Amazon is jumping into the wireless earbuds war with a direct answer to Apple's AirPods. The new Echo Buds have Alexa inside and come with Bose active noise reduction technology. And, unlike the AirPods, these things don't hang off of your ears.
Here's our hands-on impressions of the Echo Buds based on our hands-on time with the earbuds.
Amazon Echo Buds price and release Date
The Amazon Echo Buds are priced at $129.99 and they come with a charging case. The AirPods 2 cost $199 through Apple with charging case, but you can get them on sale for as low as $144.99.
The Amazon Echo buds will ship in time for the holidays, according to Amazon, but the company didn't supply a more specific release date.
Echo Buds design and fit
The Amazon Echo Buds don't look that fashionable at first glance with their black circular design, but they don't look obtrusive either.
They fit snugly in my ear; all it took was a little twist to fit them in. They felt secure enough for running, though there's no heart rate tracking or fitness features, as there are with, say, Samsung's Galaxy Buds.
The buds come with a small charging case, and snap in magnetically. The case itself isn't too large, either. It's matte black plastic—nothing fancy there—but does offer 15 extra hours of battery life for the buds.
For durability, the Echo Buds are rated IPX4 against splashes, sweat and light rain.
Echo Buds audio quality
A quick listen in a noisy demo room isn't the best environment for assessing the audio qualities of earbuds, but the Echo Buds acquitted themselves well. The Bose noise reduction was pretty effective in cutting down everyone talking around me, but they were still quite audible.
When playing music, the Echo Buds delivered balanced audio that seemed a little light on the bass; again, we'll need to more thoroughly test their performance at a later date, but they were plenty loud for me to hear Bruce Springsteen over the din of dozens of tech journalists.
Echo Buds touch controls
Amazon includes touch controls with the Echo Buds. You double tap to toggle the Bose noise reduction for when you need to hear stuff around you. The touch controls were very responsive; just a light tap was all that was needed. In fact, I often activated some feature when taking the buds in or out of my ears.
The Echo Buds pack pretty impressive tech inside their compact design. In addition to Bose-powered active noise reduction technology, there are dual armature drivers in each earbud for delivering rich sound.
Echo Buds Alexa integration and battery life
To use Amazon's voice assistant, all I had to do was "Alexa" to play music, control smart home devices, ask for the weather, and do pretty much everything else with Alexa. I also liked that I could tap and hold the buds to access the voice assistant on your phone, whether it's Siri or Google Assistant, so you're not locked into using Alexa.
There will be some Echo Bud-optimized integrations with Alexa as well. For example, you'll be able to locate specific items by aisle when you're inside a Whole Foods store (Amazon owns Whole Foods)
Echo Buds battery life and charging
The Echo Buds are rated for 5 hours of battery life, but you should be able to get up to 20 hours of juice with the charging case. By comparison, the AirPods are also rated up to 5 hours, though Apple says you can get more than 24 hours of total battery life with its wireless charging case.
When it comes to charging, Amazon says a 15-minute charge will get you up to 2 hours of listening time, versus up to 3 hours for the AirPods for the same amount of charge.
Amazon has long been rumored to be working on Alexa-powered earbuds. And if the sound quality is good, the Echo Buds could prove to be a hot holiday item. But there's also concerns about Alexa always listening to you, so Amazon will have to reassure customers that their privacy is being protected when you start to literally wear Alexa around.