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Style or Substance? Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds 3

The coolest thing about the new Nothing Ear (a) true wireless earbuds is their fresh and unique design.

While not the first TWS earbuds to use bright colors, the combination of yellow and transparent materials makes the Ear (a) truly stand out.

The compact charging case also has an eye-catching look with its transparent plastic, subtle branding, and colored dots that help identify the correct earbud orientation.

Attention has been paid to small details like the metal hinge, easy-open magnets, and angled text printing. The case is also IPX4 water resistant. However, it lacks wireless charging which was present on the more affordable Nothing Ear (1).

In contrast, the OnePlus Buds 3 has a more premium and classy traditional design aesthetic.

So if you’re trying to decide between these two wireless earbud models, this article should steer you in the right direction.


When it comes to pricing, both of these true wireless earbud options are pretty affordable.

The Nothing Ear (a) will run you $99 and you get to choose from three sleek color options – white, black, or the eye-catching yellow model that really makes these buds stand out from the crowd.

As for the OnePlus Buds 3, they come in at the same $99.99 price point but with a more subdued color selection of metallic grey or splendid blue.

Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds 3: Specs comparison

SpecificationNothing Ear (a)OnePlus Buds 3
Driver11mm dynamic driver, PMI + TPU diaphragm10.4mm Bass Driver, 6mm Tweeter
BluetoothBluetooth 5.3, AAC, SBC, LDAC codec, Hi-Res audioAAC, SBC Codec, LHDC 5.0 Hi-Res Audio support; up to 1Mbps wireless transmission rate
CompatibilityAndroid 5.1 and later, iOS 11 and laterAndroid & iOS
Fast PairingGoogle Fast Pair, Microsoft Swift PairGoogle Fast Pair
Dual ConnectionYesYes
In-ear DetectionYesYes
Low Latency ModeYes94ms low-latency
ANCUp to 45dB Personalised ANC, Environment Adaptive ANC, Frequency range: 5000Hz3 levels – Mild (10 dB), Moderate (20 dB), and Depth (49 dB)
Transparency ModeYesYes
Voice AssistantChatGPT integrationNo
Microphones3 mics with Clear Voice Technology for call noise cancellation, improved wind noise resistance3 mics
ControlsPinch controlsTouch controls including volume control
Water ResistanceIP54 (buds), IPX2 (case)IP55
DimensionsEarbud: 30.9 x 21.7 x 24.3mm; Charging box: 47.6 x 63.3 x 22.7mmEarbuds: 31.68*20.22*24.4mm
Charging case: 58.72*50.15*25.81mm
WeightEarbud: 4.8g; Charging box: 39.6gWeight. Earbuds: 4.8g.
Charging case: 40.8g
Battery (Buds)46mAh – up to 9.5h (without ANC) / 5.5h (with ANC)58mAh
Battery (Case)500mAh – 42.5h (without ANC) / 24.5h (with ANC)520mAh
Battery Life (Total)Up to 42.5h (without ANC) / 24.5h (with ANC)ANC ON – up to 28h | ANC OFF – up to 44h
Fast Charging10 mins for 10 hours (without ANC)10 min charge = up to 7 hours of music playback
Charging PortType-CType-C

Design and Build Quality

The Nothing Ear (a) breaks away from traditional earbud aesthetics with its bold use of color and transparency. The transparent stems and vibrant color options make it stand out in a sea of earbuds. The compact, classy case complements the earbuds well, featuring subtle branding and an IPX2 water resistance rating for added durability. However, it lacks wireless charging, which might disappoint some users.

Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds 3

On the other hand, the OnePlus Buds 3 opts for a more conventional design, leaning towards a premium look and feel. While it doesn’t sport the same eye-catching transparency, it offers a sleek appearance and comes with a practical design for everyday use.

Sound Quality

The Nothing Ear (a) uses the same 11mm custom dynamic drivers as the premium Nothing earbuds. It offers a good balanced sound with decent details and customizable EQ settings including bass boost modes.

Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds 3

However, in direct comparisons, the OnePlus Buds 3 clearly provides better overall sound quality. The dual-driver Buds 3 delivers richer, more detailed audio with punchier bass while still avoiding being overly bass-heavy.

Active Noise Cancellation

Both the Ear (a) and Buds 3 offer active noise cancellation up to around 45dB. The author found their ANC performance roughly on par, effectively cutting typical ambient noises like AC units and street noise. Transparency modes also worked similarly on both.

Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds 3

However, the OnePlus Buds 3 ANC creates more of an artificial sealed studio-like effect at maximum levels compared to the more natural Nothing Ear (a).

Microphone Quality

With three microphones on each earbud, both the Ear (a) and Buds 3 offer decent mic quality for true wireless earbuds. Voice transmission was crisp indoors but some ambient noise crept in during outdoor use, which is typical for TWS earbuds.

In direct comparisons, the OnePlus Buds 3 microphones were judged as slightly more crisp and clear.

Extra Features

The Nothing Ear (a) works seamlessly with the Nothing X app to enable features like wear detection auto play/pause, dual device connection, low latency mode for gaming, ear tip fit test, and earbud finding.

Both the Ear (a) and Buds 3 offer touch controls, but the slider gesture on the Buds 3 is more intuitive for volume control. The Buds 3 also adds features like 3D spatial audio and a custom golden sound profile tailored to your hearing.

Battery Life

While still undergoing battery testing, initial results show the Nothing Ear (a)’s 46mAh earbuds and 570mAh case deliver close to the promised battery life figures from Nothing. The Ear (a) also includes a USB-C charging cable in the box.

Nothing Ear (a) vs OnePlus Buds 3: Verdict

So when it comes to picking between the Nothing Ear (a) and OnePlus Buds 3 wireless earbuds, it really depends on what’s most important to you.

Nothing Ear (a) is the choice for those who prioritize:

  • Unique design and aesthetics
  • Balanced sound with customizable EQ
  • Effective ANC and comfortable fit

OnePlus Buds 3 is ideal for those who value:

  • Premium design and finish
  • Rich and detailed audio quality
  • Additional features like 3D audio and personalized sound profiles

Overall, both earbuds offer excellent value for their respective price points, catering to different tastes in design and audio performance.

Also see:

Nothing Ear vs Nothing Ear (a): Which is Right for You?

Edifier NeoBuds Pro 2 vs OnePlus Buds 3

OnePlus Buds 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Buds FE

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