Amazon has claimed your smart speakers, your TV, even your microwave, and now the retail giant is coming for your ears. Its Echo Buds seek to become your new favorites thanks to Bose noise-reduction and a truly wireless design. Even though they’re not perfect, the Echo Buds are one of the best bang-for-your-buck true wireless earbuds around. Let’s find out what makes them worthwhile in our Amazon Echo Buds review.
Who should get the Echo Buds?
- Commuters will enjoy the Bose noise-reduction features. It’s not quite noise-cancelling like you’d see on other buds, but it’s effective and certainly better than nothing.
- Athletes should be pleased with the IPx4 water-resistance rating. You can sweat as much as you want without worrying about frying your music.
- Smart assistant lovers can’t go wrong with the Alexa integration. Setup is quick, and then you can rely on Alexa whenever you need to.
What are the Amazon Echo Buds like?
Amazon’s Echo Buds are made of plastic, but not the highest-quality plastic around. They’re very lightweight, and they don’t feel nearly as tough as Apple’s AirPods. The charging case is likewise plastic and it’s very slippery — I dropped it a few more times than I care to admit. However, the case still looks brand new, so we can give Amazon credit for that.
The plastic buds are both adorned with glossy touch panels with a few default controls that can be reconfigured in the Alexa app. When you double-tap either earbud, the buds toggle between noise-reduction and passive isolation, and a long press launches your smart assistant. These default controls aren’t our favorite, because they’re so limited.
Some earbuds nowadays are sensor monsters, but the Echo Buds aren’t among them. Yes, there are sensors, but they’re not overloaded like the PowerBeats Pro. Instead, the proximity sensors control playback, and your music automatically stops if either bud is removed.
Each pair of Echo Buds comes with three pairs of ear tips and wings, so you should be able to figure out a perfect fit. If you have small ears, it may prove tricky with or without the ear wings. Luckily, most people should be just fine with the pre-installed medium ear tips.
Can you use the Echo Buds while working out?
An IP rating is a must-have for workout earbuds, and the IPX4 rating on the Echo Buds tops both the Apple AirPods and Samsung Galaxy Buds. Amazon’s IPX4 rating is good enough to keep sweat at bay, but you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re planning to swim with earbuds in.
The Echo Buds continue to receive updates, and Amazon rolled out a firmware boost on November 23, 2020. It allows for improved fitness tracking and all you need is the power of your voice. Simply ask Alexa to begin your workout and the Echo Buds can cover the basics like duration, steps, calories, and pace.
You can also continue to control your playback throughout the workout with voice commands too. Just make sure to create your workout profile in the Alexa App.
Does Bose noise reduction work?
Does Bose noise reduction work? Is a bear Catholic? Of course, Bose managed to pack some top tech into the Echo Buds. After all, its QuietComfort 35 II headphones were some of the first to adopt Alexa integration, so it makes sense for Amazon to return the favor. However, active noise-reduction (ANR) and active noise-cancelling (ANC) are not the same technologies. ANC relies on interference to knock out background noise, while ANR reduces the noise without eliminating it entirely.
Now, this is Bose we’re talking about, so its ANR capabilities are better than some other brands’ ANC. You’re not going to get total silence, but it’s not unreasonable to say that many everyday noises are cut in half or better. If you want the best of the best in noise-cancelling, you may want to look to Apple’s AirPods Pro or the Sony WF-1000XM3 instead.
How do you connect the Echo Buds?
Open the lid to your Echo Buds, but don’t remove them from the case. Now, press the button on the bottom of the case until the LED light flashes blue. Once you see the flashing light, head to your phone’s Bluetooth menu, and select Echo Buds from the list. This process is universal for both Apple and Android listeners.
See also: Bluetooth codecs 101
Amazon’s Echo Buds feature Bluetooth 5.0 and support for the AAC codec, which is great news for iOS fans. Both iPhones and iPad will offer high-quality streaming, but Android users are slightly out of luck. There’s no aptX support, but most users won’t really be able to tell the difference, especially when auditory masking is a factor. The wireless buds use the Realtek RTL8763B Bluetooth SoC, which is great for low power usage.
How to update the Echo Buds?
We briefly mentioned the fitness update earlier, but how do you go about setting it up? Well, the answer is simple — the Amazon Alexa app. Amazon previously rolled out other updates to help with problems such as overheating, so keeping your Echo Buds up to date is a must. If you’re signed into the Alexa app, the updates should process automatically. If not, just follow these steps to check on your update status:
- Open your earbuds, confirm that they’re connected to your phone
- Open the Alexa app and head to the devices tab
- Select Echo & Alexa and locate your Echo Buds
- Scroll to the About section and check on your update version
Set up your Buds through the Alexa app for best results
Almost every pair of wireless earbuds comes with a must-have companion app. In the case of the Echo Buds, you only have to worry about the Amazon Alexa app. If you have other Echo speakers, you’re probably already familiar with the process, but it never hurts to have a refresher. After all, the Alexa app can help you check emails, set reminders, ask questions, and thousands of other skills. Here’s what you need to know:
- Open the Alexa app and navigate to the Device tab
- Press the “+” button and select Add Device
- Next, choose the Amazon Echo section, and specifically Echo Buds
- Continue through the setup until you get back to the Alexa app home screen
Once you make it back to the home screen, you’re fully in charge. Now you can mute your microphone, tinker with your listening modes, and adjust your EQ profile. You’ll also need the app to take the ear tip sizing test, similar to that of the AirPods Pro. The test involves a series of beeps and low rumbles, and you’ll get a readout of your results upon completion.
Do the Echo Buds have good battery life?
Amazon claims around five hours of battery life on the Echo Buds, and we actually managed to exceed expectations in our testing. We found closer to 5 hours, 40 minutes of playback. Although this isn’t class-leading, it beats a few big names. The fast charging is excellent — 15 minutes of charging is enough for two hours of playback. Once you factor in the charging case, the Echo Buds are good for about 20 hours of total playback. Unfortunately, the Echo Buds charge via microUSB — really Amazon? What year is it?
Another curious feature of the battery life is that the right earbud tends to die before the left one. We found around 20 minutes of extra listening on the left earbud, which isn’t something we’ve really seen before. You probably won’t notice thanks to the charging case, but it’s an odd feature to be sure.
How do the Echo Buds sound?
The peculiarities continue with the Echo Buds’ frequency response. Bass notes are significantly boosted, yet there’s very little emphasis anywhere else. It essentially guarantees that your music will sound unclear due to auditory masking — when a loud sound covers up a softer one. You won’t really want the Echo Buds for nuance as bass notes and sub-bass notes are twice as loud as anything else.
Is the microphone good for phone calls?
Another category, another odd result for the Echo Buds. Low frequency sounds are heavily attenuated, so deeper male voices tend to sound distorted. The three microphones do well to pick up on the “Alexa” buzzword, but only in quiet environments. It’s tough to deliver voice commands in louder coffee shops. However, my voice seemed to relay well enough — nobody asked me to switch to the microphone on my phone, which has happened before.
Amazon Echo Buds microphone demo:
Amazon Echo Buds review: The verdict
All of that said, and peculiarities aside, the Echo Buds are a great pick if you rely on Alexa throughout your smart home. Hands-free Alexa access generally works well, just be careful about louder environments. The Echo Buds are comfortable as well and battery life is great — no small feat when you’re working with Bose ANR technology.
We can’t ignore the fact that there are drawbacks to the Echo Buds, but any pair of true wireless earbuds is bound to have its flaws. It all comes down to what you see as most important to your audio experience. Amazon’s Echo Buds are in stock right now, so check them out at the widget below: