How do Amazon's new Echo Buds compare to AirPods?
They have Alexa built in, and tap access to Siri and Google Assistant
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Amazon’s Echo smart speakers and displays have always been about getting a little help in the house. Alexa‘s myriad skills mostly revolve around questions we ask and tasks we undertake in our homes, and we rely on Google Assistant, Siri, and Bixby for our mobile AI needs.
Amazon’s release of the Echo Buds shows that Alexa is ready to help you out no matter where you roam, and at a price point near that of AirPods, it’s clear that these buds are in direct competition with Apple’s ever-popular true wireless earbuds. How do the Echo Buds stack up against the competition? We tested them to find out.
How do Echo Buds sound vs Airpods?
The sound quality of the Echo Buds is good—about on par with that of original AirPods. One of the things that sets them apart from AirPods, and makes them more comparable to AirPods Pro, is the noise-cancelation feature.
Bose Active Noise Reduction (ANR) is built into Echo Buds, and it can be turned on and off within in the Alexa app or via a tap on the earbuds themselves. It isn't the same as active noise cancellation, however, and won't be as strong as the kind of noise protection you get from models like the AirPods Pro.
Passthrough mode is also easy to activate, and it allows sound around you to “play” in your ear along with your music. It’s perfect for the moment someone walks up and ask a question, as you can hold a conversation without taking the Echo Buds out.
Are Echo Buds comfortable?
Most noise-canceling earbuds give wearers the feeling that something is jammed into their ears, because, well, there is. The ear tips have to plug up your ear to help block outside noise, and it generally takes a little getting used to. Echo Buds are no exception on this front.
In fact, one of our major gripes with these buds was comfort (or lack thereof). They come with three sizes of ear tips and three sizes of wings, which is a plus, but we found the larger tips and wings made it difficult to get the buds to sit firmly against the case’s charging contacts, which prevented the buds from charging and entering pairing mode. In fact, the largest wings kept the case from even closing all the way.
The wings are fiddly to get on, but we did appreciate that their flexible nature allowed us to adjust them on the earbud in whatever position was most comfortable for each ear. Echo Buds did stay securely in place, but they weren’t comfortable enough for us to want to wear them for long periods of time.
What can Echo Buds do?
Though Echo Buds allow wearers to summon Alexa by voice at any time, they can also call up Siri and Google Assistant with just a tap. While out at a restaurant, Alexa chimed several times as she apparently heard her name from conversations at other tables, so that's not ideal. The settings in the Alexa app have several different options for customizing tap gestures. Each Bud has assigned functions for a single tap as well as a tap and hold, so you can program four different functions total.
Through the tap interface, you can do things like summon Siri/Google Assistant/Alexa, mute the microphone, and activate noise reduction. One of the buds we tested was more responsive than the other, for some inexplicable reason, so we assigned the functions we wanted to the one that worked better.
Should you get Echo Buds?
Echo Buds are definitely here to compete with Airpods Pro, and when it comes to pricing, the Buds win, hands-down. However, with several glaring design flaws and frustrating quirks, we feel confident saying that most people would be happier with standard AirPods or—if they need noise reduction—the AirPods Pro.
Still want to check out the Echo Buds? Get Echo Buds from Amazon for $129.99
Or, opt for the beloved AirPods instead. Get Apple AirPods with Charging Case from Walmart for $144
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.