Amazon Echo Buds Review
Pros: Good sound quality, active noise reduction, comfortable, relatively inexpensive
Cons: Some may find it hard to get a secure, athletically inclined fit
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Amazon Echo Buds offer good sound quality, a comfortable fit, and some convenient features for a comparably reasonable price. As long as you're not looking for buds that can stand up to the most intense of workouts, we think they are a great value if you want the freedom of truly wireless earbuds.
The Echo Buds can sometimes struggle a bit with clarity, but ground their sound with deep bass and a robust fullness that can often belie the fact that you're listening to earbuds and not over-ear headphones.
The thing that most impressed us in listening to the Echo Buds was their bass (sidenote: we feel these buds are at their best with the bass cranked up). The low end remained resonant and deep yet clear no matter what kind of music we threw at it. The twangy strings of a stand up bass retained their boisterous, legato properties, while machined backbeats stayed punchy and sharp. That low end also rounded out most arrangements well, creating a much fuller sound than we'd generally expect from earbuds, nevermind earbuds in this price range.
The biggest weak point of these buds' sound is the clarity. The clarity isn't bad by any means — we were able to thoroughly enjoy listening to acoustic numbers and podcasts with these buds. However, some higher notes tended to lean into a fuzzy quality, which sometimes took away from the fullness of the sound that we enjoyed so much.
Active Noise Reduction
These buds incorporate an active noise reduction (ANR) technology from Bose. As the name would suggest, we found that this technology doesn't block out all of the ambient noise. However it, in conjunction with the tight seal provided by the rubber eartips, did allow us to enjoy music in a crowded coffee shop without needing to crank the volume up too high. If you need to hear the world around you, you can also enter passthrough mode, which uses the microphones on the outside of the buds to pipe surrounding sounds into your ears. You can adjust the settings for both of these modes in the Alexa app.
The Fit Test
The Echo Buds (in conjunction with the Alexa App) can run a fit test to see if your chosen earpieces are creating a good seal in your ears. They do this by playing tones in your ears and using the external microphones to sense if any of those tones are making their way into the outside world. Most of our testers found that they could tell on their own when the earpieces were creating a good seal and when they weren't, making the somewhat redundant. However, a couple of testers were surprised when a particular earpiece failed the fit test, and experienced an increase in sound quality when switching to the sizes suggested by the test.
Ease of Use
Our experience using the Echo Buds generally felt seamless, with only a few minor complaints cropping up.
Setting up the Echo Buds via the Alexa App is quite easy, and took us well less than a minute. You can also circumvent the Alexa App and pair these buds traditionally through the Bluetooth settings on your phone. However, doing so loses lots of functionality, like customizing the controls, adjusting the EQ, various settings for the noise reduction and transparency modes, and of course, Alexa voice control.
Using Alexa with these buds felt quite natural. If you're used to using an Alexa enabled device in your home or car, these buds allow the vast majority of that functionality to travel with you (including the Jeopardy game, our personal favorite feature).
Our one major complaint with the user friendliness of these buds arises with the touch controls. These controls are towards the back of the buds, even though you kind of expect them to be in the center. This often led to some confused tapping before we actually got the bud to listen to our commands. The long press command was also a bit finicky for us, often requiring that we pushed so hard that the buds creeped further into our ears before the command registered. In the grand scheme of things we found these annoyances to be relatively minor, especially since you can generally use Alexa voice commands or whip your phone out of your pocket if you don't want to deal with the on-bud controls. Also, you can program the buttons and gestures (double tap, long press) to do whatever you'd like, so you can just assign your most used function to the gesture you find most reliable.
In-ear comfort can be a tricky thing when it comes to earbuds, and especially so with truly wireless earbuds. However, the Echo Buds did quite a good job navigating our fit tests, allowing all of our testers to find a fit that they felt was unobtrusive over multiple hours with the buds in their ears.
The Echo Buds accomplish this by offering 3 different sizes of both earpieces and ear fins. This multitude of options, in our experience, allows most people to find a comfortable fit. Some testers did complain of a bit of pressure in their ears while wearing these buds, but that slight pressure is pretty much par for the course when it comes to rubber-tipped earbuds, and whether or not that feeling is annoying largely comes down to personal preference.
While we found that most people can find a comfortable fit with the Echo Buds, in our experience getting a secure fit can be a bit more hit or miss. For example, all it took for one of our testers to knock one of these buds loose was some vigorous pancake batter mixing, while others reported going on sweaty runs with no issues.
Overall, more of our testers found these buds to fit securely, and thus worthy of workouts, than did not. Additionally, even those that found the fit less than secure still felt they'd have no problem using the buds in a gym setting where one falling out wouldn't be catastrophic.
The Echo Buds are IPX4 water resistant, meaning they should easily stand up to sweat with no ill effects, and there are even [rumors that Amazon could be adding workout tracking capabilities.
With active noise reduction turned on, we got 5.25 hours of playback from a single charge on the Echo Buds. The case generally added another 3 or so charges, providing a total of over 20 hours of non-continuous playback before needing an outlet.
While the charging case for the Echo Buds certainly isn't the smallest we've seen, it's not the largest either. It is also streamlined and feels fairly unobtrusive when stuffed into a pocket. In fact, some may appreciate the self contained nature of the case more than the much smaller yet often tangled mess of tethered earbuds.
When it comes to truly wireless earbuds, the Amazon Echo Buds offer one of the best values per dollar that we've ever seen. You can spend less on truly wireless buds, but they will probably be a huge step down in quality. You can also spend more and get better overall performance, but you'll likely have to pay a huge premium. For many people we think the Echo Buds will hit that sweet spot, where they perform well enough to be enjoyable, everyday companions, but also aren't too detrimental to your bank account.
The Amazon Echo Buds offer quite a bit of performance given their price, making them both a great value and a great choice for those seeking truly wireless earbuds.
— Michelle Powell and Max Mutter