The amazing new Echo Buds wireless earbuds pack a lot of high tech features – and great sound – into a little package.
Our pair has arrived, and we’ve put them through their paces. Here’s our hands-on (ears on?) review.
They’re here – the Echo Buds (Buy on Amazon) were released on Oct. 30th, 2019.
Let’s talk about what to expect in these new wireless earbuds.
By the way, we don’t know yet if these will give the Apple AirPods Pro a run for their money. We’ll have a “head to head” shoot out soon – but we have to get our hands on the AirPods Pro first.
Let’s take a close look at these cool earbuds from Amazon.
- Immersive sound – Premium speaker drivers deliver crisp, dynamic audio. Bose Active Noise Reduction Technology and sealed in-ear design limits background noise.
- Hands-free with Alexa – Echo Buds work with the Alexa app to stream music, play Audible audiobooks, make calls, or get directions—just ask.
- Access other assistants – Supports access to Siri or Google Assistant from a supported device—just press and hold your earbud.
- Long-lasting battery – Get up to 5 hrs music playback per charge, up to 2 hrs with a 15-min quick charge, and up to 20 hrs with the charging case.
- Customizable fit for better sound – 3 sizes of ear tips help form a comfortable in-ear seal for immersive listening.
Let’s talk about sound quality.
These offer better music sound quality than the AirPods (original).
Why is this? Because they are a sealed ear tip design.
The sound is much more rich – especially the bass.
This is because the ear tip blocks unwanted sounds from the outside, but it also keeps the sound from the high efficiency driver (aka speaker) inside.
In our testing, the sound quality is better than AirPods (original) whether you are using the Bose Active Noise Reduction or Passthrough Mode (we’ll talk about the difference on these soon).
Please note that to get the best sound, you need to have a tight fit with the ear tips. So be sure to try all three sizes to see which work best for you.
(For ear tips, we used the largest size, and found that the other sizes didn’t provide an adequate sound blocking seal.)
Active Noise Cancellation
First of all, let’s agree the most important aspect of a wireless earbud is the sound quality.
After all, it’s a tiny speaker next to your ear.
And small wireless earbuds have a big challenge – they have to be able to provide great music and phone call audio while dealing with outside noise.
As mentioned earlier, the Echo Buds utilize a sealed ear tip design to passively block external sounds that are unwanted.
This is a pretty low-tech method know as passive noise cancellation.
But they will also use Active Noise Cancellation to counter-act any unwanted sounds that make it through.
The Echo Buds will use an advanced chipset and Bose’ Active Noise Reduction technology to make this happen.
Bose is one of the market leaders in noise cancelling headphones – so we expect outstanding results.
And we have real world test results to share.
The Active Noise Reduction is fairly effective.
To set expectations – it’s not a miracle – it can’t block all unwanted sound (no noise cancelling headphones – even “over the ear” – can do that.)
But there is a noticeable decrease in background noise when Active Noise Reduction is enabled.
It helps filter out background voices, TV sound, and other things that might be going on in your office or home environment.
Here’s another thing to consider about Active Noise Cancellation – some people don’t like that it can be too much isolation in some situations.
For example, if you are jogging – you need to keep some awareness of what is going on around you.
Or, in a business setting – you need to be able to communicate with your colleagues, even while listening in on a conference call.
To work around this, the Echo Buds have a “Passthrough Mode”.
It is simple to change from noise isolation mode to passthrough mode – just tap twice, or use the Alex app to change modes.
That way – you have the best of both worlds.
How does this happen?
The Echo Buds use three microphones on each earbud.
That, plus the smarts from the advanced chipset, let the earbud figure out what’s the sounds you want to hear, and what are the sounds you want to keep out.
“Passthrough mode” effectively uses the outward facing mics to amplify the sound that you do want to hear – letting sound “pass through” that passive noise cancellation blocking.
And, I’m happy to report that passthrough mode works quite effectively.
You can listen to high-quality musical sound – and still monitor conversations going on around you.
The Echo Buds have “accelerometers” within them.
We’re not going to detail what those gadgets are – but it means the Echo Buds know when you’ve picked them up, put them down, and most importantly – taken them out of your ears.
The music will stop playing, for example, when you remove them from your ears.
It’s also possible to use one Echo Bud at a time (This would be another way to achieve “passthrough mode”) – but you obviously don’t get stereo sound.
This “ease of use” was one of the biggest factors that made the original AirPods such a huge hit.
I feel the Echo Buds are on par with this level of ease of use, thanks to these features.
They work reliably, and logically.
Battery Life and Charging Case
Here’s another important part to a quality wireless earbud.
It’s got to have great battery life.
We’re still running our long term testing, but we expect the Echo Buds will deliver.
They include a convenient charing case, like the AirPods do.
This serves two important purposes.
Firstly, it’s how you re-charge the batteries in the earbuds.
But it’s also how you securely transport and protect the buds.
It’s a “pocket-sized” carrying case.
But, it is MUCH bigger than that of the AirPods. Here’s a comparison photo.
People with a smaller frame, or tight fitting clothing, are going to find that case too big to carry in a pocket.
How much battery life do we expect?
It should provide up to 5 hours of music playback on a single charge.
A brief 15 minute charge will give you two hours of music playback.
And in total you’ll get 20 hours of time out of the charging case.
That’s pretty good – about on par with the AirPods Pro – but only real world testing will determine who the battery life champ is.
How do you charge the charging case?
A micro-USB cable is included – so you can conveniently charge anywhere.
The only downsize to the Echo Bud charging case – it’s quite large – especially compared to that of the AirPods Pro.
You’ll also be able to customize the fit and feel of these using the three sizes of ear tips and wing tips.
This ensure the best secure fit – and the best sound experience.
The sizes included are small, medium, and large.
The wing tips are optional. But they do make the earbud a little bit more secure in your ear.
Drawbacks of sealed ear tip earbuds
Here’s something you need to consider though.
Do you like the sealed and tight fit of these style of earbuds?
The seal has to be tight – and there’s no mistaking – you have something in your ear canal – that doesn’t normally belong there.
If you use these without the ear tip – much of the sound quality is lost – so the ear tips are a necessity.
Using without the ear tip also eliminates all the advantage of that Bose Active Noise Reduction.
The second factor to this is when you are having conversations (in person, or on the phone) your voice sounds different, because you are not hearing the same way you normally do.
Many people DO NOT like this style of ear bud for these purposes.
Are the Echo Buds Waterproof?
As we discussed in our article on earbud waterproofing, electronic devices like these can be tested for an Ingress Protection (IP) rating.
The Echo Buds are IPX4 rated.
This means they were not tested for dust/dirt ingress, but have a “4” rating for liquids and water.
A 4 means they are protected from splashing water.
This means they’ll be great for your workout – or a light rain.
They will be sweat and light rain resistant.
Just don’t drop them in the water.
Also note that the IP rating is only for the earbuds themselves – the charging case SHOULD NEVER be subjected to water exposure.
Echo Buds – Alexa Digital Assistant
Echo Buds put the Alexa digital assistant at your beck and call.
With simple voice control you’ll be able to summon Alexa.
You do need to install the Alexa app on your smartphone – but that’s quick and easy to do.
How would you use it?
Here’s a few ideas.
With hands free activation – this is the perfect workout assistant.
And navigating a busy city will not be an issue.
Do Echo Buds Work With Apple Siri?
Yes, these work with Siri.
You do need to use the Alex app on your smartphone -but once that is installed the “Hey Siri” is fully functional.
“Alexa” works seamlessly as well – so you can use both Siri and Alexa.
Echo Buds – What’s In The Box?
The Echo Buds come with:
- Two earbuds
- 3 ear tips (small, medium, large)
- 3 wing tips (small, medium, large)
- Micro-USB charging cable (for the charging case.)
- Carry/Charging Case
- Quick Start Guide
The setup is quick and easy, and we found the pairing process to be very easy.
You do need to install the Amazon Alexa app – but that is a free app. (It does require an Amazon login – but doesn’t everyone already have one of those at this point?
Can I use Echo Buds with my Laptop or Computer?
Yes, Echo Buds are a standard Bluetooth 5 device.
To pair with your computer, do the following:
- Enable Bluetooth on your phone, computer, tablet, or other device.
- The Echo Buds must be IN THE CASE (this won’t work otherwise.)
- Open the case lid, then press the button (on the bottom of the case) for 3 seconds.
- A pulsing blue light on the case shows that the Echo Buds are ready to be paired with other devices.
- Place the Echo Buds in your ears.
- On your computer, tablet, or other device, go to Bluetooth settings and pair Echo Buds.
Echo Buds vs AirPods (Original)
So, how do the Echo Buds stack up against the original Apple AirPods?
Physically, the ear bud sizes are in the same ball park.
The form factors are quite different, of course. The Echo Bud has a more traditional ear bud design.
However, there is a BIG difference in charging case size, as you can see here.
The Echo Bud case is probably too big to be considered “pocket-size” for many people.
The Echo Buds are about $20 cheaper – and have advanced functions (Bose Active Noise Reduction/Passthrough Mode).
The Echo Buds sound better for music – in my opinion. The sealed ear-tip design yields fuller, richer music sound.
Having said that, talking on phone calls with the Echo Buds can be fatiguing. Getting used to talking with the combined active and passive noise reduction features makes your voice sound significantly different.
Passthrough mode helps alleviate that somewhat – but still doesn’t quite feel natural.
The Echo Buds fell much more secure in your ear (and they are, thanks to the ear tips) as compared to the AirPods.
AirPods always feel like they are just about to fall out of your ears – at least for me.
The AirPods (original) don’t have any active noise cancellation (or passive noise cancellation). They aren’t as good for blocking out background sounds.
I’d much rather watch a movie on an airplane flight with the Echo Buds, for example.
The Echo Buds work great with Alex – and Siri – so these are a good option for Android phone users or Apple iPhone users.
The AirPods also integrate seamlessly with your whole Apple ecosystem (phone, tablet, Mac, watch, etc.).
If you are an “all Apple” household – the AirPods are going to be the better choice.
But, there are a lot of people who ARE NOT Apple fans – and these will be great ear buds for them to use.
Echo Buds – In Summary
The Echo Buds are a great set of sealed ear tip wireless earbuds.
Packing advanced technology – and great sound – into a tiny package.
Best of all – they are WAY cheaper than the AirPods Pro.
They bring an advanced ease of use that was previously only available to Apple users with the AirPods.
However, the charging case is much bigger than the AirPods – it is more bulk you have to deal with on a daily basis.
The sealed ear tip design may inherently not be comfortable for some people. But that is more due to the style of earbud, and is no fault of the Echo Bud.
Last update on 2020-01-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API