The Echo Buds 2 from Amazon offer decent sound, noise cancelling and good value for money. These in-ears should not be regarded as headphones purely for music consumption but rather as accessories for everyday use that explicitly feel at home in the Amazon network via voice control.
After almost two years, the Echo Buds are entering their second phase. Compared to their predecessor (to our review), there are only a few changes on the outside; these ergonomically shaped headphones, available in white and black, now have a matte exterior. The design is simple and unobtrusive but by no means cheap-looking. The same goes for the compact charging case with an integrated battery, pairing button, status LED and USB-C port.
Before you start: Anyone interested in the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen.) should know that they are devices for use with Alexa. They respond to your wishes via voice commands – at least, that is the idea. The Alexa app is required for operation, as is a compatible operating system (Android 6.0, iOS 12 or higher). Before you can use these headphones, you have to log in to your Amazon user account. You may find this intrusive if you only want to listen to music. You can, at least, prevent access to your contacts. However, it needs to be made clear: The idea is that Echo Buds are more than just a pair of headphones. Rather, they are an assistant for daily life – similar to Google’s Pixel Buds. For this, you pay 119.99 euros or 139.99 euros for a version whose charging case is compatible with Qi-certified charging mats. If required, the Echo Buds can also be purchased in a bundle with a charging mat from Anker.
The IPX4-certified, sweat-resistant plastic construction weighs just under six grams and features touch-sensitive areas on the outside for control.
When not in use, the earpieces are housed in the charging case and are held in place magnetically. The runtime is approximately five hours with noise-cancelling switched on, depending on the volume, with an additional ten hours of capacity via the charging case – which, surprisingly, is a few hours less than the previous model. The full charging time is two hours, but they do offer a quick-charge mode.
The Echo Buds 2 now use dynamic drivers with a 5.7 mm diameter – the previous model relied on BA drivers. There are also three microphones on each side.
These headphones, which can be used individually if required, use a newer Realtek RTL8763C chipset with Bluetooth 5.0. The audio codecs are limited to SBC and AAC; higher-resolution variants are not included.
The ergonomically shaped, lightweight earpieces of the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen.) fit securely and feel quite free of pressure in the ear thanks to four pairs of silicone plugs and two complementary earpieces (wingtips). In addition, the Alexa app offers the useful option of checking the fit. For daily mobile use, the wearing comfort was completely adequate. For active sports use, I would opt to use the wingtips, which offer additional support in the ear. The app offers a workout mode and can record and display your steps count and other parameters.
The touch functions can be used to start and pause music playback, as well as for phone calls. There is also the option to skip tracks. One, two and three clicks as well as long presses can also be configured for different functions via the app; sometimes, it is even possible to set them up separately for the left and right sides. However, the selection of possible functions is reduced, and unlike with the previous model, volume control is not on offer. A longer press, which would typically switch between noise-cancelling and transparency modules, felt like it took too long to activate.
When inserted into the charging case, the earpiece is switched off. However, the second headphone that is not inserted can still be used. When it is removed, not only was pairing with the last paired device quick but playback (of the stereo image) was also continued or completed. The wireless link was on par with the competition in terms of distance, but these headphones do not offer multipoint connections. There were short outages from time to time during use. In several cases, Alexa also reported the unavailability of the Echo Buds 2, even though they were still paired.
Noise cancelling of the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen.)
According to Amazon, the noise-cancelling is more efficient than in the previous model. It is only switchable between active mode and a complementary transparency function (or it can be deactivated completely). In my opinion, the intensity of the noise cancellation was medium. Fortunately, there was no diving bell effect, but neither was there particularly intensive isolation from the environment. As usual, low-frequency and static background noises were better suppressed than impulsive and high-frequency noises. Thus, with and without music, one achieves an improved noise level, but not a complete “quiet zone” when on a train, for example. The transparency mode can be switched in five steps and thus enables you to interact with your surroundings. However, due to the rather sluggish switching, this was less spontaneous than with some competitor models.
The Echo Buds’ special feature is, of course, their Alexa integration. Although conventional voice assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant can also be used, Alexa makes it possible to do a lot more. Give the greeting “Alexa”, and it activates the corresponding voice recognition. This opens up a veritable playground where I was surprised at the hit rate when I spoke to my virtual associate in German or English. Weather, Wikipedia entries, fare prices and train timetable information, phone calls via Alexa-compatible end devices or the creation of notes worked with pleasant reliability.
For music playback, Amazon Music is predetermined. Here you can call up songs, artists and playlists. A connection must be set up for Apple Music, while Tidal is not supported. Another nice feature was that you can route the music playback from one output device to another by voice command. Whether you need all these functions is another matter. For those who need to be reassured: Amazon has, according to its own statements, implemented data protection and control measures on several levels. At least, it is possible to switch off the constantly eavesdropping microphone via the app.
For headphones in their price range, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd gen.) sound quite balanced. One should not expect audiophile miracles in the detail resolution and transparency, but they make quite decent-sounding accessories for mobile use. Tracks like “Celestial Echo” by Boris Blank/Malia and “Can’t let Go” by Robert Plant/Alsion Krauss conveyed space, dynamics, stereo panorama and a certain intimacy. The frequency mix suits most cases, but one should not expect full neutrality. For example, the Echo Buds were restrained and rather slim in the bass range – this was different from the previous model. There was no full low bass, but there was no annoying overemphasis either.
In the mids, there was a slight dip at first, and this turned into an emphasis in the high mids. At higher levels, this can lead to harshness, especially with aggressive mixes and distorted guitars, such as Meshuggah’s “Bleed”. With more subdued mixes, such as Slayer’s “Repentless”, this emphasis can have a positive effect. I didn’t notice any unpleasant harshness in the treble, but the brilliance of more expensive designs was not present. Nevertheless, the equaliser in the Alexa app can help in places. However, the three bands provided are not sufficient for fine-tuning. The noise-cancelling should be left switched on because it provides an additional noise margin. This was particularly advantageous when travelling.
Finally, the speech intelligibility during phone calls was also quite good. You are understandable to the person on the end of the line, and you can decide in the app whether you additionally want to hear your own voice through the headphones.
The new Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) do not represent a quantum leap, but they are definitely an improvement. They are lighter than their predecessors, offer more effective noise-cancelling and a different driver configuration. For me, the new model sounds somewhat more balanced, but they also have weaknesses. However, the main selling point is not the sound but the immense functionality that can be achieved by using the Alexa app. With the Echo Buds 2nd Gen. you are constantly and effortlessly connected to the ecosystem of the Echo network with additional access to the internet. Whether you need this depends on the situation, the application and your own choice.
- Ear couplingIn-Ears
- Transducer principledynamic
- Weight without cable5.7 g each, case 44.4 g
What's in the box
- 4 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L, XL)
- 2 pairs of ear hooks
- USB-C cable
- Charging case
- Available in black and white
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC
- BT version: 5.0
- BT profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HSP