Amazon’s first pair of headphones are both good and not so good. In terms of features its great, with Alexa voice control and Bose Noise Reduction which works to dim any outside hubbub. They're also a good choice for those who live in an active lifestyle with great fit and IPX4 rating. But the sound is disappointing with a turgid bass performance and a lack of detail.
- Bose Noise Reduction
- Hands-free Alexa
- Bog standard looks
- Disappointing sound
- Review Price: £119.99
- Bose Noise Reduction
- Ear Tip Sizing Test
- 5 hours battery (20 in total)
- Hands-free Alexa
- Weight: 7.6g each
- Bluetooth 5.0
The Echo Buds are Amazon’s first pair of headphones and feature Bose Noise Reduction technology
2019 saw Amazon expand its portfolio of hi-fi and home cinema hardware and among them were the Echo Buds.
Launched in the UK towards the tail end of 2019, the Echo Buds are Amazon’s answer to the Apple AirPods. They’re priced more affordably, better tailored to workouts and feature Bose’s Noise Reduction technology.
So which camp do the Echo Buds fall into? A headphone that offers excellent all-round performance, or one out of its depth?
Amazon Echo Buds design – Fairly generic, but comfortable to wear
Some will say the Echo Buds look fairly generic. While they are nondescript aesthetically, the ergonomics do appeal.
They’re not as bulbous as other true wireless earbuds, and not small enough to be fiddly to handle either. Packed in the box are three ear tips to choose from (Small, Medium and Large) and to test the seal, the Alexa app has an Ear Tip Sizing Test. Amazon recommends you try this with all the ear tips before deciding on which size to use.
They fit well, and while you can feel them, they’re not uncomfortable to wear nor do they don’t protrude out the ear much as say, the Sony WF-1000XM3.
I haven’t had any issues with the responsiveness of touch controls. The earbuds wake with Noise Reduction on and a double-tap puts them into Passthrough mode. Press and hold activates the voice assistant of choice on the mobile device. The response is instant, and the gestures can be customised on both earbuds to either mute the microphones, switch playback controls or skip tracks.
Amazon Echo Buds sound – Not the best performers
Every pair of headphones lives or dies on its audio performance. Unfortunately, the Echo Buds put in a fairly middling performance.
Let’s start with the bass. good kid from Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.D city album features plenty of bass, but the Echo Buds are soft and imprecise with it. Bass hounds may like it, but it rarely feels true to how the track ought to sound.
Dynamically they’re limited, with that soft bass affecting the lower reaches of the frequency ranges and treble reproduction not particularly impactful.
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Danzon No.2 on Spotify involves plenty of highs and lows, but the Echo Buds aren’t astute enough to keep up. The highs aren’t really felt, which sucks energy out of the track as well as affect the sense of timing. You’d like the Echo Buds to be much sharper and responsive.
This feels like it’s down to the Echo Buds warm, laid back nature which proves to be too laissez-faire. Separation between the frequencies is lacking, with the sound coming across as one big whole rather than one that achieves a sense of depth. The mid-bass area feels as if it’s lacking detail, coming across as murky.
There’s not a great sense of power or scale to the performance either. The Utah Escape track from Nathan Furst’s Need for Speed score brings plenty of energy, but that sense of energy and scale isn’t felt. Turn the volume up and detail is lost, with the brass section becoming rather bright too.
There are decent aspects, though. There’s clearly been attention paid to communicating voices with clarity as Chris Cornell’s vocal performance in Black Hole Sun shows. It’s not the most textured, but fine for what it is. There’s decent stereo imaging even if the soundstage leans towards cramped rather than spacious.
The manner in which Amazon has tuned the Echo Buds proves to be a bit of a shame, because elsewhere the Echo Buds offer good features for its price.
Amazon Echo Buds features – The Bose Noise Reduction is great
So while the audio leaves something to be desired, in other aspects Amazon has done well, which makes the quality of the audio so frustrating.
Amazon claims five hours for playback (with the Noise Reduction and Alexa enabled) and four hours call time. There are earbuds with better battery life at this price, but they don’t have the same level of features.
Battery tests elicited just over five hours of playback and that can probably be stretched further with Alexa and Noise Reduction deactivated.
The charging case, which is on the big side, can hold three additional charges for a total of twenty hours. 15 minutes of charge offers another two hours. Underneath it is a button to initiate pairing, while on the front is an LED light that indicates the state it’s in (red for low battery, blue for Bluetooth etc). On the right-hand side of the case is a USB-C connection. Try not to misplace the cable as I tried charging with a different one and nothing happened.
They’re a great fit for the gym, literally. They’re some of snuggest true wireless earbuds I’ve worn. Two gym workouts and a session on the dreaded abdominal curl machine later and the Echo Buds stayed rooted. With IPX4 resistant, the Echo Buds can withstand sweat and some light splashes of water.
The Echo Buds’ headline feature is Bose Noise Reduction. Not to be confused with Active Noise Cancellation, this minimises noises such as those in the office or restaurant, but aren’t likely to stand up to planes or other harsher environments.
Still, the application of it is good, reducing environmental noise by a fair amount. Having used them in a bar filled with people, the effect could be described as calming. Passthrough mode lets noise in and you can tweak how much within the Alexa app.
The Alexa app offers swathes of stuff to do from adding new skills; listening to Audible and Amazon Music, to making calls and messaging people.
Hands-free Alexa operation is engaging. Ask her to tell you the news and she’ll bring the latest updates from either the BBC, Sky and Telegraph. Like every other piece of Alexa-enabled hardware, Amazon has implemented privacy controls to mute Alexa and stop her from listening.
Surprisingly and refreshingly, Amazon doesn’t just restrict you to Alexa. Want to use Google Assistant or Siri? Press and hold either earbud to activate the native assistant on the device.
Finally, the app has an Ear Tip Sizing Test to let the wearer find out the best seal. A series of sounds will be played to determine the quality of the seal, with Small, Medium and Large sizes available in the case.
Should you buy the Amazon Echo Buds?
In terms of features and design (less so looks), the Echo Buds stand up to competition around their price. The Bose Noise Reduction is great, and while it’s not true noise cancellation, it works well to reduce ambient noises.
They fit well; are a great choice for active users with a comfortable fit and five hours of playback is about average, though you can get a longer life for less. But the sound… while these aren’t made for the audiophile in mind, the Echo Buds miss rather than hit.
Other options include the 2019 Cambridge Audio’s Melomania 1. Battery life is 45 hours in total, the sound is much better and you can currently get them for under £100.
Another affordable option are the Lypertek Tevi. They too offer dazzlingly versatile sound across a range of musical genres and have an even better battery life of 70 hours.
Both the Cambridge and Lypertek don’t have the advanced features of the Echo Buds, but a better listening experience is had with them.
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