Reviews

Oh damn, the Amazon Echo Buds 2 are really good

It’s getting harder and harder to recommend $250 AirPods Pro or $200 Galaxy Buds Pro when $120 ANC wireless earbuds like the Echo Buds 2 exist.

Wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC) are convenient. Not so great: pricing. AirPods Pro sell for $250; Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro for $200; Master & Dynamic MW08 go for $300. That’s a lot of moolah. Amazon’s ANC Echo Buds 2 are way more affordable: only $120 ($140 with wireless charging).

The Echo Buds 2 improves on the first-gen Echo Buds in every way and not just on price. The buds are sleeker and 20 percent smaller; the charging case is 40 percent smaller and supports wireless charging (optional); and there’s real ANC now (OG only had active noise-reduction).

The massive Echo Buds 1 vs. more compact Echo Buds 2 case.

Most importantly... Echo Buds 2 sound great.

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Amazon ditched its Bose partnership for its own in-house audio tuning and I gotta say it was a good decision because the sound quality throws down with AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro.

How do they sound?

Bass is stronger and richer, the mids are less squashed, and the highs and lows are more distinct. While the original Echo Buds sounded surprisingly good, the Echo buds 2 are noticeably more powerful and clear.

The ANC blocks out more noise than the passive ANR on the OG Echo Buds and about as much outside sounds as ANC on AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro. I have one minor complaint and that is with Passthrough (Amazon’s ambient / transparency) mode; there’s an audible white noise hiss when it’s turned on, which can be distracting. But it’s not the end of the world. You can adjust Passthrough ambient sound in the Alexa app, but the hiss is still there.

Echo Buds settings are managed via the Alexa app.

Cleaner design

When I reviewed the OG Echo Buds, I called the design cheap and generic. The Echo Buds 2 look and feel more premium. Some people might think their resemblance to earplugs is too minimalist and I, personally, could have done without the Amazon smile logo, but I think they look fine.

Each earbud has responsive touch controls for controlling music: single tap (play/pause), double tap (next track/answer or end call, triple tap (previous track). A long press turns on ANC/Passthrough, but you can customize it in the Alexa app to adjust volume, use another assistant (Siri or Google Assistant), and a few more other options. There’s also hands-free “Hey Alexa” voice commands to play music, set timers, get info, and control my smart lights — it’s really handy.

Nice: There are three pairs of wing tips in two different sizes (small and large). Not nice: There are no markings on any of them to indicate their size — you’re screwed if you mix them up. Four ear tip sizes are included as well.

The wing tips help with a snugger fit, but I never use them since my ears are small. It’s nice that the buds still fit into the charging case with them on.

5

With ANC, the Echo Buds last up to 5 hours. This equals Galaxy Buds Pro and lasts 30 minutes more than AirPods Pro.

Battery life jumps up to 6.5 hours with ANC and Alexa voice command turned off. It’s 30 minutes longer than the 5 hours for AirPods Pro, but still short of the Galaxy Buds Pro’s 8 hours. The case holds 15 hours of power.

The non-basic Echo Buds 2 has a charging case that works with any Qi wireless charger. Anker makes one called PowerWave 5W for $18. The battery LED indicators are helpful. It also wirelessly charges phones but at a really slow 5W.

Starting at $120, the Echo Buds 2 are a shockingly great value for ANC earbuds. The design of the buds and case are major upgrades over the original buds and Amazon didn’t scrimp on features. Unless you’re after longer battery life or direct integration with an iPhone or Galaxy phone, it’s getting harder to justify paying more for other ANC buds. The Echo Buds 2 are legit.

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