It was only a matter of time before Amazon itself started packing Alexa for your ears. Others have been doing Alexa-powered voice assistants in earphones for a few years now, though Amazon itself has steered clear of the path till now. The wait seems to have been with good reason because the Echo Buds 2 is an altogether different take on truly wireless audio.
Amazon Echo Buds 2nd Gen review
The Amazon Echo Buds 2 have a very common, almost boring design which is just another way of saying they chose a tried and tested form factor than reinvent the wheel. The charging case is compact and easily fits in your jeans pocket. The earbuds are regular size and stay in place even if you are on a treadmill or out trying to test your son’s cycle.
Why these earphones are different starts becoming clear when you set them up. Unlike regular earphones that are paired using Bluetooth, the Echo Buds are added via the Alexa app like you would any new Echo device. It is quite simple and it takes about a minute for the app to find the new device and link it. Once that is done, the app tests for your ear fit and also lets you select apps that you want to stream directly.
Once this is done, I can just say, “Alexa, play Malayalam songs” and the Echo Buds will start streaming from Hungama or Spotify. I can also ask Alexa to switch the songs or increase volume, all without even tapping the earphones. Any skill I would use on an Echo device works here too. I can also ask Alexa to make calls given that I have the number saved properly.
What I really loved about the hands-free aspect of using the Echo Buds is that I could just ask Alexa to switch on Noise Cancellation also when needed. I can of course press on the earbuds and switch it on or off. There is also the pass-through mode where you become aware of the ambient noise in the room. The noise cancellation is pretty good, that too without the vacuum effect lot of earphones trigger with ANC.
While there is Alexa to pull out any song or query you might have, the best thing about the Echo Buds is that you can do all of this the regular way too. If I play a Pavarotti from Apple Music or Spotify app on my phone, the music just streams on the Buds without any toggling needed. So if you forget this is an Echo device you will still be using a pretty good truly wireless earphone.
The audio quality is natural and rich. No extra bass here to notch up music beyond its natural space. When you hear O Sole Mio, it’s almost as if you’re sitting just next to the tenor himself. In fact, this sense of space is most evident when you are watching videos. The audio is not so much in your ears and has a spatial existence that makes it feel so natural and makes you at times turn towards the side the voice is coming from.
For those who are getting this just for their music, the Echo Buds are highly recommended because of this natural audio profile, which is also versatile enough to wow you with Stromae’s Invaincu as well as Pt Ravishankar’s Prarambh and everything in between.
While in calls, the Buds give you the option for sidetone, which lets you hear your own voice on calls. Some will find this useful.
Another interesting feature is how the buds can track your workouts. In fact, even this you can initiate and end up using Alexa. Your counts appear in the Alexa app, and you can always ask her to give you a report. This works well and the steps and calorie count matched with my Apple Watch.
The battery life is good to last a week with regular use. If you are the kind wearing one all through the day, then this can last maybe a couple of days on a single charge. The charging case can be charged wirelessly, which is an added advantage.
Amazon Echo Buds 2nd Gen review: What is not so good?
There are a couple of issues I noted though. One, the earbuds make a slight clicking sound when you are running or moving around fast. You won’t hear this if you are listening to music, but I am used to wearing earphones just for the noise cancellation so that I can collect my thoughts and could hear this quite a bit.
The other issue is that Alexa works via WiFi as default and if you have a power outage as is the fashion in UP, you will need to switch off the WiFi on the phone to get her back.
Amazon Echo Buds 2nd Gen review: Should you buy?
Yes. At Rs 11,999, the Amazon Echo Buds 2 are capable enough to stand out in what is a very cluttered market. It has loads of features that others do have, and offers a music profile and noise cancellation that make the base profile tenable. These are truly smart truly wireless earphones.