This is Echo Buds versus Apple AirPods (original model.)
The Echo Buds have been released.
Amazon has created a product that helps bring the ease of use and great sound (music and phone calls) to a wider audience.
Let’s compare these two products head to head and see how they compare.
Music Sound Quality
First, let’s touch on a key point.
The Echo Buds use a sealed ear tip design.
There are 3 sizes of soft silicone insert that create a very tight fit in your ear canal.
This provides passive noise cancellation as the silicone tip provides a physical barrier to keep out unwanted sound.
The Apple AirPods (original) don’t have anything like this.
The sealed ear tip of the Echo Bud doesn’t just keep sound out – it helps amplify the sound from the tiny driver (aka speaker) in the Echo Buds.
In our testing, the Echo Buds provide better sound for music and movies.
It’s richer, with deeper bass.
Therefore our winner for music and movie sound quality is the Echo Buds from Amazon.
Sound Quality in Crowded Environments
And if you are in a noisy environment (airplane flight, crowded office, etc.) it is a hands-down no-contest.
That’s because the Echo Bud doesn’t just have passive noise cancellation – it also offers active noise cancellation in the form of Bose Active Noise Reduction technology.
The AirPods (original) don’t have the sealed ear tip design.
They fit loosely (and comfortably) into your ears.
But they don’t physically block out background noise – nor do they include active noise cancelling tech.
The microphones have some noise reduction logic – but this is of no use to you when you are playing music or watching TV.
Therefore, our winner for sound quality in crowded environments is also the Echo Buds from Amazon.
But, that sealed ear tip design has drawbacks too.
The big drawback to the sealed ear tip design?
It’s just not comfortable for many people.
The ear tip protrudes into your ear canal – and it’s got to be a tight fit.
Otherwise the noise cancelling functions don’t work.
And it’s definitely less comfortable than the AirPods.
The AirPods sit in your ear, but it’s not a tight fit.
It’s very comfortable and not a problem for all day wear.
Therefore our winner for comfort and all-day wear is the Apple AirPods.
Here’s the other big drawback of a sealed ear tip ear bud.
They can block too much noise.
It reduces your “situational awareness” and you can’t pick up on ambient sounds.
This can be a factor when jogging, at home, or in a business setting.
The Echo Buds include “passthrough mode”.
When activated, the Echo Buds use outward facing microphones to allow background sounds (like conversations) in.
It works pretty well, but it’s an amplified version of that sound coming through the headphone driver (speaker).
The AirPods, on the other hand, offer “passthrough” in that there is no active or passive noise cancellation.
You can just inherently hear the background noises and conversations – with a very natural sound.
Therefore, for those that have to maintain high situational awareness while using the earbuds, we’d have to recommend the AirPods.
Having said that, the “passthrough mode” on the Echo Buds make them great for when you want to stay isolated, but you frequently have to talk to someone else, or be aware of what is going on around you.
Here’s one more aspect to know about that sealed ear tip design.
It makes your voice sound very different to you when talking.
This can be fatiguing, in a weird sort of way, when on a long phone call.
Because your voice sounds different, you are never quite sure if you are talking too loudly, or too quietly.
Personally, I find myself overcompensating by talking too loudly.
Passthrough mode helps a lot with this – so I consider that a necessary feature.
But when it comes down to it – your most natural voice is going to be heard by an ear bud like the AirPod – with no passive or active noise cancellation.
So, if I have to be on a 3 hour phone call – I’m reaching for the AirPods.
Now – having said that – what if I’m taking a call in a crowded gate at an AirPort?
The noise isolation features of the Echo Buds would make these the better choice.
Battery life seems to be on par with both products.
This includes the battery life in the ear buds, and the charging case.
But, there’s one big caveat to that we’ll talk about next.
Size of Charging Case
Both products include a protective carrying case that also charges the earbuds.
The Echo Buds charging case is much, much bigger than that of the Apple AirPods.
It’s so big, in fact, that it’s not going to be in the pocket of a lot of people.
People with smaller frames, or tight fitting clothing are going to find the large charging case of the Echo Buds undesirable.
And quite frankly, we think this is an important decision point for many people.
Ease of Use
The accelerometers in the AirPods make them very ease to use.
You take them out, put them in, and everything works very seamlessly.
They also pair fast and efficiently with multiple Apple device (watch, phone, iPad, Mac, etc.)
Echo Buds also have accelerometers and offer similar ease of use – via the Alex app.
They are quick and easy to pair and get working.
But, there’s no similar capability to seamlessly use with all your Apple devices.
And here is a big point.
Are you “all in” on the Apple ecosystem?
If you have iPhone, iPad, iWatch, Mac, etc. – it’s going to be better to stick with the AirPods, because you can so easily use them across so many different devices.
If you aren’t in the Apple realm – there’s really no point to spend a lot of extra money on features that you’ll never use.
Echo Buds vs AirPods (original) – In Summary
The Apple AirPods are an excellent product – but expensive.
They are not a “sealed ear tip” design – but still offer great sound, and high awareness of your surroundings.
They can be challenging to use in noisy environments.
The Echo Buds offer better noise isolation and better sound quality.
But the trade-offs – they are less comfortable to wear, especially for long term wear.
Lastly, when you buy AirPods, you might be paying the “Apple tax” for advanced features you won’t need – unless you are heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem.
If you want to find out more about the Echo Buds, check out our Echo Buds Review.