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Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: The best cheap AirPods Pro alternative

The Amazon Echo Buds 2 delivers a smaller design and better active noise cancelling

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Our Verdict

The Amazon Echo Buds 2 grants you many features and stronger performance for a lower price than the original.

For

  • Excellent Alexa integration
  • Surprisingly effective active noise cancellation
  • Neutral sound
  • Sleek charging case
  • Wireless charging

Against

  • Middling battery life
  • Vocals lack crispness

Smaller, cheaper, and now with better ANC, the Amazon Echo Buds 2 is the sequel we’ve long anticipated from the e-commerce and electronics giant. The starting price of $99 is a shocker no one saw coming, especially since the original Echo Buds launched at a higher MSRP: $129. Generous discount aside, these buds make a strong case for being one of the market’s best noise-cancelling earbuds.

Amazon Echo Buds 2: Specs

Colors: Black, Glacier White
Battery life (rated): 5 hours (ANC on), 6.5 hours (ANC off), 15 hours (with charging case), 19.5 hours (with charging case and ANC off)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Processor: Realtek RTL8763C
Size: 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.8 inches (per bud), 2.6 x 1.1 x 1.5 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud), 1.6 ounces (charging case), 1.7 ounces (wireless charging case)

The Echo Buds 2 won’t pose a serious threat to elite ANC models like the AirPods Pro or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. However, it has the features and functionality to compete for relevancy in the true wireless space, though shortcomings like the so-so battery life and imperfect midrange won’t sit well with everyone. Read our Echo Buds 2 review to see why this second-gen version is an awesome bargain for consumers committed to Amazon’s ecosystem or those who just want inexpensive, high-performing wireless earbuds.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Price and availability

The Amazon Echo Buds 2 can be purchased directly from Amazon or at other major online retailers, including Best Buy and Target. It is sold in two colors: Black and Glacier White.

These buds are available in two different SKUs: the standard version for $99 and the wireless charging case version for $119. Amazon also sells a second configuration that adds an Anker Wireless Charging Pad to the purchase for $137. No matter which you choose, all three options cost less than category favorites like the AirPods Pro ($249), Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279), and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ($199). If your budget somehow falls short of Amazon’s asking price, consider giving the more inexpensive Edifier TWS NBQ ($59) a look.

For all of the latest sales, bookmark our best cheap AirPods deals and headphones deals pages.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Design and comfort

  • More compact design than original Pixel Buds
  • IPX4 rating means limited water resistance

The Echo Buds 2 upholds the clean, minimalist appearance of the Amazon Echo product lineup, though it has received a noticeable makeover. It is 20% smaller than the original and gets rid of unique details like the glossy caps on the front that doubled as touch sensors. I wouldn’t call this the most attractive design, nor the ugliest, but at least Amazon didn’t go the long-stem silhouette route.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Build quality is solid and the buds come with an IPX4 rating to withstand splashes, sweat, and light rain, but not submersion in water. Amazon has even taken a greener approach to manufacturing: the charging case (black version only) is made from 21% post-consumer recycled plastics and 98% of the packaging is composed from 98% wood-fiber-based materials.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The charging case has undergone the biggest facelift, taking on a rectangular design with rounded edges similar to the AirPods Pro case, only wider and longer. It’s sleeker, sturdier, and more portable-friendly than the original. The flip-top lid has a strong magnet that keeps the case tightly shut. A USB-C charging port and Bluetooth button are located in the back.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Comfort is moderate, meaning you can wear the buds for about 1.5 to 2 hours before fatigue sets in. The cavity rests nicely on the inner part of your ear. Included with the device are several ear tips and wings for personalized fit; the combination helps lock the buds in place with minimal slippage. Amazon also developed an Ear Tip Fit Test that does a decent job of analyzing your ears to determine the best tip-and-wing combo. Personally, I thought Apple’s version provided better feedback to accomplish a tighter seal for optimal ANC and sound.  

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Touch controls and digital assistant

  • Class-leading Alexa integration
  • Responsive touch controls

A full suite of media controls is available with some defaulted to single (play/pause), double, (next track/answer or end call) and triple taps (previous track), while the others can be assigned to the long-hold gesture. These functions include native assistant, volume up/down, Alexa tap-to-talk, mic on/muted, disable, and ANC/Passthrough. Adding to the Echo Buds 2’s intelligibility is on-ear detection to automatically pause music when removing the buds and resume playback when placed back on your ears.

The touch controls are highly responsive and register taps accurately. I’m also appreciative of the sound prompts when activating functions, as this is a great indicator for ensuring intended commands are being met.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

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However, the signature function on Amazon’s buds remains Alexa hands-free voice activation, which allows you to fire up the AI bot by saying “Alexa” and following up with your voice command. I thought Apple’s “Hey Siri” feature was flawless, but Amazon’s is also exceptional. Every request I spoke was registered expeditiously. You can set Google Assistant or Siri as your default, and though they perform well, the buds are at their best when Alexa runs the show. My only complaint is that there was serious latency whenever activating the feature; it would take about 3 seconds before any responses were given.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Active noise cancellation

  • Decent ANC performance
  • Adjustable ambient mode is useful

Amazon claims the Echo Buds 2 “cancels out twice as much noise compared to the first generation.” Based on my testing, that’s about right. Is the Echo Buds 2’s ANC technology on par with the AirPods Pro or QuietComfort Earbuds? Not really, but it’ll give other noise-neutralizing models like the Galaxy Buds Pro a run for their money.

The three-mic array (two external, one internal) reduces an adequate number of external sounds in different environments. Around the house, family conversations and loud TVs were blocked out, while ordinary disruptors like keyboard clatter, doorbells, and kitchen appliances didn’t faze me during work hours. 

Listening to music outside was a peaceful experience as well. The decent wind resistance spared my ears from any harmful whooshing effects commonly associated with poorly engineered ANC models. The barge work taking place on the waterway near the house never caught my attention, nor did the cars that zipped down the street. Also, I found the feature most helpful at CVS when waiting for my second vaccination shot; the humming noises coming from the centralized AC and refrigerators were muted.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

As impressive as the feature is, it’s not powerful enough to completely eliminate all noises. High-frequency sounds such as sirens and whistles will be heard, along with loud gardening tools like leaf-blowers and lawnmowers.

Passthrough is the Echo Buds 2’s version of ambient sound mode and it’s serviceable for when you want to interact and be aware of your surroundings. The mics picked up voices from a reasonable distance to communicate clearly with baristas. I could also hear my white noise machine playing when checking in on the baby during nap time, as well as his cries through the baby monitor. 

You can increase the amount of noise you want to hear through the Alexa app, which makes a difference outdoors. On its default setting, I couldn’t hear cars coming by or noisy pedestrians during daytime walks, but that changed once I adjusted to max level. Those ambient noises became louder and more transparent.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Audio quality

  • Not bad, but can distort certain songs
  • Reasonable passive sound isolation

The original didn’t blow listeners away with its audio performance, but the Echo Buds 2 is an upgrade that gives Amazon’s neutral sound profile a tiny bump in bass. If you’re looking for something with more boom or balance, then look elsewhere because these buds won’t match what comes out of the AirPods Pro, and definitely not the Galaxy Buds Pro. Still, what you get is acceptable for casual listening on commutes or around the house.

The memorable bassline on David Bowie & Queen’s “Under Pressure” had some great layering and snap to it, but maintained a warmer, more impactful presence on the AirPods Pro. Despite that, I was pleased to hear how clear the scatting and soaring vocals sounded throughout the entire recording.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Amazon’s 5.7mm dynamic drivers increase fidelity in treble, which is highly noticeable when listening to bass-heavy tracks. The infectious strings on Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” are reproduced well and ride smoothly over the punchy drums. Jazz classics like Leroy Hutson’s “Cool Out” made for groovy listens with the buds delivering loud and vibrant horns.

Unfortunately, the Echo Buds 2 don’t treat all songs equally. Distortion does occur at times, but it doesn’t muddy up the soundstage like other models in the same price class. You’ll notice vocals lack crispness and have a buzz effect to them, much like they did on Lupe Fiasco’s “Carrera Lu” and low-fi recordings like Eric’s Trip’s “Anytime You Want,” which also made bass notes dissonate.

Isolation is OK with the tips creating a tight seal around the ears to prevent some external sounds from entering the soundscape. Listening at max volume does cause sound to leak, though reducing volume to about 80% is enough to prevent it.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: App and special features

  • Limited but welcome EQ controls
  • Built-in fitness tracking, though it's not very accurate

The Alexa app is basically a hub for everything Amazon-related and comes with features exclusive to the Echo Buds 2. The Settings page has toggle controls for the listening modes, battery life, and Alexa just to name a few, along with a customization field that hosts the most enticing features. These include the aforementioned Ear Fit Tip Test and tap controls setting, along with an Equalizer. Amazon’s EQ doesn’t have much depth to it, but you can adjust the bass, mid-range, and treble.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

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Amazon also programmed a Workout mode, allowing the Echo Buds 2 to act as a fitness tracker that records your fitness performance. Steps, distance, duration, calories, and pace are all accounted for, and users can create a profile to view their history. It’s more of a filler feature that comes in handy if your Fitbit or Apple Watch dies right before you head to the gym, but data inaccuracies make it an untrustworthy workout companion. My wife tested the mode and saw her step count was off by about 200 steps compared to her Fitbit Versa.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Other notables include a Find My Buds mode, battery level indicators for both buds and the charging case, and a Sidetone setting to adjust how much of your voice you want to hear on calls.

With the Echo Buds 2 tied into Amazon’s extensive ecosystem, a myriad of Alexa skills can be executed directly on the buds. You can link the buds to different music services, start shopping lists, personalize other Amazon Echo devices, set reminders, manage energy use in your house…you get the picture.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Battery life and charging case

  • 5 hours per charge — can get much better elsewhere
  • Low charging case capacity too

Battery life on the Echo Buds 2 is rated higher than the AirPods Pro, but still substandard. We’re talking 5 hours versus 4.5 hours. The AirPods Pro has better battery management to squeeze out every bit of juice for optimal use. Furthermore, the Echo Buds 2’s playtime drops by about 30 minutes to 1 hour when factoring in volume and other features running in the background. So, technically, it has the same battery life as the AirPods Pro when using ANC.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

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Its saving grace is the ability to disable ANC and hands-free Alexa for extended battery life; turn on the Power Save mode in the app to earn 6.5 hours of listening time. Quick charging will also net you 2 hours on a 15-minute charge.

The charging case is weak and holds a dismal 15 hours when fully charged. By comparison, that is 9 hours shorter than the AirPods Pro’s case (24 hours). Sadly, the wireless charging case has the same battery life.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Call quality and connectivity

  • High quality, if only with ANC enabled
  • Easy Bluetooth pairing

Call quality is equally as good on the Echo Buds 2 as the original. Keep in mind though that you must have ANC on because performance differs immensely when the feature is turned off. The mics kept ambient noses to a minimum and improved clarity for clear-sounding conversations. Loud noises were still audible on both ends, but at least it was less harsh on my ears.

Amazon claims that ANC stays on automatically when taking calls, but in order to preserve power, I had switched to standard mode. What a huge mistake. This resulted in a lot of cutout and muffling. In addition, everything around me was so transparent that my wife mentioned having to strain to hear my voice.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bluetooth 5.0 was reliable for the most part, with satisfactory range (35 feet) for wireless listening and instantaneous connectivity. The pairing process was a breeze, plus the Bluetooth button on the case helped expedite the process. There was some stuttering the first day I streamed Spotify playlists, but the problem no longer exists; I guess the buds needed to warm up. It would have been cool if Amazon integrated multipoint technology to connect the buds to two devices simultaneously.

Amazon Echo Buds 2 review: Verdict

At $99, the Echo Buds 2 drives a hard bargain, offering extensive functionality at an unbeatable value. Alexa integration is amazing and places hundreds of Alexa skills at the tip of your vocal cords, along with full control of other Alexa-enabled products. The new design won’t win over fashion-forward types, but it is a step in the right direction, the charging case in particular. Sound and noise cancellation are also sufficient for the price.

Amazon needs to fine-tune its sound signature for greater mid- and high-end presence, but that is the least of their worries, as the battery life situation must first be addressed. The Echo Buds 2 needs more of it to stand a chance against other ANC titans in the field.

Aside from those criticisms, the Echo Buds 2 is a welcomed improvement geared towards Alexa conformists or anyone looking to buy quality noise-cancelling earbuds on the cheap. You may also want to consider buying it as an inexpensive, but thoughtful, stocking stuffer come holiday season. Either way, this is a worthy AirPods Pro alternative.