One of the star products to be announced at Amazon’s big hardware event today was the Echo Buds ($130), the company’s first true wireless earbuds. Not only do they undercut the cost of most true wireless earbuds, including AirPods, by a ton but Amazon revealed that they’ve partnered with Bose to integrate its noise-reduction technology (which is a little different than its noise-canceling technology) into the Echo Buds. And these earbuds cost just $130.
After the event, I was able to get a little hands-on time with Echo Buds and was even able to listen to two songs (“Trampoline by Shaed” and Bruce Springsteen’s “For You”) and here are my initial impressions.
First and foremost, they sound great, especially for $130 earbuds. It was loud with good mids and strong bass. I’ve tested a boatload of true wireless earbuds in the past two-plus years and these are right in the mix with the better ones.
The noise-reduction ability also seems good at first blush, but I’m not ready to say its perfect just yet. I tested the Echo Buds in a crowded room, and while I could barely hear the noise around me, these earbuds fit really snug, and it’s hard to tell which of these two things was primarily responsible for the effect. Still, there’s plenty to be hopeful for here so far. (It’s also worth noting that, to my understanding, noise-reduction technology isn’t as Bose’s full-fledged noise-cancellation technology.)
But there are a couple of catches. The biggest is that the Echo Buds require you to download and use the Alexa app to get the most out of them, which is at best a hassle. You need the Echo Buds setup properly in your Alexa app to enable the noise-reduction technology and the “Hey Alexa” features, and Amazon still has a ways to go in proving that these added Alexa features will actually be useful. If you don’t want to deal with the app, you can use them as standard Bluetooth buds, but you’ll be missing out on the noise-reduction technology.
They also charge with micro-USB, a style of charger that’s rapidly phased out and can’t deliver the kind of quick charge power that USB-C can. But mostly it’s frustrating you won’t be able to charge your earbuds with the same charger you use with a new laptop, Nintendo Switch or Android phone.
Lastly, the plastic Echo Buds do feel a little bit cheap compared to headphones like Master & Dynamic MW07s or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless. But at the price point, you can’t really complain too much.
All in all, Amazon’s first buds are certainly impressive, and it’s a real surprise that they’ve got a type of Bose’s noise-canceling tech before Bose’s true wireless buds have even come out. But with Bose is gearing up to release the Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700 in early 2020, it seems more that the headphone maker has plenty more in store for its own product, which will no doubt cost a lot more.
The Echo Buds ($130) are available for pre-order right now, for a ship date of October 30th.