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Amazon Echo Buds overview: Alexa delivers a smackdown

“The Amazon Echo Buds offer more value than any other real wireless earphone and are now the buds to beat.”

Comfortable fit

Excellent sound

Very effective noise reduction

Handsfree Alexa

Great value for money

Average battery life

No touch-based volume control

This review was last updated by Nick Woodard, the A / V employee at Digital Trends, on April 23, 2020.

Amazon is new to the audio hardware game, especially compared to Apple, but has clearly done its homework. After all, don’t just choose to compete with Apple’s AirPods without bringing your A-Game.

On paper, the $ 130 Amazon Echo Buds do just that. They have a five-hour battery life, a snug, comfortable design, IPX4 sweat and water resistance, Bose Active Noise Reduction, and hands-free access to Alexa – along with compatibility by Siri and Google Assistant.

But hardware is difficult. Amazon’s own website is littered with cheap corpses of those who tried to beat Apple in real wireless gaming. Has Amazon developed a line of real wireless buds that live up to their many promises?

Comfortable and safe

Amazon has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Echo Buds are suitable for a variety of ears. The buds contain three sizes of silicone earplugs and three sizes of ear fins, which are called “wing tips”. Proper fit is important because Bose’s Active Noise Reduction (ANR) works best when a complete seal is achieved. Amazon has an earplug sizing test – a tool in the settings menu of the Amazon Alexa app – that helps you find the right size for earplugs. This test works well.

Amazon Echo budsRiley Young / Digital Trends

The standard earplugs fit my ears perfectly. The Echo Buds were comfortable and were safe even without the optional wing tips. They didn’t move at all with the added wing tips. The rounded shape of the earphones makes typing with the fingers easier, but they sit flush. Unlike the AirPods from Apple or the real wireless earbuds from Jabra, there is no protruding stem, which gives the Echo Buds a very clean, minimalist look.

Wicked Wireless

One of the problems that plagues real wireless earbuds – even those with Apple’s custom H1 Bluetooth chip – is connection failures. Regardless of whether an earphone loses its signal or both fail for a split second (or longer), we have seen quite a bit in our reviews of real wireless earphones.

The Echo Buds have proven to be unshakable and stay connected to an iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth. Even in places that have hampered other earphones, the Echo Buds have never missed a beat.

They are also very flexible. You can use both or only one. If both are on and audio is playing, just pull one out and the sound will automatically pause. Put it back in and you’re back to your tunes. The pause function works well, but I found that the resume function was a hit and miss.

The Echo Buds have so far proven to be unshakable and remain reliably connected via Bluetooth.

The only hiccup that I experienced was the initial pairing of the Echo Buds. It worked as expected on my Android phone. The Alexa app recognized the Echo Buds when I opened the charging case and placed it next to the phone. My test iPhone didn’t do the job smoothly, so I had to add the Echo Buds through the app.

Almost no noise

One of the highlights of the Echo Buds is the integrated ANR developed by Bose. The difference between ANR and ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) that Bose uses for its flagship headphones is still not clear to me, but I can tell you this: it works really well.

Turning Bose ANR on has an almost magical effect on consistently low noise levels, like the hum of machines. I didn’t have a chance to put the Echo Buds to the ultimate test – an airplane – but when I was standing next to a refrigerator with a compressor running or my NAS hard drive during the ridiculously noisy run, those noises were completely eliminated.

Amazon Echo Buds caseRiley Young / Digital Trends

ANR also effectively reduces traffic noise, background conversations in cafes and restaurants, and general ambient noise. In my gym it was much easier to focus on my daily morning talk show.

It’s not a cone of silence, but it is effective enough that you appreciate the ability to temporarily allow outside noise in through mode. In the Echo Buds settings you can adjust the level of the through gain. At maximum setting, the function acts like a kind of hearing aid that not only lets noise in, but also magnifies it.

Surprisingly good sound

I wasn’t expecting the Echo Buds to deliver excellent audio quality, but they easily beat Apple’s AirPods. The sound is rich and full and very satisfying. The tone can best be described as “close”. Vocals and instruments feel right next to you instead of occupying a wide stage.

I wasn’t expecting the Echo Buds to deliver excellent audio quality, but they do.

They instantly deliver excessive bass – which is not uncommon for audio accessories – but you can compensate for this using the Alexa app’s EQ settings. I threw a lot of genres at the Echo Buds and everyone enjoyed listening to them.

Alexa, is that you?

The Echo Buds make Alexa even more personal. If the Amazon Alexa app is running in the background on your iOS or Android device, you can simply speak your preferred wake-up word to call Alexa. The three-microphone array on each earphone impressively detects when you’re speaking. I was able to get Alexa’s attention as I puffed and puffed on an elliptical trainer without raising my voice.

The use of Alexa has become commonplace for many people, but I guarantee that you will always be thrilled with the experience if it can follow you anywhere.

I was able to get Alexa’s attention as I puffed and puffed on an elliptical trainer without raising my voice.

I still wish Amazon would support more music services – especially Google Play Music – but most people will find that the ability to control Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music (to name just the big ones) is more than adequate .

The Echo Buds also work with Siri and Google Assistant (depending on your device), but currently only Alexa can be used hands-free.

Two taps

With no physical buttons, tap the Echo Buds’ smooth outer surfaces to control its various functions. With the Alexa app, you can assign different functions to each earphone. However, you only get two interactions: double tap and long press.

Double knock is recognized very effectively, but I had some issues with long presses. The trick is to treat the first part of the long press as a fingertip – a gentle touch doesn’t work. I think I would prefer to have a single or triple tap instead of long press, but Amazon tells me that the combination I chose was very intentional. Regardless of which function you assign to the double-click, a call is answered or ended by a double-click.

Amazon Echo budsRiley Young / Digital Trends

You can choose from the usual media playback controls (play / pause, skip forward / backward), but there’s no way to adjust the volume – something that many leading real wireless earbuds lack. Unlike some other wireless earbuds, however, you can ask Alexa to adjust the volume for you.

You can also switch between Bose ANR (In and Out) modes or use an optional “In and Out” feature that allows you to pause your music and listen to your surroundings at the same time.

One of these tap actions can also be assigned to the activation of Google Assistant (Android devices) or Siri (iOS devices). Unfortunately, there is no way to launch Google Assistant on an iOS device.

Basic battery

If there’s an area where the Echo Buds don’t inspire, that’s their battery life. Amazon takes five hours per charge, which is at the lower end of the current options. I thought it would be more than four and a half hours if you left Bose ANR turned on and used the wake-up word for Alexa.

The charging case can carry three charges, so you can work for almost a full day before having to search for an available USB power source.

This is probably enough for most people, but we still want Amazon to increase these numbers a bit in the next version. This is especially true now that Samsung has released the Galaxy Buds + – a pair of wireless buds that cost $ 20 more than the Echo Buds but offer 11 hours of playback time on a single charge – raising the bar on battery life.

The charging case itself is compact enough to fit in most bags and appears to be well built. However, the clamshell design makes opening and closing with one hand a bit difficult. The Echo Buds snap into their charging contacts with just the right magnetic force and remain securely attached until you tear them out.

Our opinion

At $ 130, the Amazon Echo Buds are great value. It’s their sheer number of useful features like hands-free Alexa access and great Bose ANR that make them a great buy.

Is there a better alternative?

The Echo Buds are just right in terms of price, quality and features.

You can get cheaper earbuds that sound just as good, but don’t come up with the hands-free feature of Echo Buds and ANR – the $ 99 1More Stylish. The Samsung Galaxy Buds + for $ 150 may be its closest competitor in terms of price and features, although it lacks noise cancellation features.

You can also spend a good deal more and get better audio quality, better battery life and a real ANC. Sony $ 230 WF-1000XM3. come to mind.

Then there is Apple’s AirPods Pro. You’re in a different league in terms of audio quality, call quality, and noise cancellation technology. They’re also over $ 100 more.

How long will they last?

The Echo Buds come with a one-year warranty from Amazon, which is standard but doesn’t say much about long-term performance. Compared to other wireless earbuds we’ve tested, the Echo Buds seem to be of average build quality, but like so many of these devices, the batteries will likely be dead before the earbuds themselves fail.

Should you buy them

Yes. The Echo Buds offer an amazing combination of features that make their $ 130 price all the more attractive.

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