Amazon has drawn the curtains on its latest pair of true wireless earbuds. The new Echo Buds (2nd Gen) improve upon the original Echo Buds with a smaller, lighter design and improved active noise-cancellation technology – not to mention a more competitive price.
The second-generation Echo Buds carry an introductory price of $100 – they'll be $120 thereafter ($10 less than the originals). That puts them at the cheaper end of the noise-cancelling wireless earbud market, significantly more affordable than the AirPods Pro and recommendable Panasonic RZ-S500W. They're available to pre-order now in the States, with shipping expected to begin on 13th May. Pricing and availability in other territories, including the UK, is yet to be confirmed.
So, while the world holds its breath for the potential reveal of the AirPods 3 next week, what can you expect from the all-new Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)? First and foremost, they boast proper active noise-cancellation, as opposed to the original's active noise reduction, with Amazon saying they can cancel twice as much noise.
While we found the first-gen Echo Buds disappointing from a sound quality perspective – harsh and bright at higher volumes – we did praise their noise-cancellation: "Active noise-cancelling (ANC) in buds at this price point is rare, but the Echo Buds manage to pull it off. They’re not quite as good as the more expensive Sony WF-1000XM3, but there is a subtle improvement with the ANC turned on, compared to relying on the passive isolation from the earbuds," we said in our Echo Buds review. Needless to say, we expect the improved technology in the new sequels to be decent too.
That noise-cancelling comes with a Passthrough Mode that lets you hear what's going on around you. The earbuds' chipset and microphones (two external beamforming mics and one internal mic) also enable hands-free Alexa voice control so you can simply say "Alexa, play David Bowie" or "Alexa, what's the weather?" without having to touch the buds or press a button on your phone. Find the always-listening Alexa function a little creepy? You can always mute the mics within the Alexa app.
Battery life is still five hours from the buds and up to 15 hours in total with the charging case (a wireless charging case option cost $20 more; $120 with the introductory offer or $140 thereafter). That extends to six and a half hours and 19.5 hours with Alexa wake word and noise-cancelling off. You also get two hours of playback from a 15-minute quick charge, too.
In the name of improved comfort, Amazon has redesigned the earbud design to make them 21 per cent smaller than the originals, with shorter nozzles and new built-in vents that aim to reduce ear pressure and prevent that 'bunged-up' feeling when worn. Like the originals, they are also sweat resistant to IPX4, meaning they should survive splashing water.
Will this sophomore effort see Amazon crack the true wireless earbuds market? They certainly have the features and price to do so, so fingers crossed they can nail sound performance this time round.
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