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Nothing's $99 Ear Stick Earbuds Are the Latest AirPods 3 Alternative

Following up on last year's Nothing One buds, which feature active noise canceling, the Nothing Ear Stick has an open design with no silicon ear tips.

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David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
2 min read
The Nothing Air Stick earbuds have a cylindrical case.
Enlarge Image
The Nothing Air Stick earbuds have a cylindrical case.

The Nothing Ear Stick 'buds go on sale Nov. 4.

Nothing

Last year, Nothing, the start-up launched by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, got some attention for its semitranslucent Nothing One noise-canceling earbuds, a cheaper alternative to Apple's AirPods Pro. Now the company has unveiled Nothing Ear Stick, a set of $99 earbuds that feature an open design with no ear tips, like the AirPods 3. They go on sale on Nov. 4 at Nothing's online store and other retailers.

Nothing is touting the new earbuds' cylindrical case -- it has USB-C charging but no wireless charging -- as if it's something new and different, when in fact you'll find plenty of earbuds on Amazon that feature similar cases, albeit ones that offer less eye-catching designs.

Read more: Best Wireless Earbuds for 2022

Finding open earbuds that actually sound good is not so easy. As they compete with sound from the outside world and aren't sealed off like noise-isolating earbuds, they're often lacking in the bass department.

To combat that sound quality issue, Nothing says it's equipped the buds with large 12.6mm custom drivers and coated them to make them more rigid in order to prevent distortion at higher volumes. Those drivers are also supposed to pump out more bass and you'll be able to tweak the sound via a companion app for iOS or Android. The app (as a widget) is integrated into Nothing's new Nothing Phone 1, which our reviewer Andrew Lanxon liked a lot for what it cost. 

The Nothing Air Stick earbuds have 12.6mm drivers

The Nothing Ear Stick earbuds have 12.6mm drivers.

Nothing/Screenshot by David Carnoy/CNET

The earbuds are rated for 7 hours of battery life, with an additional 22 hours stored in the charging case (you can get two hours of playback from a quick 10-minute charge). Their IP54 rating means they're splashproof and dust-resistant.

Nothing says it's also improved the reliability of the wireless Bluetooth connection since the Nothing One with some changes to antenna placement in the buds. It also notes that it's updated its algorithms to improve voice-calling performance (like the Nothing One, three mics are dedicated to voice calls). 

I'm supposed to get the earbuds for testing soon and will update this post with hands-on impressions about the fit and sound quality when they arrive. Hopefully, they sound as good as the AirPods 3, which improved substantially from the AirPods 2.