The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are not new, but they are new to Australia. Several months after their release they have made it Downunder and by all accounts promise to be a big improvement over not just the first gen buds but also an improvement over so many other true wireless headphones already on the market.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are smaller than their predecessor but that doesn’t mean they are lacking in any way. Instead of the stem AirPod style they are the in-ear version with a small amount of bulk to the end of the tip — this is where all the magic happens.
To help you get the right fit Amazon include four different sized sets of tips along with two sizes of “wings”. If you want to get an even better fit with optimised sound you can perform the ear tip test inside the Echo app. I’m not entirely convinced to the usefulness of such a test but performed it anyway.
Each earbud has a touch sensitive side to it that allows for touch control of your media and/or calls. The touchpads can also control the ANC as well — these choices and changes are set within the Echo app. Basically, everything is done from within the Echo app.
Not only are there touch controls to trigger your favourite digital assistant but an always listening Alexa trigger. Just say “Alexa” followed by your command and it will respond quickly in kind. This is incredibly useful and worked seamlessly — assuming you have given Alexa the permission to perform all of the required actions, including making phone calls etc.
The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) come with a charging case complete with Qi wireless charging in the premium version (or not, if you choose the cheaper version) but even with this the case is relatively small — something that will easily slide into a pocket should you need to carry them around with you. The case will only charge wirelessly when sitting upright do it is difficult to get it to do it when on a Qi charging stand but a pad worked just fine. I was able to charge it standing up on the stand but it’s just faster to plug the USB-C cable in so I did that instead.
The charging case is complete with battery indicators to let you know how much charge is left in it. The charging case will hold 10 hours of ANC on power with 5hrs of charge in the earbuds themselves. If you run out of battery the case supports fast charging where just 15 minutes of charging results in 2 hours of music playback available. In my use I found this to be pretty close to spot on, about to get to the full 15 hours relatively comfortably with ANC on.
To turn on Active Noise Cancellation, simply press and hold either earbud or just say, “Alexa, noise cancellation on.” When you want to hear what’s going on around you, enable Passthrough Mode with a press and hold on either earbud again or by saying, “Alexa, Passthrough on.” With Passthrough Mode on, you can easily adjust the amount of ambient sound you hear through the device settings in the Echo app.
“Alexa, noise cancellation on.”
“Alexa, passthrough on.”
For those who want to use them during workouts there is an IPX4 rating — not enough to go swimming in them but enough to survive a sweaty workout. This is far from unusual these days with most headphones offering some form of water resistance.
So how do they sound?
Let’s start with the setup. The instructions tell you to use the Alexa app but in the end a combination of the Alexa app and my Android device’s Bluetooth settings was what was required. Open the Alexa app, press and hold the button on the case for 3 seconds until the front light flashes blue. The Alexa app will then try and pair with the earbuds.
It didn’t work for me as the instructions said it would but when I said yes to the pairing popup from the Bluetooth settings they paired with the phone. The Alexa app then asks to link the Alexa app with the Echo Buds which causes them to appear in the app and allows you to set various custom settings for your Buds.
After testing out the earbuds I can say that they sound great. Not the best sound I’ve heard — the Bose QC Buds and the Sony WF-SP800N sound better, which should be the case given the sheer size of them compared to the Echo Buds. They stick a lot further out of the ears than the Echo Buds do. In saying that I’ve heard a lot worse than this and was happy with the sound they offered. There is definite bass and really good mids and highs but unfortunately, no matter how much I bumped up the bass using the Alexa app it couldn’t match that of the Bose and Sony’s mentioned above.
This year Amazon has included ANC in their Echo Buds and it’s one of the best ANC implementations I’ve ever used in a true wireless earphone. I found it comparable to the Bose QC Buds — surprising, considering the size (and price) difference between the two.
Although the Buds (2nd Gen) are made by Amazon and have Alexa support primarily that doesn’t mean you are locked into Amazon’s world. If you prefer Google Assistant or Siri you can change the settings of your earbuds to trigger either of these. Unfortunately, you can’t expect full co-operation with not all music streaming services supported:
“With simple voice commands, users can access their favourite songs and artists on Amazon Music, Spotify or Apple Music.”
Would I recommend them?
There are so many true wireless headphones on the market these days that it is difficult to recommend one to all users. There are quite a few factors to consider when purchasing a set or earbuds, not the least pricing — something that is worthy of a consideration here given the attractive and aggressive pricing Amazon has placed on them. The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) though, tick most boxes:
- They sound good (but not perfect)
- They have excellent ANC
- They offer a range of fits for even the strangest shaped ears
- They offer full digital assistant support
- They offer touch controls
- They have an IPX4 water resistant rating (sweat all you want)
There really isn’t much downside to the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) — if you want perfect quality sound you should be looking at the more expensive Bose or Sony versions for greater bass but at this pricing the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are a great purchase.
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) come in Black and are available for on amazon.com.au and according to Amazon will be back in stock from next Sunday, with a possibility to receive them by Christmas. Pricing for Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is currently just $129 for the USB-C wired charging option, or AU$159 for wireless charging, both $40 off the RRP.
I’m not sure the wireless charging option is worth $30 extra unless you have a charging pad you sit on your desk or bench and sit your tech there all the time. If not at just $129 for the wired option is ridiculous and Amazon should be congratulated for such aggressive and consumer-friendly pricing. At that price they are great value and I can highly recommend them (especially if you already make full use of Alexa and her abilities) — but get in quick as it is unclear just how long they will be that price for.