Amazon’s hardware is all over the place: Its Kindle lineup is excellent but still sports microUSB ports, its smart displays are very good but also mildly creepy, its first fitness tracker was horrifyingly invasive, and its first-gen Bluetooth earbuds were outdated from the jump (see, again, microUSB) and didn’t sound great.
They also sound pretty good.
The Echo Buds look almost completely free of personality or branding until you peer closely at each earbud and notice the Amazon smile logo. Virtually no one wants to wear Amazon’s logo in their ear, but the black logo on black earbud is so faint as to be nearly invisible.
Boring Design Is Perfectly Fine
Amazon’s new earbuds are a good option if you don’t want AirPods. I’ve been testing Amazon‘s new Echo Buds for the last several days, and they’re an improvement over the first-generation Echo Buds in almost every way.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when the Alexa-forward second-gen Echo Buds arrived on my doorstep, but I have to admit, when evaluating the latest buds against the rest of the increasingly competitive pack of other Bluetooth earbuds, the new ones are priced so well that the little issues I have aren’t dealbreakers.
The charging case is also branded, but the smile is on the bottom of the device so no one can see it. (I didn’t get a chance to see the white version in person, though the Amazon logo on those appears to be a little more obvious in photos.)
The buds come with four silicone eartips, which are mercifully colour-coded so you know which to grab, and two sizes of wings, which are damn near impossible to get on and off the earbud and can also easily cover the charging magnets that snap the earbud to its spot in the charging case.
I found that out the hard way and accidentally drained my left Echo Bud from 100% to 11% thanks to an errant wing fit, which I promptly ditched. (The wing part doesn’t help with fit all that much anyway.) But even without the wings, I got a solid fit and a nice seal, and the vented design prevents discomfort even when wearing them for a couple of hours at a time.
Each bud is touch-sensitive so you can control music playback with a tap or two (or three), and you can customise one gesture, a long hold, to control volume on either the left and right buds. Customising that gesture means removing the ability to control Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and pass-through using a long hold, so I sacrificed that functionality.