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Released in early November, just in time for the peak holiday shopping season, Amazon’s Echo Buds are an intriguing and more affordable alternative to AirPods, but we wanted to know how they stack up to the competition. Are Echo Buds worth it? How are they different from AirPods?
To find out, I tried them for myself.
Amazon Echo Buds Review
I’m a devout user of my Apple AirPods, so I jumped at the opportunity to test out the new Amazon Echo Buds during an Amazon press event in October.
They work like any other wireless earbud: syncing with your devices to stream music, make calls and access smart assistants like Alexa. What makes the Amazon Echo Buds unique is that they can play, block and amplify audio that you’re listening to as well as the sound around you.
The one thing I don’t like about my older generation AirPods (and most wireless earbuds generally) is that you have to take them out to really hear what’s going on around you or if you’re having a conversation with someone. Even if I pause whatever I’m listening to, I still feel like I need to pop out an AirPod to fully capture the conversation — which is a surefire way to lose one, too.
But the Echo Buds use Bose’s “Active Noise Reduction Technology” for sound cancellation. You simply tap them to toggle between blocking sound entirely and amplifying sound with a “Passthrough Mode” feature. This mode essentially amplifies what you hear around you.
These features were exclusive to Echo Buds only for a few weeks, because in late October Apple released the AirPods Pro, which are also noise-canceling and include a “Transparency” mode to let outside sound in — a feature not available with older Apple AirPods like mine.
The Echo Buds have up to five hours of battery life on a full charge and up to 20 hours with the charging case, similar to older AirPods models that last five hours on their own and more than 24 hours with the case. The Echo Buds reportedly have better battery life than the new AirPods Pro, which only last four and half hours on their own.
Unlike the one-size-fits-all style of the earlier Apple AirPods, Echo Buds can be customized with three different sizes of ear tips to ensure a comfortable and secure fit — a feature the AirPods Pro also adopted recently. When I tried out the Echo Buds, it took me a second to adjust them to the proper position, but once they were in they felt super secure and snug. And, like most wireless earbuds, they are sweat resistant.
This makes the biggest difference between the Echo Buds and AirPods Pro about $120. A pair of AirPods Pro would set you back $250, while the Amazon Echo Buds only retail for $130. This is still cheaper than the earlier versions of the Apple AirPods, which are $159 and don’t have any of the noise-blocking or enhancing features.
How do they sound?
When I tried out a pair of Echo Buds, I asked Alexa to play Lizzo (obviously) and heard the siren call of “Truth Hurts” surround me. When I asked Alexa to “turn it up,” “pause” and “skip,” she performed with almost the same level of flawlessness that Lizzo did at the BET awards.
When I double-tapped an earbud, all of the background noise around me was muffled and sounded really far away. This was that “Noise Reduction Technology” at work. When I tapped the bud again, voices near me were amplified — something I’ve never experienced while wearing a pair of earbuds before.
My initial instinct was that this would become an excellent feature for eavesdropping on strangers. But once I thought about it, I realized how useful it would be in everyday life: When ordering a coffee, I could just leave in my headphones rather than fumble with them at the register; quick side-chats at my desk would be easier; my walk from home would feel safer.
The Amazon Echo Buds are perfect for anyone looking to cut the cord on their headphones, or who wants totally hands-free, voice-controlled access to an AI assistant when running errands, working out and more.
I can see these being on plenty of holiday wish lists. The extra features for a lower price point make them a major upgrade from AirPods and an affordable alternative to AirPods Pro (which are currently sold out everywhere).
They’re available on Amazon with free two-day shipping for Prime members and, for a limited time, buyers can enjoy a free three-month Audible trial when they purchase them.
Pair them with a few audiobooks, and they’ll be putting those Echo Buds to use in no time.