Carl Pei's Nothing Ear 1 Wireless Buds To Debut At $99 With Noise Cancelation

Nothing Ear (1)
Let's talk about Nothing, shall we? Not nothing as in 'nothing', but Nothing (with a capital 'N'), the name of a startup that will debut the Ear (1) this month. It is a notable release for a few reasons, one of which is the man behind the upcoming wireless earbuds—Carl Pei, co-founder of OnePlus, who left the company in September 2020 to work on Nothing.

Ear (1) is something, and perhaps something big in the audio space. We shall see. Consider that OnePlus carved out a name for itself by doing a cannonball into the smartphone sector, splashing the competition with aggressive pricing tied to premium hardware and features. It was precisely the kind of shakeup needed, to help offset the trend towards $1,000+ handsets.

It seems Pei has taken that same philosophy with him over to Nothing. Starting with the upcoming Ear (1), the company's "mission is to remove barriers between people and technology to create a seamless digital future that looks, lives, and feels like nothing."

Even at this late stage, the Ear (1)'s design remains "top secret," though some details have come to light. During an interview with TechCrunch, Pei revealed that the earbuds will be equipped with "leading features," including "noise cancellation and great build quality."

Active noise cancellation is huge selling point when it comes to audio headsets and earbuds. It is also one of the strong points of Apple's AirPod Pro earbuds, which are priced at $249 (you can usually find them on sale for a few bucks below $200). I personally own a set and have been very happy with them.

Will the Ear (1) match the AirPod Pros in build quality and ANC performance? That remains to be seen, but as it applies to the latter, Pei says the earbuds will utilize three high definition microphones to keep external noise at bay.

In comparison, the AirPods Pro feature two mics for ANC duties—one faces outward to pick up and analyze surrounding noise that can be neutralized, and the other faces inward to erase any noise that slips through the other mic. It's not clear how exactly the Ear (1)'s triple mic arrangement will work in cohort, only that they will indeed provide ANC.

Then there is the price.

"Because we’re primarily going to be focused on online sales channels, we are going to be able to [make it]—I wouldn’t say 'affordable', but quite a fair price to consumers," Pei says. "With the Ear (1), it’s a much more costly design to realize than a standard, non-transparent design. I think it’s going to be a good price at $99 USD, €99 Euros, and £99. Feature-wise, it’s similar to the AirPods Pro, but the AirPods Pro is $249."

Color me intrigued. As much as I like my AirPods Pro, if Nothing can deliver a truly competitive alternative for a fraction of the price, it will likely sell like gangbusters. We'll see.