With a striking design, snug fit and customization options, the Nothing Ear 2 buds will give pricier options a run for their money.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to the Apple AirPods Pro 2 but you want a set of the best running headphones that successfully straddles the divide between everyday use and the demands of workouts, the Nothing Ear 2 offer incredible value. There’s a lot crammed into Nothing’s stylish package and you could almost buy two sets for the cost of one pair of AirPods.  

Men’s Fitness verdict

These buds don’t just look the business; their sound, robustness and value for money are pretty impressive too. They are also the lightest buds on test.
  • Striking design
  • Good all-round value
  • Excellent versatility
  • No map location on the buds finder feaure

How we test the best running headphones

We tasked Kieran Alger, one of our top professional fitness product testers, with putting these headphones through their paces. In practice, that meant seeing how they performed in all sorts of active environments, from the gym, to the pool, to the great outdoors. Specifically, Kieran assessed traits like sound quality, comfort, and additional tech/features.

Nothing Ear 2 features

They come with ear gels but no wingtips and an extended stem design like the AirPods. Even without the wing tips, I found the fit really reliable, comfortable and unnoticeable on runs. They stay put even on runs with steeper descents where some buds wriggle loose. That’s largely due to how light they are. The buds weigh 4.5g each – that’s at the lighter end of the true wireless scale and lighter than the AirPods. So there’s none of the tugging that shakes free some heavier-bodied wireless buds. 

At 51g, the case isn’t quite as compact as the Jabra Elite 8 Active or the Apple AirPods case but it’s still pocket- and running belt-friendly. But it now comes IP55 rated so it’s a little more weather resistant, with water and dust protection, too.  

On paper, the Nothing Ear 2 buds are more durable than the AirPods Pro 2. They’re now IP54 rated, up from IPX4. That means they’re splash and sweat resistant and protected against dust and debris. They proved pretty robust in all the conditions I tested them in.  

Product shot of earphones in a clear case
As with all Nothing Tech products, the design of the Ear (2) is striking

When it comes to sound, you’ve got 11.6mm dynamic drivers kicking out up to 40dB. The quality and customization isn’t quite what you’ll get from the pricier Jabra or Apple alternatives but it’s still very capable.   

There’s customizable active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency modes, custom EQ and a handy ear tip fit test that helps you find the right gels. The partner app also offers some simple customization of the controls. Speaking of controls, they rely on a physical press or squeeze to skip tracks and pause music, rather than touch. Volume is controlled by swiping up the stem. It’s not the most responsive or the easiest thing to do on the run but it’s manageable.  

Nothing Ear 2 battery life

When it comes to battery life, the official specs list a marathon-taming 6.3 hours run time on the buds with ANC off. That’s up from 5 hours on the Ear (1) buds. There’s further 29 hours of run time in the charging case. Those official numbers drop to 4 hours and 20.5 hours with ANC on. The listed fast charge is blisteringly quick. Just 10 minutes in the case gives you 8 hours run time. There’s also the convenience of Qi wireless charging, too.  

In my tests, the Nothing Ear 2 handled a 4-hour marathon with transparency mode on. But it burned 30% on a 1-hour run and 80% on a 3-hour run, without ANC/transparency. So that comes up short of the 6 hours listed.  

The Nothing Ear (2) sports Bluetooth 5.3 and you can stay connected to two devices at one. Though switching from laptop to phone isn’t as slick as the Jabra Elite 8 Active. There’s also in-ear detection, Google Fast Pair and you can use the buds independently to extend that battery life. Or just leave one ear open  to the world.  

One other sacrifice: the Nothing’s geolocation doesn’t find your missing buds and place them on a map, or track the case. It just lets you play a high pitch sound through the buds and only works when they’re connected.  

Overall, the Nothing Ear 2 offers everything I loved about the OG Nothing Ears and adds some welcome improvements on sound, battery life and durability. These are an excellent set of crossover headphones for running and daily use. 

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