Not just Alexa integration, Amazon Echo Buds are spot on with the price card too

Published on Apr 21, 2022 04:17 PM IST

Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or even Apple’s Siri have not come close to the sort of integration and instantaneous experience that Amazon has weaved into its latest generation Echo Buds

The latest Amazon Echo Buds. (HT Photo)
The latest Amazon Echo Buds. (HT Photo)

Giving voice commands to your wireless earbuds isn’t new. Several earphone makers have weaved it in some form or the other, but a few work better than many others. Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and maybe even Apple’s Siri, can be invoked with voice commands. Yet, none has come close to the sort of integration and instantaneous experience that Amazon has weaved into the latest generation Echo Buds. But does it really add value?

It is a pleasant surprise to see the Alexa virtual assistant work exactly how it does on Echo smart speakers, Fire TV devices and in the Alexa smartphone app. The width of capabilities gets replicated as is. On the Amazon Echo Buds, commands are the same – great – if you’re already familiar with what you need to say to play music on Apple Music or Spotify, smart home controls, weather and news updates and even making phone calls.

You may still have to navigate an additional step for non-Amazon stuff, such as specific apps on smartphones. Those can be categorised as restrictions by Android and iOS, or down to the level of integration third party apps allow. It is just a case of Alexa doing some things better on that front, while Google Assistant or Apple Siri may have other strengths. The commonality in this remains that any experience involving other apps isn’t always in the assistant’s control.

Privacy hasn’t been forgotten, just because it is a different form factor from a smart speaker. The microphones will only listen for ‘Alexa’ wake work when at least one of the earbuds is in your ear. If both buds are outside the ears, the microphone is disabled. Secondly, the Alexa app on your phone gives you the option to manually mute the mic as well. Hint: you may want to customise one of the long-press gestures on the earbuds to do that.

There are some significant changes under the hood too. The first-generation Amazon Echo Buds relied heavily on Bose’s audio tech. This one doesn’t. Everything in the innards, the audio hardware and the sound processing software have been developed by Amazon. There is also the promise of more noise cancellation than its predecessor, which should add value too. How good or bad is it? That will depend a lot on your preferences. We found this to be less intense (read, more comfortable for some users) than the OnePlus Buds Pro, and at par with how Jabra’s noise cancellation tech in wireless earbuds is.

Returning to the point of how the second-generation Amazon Echo Buds deliver deeper noise cancellation coverage, it is primarily the shift away from Bose’s tech, which just wasn’t at par with most rivals in the space, including Sony, Sennheiser, Jabra and Apple. The goalposts moved in time, and it’s good that Amazon has kept up.

Sound, for all the in-house efforts by Amazon, is delivered while ticking off the checklist. The bass is good, perhaps a notch higher than Google’s earbuds, but comparatively a bit dialed down compared to the OnePlus Buds. There’s a very upbeat tuning to the Amazon Echo Buds’ sound signature, which should work well for newer music in particular. In that sense, paired with generous low frequency games, these are the sort of earbuds you’d want for up-tempo music. And for a large demographic, that’ll work well.

Yet, the tradeoff to an extent is with genres such as classic rock and in general music that’s heavily layered – the Echo Buds may not feel as sparkly there, and not all elements of a soundstage get the moment in the sun. Do keep this in mind, because it is one of those wireless earbuds which will really put forward a different personality with different genre playlists.

Battery life isn’t category leading, but nothing that’d give the Echo Buds a disadvantage. This lasted us a bit more than 5 hours with noise cancellation on, and close to 7 hours with noise cancellation turned off. Boost the battery on the earbuds using the charging case, and you’d get up to 20 hours of usage before everything needs to be charged again. The OnePlus Buds Pro has the advantage here, of a bigger battery in the charging case extending the usage time.

It is perhaps the switch from Bose’s tech that’s allowed Amazon to keep the pricing this aggressive – 7,999 for the wired charging case and 9,999 for the wireless charging case. This gives the Amazon Echo Buds the right tools in the fight against the Google Pixel Buds A-series (very competent, with Google Assistant leading the way, around 6,999 now) and the excellent OnePlus Buds Pro (around 9,990). Deep Alexa integration is the headline feature, and that’s what the entire experience should ideally revolve around.

Overall, a vibrant pair of wireless earbuds that does quite a few things better than its rivals.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is Technology Editor for Hindustan Times. When not making sense of technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.

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