The Amazon Echo Buds were the tech giant’s first foray into the world of true wireless earbuds, and now the company has launched the next generation of the in-ear headphones.
With the Echo Buds (2nd Gen), Amazon has made some substantial improvements on the original earbuds, including swapping noise reduction technology for full-blown active noise cancellation.
The original Amazon Echo Buds may have offered an affordable alternative to the Apple AirPods, but they left a lot to be desired when it came down to audio quality and battery life.
So, has Amazon addressed these issues with the latest iteration of these true wireless earbuds? We’ve spent a little time getting to know the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) so you can see how they compare to the previous generation ahead of our full review.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) vs Amazon Echo Buds: price and availability
The new Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are available to buy now in the US for an introductory price of $100, and while global availability is still to be confirmed, that works out at around £70 / AU$130.
That makes the new earbuds around $30 less than the original Echo Buds, so it’s a no-brainer as to which model you should go for if you’re looking to save money (though it’s entirely possible the first-gen Echo Buds will be discounted heavily in the near future).
However, that introductory price will come to an end – when, we don’t know – and you’ll be looking at paying $120 for the Echo Buds 2.
You’ll also have to pay more with the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) with the wireless charging case. During the introductory period, you can get this model for $120, with the price set to rise to $140 (about £100 / AU$180).
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) vs Amazon Echo Buds: design
The new Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) don’t look wildly different from their predecessors, retaining the rounded housings and touch controls – but there are a few key differences between the two models.
Firstly, they’re smaller and lighter. Amazon says that the earbuds themselves are 20% smaller than the previous generation, while the charging case is 40% smaller.
The charging case has also been redesigned, eschewing the flat build and large lid for a deeper, more compact form.
Another difference between the generations is a new laser-drilled vent inside the earbuds themselves, which is designed to relieve pressure build up, as with the Powerbeats Pro.
In the time we’ve spent with the new Echo buds, we found them to be more comfortable than their predecessors, though they did stick out of our ears a little, which can be awkward if you’re wearing a hood or using them while lying down on your side.
Like the original Echo Buds, the new model comes with an IPX4 water-resistance rating, making them suitable for use while working out, as well as a selection of eartips and wings that should help you to find a secure fit.
To enhance that fit even further, Amazon has made use of the earbuds’ built-in microphones. During setup, the Alexa app will tell you whether you have achieved a good seal by playing a few tones and analyzing how much sound leaks through to those external mics – and as achieving a great seal is crucial if you want the best sound quality and noise cancellation, it’s a feature we appreciate.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) vs Amazon Echo Buds: audio performance
Without testing the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) more thoroughly, we can’t make a true assessment of the sound quality on offer – but our first impression is that it’s somewhere above average, but not better than the best true wireless earbuds on the market.
Saying that, there does seem to be a big improvement compared to the original Echo Buds; we found that they delivered muddy bass and the mids lacked fidelity. By comparison, the 2nd Gen Echo Buds deliver far more detail, with great left/right separation and a rich tone.
Still, neither model comes with support for hi-res audio, nor spatial audio formats like the Sony WF-SP800N and Apple AirPods Pro do.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) vs Amazon Echo Buds: noise cancellation
Unlike the original Echo Buds, the new version comes with full active noise cancellation. Again, we’ll need to test them more thoroughly before we come to a conclusion, but so far we’ve found that the ANC technology is fine for blocking out regular household noise with your music on, but we think they’d struggle to make a dent in the rumbling sound of an airplane cabin or a subway carriage.
Even so, there’s been a significant improvement to the way the Buds cancel sound – Amazon claims that the new Echo Buds block out about twice as much sound as their predecessors. That makes sense considering the original Amazon Echo Buds featured noise reduction technology rather than outright active noise cancellation, and it’s certainly a welcome upgrade.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) vs Amazon Echo Buds: battery life and connectivity
According to Amazon, the new Echo Buds should last about five hours with ANC and voice detection enabled, with the case providing another 10 hours of juice. That number seems accurate to us based on our usage so far, though you can eke out a little more from the earbuds with those features switched off (about 6.5 hours).
That’s actually not as impressive as the original Echo Buds, which offered five hours of charge from the earbuds, and a further 15 from the charging case. It’s a shame that Amazon hasn’t made an improvement here, with the best noise-cancelling earbuds offering much longer playback times.
Both Echo Buds generations come with (surprise, surprise) Alexa integration. That means that the earbuds are always listening for an Alexa command (unless you turn this feature off), allowing you to control your music playback hands free, as well as asking the assistant to carry out tasks, tell you the news, and create calendar events. It’s a great feature, as long as you’re an Alexa devotee.
Connectivity seems to be unchanged between the two models; both use Bluetooth 5, which should offer a stable connection to your device.
It’s too early for us to say definitively whether Amazon has truly succeeded in making a worthy follow-up to its first true wireless earbuds, but our early tests indicate that the Echo Buds 2 are a better pair of earbuds than their predecessors.
They’re smaller and lighter, and come with the option of wireless charging thanks to a redesigned case. We think they sound better too, with a more refined audio performance that reveals plenty of detail in your music.
And, with the addition of true noise cancellation as opposed to noise reduction, the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) can finally stand up against the likes of the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3 (even if they’re not quite as effective).
It’s not all good news though; the battery life has inexplicably been reduced, bringing it down to levels we wouldn’t expect from a pair of class-leading true wireless earbuds.
Still, we’ll have to spend a little more time getting to know the new Echo Buds before we can say for sure – but it looks like they’re superior to the original buds in (nearly) every way.