And here is yet another brand that enters the waltz of true wireless headphones. With the Echo Buds (2nd generation), Amazon signs banal headphones that only shine through the extensive integration with the Alexa assistant.
First presented as an exclusive for Anglo-Saxon countries, the second generation Echo Buds finally showed the end of their transducers in France in February 2022. Faced with the myriad of competing models, these second Echo Buds rely heavily on native integration of Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, with which it is possible to interact on the fly without having to take your phone out of your pocket.
Beyond this feature, the Echo Buds (2nd generation) are true wireless headphones that could not be more classic, offering active noise reduction, IPX4 certification and the possibility of induction charging, among others. The Echo Buds (2nd generation) were launched at a price of €120 for the standard version and €140 for the one with a wireless charging case.
Our test was performed with firmware version 578821692.
Manufacturing & accessories
The Echo Buds (2nd generation) are headphones with a simple and understated design. Neither too big nor particularly discreet, they adopt a round design made entirely of plastic combining glossy finishes on the inside and matte on the outside. Only the small arrow of the Amazon logo affixed to the outer surface brightens things up a bit. The manufacturing quality is very correct and the whole seems robust to us. IPX4 certified, the Echo Buds are also resistant to water splashes and perspiration, provided that they are properly maintained after each intense sports session.
The case is entirely made of matte plastic, has excellent finishes and seems just as robust as the headphones. Its contained size also allows it to be transported without worry in a trouser pocket, even very tight. It is also very easy to handle with one hand thanks to its earphone magnetization and opening systems.
Amazon has been rather generous in terms of accessories with no less than four pairs of silicone tips of different sizes, as well as three pairs of stabilizers (including two identical pairs) which are also made of silicone. The good idea was above all to include a long cable of 1 m for recharging and not a small copy of about twenty centimeters, as is the case with many competitors.
Without being unpleasant, the Echo Buds (2nd generation) are not the most comfortable true wireless earphones that we have tested. They take up a lot of space in the hollow of the ear and apply a certain pressure to the level of the shell, especially on small sizes. If you don't have small ears, the Echo Buds (2nd generation) can then be quite comfortable. But, even in this ideal case, they show their limits over prolonged periods of use (greater than 1 hour) by causing severe pain in the antitragus. Their rounded design, and therefore not very ergonomic, leads them to rely on this part of the ear to stay in place.
The Echo Buds (2nd generation) also hold very well in the hollow of the ear, even without a stabilizer. They still bring a certain gain in terms of support, in particular thanks to their silicone design, which is much more adherent to the skin than the plastic of which the shell of each earphone is made.
Overall, the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) aren't anything special and make do with the bare minimum when it comes to available controls and features. Fortunately, the native Alexa integration and the simplicity of the companion app help them stand out.
Indeed, the Echo Buds (2nd generation) are fully controllable using Alexa. Like the AirPods with “Hey Siri”, it is possible to interact with the Amazon assistant directly with the voice without having to go through the touch surfaces (passage required for Google Assistant and Siri). Voice recognition works wonderfully in a quiet environment: Alexa understands the orders given to it very well, even the most complex ones, without having to raise their voices. Things get much more complicated when the environment becomes noisy. Raising your voice can even prove totally ineffective in the worst conditions.
The earphones are also completely controllable thanks to the two tactile surfaces positioned on their external face. It is thus possible to carry out a series of one, two or three taps, as well as a long press to trigger a wide variety of actions ranging from the management of reading to that of the volume through the navigation between the tracks. The touch sensors are very reactive, even too much because they can sometimes be activated inadvertently. Moreover, there is a certain latency between the moment when the press is made and the execution of the action.
The Echo Buds (2nd generation) incorporate a non-deactivable proximity sensor that allows you to pause or restart playback when they are removed or replaced in the ears.
To take full advantage of these Echo Buds, in particular with the Alexa assistant, it is necessary to download the aptly named Alexa app (Android, iOS). Simple, but effective, it gives access to various indications such as the remaining battery level or various personalization parameters such as an equalizer or the assignment of touch controls. All settings are saved by the earbuds and carried over from device to device.
Pairing is done by pressing the button on the back of the case for several seconds. The Echo Buds (2nd generation) then communicate via Bluetooth 5.0 and are compatible with SBC and AAC codecs only. We encountered no connection dropouts or range issues during our test, even in environments flooded with Bluetooth devices like the rush-hour subway or a busy open space. On the other hand, we regret that there is no fast pairing functionality (Fast Pair, Swift Pair, etc.) or support for a multipoint function. Amazon headphones are also difficult to use individually, because no switch to mono is made; we therefore lose half of the stereo signal in this case of use.
The Echo Buds (2nd generation) have kept their promises, about 5 hours with active noise reduction on and a little over 6 hours with RBA and Alexa deactivated: an honest score, although many competitors do better. The case meanwhile offers about two additional charges.
With three microphones per earpiece, Amazon presents the Echo Buds (2nd generation) as ready for all eventualities. In a quiet environment, the voice is indeed well captured, its timbre is relatively respected and the sounds are often transcribed aggressively ([s] and [ʃ] are never unpleasant for the ears here). Still, the voice lacks presence and seems a bit pinched, as if we had a cold.
In very noisy environments, for example near a busy intersection, the surrounding noise suppression algorithm struggles to correctly detach the voice from the parasitic sounds. Even if we manage to detect certain spoken words, it is very difficult to hold a conversation in these conditions and we advise you to pick up directly with your telephone to make yourself understood at the other end of the line.
Bluetooth impulse response delay.
The Echo Buds (2nd generation) do not particularly shine with their sound performance due to a garish rendering and stunted bass. The general imprecision is also very damaging.
Frequency response measurement (normalized to 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz). With active noise reduction (purple), without active noise reduction (black).
The first thing that strikes with these Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is the excess high mids and highs, as well as the pronounced bass pullout. This behavior gives all the instruments a very sharp, slamming, even acidic side, which is quite telling on saturated guitars, brass or even cymbals. The snare drum hits also “beat” the eardrums quite a bit and the voices are certainly perfectly intelligible, but lack roundness and seem a little too slender. To tell the truth, almost everything lacks roundness, more particularly instruments officiating in the bass register such as large percussion, basses or double basses. These have a dry rendering and lack body: the impacts are still felt, but the resulting resonance is very timid. However, a small turn with the equalizer can restore a little warmth and slightly calm the treble in order to obtain a sound signature that is more pleasant to the ear. Also note that disabling noise reduction allows you to gain a little roundness, but this remains almost anecdotal.
Measurement of harmonic distortion (normalized to 94 dB SPL at 1 kHz).
To make matters worse, the general rendering is imprecise over the entire spectrum. This lack of precision is particularly audible on the high mids and highs because of their frank emphasis. This results in some sibilance phenomena and timbres that are not always very faithful. The inaccuracy of the bass is less obvious because of its fallback, but the most seasoned will be able to detect overflows when the mix becomes rich in low frequencies.
Measurement of membrane reactivity: square waves at 50 Hz.
The highlighting of the highest frequencies and the general inaccuracy inevitably lead to rapid auditory fatigue due to the high sensitivity of the human ear for high mids. You must therefore be careful not to have too heavy a hand on the volume, otherwise you will exacerbate the exhausting and trying side of the sound reproduction of these Echo Buds (2nd generation). This very frontal sound signature also projects certain effects, usually discreet, on the front of the stage, making the latter particularly crushed in terms of depth.
Measurement of membrane reactivity: square waves at 500 Hz.
Active noise reduction
Active noise reduction is not the strong point of these Echo Buds (2nd generation) either. First, the attenuation isn't very effective at blocking out all components of lower-pitched sounds, such as the rumble of a train or the roar of engines. There thus remains all that is of the order of the hum. Luckily, the rest of the bass and the lower mids are very well attenuated, which makes it possible to silence a good number of parasitic sounds. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for mediums. The Echo Buds (2nd generation) also emit a constant hiss which can quickly become annoying, especially if you want to use the headphones only to cut yourself off from the world.
Insulation measurement: reference (black), passive insulation (grey), active noise reduction (purple), in Transparency mode (orange).
The passive isolation provided by the headphones is also quite disappointing, especially for intra-auriculars. In addition, the occlusion of the auditory canal causes a significant emphasis of the resonances caused by walking.
To end on a good note, the Surrounding mode, very well mastered, allows you to remain aware of your environment and to hold a conversation without any problem while wearing the headphones in your ears. The surrounding sounds are indeed transcribed with fidelity and not artificially.
Deep integration with the Alexa assistant.
Very realistic Surround mode.
Good quality finish.
Unbalanced overall rendering (excess of high mids, set back bass).
Lack of precision on all frequencies.
Feeling of comfort far from optimal.
Noise reduction ineffective on the lowest sounds and midrange.
Particularly high latency in Bluetooth communication.
A few very practical features are missing (multipoint, switching to mono, quick pairing, etc.).
How does grading work?
For its first pair of headphones sold on French soil, Amazon signs a rather average product that does not stand out in any of the critical areas such as comfort, audio quality or active noise reduction performance. Its real highlight might have been the ability to interact with Alexa using just voice, but other headphones are just as capable. In short, we advise you to go your way and set your sights among many options that are often cheaper and much better in terms of audio quality, comfort and noise reduction performance.