With Amazon’s urge to add Alexa almost every technical product, a pair powered by Alexa real wireless headphones was inevitable. The Amazon Echo Buds are the company’s first attempt at creating true wireless headphones with Alexa in tow. While they’re not perfect, they have a lot going for them.
While you’d expect Alexa to be the standout feature, it’s actually Bose’s Active Noise Reduction (ANR) technology that makes the Echo Buds stand out. For commuters who want more than passive noise isolation to drown out the outside world, the Echo Bud’s ANR provides a welcome respite and is usually not found in the price range.
Since their inception, the Amazon Echo Buds have received a number of new features that allow you to keep track of your workouts.
Initiated via Alexa voice commands, the wireless earbuds can now monitor runs and other types of exercise, keeping track of your steps, calories burned, speed and distance
Overall, the Echo Bud’s ANR, features, and reliability make them great first-time headphones for those new to the true wireless space, but the headphones’ average battery life, illogical touch controls, and mediocre sound keep them from being best-in to win class prize.
[Update:Amazon has announced the All-new Echo Buds (2nd Gen), making some substantial changes to the original models that include swapping active noise reduction technology for full-on active noise cancellation.
Amazon is shaving some money off the sticker price too: the all-new Amazon Echo Buds price starts at $99.99 (around £70, AU$130) for a limited time in the US, before rising to the original RRP of $119.99 after May 12 with global availability still TBD.]
Price and release date
The Echo Buds are only $ 129 ($ 119, about AU $ 220). Given the smart features included here, from hands-free Alexa to active noise cancellation, this is an incredibly attractive and competitive price.
How can that hold up against the competition? The Pixel Buds is $ 2,179 (about £ 140, AU $ 262), while Apple charges US $ 249 (£ 249, AU $ 399) for its flagship AirPods Pro. We found the latter to be a little more attractive, even though they cost almost twice as much. However, if your budget is limited, the Echo Buds are a good substitute.
For both better and for worse, the Amazon Echo Buds offer a pretty generic design – in fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to guess who’s making the headphones if it weren’t for the Amazon smile on the case.
The buds themselves are unbranded and look like the hundreds of other generic true wireless earbuds on the market … but that can be a good thing if you don’t want everyone in the world to know you are wearing a pair.
The earbuds are made of plastic and are both matte and glossy black. Each bud has a touch-sensitive button that can be reprogrammed to perform various tasks in the Amazon Alexa app (more on that in a second).
Touch controls are great, but for some reason the standard commands are completely illogical. The headphones only recognize double tap and long press, which means you can’t control everything you want. You have to choose whether to control the music playback, activate your phone’s assistant, toggle ANR or toggle pass-through. Any other true one-button wireless headphones allow single, double, triple and long presses to control more functions.
Thankfully, Amazon provides small, medium, and large tips to help you find the best fit. The company also supplies silicone wings to stabilize the headphones in your ears that the IPX4 headphones plan to use to exercise. The wings are clearly an afterthought and will not fit over the earbuds, but the headphones will stay securely in your ear even when you walk without the wings.
The charging case is a bit large, about the same size as the Apple AirPods Pro, and has three additional charging processes, making a total of 20 hours of playback possible.
Disappointingly, the case has a micro-USB charging port instead of the ubiquitous USB-C port. There’s also a button on the bottom that lights a single LED on the case to let you know the charge level.
Since the Echo Buds are an Amazon product, the Alexa integration isn’t surprisingly good. The headphones are always waiting for the Alexa command, so you don’t have to press any buttons to access the wizard.
The best part is that you don’t have to use Alexa at all as the Alexa app lets you choose which assistant you want to activate with one push.
The bad news? This means that Alexa is the only assistant that can be activated with a hotword instead of a long press.
Let’s talk about Echo Bud’s headlining feature: Active Noise Reduction (ANR). Different to active noise cancellation (ANC), ANR isn’t as effective as creating a sense of silence, but it does a great job of reducing outside noise. (In fact, we found the Echo Bud’s ANR to be more effective than some other true ANC wireless headphones.)
The Echo Buds already do a great job at isolating noise by creating a good seal. When the ANR is activated, however, voices and the deep drum of a train take a back seat.
In terms of sound quality, the Amazon Echo Buds leave a lot to be desired. The bass is heavy and muddy. The mids are not affected too much by excessive bass, but there is a lack of resolution across the frequency range. The highs are attenuated so that the headphones never sound tiring, but they also reduce the sparkle from the cymbal and violin. For non-audiophiles, the sound will be acceptable, but so will the EarFun Free and budget Creative runaway air sounds better.
The microphones on the Echo Buds can pick up voice commands well, but you’ll need to raise your voice in noisy environments. When making calls, they sound good when callers say they can hear clearly, but the audio quality is reminiscent of the speakerphone.
In terms of battery life, we found that Amazon claims to have 5 hours of playback just right on one charge, with four and a half hours per charge being observed playing music at 50% volume. The case also offers 3 additional charges for around 20 hours of total playback.
If you decide to remove your Echo Buds, you’ll be delighted to hear a built-in optical sensor turn on, pause playback, and intelligently re-enable the melodies when you put them back on.
Overall, it’s a very smart pair of earbuds and a range of features for a price that leaves you wondering how Amazon can afford to sell them in the first place.
The Amazon Echo Buds are a great choice for those buying their first ever truly wireless headphones – the battery life and sound are good enough to please most, and the addition of Bose’s ANR is something you won’t find in this price range see. However, the frustrating controls and mediocre sound prevent other real radio buds from being outdone.
If you want better sound for less, this is it Creative runaway gold are an excellent option, or if your budget allows, you can spend a little more upgrading to a better-sounding, longer-lasting alternative like the AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM3, both of which we’d highly recommend than the Echo Buds.
Gerald Lynch also contributed to this assessment.
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