Headphones are so personal; from over ear, to on ear and in-ear, then there’s brands to sift through and myriad features to choose from. Amazon has jumped into the headphone fray with the Amazon Echo Buds 2nd gen truly wireless earbuds.
These headphones, with a compact charging case, plus noise cancellation and audio Pass-through have been available in the USA for a while, but they’ve just launched in Canada. These earbuds are meant to balance features and affordability.
There’s a version with USB-C wired charging for $154 CAD or a wireless charging version (that also has a wired option) for $179.
Amazon Echo Buds 2nd gen headphones review
I recently purchased a pair of these earbuds from Amazon to see what they’re like. In this review I’ll look at how they fit, how they sound, how well the noise cancellation features work and whether I’d recommend these for you.
Key features: Active Noise cancellation and Pass-through
One of the key features of these buds is Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and what Amazon calls Pass-through. ANC digitally blocks outside noise from getting in to your ears, while Pass-through will let you hear some or all outside sounds, and it’s adjustable on a slider bar in the Alexa app.
Aesthetics: Fit and feel
The case and the buds are a beautifully soft plastic that feels soft and pebbly. Both the buds and case have very smooth rounded edges and corners that means they could double as calming fidget toys. There’s a few options for getting a good fit on these earbuds; you can change up the ear tips among four sizes, or add silicone covers over the buds (like tiny condoms!) with bigger or smaller fins that will help the buds be more grippy. I opted for the medium tips and no fins.
The Alexa app will run a sound check for you to ensure you have the right fit, and the app said my configuration was bang-on.
A shortened nozzle (the tiny speaker that directs sound at your ear canal) improves comfort, claims Amazon, and built-in vents help reduce ear pressure during use.
The round button design can be a bit weird to get into your ear and you probably need to roll them around a bit to get them in right. Use the logo to orient the earbud, smile logo right-side up. I found the buds supremely comfortable, but a bit fiddly to seat correctly… perhaps with a bit more time I’ll try those silicone condoms…
Set up using Alexa app to customize Echo Buds 2nd Gen
You’ll want to set your buds up using the Alexa app for additional features and options. You can turn the noise cancellation on or off, adjust Pass-through levels, view the battery life, adjust Alexa, adjust Side tone (how much of your own voice you hear on a call), customize the tap controls or find lost buds. Phew! That’s a lot.
Echo Buds can pair with nearly any other devices using Bluetooth. To put your Echo Buds into pairing mode, pop them in the case, open the charging lid and press the button on the back of the case for three seconds until the light on the front of the case turns blue.
Just go on the other device’s Bluetooth settings and look for your Echo Buds to finishing pairing.
Setup via the Alexa app on your smartphone is mandatory to activate the full functionality of your Echo Buds, so ensure you do this before you pair Echo Buds with other devices. Access to Alexa, by the way, is only enabled if you pair Echo Buds to your smartphone.
I can report I was set up and ready to rock and roll in seconds.
Buds with Alexa services
Another major feature for these buds is that they come with Alexa intelligence built in. When paired with your smartphone, you can ask Alexa to play music, stream podcasts, or read Audible audiobooks. The always-on microphones give you voice access to Alexa—no button pushing needed.
Worth noting: If you don’t have your phone nearby, Alexa can’t help you using the Buds alone.
Using Google Assistant or Siri
If you have already set up Google Assistant or Siri on your phone, you can switch to one of those if you prefer. You’ll just customize the long hold gesture on either earbud to call up your preferred voice service.
Amazon Echo Buds 2nd gen: Sound quality
With a playlist loaded it’s time to get to the listening. The first thing I noticed was the bass was pretty strong. With my hip hop/rap playlist on repeat, I was getting plenty of boom and bounce. The bass was more buzzy, but still strong and vibrant.
Initially I thought maybe these earbuds were leaning a bit toward the flat side and didn’t have the depth and resonance of something in the premium audio level, but I loaded up some more familiar music and found that these actually deliver on solid sound quality. The sound is really balanced, sounds very good and even, though it might lean a bit towards the low end (said as someone who likes bass). This is easily remedied using the Equalizer settings inside the Alexa app.
For you spec geeks, these earbuds have a 5.7 mm high-performance driver in each earbud.
Using these earbuds for calls and podcasts, the voice definition seems really good too. I had no breakup, no distortion and no concerns with the overall quality (nor did my callers).
Using ANC and Pass-through in Echo Buds
With Active Noise Cancellation, you should be able to wrap yourself in a cone of silence, and block out the neighbour’s snowblower, screaming kids and the conference call in the next room. Here, ANC works really well and provides a noticeable difference, letting me focus on my music or my calls without distraction.
To turn on Active Noise Cancellation, simply long hold either earbud or just say, “Alexa, turn on noise cancellation.”
When you want to hear what’s going on around you, enable Passthrough Mode with a long hold on either earbud or by saying, “Alexa, turn on Passthrough.” With Passthrough Mode on, you can easily adjust the amount of ambient sound you hear through the device settings in the Alexa app.
With pass-through, you can let in some ambient noise, and you control the amount. This makes it easy to keep an ear for the dog or the UPS driver. Using a slider bar inside the Alexa app you can dial the amount up or down from full ability to hear everything while your music is on, to total cone of silence/ANC. This feature too works great and is a nice option. In short, these two features perform very well.
Charging & Battery: Echo Buds 2nd gen
Echo Buds have what I’d call average battery life. Depending what you’re using them for, life will vary but you can expect up to 5 hours of music playback on a single charge even while using ANC and Hands-Free Alexa, and you can get another hour and a half (6.5 hours total) if ANC and Alexa are not enabled. Add another 15 hours total with the charging case.
Overall, that’s a bit on the low side (Apple AirPods Pro offer 24 hours in the case, while the Tribit Flybuds 3 by contrast can deliver 100 hours) and kind of disappointing. But something has to give here: You’re getting some big ticket features with these buds, but for this price, you can’t have it all.
Charging can be done wired with USB-C or wirelessly (if you bought that version). A 15-minute quick charge will give you up to two hours of music playback.
IP rating: water resistance
Amazon Echo Buds are IPX4-rated to withstand splashes, and they’re sweat resistant, meaning you can get them a bit wet, but don’t drop them in the drink.
Touch controls are becoming more commonplace on most wireless earbuds. I mean you no longer have to dig for your phone to make adjustments to things like volume or to pause your music. The touch controls on the echo buds seem to work just fine.
Tap the right bud once to play/pause, triple tap either bud to play previous and long press to toggle between ANC and Pass-through.
There are 4 default gestures that can be used on either earbud that work right out of the box., but you can customize or adjust these to your preferences:
Single Tap: Play/Pause Media
Double Tap: Next Track and Answer/End Call
Triple Tap: Previous Track
Long Hold (customizable in the app): Switch between ANC and Passthrough
Long holds can be customized for both earbuds to several different actions like changing volume controls, muting the mic, calling up Siri or Google or tap-to-talk to Alexa.
There are sensors in each earbud so your audio will automatically pause if you remove a single or both earbuds. You can also choose to use either the left or right earbud by itself. The one you choose will automatically connect to your phone. Again, this feature worked great out of the box.
Overall review: Amazon Echo Buds 2nd gen earbuds
Overall the Echo Buds are surprisingly good, both in terms of the features you get and the sound quality. The build quality and design is nice and you can do a lot with them.
The biggest downside is that the battery life is merely average. But if you’re looking for quality, comfortable earbuds with noise cancellation sound pass-through, I can recommend these buds for you.
Echo Buds are $154.99CAD for the wired charging option, or $179.99 for wireless charging.
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I'm a journalist, tech blogger, writer, TV producer, silversmith& jewelry designer, foodie and world traveler. I blog, write for publications, and supply freelance writing services to Calgary, and the world.