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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

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Amazon Echo Buds are the company’s first wireless earbuds. They put Alexa in your ear. They include Bose’s proprietary noise reduction technology to assist eliminate outside noises. and therefore the most surprising part is simply how good they sound. The Echo Buds cost $129.99, which may be a remarkably aggressive price compared to what manufacturers like Sony, Jaybird, Google, Microsoft, and other earbud makers are charging — especially if you would like noise reduction.


Apple has managed to steal a number of Amazon’s thunder with the new $249 AirPods Pro, which supplies active noise cancellation, a customizable fit, and upgraded audio, plus all of the standard AirPod features. But the Echo Buds have exceeded my expectations and definitely warrant some excitement. They don’t offer every bell and whistle (like wireless charging), but I’ve been using them for a touch under every week, and albeit you never bother using any of the Alexa functionality, these are worth serious consideration.

Amazon isn’t usually one for following the gang, but even this retail giant couldn’t ignore the impact of Apple's AirPods. Apple’s truly wireless earbuds launched an entirely new market segment and encouraged a number of the most important tech manufacturers within the business to follow their lead.

With the arrival of the Amazon Echo Buds, Amazon is now trying to muscle in on the action. It’s a clear move – the corporate has had any times to survey the market, while its successful range of Echo smart speakers has provided much experience of the audio landscape.

So, just how difficult could it's to create a pair of wireless buds, powered by its own smart assistant, Alexa? Quite difficult, it might appear.

The Echo Buds are nondescript, are available only black, and lack the signature blue LED that you simply might expect from an Echo / Alexa product. When worn, they don’t look much different from Samsung Galaxy Buds, just slightly larger. There are not any physical buttons on the buds — just a touch-sensitive circle on all that’s easy to seek out with a finger. counting on how you would like to customize the faucet controls, you'll change tracks, activate Siri / Google Assistant, or enable noise reduction with a faucet, two taps, or by tapping and holding. Unfortunately, you can’t control volume directly on the buds; you’ll need to ask Alexa to crank it up or adjust the volume on your phone directly.

Build and luxury

Unbox the Echo Buds and your first point of contact is that the carry case. It’s round the same size as a bar of soap and quite a bit bigger than the AirPods’ case. It’s black, plastic, and pretty nondescript with the sole hint of what’s inside being the tiny glossy Amazon logo on top.

Open it up and you’re greeted by the Amazon Echo Buds, which are held in situ magnetically on their charging contact pads. they appear a touch ordinary and hulking compared to rivals like the AirPods – love or loathe the ’toothbrush tips’, they are doing stand out from the gang.

There is a little touch of design flair: a little, circular, touch-sensitive pad on each earpiece. all are often configured within the Amazon Alexa app to hold out various functions, from skipping tracks to activating Alexa.

In the box, there are three sets of silicone ear tips and three sets of rubber ‘wings’ designed to assist get the simplest fit possible. Putting the wings on the Echo Buds is hard – you've got to slip them over each earpiece and position them a particular way – but they’re grippy and help secure the Amazon Echo Buds in situ.

Three choices of ear tip seems a touch restrictive, but we manage to urge an honest seal that's confirmed intrinsically by the Eartip Test built into the Alexa app. We also find the Echo Buds comfortable, even when used for 2 to 3 hours at a time.

Who should get the Amazon Echo Buds?


  • Commuters: will enjoy Bose’s noise reduction technology. While it can’t outperform the Sony WF-1000XM3’s noise canceling, it’s surprisingly effective and positively better than passive isolation.
  • Hands-free enthusiasts: should believe in getting the Amazon Echo Buds. fixing Alexa takes just a couple of minutes and affords many hands-free functionalities like text dictation.
  • Athletes: might want to select up the Alexa Echo Buds because the plastic housings are IPX4 water-resistant. this suggests you'll sweat in them without concerning yourself with short-circuiting anything. If water damage does occur, the earbuds include a one-year warranty.

What is the Amazon Echo Buds like?

The Echo Buds are made up of plastic, and not the durable plastic we’ve seen with the Jaybird Vista or maybe the Apple AirPods; no, it’s apparent these aren’t a premium pair of truly wireless earbuds. Not only does it feel cheap, but the case is silly-slippery and was dropped more times than I care to admit. Perhaps it’s a comfort to understand that even after multiple drops, the case looks even as it did once I opened the Amazon Echo Buds box.


The ‘buds are made up of a uniform plastic and are both adorned with a glossy circular touch panel. By default, touch gestures are configured so double-tapping either earbud alternates between noise reduction and passthrough listening modes and holding your finger on either touch panel accesses your smartphone’s default assistant (e.g. Google Assistant or Siri). Even with the choice to remap the controls within the Alexa app, these remain a number of the smallest amount intuitive onboard controls I’ve used.

How does Amazon Echo Buds Sound

But the foremost disappointing element of the Echo Buds is that inconsistency creeps over into the sound quality. We test the Amazon Echo Buds using an iPhone 11, and up to around two-thirds of full volume, they sound extremely rich and smooth, albeit with bass that sounds quite thick and not particularly well-defined.

Play Muse’s Dead Inside and therefore the soundstage sounds congested, just like the band is playing under a duvet. Turn the quantity up only one notch and their character changes completely. Immediately, they sound more open, spacious, and detailed. There’s a way better overall balance. The thick cloudy bass disappears and therefore the Echo Buds start to point out a touch more sparkle across the frequency range.

But, turn them up another notch or two, and therefore the character changes again, with the Echo Buds sounding harsh, bright, and much faraway from their original sound.

We also experience the occasional popping noise while we’re twiddling with the quantity. To our ears, it seems like there’s something awry with the Echo Buds’ sound processing, so we try a replacement pair. However, we experience equivalent issues.

Effectively, these Amazon Echo Buds are only listenable at one specific point on their volume scale. Such a huge inconsistency leaves us wondering what actually is that the true Echo Buds sound – hard and bright, overly rich or evenly balanced?

Does bose noise reduction work?

Seeing as Bose was one among the earliest adopters of Alexa voice integration with its QuietComfort 35 II headphones, it only is sensible that Amazon would entrust the premium audio company to manufacture an efficient noise reduction chipset. To clarify: active noise reduction (ANR) works differently than active noise canceling (ANC). The latter uses destructive interference to make a quiet environment while the previous simply reduces ground noise without nullifying it


Leave it to Bose to make noise-reducing earbuds that employment is better than some active noise canceling alternatives. Again, you’re not getting to experience total silence with the Echo Buds, but low-frequency attenuation is surprisingly effective: air conditioning rumbles could also be rendered approximately ⅓ to ½ as loud with ANR on. Distant chatter and outdoor traffic are significantly quieted because sounds above 1kHz are handily reduced. If you would like top-tier active noise cancellation, get the Sony WF-1000XM3 or Apple AirPods Pro.

How does one connect the Echo Buds?

Open the case to reveal the Echo Buds and make certain to go away them in situ as you depress the button on the rock bottom of the case. Hold this down until the only LED flashes blue: this means pairing mode. From there, select “Echo Buds” from your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu. no matter whether you've got an iPhone or Android device, this pairing process is universal.

The Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds support AAC for high-quality streaming over iPhones and other iOS devices but lack aptX support. this suggests we Android users are left without a reliable high-quality wireless codec. For better or worse, most listeners are unable to differentiate between codec qualities, especially if more pressing issues, like auditory masking, are present. It uses the Realtek RTL8763B Bluetooth System on Chip, which facilitates low power consumption alongside a number of other abilities.

How to update the Amazon Echo Buds

On July 15, 2020, Amazon addressed an overheating issue that users had reported with the Echo Buds. The update to software version 318119151 remedies this issue, ensuring user safety. so as to use the software update, all you've got to try to do is connect the Echo Buds to a tool with the Amazon Alexa app. (You must be signed into the Alexa app for it to automatically download).

To ensure that the software update went through accordingly follow the steps below:

  • Open the Echo Buds case and keep both earbuds inside.
  • Confirm that the Echo Buds are actively connected to the device.
  • Open the Alexa app and choose Devices within the bottom-right corner of the screen.
  • Tap Echo & Alexa, then tap Echo Buds.
  • Scroll right down to the About section, and ensure the update.

How to found out the Echo Buds through the Amazon Alexa app

In order to enjoy all Amazon Echo Buds perks, found out the smart true wireless earbuds directly through the Alexa app. If you’re conversant in Alexa smart speakers, you’ve likely jumped through these hoops before. It takes just a couple of moments and affords many benefits like setting timers and reminders, checking emails, making inquiries, and any of its tens of thousands of skills.

  1. Open the Alexa app and tap the “Devices” tab.
  2. Tap the “+” check in the top-right corner of the screen. Then select “Add Device.”
  3. In the following window, choose the “Amazon Echo” and scroll until you see “Echo Buds.” A window will appear requesting location access followed by a pop-up requesting you to cease battery optimization. Hit accept.
  4. Choose “Echo Buds” and continue through the guided setup, which incorporates adjusting passthrough volume. a quick video will then play.

Upon completion, you’ll be brought back to the Alexa app home screen where you'll mute the microphone and alternate listening modes. By clicking the Echo Buds card, you'll make further adjustments like deactivating both listening modes, make basic EQ adjustments, and take the ear tip sizing test, almost like what listeners may do with the Apple AirPods Pro.

Battery of  life Amazon Echo Buds is ok

Battery life surpasses Amazon’s specified five hours of playtime as our testing yielded 5 hours, 40 minutes of playback with noise reduction on. While this battery life still can’t touch that of the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus, it's better than the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3. The Echo Buds’ quick charging is phenomenal: just quarter-hour within the case affords two hours of listening. Combined battery life from the earbuds and therefore the case supplies up to twenty hours of playback. To my disappointment, though, the case charges via microUSB. Yes, this keeps costs down but really, Amazon? I balked at the input after unboxing the Echo Buds.


Interestingly enough, battery depletion is uneven between the 2 earbuds. the proper earbud ran out of almost 20 minutes before the left one. You’re unlikely to note this because the earbuds are always charging when within the case, but it’s peculiar and something we haven’t really seen with other true wireless earbuds, no matter price point.

Is the mic of Amazon Echo Buds good for phone calls?

The microphone’s response may be a bit odd as well: low fundamental vocal frequencies are heavily attenuated, leading to low male voices sounding a touch distorted. The three-microphone array does work well to register the hotword “Alexa,” but struggles in noisy environments sort of a cafe at peak hours. Additionally you'll hear the occasional compression artifact also. My voice was relayed tolerably to others, and nobody asked me to modify to my Samsung Galaxy S10e microphone instead, which went on before.

If you've got more to spend, get the Apple AirPods Pro or Sony WF-1000XM3

While the Amazon Echo Buds aren’t necessarily cheap true wireless earbuds, they are doing retail for markedly but the Apple AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3—a huge a part of their appeal. However, if you've got a cushy budget, it’s worth tossing your cash at Apple or Sony for full-fledged noise cancelling and a more polished product.

The Apple AirPods Pro are better than the Echo Buds, particularly for iPhone users due to the H1 chip integration which allows for hands-free Siri access and seamless switching between iOS devices. The AirPods Pro feature an equivalent IPX4 rating because the Echo Buds with more comprehensive, intuitive pressure-sensitive controls. What’s more, the AirPods Pro includes a wireless charging case that works with any Qi-certified mat.

Then there are Sony’s true wireless noise cancelling earbuds to reflect. These earbuds use a sensible tri-point design to evenly distribute pressure across the ear for max comfort. just like the Amazon Echo Buds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 ‘buds each have a circular touch panel for onboard controls. Noise cancellation is barre none, so if you’re a frequent flyer in need of portable ANC, Sony’s ‘buds are your best choice. What’s more, sound quality is vastly better than the Echo Buds as Sony uses a Q1ne processor and provides granular EQ adjustments through its free app.

Switch assistants and obtain the new Google Pixel Buds (2020)

The Google Pixel Buds (2020) made quite the splash, and permanently reason: these afford a slew of premium features for an inexpensive $179 price. Sure, it’s not the simplest value out there, but it’s Google, also mentioned because the Apple of Android. Its new Pixel Buds supports hands-free Google Assistant access, a more accurate reproduction of audio throughout the frequency spectrum, and a far better fit with a way more attractive design.

Google’s true wireless earbuds are IPX4-rated, making them even as impervious to water because the Echo Buds. Microphone quality is best than Amazon’s earbuds, which is great for anyone who takes tons of hands-free calls. The USB-C charging case is brilliantly designed and supports Qi wireless charging, a feature omitted from the Echo Buds. If you’re trying to find the right AirPods competitor, the Google Pixel Buds are it, instead of the Echo Buds.

If you would like something cheaper, get the Creative Outlier Gold

The Creative Outlier Gold integrate Creative’s Super X-Fi processing, something we’ve seen in its external SXFI amplifier. a serious drawback to the earbuds is how the processing is restricted to native files that has got to be played back through the SXFI app, but software aside, these earbuds are an absolute steal.

Sound quality is great as is battery life which clocks in at 10.3 hours of playtime. They also support AAC and aptX for high-quality audio streaming regardless of your OS. Oh, and therefore the case charges via USB-C and costs $30 but the Amazon Echo Buds. If you would like something even cheaper with very similar high-value performance, inspect our in-depth review of the Creative Outlier Air.

Should you buy the Amazon Echo Buds?

All that being said, if you’re wed to all or any things Amazon Alexa and your smart home relies on the virtual assistant, then the Amazon Echo Buds are an excellent option for your lifestyle. Hands-free access to Alexa works reliably with just a few hiccups in loud environments. What’s more, the earbuds are comfortable for average-sized ears and battery life is superb, given how Bose noise reduction processing likely draws tons of power.

There’s no way around it: the Amazon Echo Buds aren’t without their drawbacks, but that’s the case for any true wireless earbuds. It comes right down to deciding what sacrifices you’re willing to embrace.

ThreeThree sizes of silicone tips are available the box (with custom-fit Comply foam tips available separately), and Amazon also includes wing tips which may be useful if you propose to run or exercise with the buds. I noticed that using the most important wing tips could sometimes prevent the Echo Buds from fully docking in their case if I wasn’t listening. Even once I followed Amazon’s instructions to carefully line up the wing tip with its respective Echo Bud. This isn’t a drag with the medium and little wing tips. In my case, the most important ear tips kept the Echo Buds in snugly without having the assistance of the wings, and that they didn’t start to slide out or dislodge while eating or talking, which may sometimes happen if you’ve got an imperfect fit.


The Echo Buds are IPX4 water and sweat resistant, and Amazon says they will last for up to 5 hours of continuous listening before needing a recharge. The carrying case, which is neither the most important nor the littlest I’ve seen, has enough power to offer the buds 20 hours of total listening time.

By far the worst a part of the Echo Buds is found thereon case, however. Amazon made the very unfortunate decision to use an ancient Micro USB charging port rather than USB-C or wireless charging. In late 2019. I’d managed to travel all USB-C before reviewing these earbuds, but Amazon isn’t able to abandoning of the past. This company has shown an extreme reluctance to vary connectors; the new Fire HD 10 tablet is Amazon’s first USB-C device. I’m sure Amazon’s decision is backed by customer data, but it still comes off as stubborn when competitors are all using USB-C (or Lightning in Apple’s case).

I think it’d be easier to overlook the Micro USB annoyance if the Echo Buds case was capable of wireless charging and you'll just ignore cables altogether. But it’s not, so you can’t. Here’s hoping that Amazon eventually releases a USB-C case with wireless charging — ideally before these buds get refreshed a year from now, but we’ll see. The included case also has the type of matte finish that scratches and gets scuffed soon.

HavingHaving Alexa in your ear is convenient, but unlike the remainder of the Echo lineup, it’s not a headline feature. It’s easy to use these earbuds and pay no mind to Amazon’s voice assistant whatsoever. i feel that’s an honest thing because, in large part, Alexa feels redundant during this particular use case. If you are doing want to avoid Alexa completely, you'll disable the wake word in Amazon’s Alexa app. The earbuds also allow you to mute the microphones, but that affects phone calls, too. i feel there’s ample reason to be wary of wearing Alexa everywhere you go. thereto point, Amazon says it's several privacy protections in situ to stay the Echo Buds from spying on you:

The Voice Activity Detector senses when you’re talking, enabling wake word detection. We then use near-field beamforming technology to focus the microphones on your mouth to detect your speech and reject any ground noise.

Echo Buds were designed such Alexa wake word functionality is merely available when a minimum of one earbud has been connected via Bluetooth to a compatible mobile device with the Alexa app open and detected in-ear by an on-device sensor. Additionally, there are multiple ways to mute wake word functionality on Echo Buds. within the app, the house screen will allow you to mute or unmute Alexa with just a click. you'll also found out an on-device gesture that mutes the microphones once you press and hold either earbud. and eventually, if you're taking both earbuds out of your ears Alexa are going to be muted. When Alexa is muted, no audio is streaming to the cloud and Alexa won't be ready to process your request.

I’ve mostly used Alexa to feature items to my grocery shopping list and check the weather. Everything I do with it's already possible a method or another with Siri or Google Assistant. Triggering Alexa with my voice isn’t any faster than Apple’s “Hey Siri” or saying “OK Google” on headphones with Assistant inbuilt.

Aside from the fundamentals, the Echo Buds allow you to instantly drop by on Echo speakers — either your own or those belonging to friends / family — with an audio call. otherwise you can record announcements that’ll be played back on your speakers reception. But as long as you’ve got the Alexa app on your phone, you'll already do all of this with any set of earbuds — albeit not hands-free. It’s nice to be ready to check whether your smart lock is latched without coitus interruptus your phone, but I don’t think Alexa are going to be what sells the Echo Buds.

LikeLike any version 1.0 product, the Echo Buds aren’t without their bugs. I’ve had quite a couple of instances where saying “Alexa” got no response. (You’ve need to speak up when using voice commands generally.) Occasionally, I’ve heard a notification sound / chime while music is playing for no obvious reason. And you’ll notice that once you adjust volume with noise reduction enabled, your music will sound different for a second or two initially levels back out. (Amazon says that one is intentionally and a side effect of the noise reduction tech.) and that i must mention that on my iPhone, I’ve noticed some audio / video delay when watching select apps — but not all — including YouTube. This shouldn’t be the case, consistent with Amazon.

Verdict

When the Amazon Echo Buds were unveiled, we were excited to ascertain what Amazon could bring back the wireless earbud market. Could the retail and tech giant give Apple a run its money?

Which is why we’re so disappointed. With the Echo Buds, it seems like there’s a half-decent pair of truly wireless earbuds in there somewhere, but they’re held back by successful and miss user experience and similarly frustrating (and perplexing) listening experience.

In their current state, we simply can’t recommend anyone go and buy them. To be affected by such big sonic issues is disappointing. the sole thing that would possibly bring the Amazon Echo Buds back from the brink maybe a firmware update that addresses the sound and volume issues. We’re just hoping Amazon (and Alexa) is listening.
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