Revamped, comfortable design
Deep feature lineup
Average battery at best
Limited sound customization
About the Amazon Echo Buds
- Price: $119.99 with standard charging case, $139.99 with wireless charging case
- Battery life: Up to 5 hours with ANC and Alexa, 6.5 hours without, 19.5 hours total with charging case
- Rapid charging: 15 minutes charge for 2 hours playback
- Wireless charging: Yes, available Qi-compatible case
- Voice Assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa built-in, with support for Google Assistant, Siri
- Colors: Glacier White, Black
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
- Audio Codecs: AAC, SBC
- Water-resistance: IPX4
- Ear tips: Four sizes, with three sizes of wing tips
- Weight: 5.7 grams per bud, 44.4 grams with charging case, 47.6 grams with wireless charging case
The setup process didn’t change much between generations of the Echo Buds; the easiest way to get connected still revolves around the Alexa app. Opening the application, in addition to lifting the lid on the Echo Buds’ charging case, will trigger a pop-up that prompts you to set up your new earbuds. There’s a few optional steps along the way, like setting up a fitness profile or taking the ear tip fit test, but it truly is a straightforward experience overall.
What we like
A new, remarkably comfortable design
Depending on who you ask, the first generation Echo Buds were a solid product. We enjoyed the sound quality and ambient sound control options of the originals, but we (and others) couldn’t get past the first gen’s bulky size and lack of comfort.
In a seemingly direct response to that issue, Amazon says the new Echo Buds are 20 percent smaller than their predecessors. The smaller footprint, paired with several sizes of ear and wing tips (plus a handy ear tip fit test feature in the Alexa app), make a world of difference when it comes to comfort. The new Echo Buds don’t feel overbearing in your ears, but instead natural and unobtrusive.
They can feel a bit tight at times, and the seal they create in your ears may cause the dreaded plugged-ear feeling for some. I had minimal ear fatigue in my testing period, though, and the tighter fit was a huge benefit when working out or running.
Features—like, all the features
The Echo Buds’ laundry list of features, of course, starts with Amazon Alexa, the ultra-popular voice assistant that’s ready and willing to help at the sound of a wake word. Amazon says the earbuds have improved onboard microphones that detect lower frequencies better than the previous generation, allowing Alexa to hear you more clearly. There were a few instances where Alexa failed to pick up my muffled voice from beneath a mask, but the trusty smart assistant answered most times I called on her to do things like select music to play, set a timer, or control one of my smart home devices.
Alexa integration—plus compatibility with both Google Assistant and Siri—really is just scratching the surface, though. Like the older model, the new Echo Buds have an IPX4 water resistance rating to withstand sweat and splashes, which pairs nicely with workout features that will track metrics like steps, distance, calories, and pace. There’s a “Find My” feature in the Alexa app to help locate lost earbuds, as well as retooled gesture controls that add single and triple-tap commands alongside the double-tap and long hold gestures found in the first generation. And, not to be forgotten, the Echo Buds employ a useful smart pause feature that stops the current track whenever you pull an earbud out.
There are even a few features that haven’t gone global yet, like Alexa Transit (a tool that enlists Alexa to help navigate public transit, according to Amazon) or VIP Filter, which will let you pick and choose which notifications to receive, and which to mute.
Just like the Apple AirPods and AirPods Pro were built for folks with iOS devices, or like how Google’s Pixel Buds are optimized for Pixel and other Android phones, the original Echo Buds were geared towards consumers who were already on board with Alexa. The Alexa integration is still there for those who need it, but the second-generation buds have an improved family of features that boost their appeal to a much broader audience. You don’t need to be on a first-name basis with Alexa to make great use of the new Echo Buds.
Impressive active noise cancellation
The first Echo Buds had Active Noise Reduction, a Bose technology that fell short of full active noise cancellation but still blocked out a good amount of outside noise. The newest Echo Buds get the real deal, and it’s far more impactful than their price tag would lead you to believe.
Amazon claims the new Echo Buds cancel twice as much noise as the originals, and while I haven’t run the numbers myself, I am inclined to believe it. Toggling between ANC and normal listening in loud environments like the local gym was a telling experience, with traditionally jarring sounds like weights slamming onto the floor being effectively silenced by the Echo Buds.
I wouldn’t expect these earbuds to hold a candle to the ANC capabilities of something like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, but I have yet to experience better noise canceling functionality for a more affordable price than the Echo Buds. The buds’ adjustable Passthrough feature is equally effective, piping in noise from my surroundings whenever I needed to actually hear what was happening around me.
What we don’t like
Average battery life
Technically, the new Echo Buds’ ANC-enabled battery life (up to five hours) is on par with that of the Apple AirPods, AirPods Pro, and Google Pixel Buds among others. And technically, the second-generation Echo Buds can reach a battery life of up to 6.5 hours if you turn both ANC and Alexa off. Neither point, though, should convince you that the Echo Buds are anything other than average when it comes to battery life, especially when it comes to the competition.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ are routinely capable of 8-10 hours of battery life (though they don't offer ANC). The Sony WF-SP800N can reach an otherworldly 13 hours of playback, and up to 9 hours with mild ANC. Granted, both are more expensive than Amazon’s buds. But even the more closely priced Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro have a slight edge compared to the Echo Buds. To be fair, five hours will be enough for most people on a regular basis, and the optional wireless charging case is helpful for keeping your buds replenished. But in this regard, the Echo Buds are stuck in the middle-back of the pack, not leading it.
Limited sound customization
With 5.7mm drivers built into each earbud, the second-generation Echo Buds sound exceptional across a wide variety of genres. Luke Combs’ tremendous vocals in Nothing Like You sounded pristine and detailed, and the combination of Kesha’s lyrics and Macklemore’s bass-backed verses in Good Old Days demonstrated a well-balanced sound signature. The Echo Buds aren’t the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2, but they’re also roughly one third of the cost. Most people will be ecstatic with the Echo Buds’ audio quality for the price they paid.
If you aren’t most people, though, the Echo Buds have rather pedestrian avenues available to try and fix that. The Alexa app offers bass, mid, and treble controls. Comparatively, the Liberty Air 2 Pro have 22 preset sound profiles to choose from, plus an equalizer for those who want to tinker with different frequencies for more custom tuning.
Should you buy it?
Yes, even if Alexa isn’t your BFF
Amazon’s second-generation Echo Buds have marketability that arguably neither the Apple AirPods, Google Pixel Buds, or even the first-generation Echo Buds possess. They are just as useful to those who haven’t bought into the brand’s smart ecosystem as they are to those who have.
If you momentarily set aside the Echo Buds’ seamless Amazon integration and built-in voice assistant, you are still left with a pair of true wireless earbuds that sound good, feel great in your ears, and block outside noise exceedingly well. Conceivably, you could mute Alexa in the earbuds’ accompanying app and refrain from interacting with the assistant for the lifetime of the product. They would still be an outstanding value.
The next iteration of Echo Buds should address the buds’ uninspired battery life and add more ways to tune their sound to specific tastes. But don’t let those existing defects deter you from considering the current installment. The second-generation Echo Buds are feature-packed, affordable earbuds that check all the right boxes.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
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