With Amazon’s aim to add Alexa to just about any technological product, a pair of Alexa-powered true wireless earbuds was inevitable. The Amazon Echo Buds are Amazon’s first attempt to make a true wireless headset with Alexa in-tow, and though they’re not perfect, they have a lot to go for them. While you’d expect Alexa to have the eye-catching feature, it’s Bose’s Active Noise Reduction (ANR) technology that makes the Echo Buds special. This is our Amazon Echo Buds Review.
For commuters who are looking for more than just passive noise isolation to drown out the outside world, the Echo Buds ANR offers a welcome break and is usually not to be found in the price range.
Amazon Echo Buds Review: Design
The Amazon Echo Buds feature a reasonably generic design; you wouldn’t be able to guess the maker of the headphones if it weren’t for the Amazon “smile” on the case. The buds themselves don’t have a brand name and resemble the hundreds of other generic real wireless earphones on the market. But that can be beneficial if you don’t want everyone in the world to know you’re wearing a pair.
The earplugs are made of plastic and are both matte and shiny black. Each button has a touch-sensitive button that can be programmed to do different things in the Amazon Alexa app (more on that below). Having touch control is excellent, but, for whatever reason, the default commands are entirely illogical. The headphones only recognize dual taps and long presses, which means you can’t control everything you want.
You will have to choose between controlling the music playback, activating your phone’s assistant, switching ANR, and switching the pass-through. With any other single-button wireless headset, you can control more functions with a single, double, triple, or long push of a button. Fortunately, Amazon ships small, medium, and large ear tips to help you find the best and comfortable fit. The company also ships silicone “ear-wings” to help stabilize the headphones in your ears that want to use the IPX4-rated earbuds for working out.
The wings are an afterthought, which fit poorly over the earplugs, but the headphones remain securely in your ear even without the wings. The charging case is a bit large, about the same size as the Apple AirPods Pro, and comes with three extra charges, giving you a total of 20 hours of playback time. Disappointingly, the case features a micro-USB charging port instead of the universal USB-C port. There’s also a button at the bottom that leaves a single LED light on the case to indicate the charge level.
Amazon Echo Buds Review: Alexa Integration
Since the Echo Buds are an Amazonian product, the integration of Alexa is not surprisingly large. The headset always listens to the Alexa command, so you don’t have to press any buttons to access the assistant. Best of all, you don’t have to use Alexa at all because, with the Alexa app, you can select which assistant you want to activate at the touch of a button. The bad news? This does mean that Alexa is the only voice-assistant that can be activated with a hotword instead of a long press of a button.
In terms of battery life, we saw Amazon’s claims of 5 hours of playback on a charge just right, observing four and a half hours per charge playing music at 50% volume. The case also offers an additional 3 charges for a combined total of about 20 hours of playback. If you choose to remove your Echo Buds, you will be pleased to hear that there is an optical sensor onboard that pauses playback and cleverly reactivates the songs when you put them back in the device.
Amazon Echo Buds Review: Performance
Let’s talk about Echo Bud’s primary function: Active Noise Reduction (ANR). Unlike Active Noise Reduction (ANC), ANR is not as effective as creating a sense of silence; however, it does a decent job of reducing the noise of the outside world. (Moreover, we found the Echo Bud’s ANR to be more effective than some true wireless headphones with ANC). The Echo Bud’s are already doing a great job with sound isolation by creating a good seal, but with ANR enabled voices fade and the low drum of a train to the background.
In terms of sound quality and performance, the Amazon Echo Buds leaves a lot to be desired. The bass is harsh and muddy. The excessive bass does not too much influence the midrange, but there is a lack of resolution over the whole frequency range. The trebles are rolled off, so the headphones never sound tiring, but also the brilliance of cymbals and violin is dulled by it. For non-audiophiles, the sound performance will be acceptable, but even the budget EarFun Free and Creative Outlier Air sounds better.
The microphones on the Echo Buds are good at picking up voice commands, but you’ll have to raise your voice in noisy environments. For conversations, they sound okay with callers who say they can hear clearly, but the sound quality is reminiscent of a speakerphone. Overall, it’s a brilliant pair of earbuds, and a range of features, at such a price point that makes you think how Amazon can afford to sell them.
Price and Availability
The Echo Buds cost only $129 (£119, about AU$220), and given the smart features packed into here, from hands-free Alexa to active noise reduction, that’s an incredibly attractive, and competitive, price point. How can that stack up to the competition? The Google Pixel Buds 2 $179 (about £140, AU$262) while Apple charges $249 (£249, AU$399) for its flagship AirPods Pro. We found the latter to be a bit more attractive even though they cost almost twice as much; however, if your budget is limited, the Echo Buds are an excellent replacement.
Amazon Echo Buds Review: Conclusion
The Amazon Echo Buds are an excellent choice for those who are getting their first pair of true wireless headphones – the battery life and sound performance are good enough to please most users, and the addition of Bose’s ANR is something you won’t see in this price point. That said, however, the controls and mediocre sound prevent it from surpassing the other true wireless earbuds. If you want better sound performance for less money, the Creative Outlier Gold is an excellent option.
And if your budget allows it, you can spend a little more to upgrade to a better sounding, more durable alternative like the AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM3, which we would both recommend more than the Echo Buds.
The Amazon Echo Buds are an excellent choice for those who are getting their first pair of true wireless headphones - the battery life and sound performance are good enough to please most users, and the addition of Bose's ANR is something you won't see in this price point.
- Decent noise reduction
- Strong, reliable connection
- Good value
- Mediocre sound
- Average battery life
- Illogical touch controls