Games

Echo Buds review: Alexa smarts packed into a mediocre AirPods rival

When I found a sweet spot, the Echo Buds performed well in different genres. Whether it was the wooing sounds of Death Cab for Cutie, the angry Metal of Oh, Sleeper or the electronic beats of Com Truise, there was a solid amount of bass knocking. The sound has a decent clarity, and although the tendency tends to go down, the overall sound was solid.

An important feature of Echo Buds is the active noise reduction of Bose. The ANR technology is not an active noise reduction (ANC), and you will learn this as soon as you start using the earphones. It does a good job of eliminating background noise, but it will not completely block the world around you. This is especially true for coffee shops and other places where noise is constantly coming. It’s definitely an advance over passive noise isolation, but if you want to kill everything, consider an alternative.

The call quality is also decent with the Echo Buds. During my tests, the person on the other end said that I still sounded like I was on a speakerphone, which is common for true wireless earbuds. However, they noticed that it sounded like I was doing it in a quiet room. At that time, I was right next to a noisy dishwasher, which is pretty impressive. In the Alexa app, setting how much you hear when making calls is also a nice feature. Once you dial in, you can speak more naturally and stop screaming while you have the tiny devices in your ears.

Amazon promises for the Echo Buds a battery life of up to five hours with three additional full charges. I was able to handle just under four and a half. With five hours well past the 10 hours of the competition, it will be enough to complete a working day, especially if you put it in your suitcase during a meeting or lunch break. Sure, the Echo Buds are cheaper than most competing products, but just knowing that battery life is one of the sacrifices you need to make.

We’re in a USB-C world in 2019, but Amazon lives in the past and charges the Echo Buds. The case is charged via micro USB, but at least there is a quick charge feature that gives you 40 percent of the battery in 15 minutes. The company also has an LED battery gauge on the front of the case to help you gauge where you are standing when the buds are inside. On the bottom of the case is a handy button that activates this function (putting the earphones in pairing mode). If you are over 40 percent, the light glows green. Below 40 percent, the light turns yellow, and when it drops below 5 percent, it turns red. The light will show the information for the earphone with the lowest level.

You can also check the battery level of the case itself if the Echo Buds are not in the case. A green light means that you have more than one charge left, while yellow indicates less than a complete change. A red light simply means weak battery. You can also simply ask Alexa about the battery level or go to the app to get an exact percentage.

The main competition from Amazon for the Echo Buds are of course the AirPods from Apple. This will change in 2020 when Google delivers its new Pixel Buds. Both alternatives from Apple and Google have assistants who always listen. However, if you want to use this feature with AirPods, you have to opt for the more expensive model. The Pixel Buds cost $ 179, but we do not know exactly when they will arrive or if they are good. AirPods are available for $ 159 and $ 199. This makes the Echo Buds with 129.99 US dollars the cheapest option among all three.

Samsung Galaxy Buds vs. Amazon Echo Buds

If the sound quality is more important than the speakerphone feature of Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant, the Sony WF-1000XM3 for $ 230 is currently the best choice. In addition, these earphones offer full active noise cancellation instead of active noise reduction. Apple also announced the noise-canceling AirPods Pro this week. They will be available tomorrow, but also cost $ 249, $ 19 more than Sony’s outstanding option at ANC. I think it depends on whether or not you can live without Siri Handsfree at this time, as AirPods Pro are so new we could not rate it yet.

The competition could flood the market with options, but at least Amazon brings the Echo Buds finally to the consumers. Hands-free access to Alexa is a powerful feature that works well with just a few small issues. And these problems are mostly one-time problems that you can fix quickly. The sound quality is not very good and the limited touch control can be frustrating, but thanks to Alexa there is a solid overall package here. It’s a good first effort, and if we’ve learned anything from Amazon over the years, the company will continue to improve the features and audio quality in future models. Let’s just hope that this is also the case with the Echo Buds.