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Amazon is taking Alexa’s show on the road with its new Echo Buds, truly wireless headphones that pair with a connected smartphone and promise to offer the full Alexa experience.
I have tried them on and can report that they are comfortable in my ears. But as they are in the noise-isolating style, they might not in yours — especially if you have small ears. Basically, if you’ve used the Jabra 65t headphones, you will know.
Overall, Amazon has done a remarkable job at nailing most of the basics for wireless earbuds, and it even overachieved in one particular place: noise reduction. No, I didn’t say “noise cancellation,” because even though these use Bose algorithms to reduce noise, they aren’t quite as effective as full-on cans.
But they are effective. I was easily able to double tap the sides to turn the noise cancellation on and off, and it made a significant difference in the noisy hands-on area at Amazon HQ.
Most important of all: they sound pretty good. I obviously can’t give you anything close to a real judgment on the sound quality, but over the course of a couple of songs, I had no real complaints and was able to pick up some detail in the mids that I guarantee I wouldn’t have heard on AirPods.
But to say these are better than AirPods would be premature. For one thing, the case is significantly larger on the Echo Buds. For another, it charges via Micro USB, not USB-C. AirPods may use Lightning, but at least that cable isn’t being phased out right now.
The case is good for 20 hours of listening, with the Buds themselves good for five hours on their own. There is no wireless charging, unfortunately. They are IPX4 water resistant against splashes, sweat, or light rain. They also auto-pause when you pull one out of your ear, thanks to a small IR sensor.
Of course, the Echo Buds are an Echo, so at any time, you can say the “Alexa” wake word, and it’ll sound the familiar chime for your requests. I will say that in the very loud space, I couldn’t really tell if Amazon heard me; the confirmation chime was very subtle and really didn’t kick in until after I’d made my full request.
You can also long-press to get your phone’s native assistant. The double and long presses are the only controls, by the way. There’s no way to change volume or even pause by default, so far as I could tell. Fortunately, you can change options on either side to different controls if you like.
They’ll cost $129.99 when they release later this year, making them cheaper than nearly every other major brand of truly wireless headphone, including Apple’s AirPods or PowerBeats Pro headphones, Jabra’s Elite 65t headphones, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 headphones, Sennheiser’s True Momentum Wireless earbuds, and Jaybird’s Vista model.
An inexpensive pair of truly wireless earbuds that also manages really effective noise reduction is a very big deal. I think it’s priced to move and will seriously cut into the sales of a lot of those headphones.