Almost a year after the global announcement, Amazon has decided to bring its second generation Echo Buds to Italythat is, the true wireless headphones characterized by integration with Alexa.
Compared to the first generation, which had never arrived in Italy – but which we had recovered in the United States – they promise to improve in several respects based on feedback shared by usersstarting from the size and comfort to get to the presence of the ancient microUSB port for recharging, without forgetting the quality of music reproduction.
There have certainly been improvements, but the list price which sees them starting from 119 euros for the version without wireless charging it makes it difficult for them to enter a particularly competitive market segment, populated by several other very viable alternatives. Here is the review net of a few days of use.
CONSERVATIVE DESIGN, CHEAP FEELING
If they had asked me to imagine Amazon branded true wireless headphones I would have imagined them just like these Echo Buds 2, because echo the finishes and the philosophy of the Amazon Basics accessories, which point to pragmatism and certainly not to aesthetics. And in fact this is the feeling you get from the case, made of black plastic with a matte finish, not particularly premium, which however has the advantage of being less prone to scratches than a glossy finish.
The shape is not the most ergonomic to put in your pocket, on the bottom there is the classic Amazon logo and on the back, in a practical but not particularly elegant way since it is decentralized, the USB-C socket and the button for Bluetooth coupling . The hinge of the lid gives the feeling of being a bit of a dancerand when lifted it shows the two-tone dark gray and black interior with a not particularly current look.
The earphones also have a conservative design, but to make up for it they are quite light (we are talking about 5.7g) and comfortable: I wore them for two / three hours straight without encountering any particular annoyances, and this also because they have a range of accessories dedicated to finding the ideal fit.
In the package made with materials from sustainable sources there are in fact, in addition to the rubber pads of four different sizes, also three pairs of inserts with fins that fit over the earphones to improve their seal during physical activity and isolation from external noise; they work well, as the wearability test in the app also demonstrates, and once the right combination is found, they remain fixed in place.
As for certifications there is an IPX4 against splashing water that only affects the earphones, so good workouts sweaty or in the rain, while obviously there is no need to take them for a dip in the pool.
EVERYTHING TURNS AROUND THE ALEXA APP
The particular thing about these Echo Buds is that, being associated with Amazon, they are managed through the Alexa app, compatible with both Android and iOS. So to pair them you have to add them like any other compatible device, by clicking on the + at the top right, just like you would do with a Hue bulb or an Echo Dot.
Once paired, A section dedicated to headphones appears in the Home of the Alexa app with indications on the state of charge, possibility to activate the ANC or the Ambient mode, launch a workout and turn the microphone off or on. This last function is particularly curious: I have never seen it on any other headset, and it is the equivalent of the physical button that allows you to manage the microphone on the various Echo devices for the home.
By clicking on the settings wheel you access the menu, whose graphics could be clearer, where you can activate energy saving, ambient noise control, Alexa hands-free (which allows you to simply evoke it with your voice), but also manage touch controls by deactivating them or customizing the long press. The controls work well, they are very responsive, and the default setting is:
- one touch to pause / play
- two taps for the next song or answer / end calls
- three touches for the previous song
- a long press to switch from ANC to ambient mode (alternatively it can be configured for volume or other voice assistants; pity having to sacrifice volume control to ANC).
The app also includes a very basic equalizer that allows you to set a single mode for low, medium and high, and there is also a feature to find headphones geolocating them or making them ring, which is usually a fairly premium feature.
Too bad the multipoint connection is missing, which would have allowed you to connect the earphones to two devices at the same time without having to manually switch. Another element that has left me perplexed is the curtain that appears between the smartphone notifications to communicate that an Alexa compatible device has been connected, and with which, however, it is not possible to interact in any way.
So, what are the differences from a pair of headphones that support Alexa, such as the Technics AZ60 that I had on hand? Not many actually: the main difference is that the management of the Echo Buds via the Alexa app allows you to summon it “hands-free” and therefore simply with the voice, allowing a simplified interaction with the whole Alexa ecosystem; then there are some particularities such as the modality Workout which allows you to start a workout by asking Alexa for information such as your pace or distance traveled.
SOUND IN THE MEDIA, WELL THE ANC
The audio on call is satisfactory, both for those who use headphones and for the interlocutor on the other side of the handset: the three microphones on the earphones capture the voice effectively even in medium noisy situations, while the music reproduction is average, without infamy and without praise.
On Shine on you crazy diamond by Pink Floyd, which I typically use for these tests, the 5.7 mm dynamic driver returns a sound scenario that is not particularly enveloping but balanced – and this last thing is a virtue, because it doesn’t fall into the easy trick of pumping the bass as many low-end headphones do to return a quality impression – but the general rendering, especially of the mids and highs, is a bit ‘metallic. In short, good for listening to music on the gobut obviously there is no mention of HiFi, although the active noise cancellation works well and the maximum volume is respectable.
Speaking of ANC, noise cancellation is of good quality, I would say a 7/10 – where the 10 are the Galaxy Buds Pro which at the moment remain a reference for the ANC of true wireless headphones – with particular effectiveness on low frequencies and on continuous sounds such as that of the train or plane; on the other hand, it is milder on office sounds such as voices. There is also a transparency mode which is average.
TWO ALTERNATIVES FOR CHARGING
The declared autonomy is 5 hours of listening with ANC and Alexa hands-free active, which becomes 15 hours in total with the charging case, or 6 and a half hours of listening without ANC and 19.5 hours with the case. I must say that in my experience these figures are slightly overestimated, which means that autonomy is not among the best on the market. Better to always have the case in which to store the earphones at hand, because at least the recharge is very fast: 15 minutes are enough to have two hours of music playback.
Speaking of charging, Amazon has introduced a curious double possibility, by selling two different types of Echo Buds which differ in the way of charging: there is a basic version with charging only with USB-C at the price of 119 euros and a version with wireless charging support a 139 euros which however does not include the base; if you don’t already have a home you can buy a separate one made specifically by Anker and available on Amazon.
PRICE AND CONCLUSIONS
In conclusion, the new second generation Echo Buds are already on sale on Amazon and are available in two colors, white or black, like the protagonists of this review.
I think that the above list prices are a bit high compared to the quality of the service offered, also because there are several alternatives on the market that at the same price if not less boast better performance and a more refined design, such as the Huawei Freebuds 4i (review here) currently at 59 euros or the excellent Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 (review) at 94 euros remaining on the in-ear.
So the advice is to buy them in case they arrive at a really advantageous street priceor as part of some offer such as the launch one, which allowed you to pre-order them starting from 79 euros.