Amazon’s reply to the Galaxy Buds and AirPods, the Echo Buds undercut these rivals and supply energetic noise cancelling on high. Right here’s our assessment.
Amazon’s need to combine Alexa in as many merchandise as attainable has led to the Echo Buds. A class of headphones kick-started by Apple, it was nearly inevitable that Amazon would wish to have a pair of true wi-fi earphones to compete with the AirPods in addition to Samsung’s Galaxy Buds and quite a few different rivals in addition to.
Echo Buds: Worth & availability
And there’s definitely loads of competitors: simply search Amazon for true wi-fi earbuds and there’s no finish of alternative – no matter your funds.
The Echo Buds sit someplace within the mid vary for true wi-fi earbuds. You may purchase the Echo Buds from Amazon for £119.99 / $129.99.
Oddly, Alexa is just not the primary headline function right here: it’s Bose Energetic Noise Cancelling. And that’s a shock at this value: the AirPods Professional value greater than twice as a lot whereas Sony’s WF-1000XM3 will set you again round £180 / $200.
Echo Buds: Options & design
Provided that Amazon is late to the sport, the Echo Buds’ design is plainer than you would possibly count on. They’re all black, as is the soap-bar charging case. In reality, the one trace that this set of ear buds is made by Amazon is the shiny brand on high of the case.
The buds have an identical design to the Galaxy Buds, Artistic Outlier Air and Jabra Elite 65t, and depend on an ideal slot in your ear canal for 3 causes: noise cancellation, sound high quality and they also don’t fall out whenever you transfer.
To realize the latter, there are three sizes of ear ideas within the field together with three units of ‘wing ideas’. These rubber bands go across the physique of every Echo Bud to assist guarantee a comfortable match. You don’t have to make use of them, however you possibly can in case you discover the rubber ideas alone aren’t sufficient.
We discovered that they stayed put for actions reminiscent of strolling, however something extra energetic the wing ideas had been important to stop them falling out. They usually’re not as comfy to make use of for lengthy durations with the wing ideas fitted.
The shiny circle on every bud are touch-sensitive buttons. By default a double-tap will allow pass-through, or if already in pass-through mode, the motion will disable it and allow noise cancelling. A faucet and maintain motion will name up your cellphone’s assistant, whether or not that’s Google Assistant or Siri.
Through the Alexa app you possibly can change what these actions do, per bud. So you possibly can configure 4 various things, together with calling up Alexa as a backup if the wake phrase doesn’t register in a loud setting. We discovered they labored reliably even with moist fingers.
Every bud has three mics, and these may be disabled (to cease Alexa listening) from the Alexa app.
You’ll want the app in your cellphone to make use of Alexa: when paired with one other system reminiscent of a laptop computer or PC, you possibly can’t use Amazon’s assistant.
The buds are good for about 5 hours’ playback and the case’s battery will recharge them round 3 times, giving a complete runtime of 20 hours or so. A short 15-minute cost gives you about two hours’ use, which is helpful in case you’ve simply boarded a aircraft however the batteries within the buds are flat.
5 hours per cost is about common for true wi-fi earbuds, nevertheless it’s made extra spectacular right here as a result of that’s with noise cancelling on and we discovered the declare was a bit conservative, if something.
An LED on the case glows inexperienced, yellow or crimson to point how a lot energy stays, and it pulses blue when the buds are in pairing mode: the buds themselves haven’t any LEDs. Handily, there’s a button on the underside of the case so that you don’t should open it to examine the battery stage.
One of many points of interest of the Echo Buds is built-in Alexa. She works precisely as she does on an Echo sensible speaker, which suggests hands-free activation. All that you must do is say “Alexa, what’s the climate tomorrow” and also you’ll hear her reply in your ears.
That’s a bonus over rivals which pressure you to press a button or faucet one of many buds to activate the cellphone’s assistant.
Alexa’s capabilities listed here are equivalent to any Echo speaker, so you possibly can add objects to your procuring checklist, activate suitable plugs, switches and lights at house, set timers, get a information briefing or discover out what’s subsequent in your calendar.
Some abilities are clearly extra relevant than different to the Echo Buds, reminiscent of music management. You may ask her to play a selected monitor, album or playlist from any suitable streaming service or flip up the quantity (there’s no bodily quantity management on the buds).
Equally, you could possibly say “Alexa, resume my audiobook” or “Alexa, play the Prison podcast on TuneIn”.
Whereas on the transfer, Alexa’s skill to make calls and ship messages may be helpful. Surprisingly, this isn’t a part of the setup course of whenever you pair the buds within the Alexa app. As an alternative, no less than on Android, you must dig into the cellphone and SMS settings to permit Alexa entry.
As soon as that’s carried out you possibly can say “Alexa, name Lewis Painter” and she or he’ll place the decision to the default quantity for that contact. If you happen to simply say “Alexa, name Lewis” she would possibly ask you to make clear which contact, nevertheless it’s straightforward and intuitive.
Plus, you possibly can ask her to reply an incoming name to make the method fully hands-free.
Frustratingly although, she will be able to’t but ship messages in Whatsapp. If you happen to merely ask her to “ship a message to Lewis Painter”, she is going to default to utilizing the messaging a part of the Alexa app which no-one actually makes use of and, in fact, gained’t work if the contact doesn’t use the Alexa app.
Keep in mind that Alexa wants an web connection to work, so gained’t be nice in case you don’t have a very good 3G or 4G sign.
The Alexa wake phrase is picked up reliably when it’s pretty quiet, however not in noisy environments reminiscent of a busy highway, a prepare station or a restaurant. And in any busy setting you do really feel a little bit of a idiot shouting “Alexa, play the following music”.
Earlier than we discuss sound high quality, let’s first cope with noise cancelling. That is, as we stated firstly, the headline function of those earbuds. Till now, you couldn’t get energetic noise cancelling at this value, and we’ve forgiven different units such because the identically priced Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 for omitting it.
And the excellent news – as you’d hope from Bose – is that it’s nice. When you’ve discovered the suitable mixture of ear ideas and, optionally, wing ideas, you’ll have already got wonderful noise isolation. However enabling noise cancelling by double-tapping a bud or utilizing the Alexa app, issues develop into nearly silent.
That applies not simply in comparatively quiet environments, but additionally in noisy ones reminiscent of at prepare stations. It means you possibly can nonetheless hear no matter you’re listening to with out having to ramp up the quantity (of which there’s lots with these buds).
Amazon has used Knowles twin balanced-armature drivers right here. These ought to supply extra readability than your run-of-the-mill dynamic drivers however in observe readability is likely one of the Echo Buds’ weak spots.
They use Bluetooth 5.Zero and assist AAC when used with an iPhone, nevertheless it’s disappointing there’s no aptX assist for Android customers.
Auditioned alone, the Echo Buds are tremendous. Whether or not you take heed to pop, rock, jazz, steel or some other style, they deal with all the pieces equally nicely. They’re simply not the best-sounding earphones we’ve tried: too little bass, too heavy on the mid-range and missing general readability.
Curiously, utilizing the three-band Equaliser within the Alexa app can repair most of those gripes. Simply take out among the mids and add some bass and treble. Or, in case you occur to personal a Huawei P30 Professional – the cellphone we examined the Echo Buds with, simply allow Dolby Atmos for the same impact.
Clearly, utilizing an equaliser or different audio trickery to ‘repair’ these points isn’t excellent, however since just about everybody who buys the Echo Buds will pair them with a cellphone and the Alexa app, it’s acceptable.
Total sound high quality isn’t unhealthy in any respect, however you would possibly choose to spend extra on the Sony WF-1000XM3 if you would like noticeably higher sound together with energetic noise cancelling. Conversely, you possibly can spend much less in case you’re completely satisfied to forego the latter: attempt Artistic’s Outlier Air for dimension at below £80 / $80.
If you happen to’re questioning about microphone high quality for cellphone calls, it’s excellent. On our check calls, recipients stated they may hear us loud and clear.
Audio lag isn’t unhealthy in any respect, and we had no actual points with dropouts or Bluetooth connection issues. In reality, the one annoyance was that Alexa didn’t all the time reply to the wake phrase, or complained that she was “having hassle connecting.. please open the Alexa app to reconnect”. This was regardless of the Bluetooth connection being tremendous.
We needed to love the Echo Buds greater than we did. In so some ways they’re nice: the noise cancelling works nicely, they’re nicely priced, have first rate battery life and naturally there’s Alexa.
However they’re let down by barely sub-par audio high quality and – for us no less than – that they weren’t as comfy to put on as different true wi-fi buds we’ve examined.
Amazon Echo Buds: Specs
- Driver: Knowles twin balanced armature
- Requirements supported: Bluetooth 5.0, AAC, SBC
- Processors: Realtek RTL8763B Bluetooth System on Chip, Intel S1000 Digital Sign Processor, Analogue Units ADAU1777 Audio Codec
- Battery life: 5 hours, plus 15 hours by recharging in case
- Sweat/splash resistance: IPX4
- Frequency response: Not said
- Producer’s Guarantee: 1 12 months
- Included in field:
- Charging case
- Micro USB charging cable
- Small/medium/massive silicone ear ideas + wing ideas
- Dimensions: Earbud – 22 x 23 x 24 mm, Case – 57 x 77 x 29 mm