as on a train or in an airplane, you will appreciate how much the AirPods Pro can silence the world around you. The ANC and passive isolation of the earbuds reduce most sounds by 30dB, which reduces the loudness of most noises by 83%.

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While the Nothing Ear doesn’t have quite as strong noise canceling, it is still good enough for most environments. The passive isolation and ANC of these earbuds reduce the loudness of most sounds by 71%.

If you like to stay aware of your surroundings, you’ll be happy to know that both the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods (2nd generation) have transparency modes that amplify the sounds around you. The Apple implementation is a bit better, with an Adaptive Transparency mode that limits the loudness of sharp sounds such as passing sirens to protect your ears.

Do the Nothing Ear sound better than the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation)?

The sound quality of the Nothing Ear is very similar to the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). The main differentiation between the two is in the ability to customize the sound.

Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Scores (MDAQS)

The chart below shows how the sound of the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro 2 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

Both sets of earbuds score exceptionally well according to a simulated panel of listeners. This means that most people will enjoy how the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) sound out of the box.

Timbre (MOS-T) represents how faithfully the earbuds reproduce the frequency spectrum and temporal resolution (timing information).

Distortion (MOS-D) represents non-linearities and added noise: higher scores mean cleaner reproduction.

Immersiveness (MOS-I) represents perceived source width and positioning: how well virtual sound sources are defined in three-dimensional space.

See here for an explanation of MDAQS, how it works, and how it was developed.

Reviewer’s notes

Editor’s note: this review uses a hover-enabled glossary to describe sound quality based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.

We enjoy the sound quality of both the Nothing Ear and the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Both earbuds have great detail and clarity, and most people will enjoy the balance between the lows, mids, and highs out of the box.

Which earbud you like the sound of more will probably come down to the sound features that they offer. The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) has an Adaptive EQ, which tailors the sound to the shape of your ear canal. That said, there’s no native EQ support to adjust specific frequencies to your liking. Therefore, advanced users will probably prefer the customization afforded by the Nothing Ear. On the other hand, the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) have native head tracking and spatial audio support, whereas the Nothing Ear do not.

Objective Measurements

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The chart above compares the frequency response of the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) and the Nothing Ear alongside the SoundGuys headphone preference curve. You’ll notice that the default frequency response of the Nothing Ear has more of an emphasis on low and high frequencies, with a dip in the mids around 500Hz. That said, you can easily adjust the sound of the Nothing Ear to your liking using the advanced equalizer.

Do the Nothing Ear or Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) have a better microphone?

Both the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) both have very good microphones for taking calls on the go. Compared to most wireless earbuds, these microphones have great background noise rejection. In most environments, the person on the other end of the line shouldn’t have a problem understanding what you are saying.

Nothing Ear microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

Nothing Ear microphone demo (Street conditions):

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) microphone demo (Street conditions):

Which microphone sounds beter to you?

27 votes

Nothing Ear vs Apple AirPods (2nd generation): Price and availability

The Nothing Ear is available now for $149 at Amazon. The Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) is available for $239 at Amazon. While the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are more expensive, you may be able to find them on sale since they are a few years older than the Nothing Ear.

Should you get the Nothing Ear or Apple AirPods (2nd generation)?

Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) on a table next to each other.
Chase Bernath / SoundGuys
Apple users can’t go wrong with either choice.

If you are an Android user, then of course you should go for the Nothing Ear. For iPhone users, the choice is a bit more challenging.

Across the board, the Nothing Ear and Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation) are both great wireless earbuds. If you are deep in the Apple ecosystem already and you don’t mind the higher price, I would still recommend the Apple AirPods Pro (2nd generation). On the other hand, if you are an audiophile that wants to fine tune the sound quality of their earbuds, or if you’re just looking for the best bang for your buck, then go with the Nothing Ear.

See price at Amazon
Nothing Ear
Nothing Ear
LDAC and LHDC
Comfortable
Advanced equalizer
See price at Amazon
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)
Impressive ANC
Comfortable fit
Wireless charging

Frequently asked questions

We tend to stray away from recommending the regular Apple AirPods (3rd generation) due to their lack of ear tips. Many people will struggle to get a good fit with the regular AirPods, and even if you do, you don’t get a seal or ANC to protect you from environmental noise.

While the Nothing Ear (a) is cheaper, it makes some sacrifices in sound quality. If you don’t mind the slightly worse sound quality, it is a great value buy.

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