Amazon Echo Buds: The AirPods Alternative

Amazon Echo Buds
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Oh they get much better. Once positioned correctly in your ear (tun them like a corkscrew) and a crappy sound from 5 below is replaced with a wonderful, flexible medium range sound. As different as night and day. The features can’t be beat. Communicate to any Alexa device in your contacts, watch your fire tv, talk to Siri or alexi. For a 126 bucks, damn right, I’d buy them again. A happy happy customer.

Another gem from the recent crop of 15 new Amazon products as we edge into 2020, Amazon Echo Buds are truly wireless earbuds to give Apple’s much pricier AirPods a run for their money.

Amazon’s first foray into the truly wireless space can only be described as a roaring success and we’re certain these in-ear gems will continue flying off the shelves.

Before we probe these earphones in a little more depth by category, a quick glance at the leading benefits of Echo Buds along with a few minor drawbacks…

What We Like

  • Completely wireless buds giving you total freedom of movement whether you’re out for a run or relaxing on the couch
  • Alexa comes onboard and you’ll also be able to use Google Assistant or Siri from an enabled device
  • Bose’s Active Noise Reduction reduces most ambient background noise to an absolute minimum
  • IPX4-rated sweat and water-resistant so ideal for use in the gym or when it’s raining
  • Trio of silicon tips and wings supplied should ensure you get a nice close fit
  • Layers of privacy in place to mitigate concerns about Alexa always listening
  • Drop-In to Echo smart speakers for voice calling
  • While 5-hour battery life is less than impressive, you’ll get an extra 2 hours of lifespan from a quick 15-minute burst of charge
  • Subtle yet commanding design
  • Unbeatable price/performance ratio and arguably your best bet right now if you’re looking for truly wireless earbuds

What We Don’t Like

  • Battery life could be improved from 5 hours
  • Micro USB charging is less than ideal and you’ll get no wireless charging either
  • The controls are not particularly intuitive

Amazon Echo Buds – Price and Overall Value

Coming in at roughly half the price of AirPods, you’re getting exceptional value here. 

You might be forgiven for thinking that you’ll dip out on features and sound quality to achieve that bargain price tag but nothing could be further from the truth.

While we never object to paying for quality here at Pick My Reader, we’re also always on the lookout for a bargain. And when we do angle for any cheaper kit, we look beyond the bottom line. After all, it’s pointless buying cheap if the product lets you down and you end up buying twice.

So, if you’re motivated primarily by price, you won’t find better wireless earbuds in this price bracket. Indeed, Echo Buds blow much of the costlier competition out of the water, too.

Design and Build

In terms of looks, Echo Buds are relatively underwhelming. This is a positive if you don’t want a garish set of headphones emblazoned with logos. Indeed, aside from the smile icon on the case, you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate these earphones at a glance from the hordes of generic buds glutting the market.

Made from plastic, both matte and gloss black complete a stealth look.

You’ll get a single button you can program in-app. We’ll look at that in more detail below.

With the touch controls, the defaults are quite poor and confusing. You’ll only be able to use long presses and double-taps so the controls are far from all-encompassing.

The earbuds come bundled with 3 sets of tips so you can achieve a snug fit regardless of the shape and size of your ears. Stabilizing wings offer even more support. These come in handy if you intend to use your earbuds at the gym or when you’re out running. The wings might look pretty ugly but they deliver in terms of functionality.

The bulky charging case is prone to scratching so take care of this from the get-go. This holds 3 charges so you could theoretically bag yourself 20 hours of playback.

Micro USB charging is an abject disappointment. This anachronism shouldn’t still be rolled out as we approach 2020. Amazon has always been resistant to uprating charging protocols, though, so it’s hardly a surprise. On the plus side, you should have plenty of spare cables laying around the house.

Build quality is pretty robust considering the size and delicacy of the device. You’ll be more likely to lose or misplace Echo Buds than for them to let you down.

So far, so good. What really counts with earbuds, of course, is the soundscape so how do Echo Buds fare on that front?

Sound

A pair of what Amazon label “premium drivers” kick out audio that shames Apple’s AirPods.

That said, if you’re expecting audiophile quality sound, you’ll be frankly disappointed. Powerful and loud, bass is nevertheless a bit dense and slightly unclear. There’s a general lack of resolution which might escape a casual listener but will leave many feeling a little underwhelmed.

If you want to compensate for the bass-heavy nature of the soundscape, you can fine-tune things in the EQ settings of the Alexa app.

Performance and Features

Undoubtedly the key selling point of these earbuds is the ANR (active noise reduction) integrated thanks to audio legends Bose.

This version of active noise cancellation means you’ll cut back any background hum to the point where it’s barely detectable.

While you won’t be bathed in silence, you’ll definitely notice a difference and this gives you the same functionality Apple is serving up in the retooled AirPods but at a fraction of the cost.

You’ll benefit from 3 mics so Alexa can pick up your commands wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Even if you’ve become slightly inured to Alexa by now, your interest should be renewed once you’re able to take her anywhere with you. While you’ll also be able to use Google Assistant or Siri, only Alexa comes hands-free with no need for another device.

For a simple set of earbuds, you’ll get surprisingly robust functionality.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a cost-effective entry point to truly wireless earbuds and you’re not prepared to pay Apple prices, Echo Buds are certainly worth considering.

Battery life is acceptable although there’s room for improvement. The real star of the show, though, is the ANR from Bose that turns Echo Buds from an average set of in-ears to a truly powerful piece of tech.

We’re already looking forward to seeing how Amazon tweak these earbuds in future iterations. For now, they’re off to a strong start!

We want you to consider Pick My Reader your first port of call any time you want advice on the latest e-readers or anything else from the sprawling Amazon ecosystem.

And, further to a number of messages from readers, we’ll be expanding our exploration of other devices beyond e-readers. While that will remain our core focus, we’ll be building out more smart speakers and connected devices as we head into the sci-fi year of 2020.

So, bookmark our site and come back soon. We’ve got a very busy holiday season lined up so pop back for our glimpse at the new Echo smart glasses.

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