The second-generation Amazon Echo Buds will ship in May and are available for pre-order at the discounted price of $100. The wireless charging version will cost $20 more.
Amazon’s Echo Buds, launching in early 2020, weren’t as exciting as I’d hoped, but I found a lot I liked about them – and a few things they could do better.
New updated design
Now Amazon has unveiled “all-new” second-generation Echo Buds, which the company says offer a smaller design, improved sound and noise cancellation, and better voice calling performance.
Unlike some Amazon devices that receive minor upgrades, most of them internal, these new Echo Buds are actually completely new.
Launching and Price
While they will ship in May and have the same list price (120 pounds) as the originals, Amazon is offering them at a pre-order price of $100, with a version with a wireless charging case costing $20 more. (Australian pricing was not disclosed, but 120 pounds equates to about AU$215). Also new: These Echo Buds now come in 2 color options – black or glacier white.
I haven’t had a chance to try out the new headphones yet, so for now, I can only share their specs and features. As you might expect, like the originals, the new Echo Buds feature hands-free Alexa, which means you can simply say the Alexa wake word and Amazon’s voice assistant will be all ears and ready to accept your voice command (one of the many it understands anyway).
Battery life is similar to the originals – about five hours with noise cancellation turned on, or six and a half hours with the device turned off. A 15-minute charge will give you two hours of battery life.
As mentioned, Amazon says the Buds are more compact – they’re 20% smaller and the case is 40% smaller – and have a shorter nozzle, so the tips don’t dip as deeply into the ear canal as the originals.
According to Amazon, the buds are designed to fit better and more comfortably. As with all earbuds, a snug fit is critical for optimal sound quality and noise-canceling performance.
Amazon says both have been improved. In the original Echo Buds, Bose provided the noise-canceling technology, but it’s not involved in this version.
Amazon employees told that the new noise cancellation cuts out twice as much noise as previous Echo Buds. There’s also a pass-through mode that lets ambient noise through, similar to the AirPods Pro’s transparency mode. Also, like the AirPods Pro, the Buds are vented to avoid the clogged feeling you can get with noise-isolating in-ear headphones.
The 5.7-millimeter drivers are new, and Amazon is using a Realtek chipset with Bluetooth 5.0, a combination it says produces better sound with more sparkle in the highs and better bass definition. Of course, I’m curious to see how the sound compares to other headphones in this price range.
Each Bud has three microphones, which should help with noise cancellation on calls and voice recording on Alexa commands. They also have a listen-in feature that allows you to hear your voice in the earbuds while you talk, so you can modulate your voice and not have to shout.
Touch controls return
Touch controls return – they’re programmable, with the option to choose whether or not they have volume controls – and the new Echo Buds retain the fitness tracking features of the originals, which were added in late 2020.
As for new features, there’s now a “Find My Buds” feature that helps you find one or more lost Buds (when you’re within range, the Buds beep). Currently, multi-point Bluetooth pairing is not supported. This feature allows you to pair the buds with two devices at once, such as a PC and a smartphone.
If the sound and noise cancellation have indeed improved, the new Echo Buds seem like a good deal at their $100 pre-order price.
I would have liked to see the battery life be a little higher, but it’s always a challenge to downsize a product while increasing battery life. While we’re seeing increased battery life with some true-wireless headphones – some new headphones are exceeding the 10-hour mark – many true-wireless headphones with noise cancellation are stuck in the five to six-hour range. The same is true for the AirPods Pro.