Review: Echo Buds
Are Amazon’s Affordable, Noise-Canceling Earbuds Worth It?
Product: Echo Buds
Release Date: October 30, 2019
When Amazon announced the Echo Buds ($130), its first truly wireless earbuds, there was a little bit of confusion. At the initial announcement, Amazon implied it had partnered with Bose to integrated its renown noise-cancelation technology into the Echo Buds. It was later clarified that the Echo Buds had Bose’s “active noise-reduction” technology, evidently distinct from Bose’s “active noise-cancellation” technology, with Bose reps claiming the Echo Buds’ tech was different and less effective that what will be found in the first-party earbuds Bose plans to release in 2020. Still, at $130, which is wildly cheap compared to other noise-canceling wireless earbuds on the market, such as Sony WF-1000XM3 ($228+) and Apple’s AirPods Pro ($249), putting the Echo Buds in a position to really shake up the market if their noise-canceling powers can pull through.
What We Like
The good news is that, in practice, the Echo Buds are impressive. Their noise-canceling ability is on par with the likes of Sony’s and Apple’s new wireless earbuds, which I think has a lot to do with Bose’s technology, but also to do with the way the Echo Buds fit in your ears. Each earbud is rather large, similar to the Jabra Elite Active 65t ($138+) or the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless ($299), and they create a very tight seal against your ear; in this way they’re able to passively and actively reduce noise.
There are more layers than just noise-canceling, too. The Echo Buds have an easy-to-access transparency mode (called passthrough mode), which you can switch to by double-tapping the right or left earbud. They are also pretty interwoven with the Alexa app. Here, you can adjust the EQ of the audio you’re listening to, turn the built-in microphones off (which is good if you don’t ever want to talk to Alexa, and bad if you plan on taking calls with the earbuds), adjust the strength of the transparency mode and, just like with the new AirPods Pro, have the earbuds run a “eartip sizing test.”
Lastly, the Echo Buds are IPX4 water and sweat resistant, just like the AirPods Pro and Powerbeats Pro ($200+), so you can wear them working out or running. In addition to coming with multiple silicone ear tips, the Echo Buds also come with silicone ear wings in case you want that extra layer of snugness for working out. If you attach the ear wings, there’s no issue fitting the Echo Buds back in the charging case.
Watch Out For
There’s no getting around the fact that Echo Buds will never be the sexy choice for wireless earbuds. They look pretty generic and they feel very plastic-y, because that’s exactly what they’re made out of. The fact that they still charge via micro-USB is a pretty big bummer, considering that very few “new” gadgets still require that charging cord. Some people won’t like how large the Echo Buds are, as well as how snug they fit — could cause greater ear fatigue compared to other wireless earbuds.
The Echo Buds’ noise-canceling abilities make it a legit alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro ($249), the Sony WF-1000XM3 ($228+) and the Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus ($299). It’s going to be interesting to see how much better (and more expensive) Bose’s first true wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation, the Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700, when they arrive in 2020. These other higher-end options do have generally superior sound quality, but you will certainly be paying a premium for it.
Second, its sweat-resistance and secure fit make the Echo Buds an excellent option for anybody looking for true wireless workout headphones. Some of our current favorite workout buds include the Jaybird Vista ($180), the Powerbeats Pro ($200+) and the Jabra Elite Active 65t ($147+).
And lastly, the Echo Buds are affordable enough to fall into the budget category of wireless earbuds. Some alternatives include the Anker’s Soundcore Liberty Air 2 ($100) and Soundcore Liberty 2 Wireless Earbuds ($100).
The Echo Buds are a no-brainer buy for anybody who doesn’t want to dish out more than $130 on wireless earbuds. They don’t sound quite as great as the AirPods Pro, or most of the high-end alternatives by Sennheiser, Bose, Jabra or Master & Dynamic for that matter, but what they deliver in terms of fit, versatility, and noise-cancellation and transparency modes, more than makes up for it. They are certainly in the conversation for being one of the best wireless earbuds you buy right now. Call me impressed.
Amazon provided this product for review.
There are more wireless earbuds than ever before that have active noise cancellation. Read the Story