Amazon released a competitor for the AirPods in time for the holidays — but are they worth it?
By Meredith Gallo
Dec 02, 2019 | 8:33 AM
Take a walk down the street and you’re bound to run into at least three or four people with earbuds peeking out of their ears.
After the release of Apple’s AirPods in 2016, headphone makers have been steadily releasing smaller and better versions of their own earbud tech. Earlier this fall, Amazon released the Echo Buds at $129.99.
This is Amazon’s first venture into wireless earbuds, and we were excited to see how they compare to others. After testing their noise reduction tech and the Alexa integration, we’ve gathered our thoughts.
Here’s what we found:
The first thing we noticed about these earbuds is that they feel like high-quality tech — no cheapy plastic or flimsy parts here. We quickly realized that the easiest way to sync with our devices was not via Bluetooth but through the Alexa app, which you can find in your app store. Once synced, pairing occurred as soon as we took the earbuds out of their case, which isn’t true with some other brands.
● Audio: Our favorite thing about the Echo Buds is the sound quality. We were impressed with how clear music sounded, especially when the noise cancellation feature was on. The noise cancellation also helped to cut down on chaotic city sounds when we were running errands.
● Feel: We liked that the Echo Buds came with small, medium, and large ear tips as well as wingtips in order to ensure a secure fit on any ear. We’re confident that the snug-fitting earbuds won’t fall out, even during intense exercise. However, some members of our staff — especially those with smaller ears — found the earbuds to be uncomfortable, particularly after an hour or more.
● Call: When it comes to call quality, the Echo Buds suffer from the same issue that plagues many wireless earbuds, low sound quality. One of our reviewers said the person on the other end of the call sounded like they were underwater, but was quick to note that he’s had similar issues with other earbuds.
● Passthrough: The Echo Buds offer a Passthrough setting that allows the wearer to hear what’s going on around them without taking out the earbuds — all you have to do to activate it is double-tap. You can also change the level of Passthrough in the Alexa app. One staff member found that Passthrough amplified unwanted traffic sounds during his commute. Another said Passthrough sounded like he was listening to music on an airplane.
Our reviewers didn’t fall in love with Amazon’s Echo Buds. While they won points for sound quality and Alexa compatibility, our team didn’t feel they were comfortable enough to wear every day.
The Echo Buds are worth considering if you already own Amazon products. People who use Alexa will love having her in their ear to help with directions, recommendations, and other needs. If you consider yourself someone with larger ears, the Echo Buds may also be a good option for you. Plus, they are less expensive than the Apple AirPods Pro by over $100.
How do they compare to Apple earbuds?
The AirPods Pro ($249) answered some of the biggest issues of Apple’s original earbuds model: The noise-canceling and improved sound ensure your music (or podcast or audiobook or whatever you’re listening to) can be heard even in noisy environments — like on the bus or an airplane. The drawbacks are the price and the fact that the fit isn’t designed for long-term wear, as they can get pretty uncomfortable over time.
We love the original AirPods ($159). They’re great for working out or commuting on public transit. They offer great sound — provided you aren’t in an environment with a lot of ambient noise — and are great for phone calls. AirPods also make for a great gift because many don’t want to spend that much on themselves but would love to have a pair, regardless.
The Bose SoundSport Free ($169) and the Echo Buds offer many of the same features. Both are designed to stay in your ears, even during intense workouts, and both boast water-repellent or sweat-resistant qualities. We’d recommend the Echo Buds over the SoundSport Free, as too many SoundSport Free users have voiced issues with the left earbud cutting out.
How do they compare to Sony earbuds?
The Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless Earbuds ($228) lose points for not being sweat-resistant and for poor phone call quality, which is only good in quiet environments. But overall, they offer excellent audio quality and a sleek design.
One of our staff members swears by the Rowkin Ascent Charge+ True Wireless Earbuds ($49.99). He loves that they’re so small and lightweight that he can wear them all day without his ears getting sore. Although this pair lacks the Echo Buds’ sophisticated noise-canceling technology, he likes that the Rowkin earbuds offer above-average sound quality at below-average cost.
Meredith Gallo is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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