“They’re the proper companion for many who love Amazon Alexa.”

Fingers-free Alexa

Good sound high quality

Prime-notch name high quality

Wonderful transparency

Poor battery life

Mediocre ANC

When Amazon launched the unique Echo Buds in 2019, they set a brand new commonplace for what we may count on from a $130 funding in a set of true wi-fi earbuds. They sounded nice, had efficient lively noise cancellation (ANC), and allow you to discuss to Alexa with no need to faucet any buttons.

They weren’t excellent: Battery life was solely so-so, they have been a bit on the cumbersome facet, there was no wi-fi charging possibility, and also you couldn’t customise the controls very a lot. However Amazon had nonetheless managed to set the bar very excessive and, for a time, they have been our prime choose for one of the best true wi-fi earbuds.

However since 2019, there’s been an explosion of latest choices and new manufacturers. ANC, which was as soon as an unique and costly further, is now displaying up on earbuds that price $100 or much less. Battery life has improved by leaps and bounds, and getting respectable sound high quality has turn into simpler and cheaper than ever.

Which means Amazon’s newest model, which for readability I’ll consult with because the Echo Buds 2 ($120 or $140 relying on whether or not you need wi-fi charging or not), should be an actual step up from their predecessors simply to maintain tempo with the market.

Did Amazon succeed? Let’s check out the Echo Buds 2.

What’s within the field?

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Amazon leads the way in which by way of sustainable, recyclable packaging. The Echo Buds 2 are available a small cardboard field, with solely a tiny quantity of plastic movie used to guard the charging case. There’s no foam and no twist ties. Inside, you’ll discover the earbuds of their case, a USB-C charging cable, 4 sizes of silicone eartips (together with those preinstalled on the buds), two sizes of wing ideas (with a spare set of the smaller dimension included), and a fast begin information.

Design

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The very first thing you’ll discover in regards to the Echo Buds 2, particularly in the event you occur to be acquainted with the primary era, is their dimension. Not solely are the earbuds smaller, however so is their charging case. They’re not fairly as compact because the Apple AirPods Professional, however they evaluate favorably with many different fashions, just like the Jabra Elite 75t or Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Professional.

Obtainable in both a matte-finish black or an eggshell coloration that Amazon calls “Glacier White,” the earbuds are clean and seamless, with no outlined space for the touch-sensitive controls. A discrete Amazon smile brand is the one ornament.

The charging case is equally free of decoration. Its rounded corners make it comfy to carry and to pocket, however its backside continues to be flat sufficient to let it stand upright on a desk (or a wi-fi charging mat in the event you spring for the $20 improve).

Gone is the Micro USB connector that appeared antiquated even in 2019. It’s changed with the present business commonplace, USB-C. A small LED indicator on the entrance permits you to see the case’s charging standing or battery degree, whereas a set of comparable LEDs contained in the case provide the similar data about every earbud.

Backside line: These are very comfy buds.

The earbuds pop out and in of their charging sockets simply and well-balanced magnets hold them there whenever you’re not utilizing them. One huge enchancment over the earlier mannequin: Even with the most important wing ideas put in, the earbuds make reference to their charging contacts — one thing which didn’t at all times work on the first-generation Echo Buds.

My solely critique is the charging case lid: It opens and closes simply, however the hinge doesn’t have a notch to maintain it from flipping closed unintentionally, which it tends to do so much.

Amazon has stored the Echo Buds’ IPX4 water -esistance score, which implies they will simply face up to some rain and loads of sweat with out being broken — simply don’t immerse them in water.

Setup

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Usually in the case of true wi-fi earbuds, there’s not a lot to say about getting them paired along with your cellphone or pill. Opening the case or eradicating the earbuds is sufficient to get them into pairing mode, at which level you choose them from the accessible units in your Bluetooth menu and away you go.

With the Echo Buds 2, it’s barely completely different. That you must obtain and set up the Amazon Alexa app first in the event you don’t have it already after which open the charging case lid.

The app routinely finds the earbuds and walks you thru the remainder of the method. It’s fast and painless until you’re utilizing an iPhone with quite a lot of beforehand related units in your Bluetooth menu. If that’s the case, it might take a very long time for the Echo Buds 2 to be acknowledged. It labored for me finally, however I needed to conduct a manufacturing facility reset on the earbuds by holding down the pairing button on the charging case for 10 seconds.

Consolation, controls, and connections

Authentic Amazon Echo Buds (left) and Echo Buds 2 Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

With a smaller general form than the unique Echo Buds, the Echo Buds 2 are certainly just a little extra comfy, and I think about that individuals with smaller ears will certainly discover them simpler to put on. Nevertheless it’s the Echo Buds 2’s vented design that makes essentially the most distinction to the “really feel” of carrying them.

To elucidate: Plenty of people discover that once they put earbuds of their ears, the expertise of getting their ears absolutely blocked by an object is disagreeable. It might probably additionally, underneath sure circumstances, create a sucking or pushing feeling inside your ear canal, to some persons are particularly delicate.

To alleviate this, some earbuds, just like the Jabra Elite 85t, are being constructed with tiny vents that permit just a little air go by means of the earbuds. The venting on the Echo Buds 2 actually does make a distinction, nevertheless it additionally comes with some compromises, which I’ll contact on beneath.

Backside line: These are very comfy buds. You should use the optionally available wing tricks to safe their match for vigorous exercise, however I discovered they stayed put simply tremendous with out them.

The Alexa app — which you’ll have to get essentially the most out of the Echo Buds 2 — has a match take a look at device that helps you establish in the event you’ve chosen the best eartips. It’s very useful. All too usually, folks will select the eartips that they suppose are proper for them, primarily based on their perception round ear dimension (“I’m a medium”) as an alternative of selecting the ideas that present one of the best seal. Given how crucial seal is for sound high quality and ANC — particularly in a vented earbud design — taking a match take a look at is a superb concept.

Professional tip: In case you ever discover that earbuds sound weak, or there’s not as a lot bass as you’d hoped, you’re virtually undoubtedly utilizing the unsuitable eartips. Attempt one dimension bigger, and don’t be afraid to make use of completely different sizes in every ear — we aren’t (properly most of us) extremely symmetrical beings.

Bluetooth connectivity is rock-solid and I didn’t expertise any dropouts.

I nonetheless favor bodily buttons for earbud controls, however the contact controls on the Echo Buds 2 are pretty much as good as they arrive. You get 4 contact gestures: Single faucet, double faucet, triple faucet, and tap-and-hold. They’re the identical for every earbud and allow you to management play/pause, name reply/finish, observe skip ahead/again, and ANC/transparency modes. Having the identical controls on every earbud means you need to use only one with none lack of choices, nevertheless it additionally means there are only a few customization choices.

Within the Alexa app, you may change the tap-and-hold perform from ANC/transparency to voice assistant entry (Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant), however the different gestures can’t be modified.

Notably, as with the first-generation Echo Buds, you may’t management quantity with out utilizing your cellphone’s buttons. The shortage of customization and quantity management is just a little annoying, particularly because the Alexa app has so many different choices, however at the least Amazon has added the single- and triple-tap choices — the unique Echo Buds solely had two gestures.

The Echo Buds 2 have put on sensors that can routinely pause and resume music whenever you pull the buds out or reinsert them. This works like a allure, responding to modifications immediately.

Bluetooth connectivity is rock-solid and I didn’t expertise any dropouts or weirdness between the 2 earbuds, however their vary is restricted. I used to be solely capable of stray about 25 toes from my cellphone indoors — a a lot shorter distance than most true wi-fi earbuds I’ve examined.

Sound high quality

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

Clear, well-balanced sound is what you may count on from the Echo Buds 2.

Their soundstage isn’t particularly huge or deep, however they’ve a extremely beneficiant frequency response that may be altered extensively utilizing the EQ settings within the Alexa app.

Out of the field, the sound is bass-forward — excellent for exercises or listening to quite a lot of genres, from hip-hop to EDM. However transfer the three-band equalizer’s sliders round and you may tweak it from huge and booming to mild and ethereal.

Sadly, with none EQ presets within the app or the power to create your personal, you could end up shifting these sliders round every time you turn content material varieties, from music to podcasts, so as to get one of the best stability.

Like quite a lot of true wi-fi earbuds, the Echo Buds 2 have a candy spot for sound high quality in the case of quantity degree. At round 60%, they ship a full, wealthy efficiency. However that stability can drop off fairly sharply as you scale back the amount.

I’ve a sense that that is partly as a result of vented design. They naturally block much less exterior sound than non-vented earbuds, so you could enhance the amount to compensate — even when utilizing ANC.

Noise cancellation and transparency

The primary Echo Buds used Bose’s lively noise discount (ANR) expertise, however the Echo Buds 2 have swapped that for Amazon’s personal ANC tech. Amazon claims this alteration delivers a big enchancment in efficiency. It “successfully cancels out twice as a lot noise,” says the reviewer’s information that accompanied our Echo Buds 2 loaners.

ANC on the Echo Buds 2 is a blended bag.

I spent about an hour swapping backwards and forwards between the 2 variations to see if I may confirm this declare, however I couldn’t. Right here’s the dilemma: Whereas it’s true that the Echo Buds 2 cancels extra audible sound whenever you use ANC reasonably than the ANR on the Echo Buds, it’s additionally true that the vented design of the Echo Buds 2 permits extra sound to start with.

The Echo Buds 2’s ANC additionally produces an audible background hiss when it’s engaged. This may very well be the results of an overeager ANC setting, however not like transparency mode, which could be adjusted, ANC is both on or off.

The unique Echo Buds don’t produce as pronounced a shift in sound whenever you change on ANR, however they do such job of passively isolating sound within the first place that they don’t actually should be as aggressive. Plus, there’s no new noise launched when ANR is turned on.

In brief, ANC on the Echo Buds 2 is a blended bag. You’ll most likely get essentially the most out of it when listening to music whereas commuting or in a busy area like a Starbucks, however in the event you’re hoping to create a cone of silence for improved focus — the type of magic sound erasing that the AirPods Professional and Jabra Elite 85t can carry out — you could be disenchanted.

The premier function of the Echo Buds 2 is hands-free entry to Amazon’s voice assistant.

Transparency mode, alternatively, is superb. You’ll be able to fine-tune how a lot exterior sounds are amplified, and on the excessive finish of this spectrum, the earbuds even supply some listening to enhancement.

What I’m much less thrilled about is the time it takes to shift between ANC and transparency. From the time you’ve initiated the tap-and-hold gesture to the time these modes have modified, as much as six seconds have elapsed. That is perhaps acceptable whenever you’re swapping modes as you enter or exit a constructing, but when somebody is making an attempt to speak to you, you wish to change as quick as potential — ideally instantly.

All about Alexa

Simon Cohen / Digital Tendencies

It ought to go with out saying that the premier function of the Echo Buds 2 is hands-free entry to Amazon’s voice assistant. In case you personal Echo sensible audio system, or an Amazon Hearth TV gadget, or one of many many third-party audio system that allow you to work together with Alexa, it’s superior to have her at your beck and name regardless of the place you might be or what you’re doing.

I’m not going to enter the entire issues you will get Alexa to do — that record is much too lengthy — nevertheless it’s value highlighting some instructions which might be particularly helpful on the go:

Music, quantity, modes: You will get Alexa to manage nearly all points of your media expertise, together with altering quantity (which may’t be achieved with gestures), answering calls, switching between ANC and transparency, and choosing music from all kinds of providers like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, and extra. She’ll even learn out your remaining Echo Buds battery life.

The brand new Echo Buds ship crystal-clear voice high quality.

Alexa Transit: I couldn’t take a look at this function as a result of it’s not but accessible outdoors of the U.S., nevertheless it seems very useful. Alexa can now reply to a sequence of queries and instructions associated to getting round, whether or not you’re strolling (“Alexa, how do I get to the Empire State Constructing?”) or utilizing public transit (“Alexa, what’s the standing of the Q practice?”). The responses are context-sensitive, so if there’s a couple of Q practice, it’s going to choose the one which’s nearest to you. Setting areas like residence and work within the Alexa app makes these interactions much more helpful.

I discovered that the Echo Buds 2 have been very attentive to the Alexa wake phrase, and Alexa’s response time to varied instructions was fast and I wanted to repeat myself far lower than I did with the Echo Buds. In case you rely upon Alexa whereas at residence, I think you’ll shortly start to surprise the way you ever survived with out her whenever you’re not at residence.

Battery life

On the one hand, the Echo Buds 2 provide the potential to increase their regular five-hour play time to six.5 hours by turning off ANC and the power to make use of Alexa with a wake phrase. However alternatively, their charging case solely holds two full fees (the earlier model held three).

So with ANC and Alexa engaged, you’re a most of 15 hours of stamina. That’s significantly lower than some other true wi-fi earbuds on the similar worth. The $130 Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Professional, as an illustration, get seven hours per cost, and 26 hours whenever you embody the charging case.

A 15-minute fast cost will provide you with as much as two hours of music playback.

I didn’t get sufficient of an opportunity to completely confirm Amazon’s battery claims, however from what I may see, they seem like correct.

Name high quality

For many true wi-fi earbuds, name high quality is one thing of an afterthought. Many declare to do job of it, however in my expertise, few truly do. The Echo Buds 2 are the exception. They ship crystal-clear voice high quality.

I walked by means of some very busy intersections, with a number of visitors and different competing sounds, and one way or the other it at all times appeared like I used to be standing in the course of an empty room.

You might be able to get barely higher name high quality from the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, however on condition that they price greater than twice what you’ll pay for the Echo Buds 2, I doubt you’ll get outcomes which might be greater than twice pretty much as good.

Extras

In case you allow location providers on the Alexa app, you need to use it to seek out your lacking Echo Buds 2. The app will present the earbud’s last-known location, and might drive the buds to emit a chime so long as they’re not insider their charging case.

In case you don’t personal a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, the Echo Buds 2 have a built-in accelerometer that may do fundamental step-counting. You’ll be able to observe your walks or runs and the app will hold a historical past of your achievements.

Our take

With the Echo Buds 2, Amazon has addressed a number of of the weaknesses of the unique Echo Buds whereas truly dropping the value by $10 in the event you don’t want wi-fi charging. And although they don’t knock it out of the park on each function (ANC and battery life come to thoughts), they’re nonetheless an excellent possibility for many who wish to take Alexa all over the place they go.

Is there a greater various?

You’ll discover a number of fashions of true wi-fi earbuds that allow you to entry Amazon Alexa, however solely the Echo Buds 2 (and the unique Echo Buds) allow you to discuss to Alexa hands-free.

Due to this, they’re in a category by themselves.

However in the event you don’t thoughts having to press a button earlier than talking, I can consider two wonderful options together with:

$130 Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Professional: Higher sound, higher ANC, and higher battery life.
$150 Jabra Elite 75t: Higher sound, higher ANC, higher battery life, customizable controls.

What’s the guarantee?

Amazon backs the Echo Buds 2 with a one-year guarantee.

How lengthy will they final?

The Echo Buds 2 look like very well-built, as is their charging case. You’ll be able to exchange the eartips once they put on out. The largest concern shall be battery life. At 5 hours per cost, if that ought to drop significantly over the course of regular use, you could find yourself needing to switch them quicker than earbuds which have an extended start line.

Do you have to purchase them?

Sure. In case you love the concept of taking Alexa with you all over the place you go, the Echo Buds 2 are an reasonably priced, comfy, and great-sounding set of true wi-fi earbuds.

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