Echo Buds Gen 2 Review: How Amazon‘s Wireless Earbuds Stack Up Against the Leading Brands

The wireless earbuds market has exploded in recent years. Global shipments of true wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds surpassed 73 million units in 2021 according to analysts like IDC, more than triple the volumes from just two years ago:

YearTWS Earbuds ShipmentsYear/Year Growth
201923.5 millionN/A
202045.5 million93.6%
202173.4 million61.3%

With category leaders like Apple and Samsung commanding over 50% combined market share, many audio newcomers have struggled to keep pace. But Amazon threw its hat into the ring betting that pairing great sound with intelligent voice control could disrupt the status quo.

The Echo Buds 2nd Generation aim to embody that strategy via upgraded hardware, deeper Alexa integration, and continuous software improvements. Do these advancements position Amazon to carve out its own slice of the multi-billion dollar wireless audio pie? Or do shortcomings still land their latest offering short of greatness?

After over 40 hours of hands-on testing, I believe…

Overview: Meaningful Upgrades But Work Left to Do

The Echo Buds Gen 2 target consumers wanting an affordable alternative to premium brands without sacrificing must-have features like active noise cancellation (ANC), touch controls, or voice assistant access. Starting at $139.99 ($40 less than AirPods Pro), they pack impressive specs like:

  • 20% smaller dimensions for ergonomic comfort
  • Dual external + internal mic array for hybrid ANC
  • Customizable sound via built-in EQ adjustments
  • Wireless charging case support (premium model only)
  • Hands-free Alexa wake word access

These capabilities help explain over 85% of reviews rating 4 or 5 stars on Amazon. On paper the second gen Echo Buds seem to offer tremendous value.

But sizable gaps remain between Amazon‘s audio aspirations and category leaders Apple and Samsung. Short battery life, finicky controls, and spotty connectivity indicate opportunities to polish the overall experience. Software updates may smooth out select rough edges over time, but still expect a few compromises at this bargain price point.

Let‘s examine how the Echo Buds Gen 2 perform across critical aspects you should consider before buying.

Design: 20% Shrinkage Pays Off

Reducing each earbud‘s footprint by nearly 1/5th to 19.1 x 19.1 x 20 mm may not seem significant on paper, but makes a tangible comfort difference over prolonged wearing. The contoured chassis nestles nicely against the ear without protruding, aided by interchangeable stabilizing fins to keep things anchored.

Constructed from rigid matte plastic, the charging case looks handsome bearing Amazon‘s logo while incorporating standard USB-C charging. Its pocketable footprint compares closely against the competition:

Earbuds ModelCase DimensionsCase Weight
Echo Buds Gen 267 x 29 x 39 mm44 grams
AirPods Pro60 x 46 x 21 mm45 grams
Galaxy Buds 250 x 50 x 27 mm41 grams

With comparable carry footprint plus sweat resistance, bringing them to the gym or out on a run poses no issue. Just don‘t expect full submersion waterproofing without eventual damage. Overall the new aesthetics and ergonomics stand out as a selling point benefitting long term daily use.

Audio Quality: Balanced Sound & Custom EQ

Evaluating sound quality for in-ear buds constitutes an inherently subjective exercise. Preferred frequency response curves vary by listener depending on musical tastes and hearing physiology. So while metrics like driver size, impedance, and frequency range provide technical indicators of audio prowess, personal preference plays an outsized role.

By pure hardware measurements, the Echo Buds Gen 2 drivers rate competitively:

SpecificationEcho Buds Gen 2AirPods ProGalaxy Buds 2
Driver Size5.7mmDual drivers (11mm woofer + 7mm tweeter)12mm + 6.5mm per bud
Frequency Range100Hz – 6.8kHzN/A20-20kHz
Impedance16 ohmsN/A16 ohms

With a resonant mid range and clean treble tones, instrumentation shone through with surprising warmth given the entry level price tier. Low ends lacked oomph on bass forward tracks, though installing third party foam eartips helped reinforce the bottom end. Ultimately the drivers perform beyond their cost, if still trailing category dominators.

But the Echo Buds‘ killer audio feature comes via adjustable EQ settings baked into the Alexa app. Toggling between presets like Jazz, Rock, and Pop made genres sparkle, as sliding custom EQ sliders dramatically impacted tonality. Boosting bass and sculpting mids to taste gave fingerprints tailored specifically to my peculiar hearing. It‘s an underdiscussed feature I wish more reviews highlighted.

Noise Cancellation: Impressive Strides Made

The Echo Buds Gen 2 implement an impressive four microphone array to combat external noise – three mics built into each earbud plus an outward facing sensor. Many budget earbuds like the Pixel Buds A-Series sport half as many. This allows collecting robust environmental input to counter ambient chatter and dull steady state sounds like bus engines.

Performance-wise Amazon‘s hybrid active noise cancellation makes admirable strides shushing common racket without producing eardrum sucking pressure. Mid-range chatter around the house got muted substantially, though higher pitched sounds still pierced through noticeably. Even premium ANC models struggle eliminating certain frequencies.

I‘d rate the Echo Buds‘ transparency mode good not great – allowing quick external amplification is handy but incoming sounds felt strangely processed. Quickly enabling pass through by voice ("Alexa, turn on transparency") worked better than tap gestures. Overall a stellar showing again belying bargain pricing.

Battery & Charging: The Achilles Heel

Amazon promises 5 hours playback per charge with ANC + Alexa active, stretching to 15 hours via the charging case. My real world testing actually found times falling 10-15% under those estimates. Hitting just ~4 hours before needing a top up certainly lags the ~6 hour averages of category leaders:

ModelSingle Charge w/ANC OnCharging Case Extend
Echo Buds Gen 24 hours 35 min~14 hours
AirPods Pro5 hours19 hours
Galaxy Buds 25 hours~13 hours

It‘s a vexing shortfall hinting at optimization issues, especially given better standalone longevity offered by Amazon‘s prior model. Thankfully quick charging nets 2 hours playback from just 15 minutes docked. The $40 premium for the wireless charging case may tempting techies. Sadly battery life remains the Echo Buds Gen 2 Achilles heel.

Controls & Connectivity: Touchy Yet Limited

Onboard gesture controls represent the most divisive aspect…scrolling playback via taps and presses on each earbud works reliably, albeit while suffering from hair trigger sensitivity. Light grazes frequently skipped tracks mid-song until disabling touch inputs altogether. Foam eartips blocking incidental face contact curtailed the chaos.

Connectivity via Bluetooth 5.0 proved sufficient yet less versatile than ideal given lacking multipoint pairing. I hoped to pipe phone calls over the buds while streaming Spotify from my tablet, but could only link with one device at a time. Supporting dual connections simultaneously stands as basic expectations for TWS earbuds in 2022. Amazon promises delivering it via software update soon.

Alexa & Smart Features: Tight Integration where it Matters

No shock to find Alexa front and center on an Echo branded product, but voice assistant intimacy exceeds expectations. Having Amazon‘s AI just a wake word away to request news, weather, smart home controls, and mobile notifications felt enormously freeing. No need taking out my phone passing basic commands.

Automatic workout tracking also works shockingly well, auto-sensing runs to log duration and splits. Those tied closely into my daily step counts too. Google Assistant and Siri nicely round out ecosystem flexibility for iOS/Android owners, though still playing second fiddle to the Alexa showcase.

Breaking Down Value: Impressive Savings Add Up

Feature for feature few wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation match the Echo Buds 2 under $150. Competitors like the 1More ComfoBuds Mini come close on paper but suffer reliability complaints in real world ownership. Similar trade offs plague discount ANC models from Anker, Taotronics and skullcandy.

Mapping costs over two years of ownership including accessories underscores the savings buying Amazon given frequent bundle deals and steep resale value losses hitting Apple products:

ModelPurchase PriceExtramic FoamsWireless Charger KitTotal Year 1 CostResale Value After 2 Years2 Year TCO
Echo Buds Gen 2$120$20N/A (optional)~$140~$60~$160
AirPods Pro$249N/A$60~$310~$120~$280

Who Are The Echo Buds Gen 2 Best Suited For?

The latest Echo Buds make great companions for:

  • Alexa & Amazon ecosystem households – Tight integration with Amazon Music, smart home gear, Kindle books and more
  • Fitness buffs – Cross training & gym sessions aided by wingtip anchors and sweat resistance
  • Budget buyers – Impressive ANC and sound given entry cost well under competitors

Who Should Choose Alternatives?

Better options may exist out there if:

  • You demand marathon battery life – ~5 hours per charge leaves frequent fliers recharging
  • Audio perfectionist seeking mastering grade fidelity – Bass heads and purists crave more power
  • Using with Windows/Mac laptops frequently – Lack device switching and non-Android EQ tuning app

The Bottom Line

The second generation Echo Buds offer tremendous overall value aided by best-in-class integration with Alexa and compelling noise cancellation that belies bargain bin pricing. Quirks around battery life, muffled mic pickup, and connection reliability do leave room for refinement. But disciplined shoppers shouldn‘t hesitate adding these to their shortlist.

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