I have a hit and miss relationship with earbuds.
I’m usually stuck with cheapo, drugstore, Bluetooth earbuds. Upon receiving the Amazon Echo Buds, I rejoiced. I’ve always said that Amazon needed to make this product — sometimes literally when standing next to the Echo Speaker just in case they’re listening.
I’m very satisfied with the beautiful pair of wireless earbuds currently pumping the Swedish DJ artist Avicci into my ears, with only a few caveats.
My favorite feature is called Active Noise Reduction (ANR). It does a great job filtering out your background commotion by creating an inaudible white noise environment. Only an audiophile will take issue with the sound quality. Amazon added an auto-pause feature when you remove the buds that’s so natural you’ll wonder why more companies haven’t used it.
I also like the quick toggles. While riding a bike in traffic or avoiding an annoying coworker in the cubicle next door, a quick gesture like a double-tap can toggle between pass-through audio (you can hear everyone) and active noise reduction (ANR) modes (you can’t hear anything but your music). It’s fast and easy — kudos to Amazon on that one.
On the obnoxiously loud song Boten Anna by Swedish DJ Basshunter the audio quality didn’t fizzle out. As for making phone calls, with three built-in microphones (two outside, one inside) you can actually hear the caller and they can hear you.
I already mentioned auto-pause. It’s amazing. As someone who frequently listens to podcasts at work and needs to interact with the outside world occasionally, it’s handy to just pop one of the buds out, have my conversation, and return to my own little world.
While these powerful earbuds bring a lot to the table, I have a few gripes. First, voice activation is a bit clumsy, especially in public. You are talking to a bot, which is weird. The buds protrude out of your ears so people know you are wearing them, but that also means any wind noise gets transmitted through the microphones when in passthrough mode (which can be distracting).
I wish they would charge on a wireless pad. In fact, I wish Amazon would make a pad for charging all of my devices — similar to products for Apple phones and watches.
Another gripe: the trigger word. I couldn’t find a way to make it anything but Alexa, which triggers every other device in my house. I wish Amazon knew where I was standing in the room. And, I wish I could change the trigger word — say to Alexis instead.
It’s also weird how the physical controls on the buds are so limited. I was able to program them to play/pause with a tap and a few other things, but they are far from advanced. For some reason, the buds kept talking to me, too. When changing modes, the bot would always announce that — it was a little annoying. A simple tone would have worked fine.
I would have liked a find-my-buds feature — similar to what Bose offers with their SoundSport Free device. I wish there were more colors available. (Like Henry Ford said decades ago, customers can order any color they want as long as it’s black.)
While the $130 price tag might seem high for some folks, the Amazon Echo Buds are well worth the price of admission. They are right on par with counterparts such as Apple (AirPods) and Samsung (Galaxy Buds).
The battery life on the buds is outstanding — they never died on me, even when I was listening for a few hours at a go. (Amazon rates them at five hours per charge.) You can recharge with the case; 15 minutes of charging equals two hours of Swedish DJ music. Overall, the Amazon Echo Buds have become my everyday carry — I won’t leave the house without them.