True wireless headphones have to be the fastest growing audio category right now, so it’s no surprise to see Amazon leap aboard the bandwagon with the launch of its Alexa-powered Amazon Echo Buds.
Due on sale at the end of October for £120 in the UK and $130 in the US, the Amazon Echo Buds are Amazon's first-ever headphones. So, we are expecting some slick integration of Alexa commands when it comes to starting up songs, podcasts or making phone calls, all with our voice.
The Buds are powered by Bose noise-cancelling technology, and with some promising engineering inside, we’re hoping they make for a decent listen. So, whether you’re a runner or you just hate getting tangled up in cables on your commute, they're sure to be of interest. Our colleagues at Techradar have spent some hands-on time with the Echo Buds, so read on for our first impressions.
Price and release date
The Amazon Echo Buds are already up for pre-order in the States with deliveries beginning on 30th October. The timescale is expected to be similar in the UK although the pre-order page isn’t live at the time of writing.
At £120/$130, the Buds are an eye-catching saving on the cost of the second generation Apple AirPods. In fact, with the superb Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless headphones more expensive too, it’s most likely that the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 is where Amazon will most likely find the strongest competition, especially when it comes to pure sound quality.
Design and features
Like most true wireless headphones, the Amazon Echo Buds come with a case which not only acts as a home to store them in but also to charge them with too. The promise is 5 hours of listening from a full charge with the case providing an additional three full charges, taking the total to 20 hours.
That’s not a huge amount compared to others on the market but it should keep you powered up for the odd casual trip. A 15 min quick charge can get you 2 hours of playback when time is short.
It’s an all-black affair for both the headphones and the carry case. Together, they measure a compact 57 x 77 x 29mm with each bud only 7.5g and 22 x 23 x 24mm in size. There are three sizes of eartips to choose from to help perfect that noise-isolating fit. They’re also IPX4 sweat and water-resistant, which should help them stay in full working order during sweaty (or rainy) park runs.
On the outside, physical controls are kept to a minimum with a single touch-sensitive zone for tapping. Instead, Amazon would like people to really use their voice. Unlike other true wireless headphones, the Buds respond to the Alexa wake-word without having to press a single button. They’re always listening — unless you mute the mic — and you’ll be able to adjust your music, order dinner and request many other things.
They're constantly connected to the Alexa app on your mobile device, so it's not just music you can control, but also other smart devices connected to your home network. Siri and Google Assistant services are also compatible with the Echo buds, so nobody need miss out.
Using Bose and its noise-cancelling tech is an intriguing move. Double-tap either bud and you can cycle between full noise-cancelling or ‘Passthrough’ mode which allows you to hold a conversation with the earbuds still in place.
The Buds work wirelessly with Bluetooth 5.0 but there’s no mention in the specs of AptX HD. Two balanced armature drivers are tasked with delivering the sound.
In some ways, a people-packed and noisy demo area at the Amazon launch event was the right kind of setting for trying out the Echo Buds.
On a first listen, the noise-cancelling seems impressive — if not quite at the levels of the Sony WF-1000XM3 — but they respond to the Alexa wake-word every time, even in a chaotic environment like the press launch. With ANC activated, news headlines appear to come through loud and clear when requested and not having to fumble around to find a button each time is welcome.
The audio itself seems well balanced enough. Listening to Get Lucky by Daft Punk, there's appears to be decent bass weight and a decent sense of openness.
We’re looking forward to getting them in for a full review so we can bring you the definitive verdict on their dynamics, sense of timing and much more.
If good voice control is something you crave in a pair of wireless earbuds, then it seems pretty clear you'll be wanting to audition the Amazon Echo Buds.
Amazon's a little late to the party compared to many rivals, but price point and feature set both appear competitive for the money. However, it's the audio quality that will really need to stand up to scrutiny. The quality of Amazon's Echo wireless speakers has varied quite a lot in recent years, so we're interested to see if these true wireless earbuds can take the fight to key rivals.