Active noise cancellation (ANC) has changed the game for wireless earbuds and travel headphones, allowing users to tune out ambient noise, so they can listen more intently to their playlists. Despite that, there’s still a lot of folks who’d rather not tune out their surroundings when listening to music and the newest Amazon Echo Buds is aimed at that crowd.
The third-generation of Amazon’s true wireless earbuds, the new entry-level model ditches both the passive and active noise cancellation features found from its predecessor, instead taking the form factor straight back to the basics. That means, it doesn’t just lose the ANC, it also takes out the in-ear tips, opting instead for the more traditional form factor that simply puts the earbuds at the opening of the ear canal.
The Amazon Echo Buds takes on a form factor similar to the regular AirPods, with a stem to offload some of the bulk, a semi-in-ear shape, and grippy silicone covers that allow it to sit securely on the ear. As you probably already know with these kinds of earbuds, it’s semi-open, allowing plenty of outside sound to get in, so you can stay completely aware of your surroundings at all times. There’s also no ANC, so there’s no way to tune out the sound of engines, crowds, and all sorts of other distractions.
It comes equipped with 12mm drivers that, Amazon claims, delivers “crisp audio, balanced bass, and a full sound.” They pair those drivers with two microphones, which are aided by a voice accelerometer to ensure clear voice pickup. While those microphones will obviously come in handy for voice calls, this is an Echo device, which means it’s a vehicle for putting Alexa in your ears. As such, you don’t even need to press a button to call Amazon’s voice assistant, as it’s always listening for you to summon its name, so you get its full range of intelligent functions, allowing you to rely on Alexa for various digital tasks on the go.
The Amazon Echo Buds also supports Siri and Google Assistant if you prefer your phone assistants, although both require tapping an extra button similar to the implementation in other earbuds and headphones. It also supports Bluetooth dual-point switching, so you can pair the earbuds to your phone and laptop at the same time for seamless, instantaneous switching between devices, while customizable tap controls on each earbud allows you to tailor the controls to your exact liking.
Despite being a cheap, entry-level device, the earbuds come with sweat-resistance, so you can wear it to the gym for a sweaty workout with no hassle. If you thought battery life will benefit from not having ANC, well, they seem to have cheaped out on that end (understandable, since this is a very affordable device), as it can only run for five hours between charges, with the charging case adding another 15 hours’ worth. Charging on the case for 15 minutes, by the way, juices it enough to give it up to two hours’ worth of charge.