Debuting on Amazon Australia for $149 a few weeks ago, the Echo Buds 2nd generation model were potentially a great value for money basic pair of earbuds.

However, barely effective noise cancelling and poor fit means they are not useful for commuting, uncomfortable to wear and frequently fall out.

Unboxing and Setup

Inside the small blue box you’ll find the Echo buds inside their charging case, a USB-C cable for recharging, a bunch of ear tips and wing tips of different sizes and well explained small manual with useful images.

What it does well

There are 2 variations of the Echo Buds 2nd gen depending on whether you want a USB-C wired charging case only for $149 or USB-C and Wireless charging case for $30 more.

Allowing recharge via USB-C is good, no new tech products should be sold with a Micro-USB charging port anymore.

It is good that each bud can be used independently if you prefer to wear a single left or right bud while walking or commuting to be aware of traffic, other people, pets etc.

Setup and customisation are via the Alexa app. If you refuse to have an Amazon account, you simply can’t use this or any other Amazon hardware product.

Better designed buds have an option in their app to let you test how well the buds work in your ears. While Amazon hasn’t got the physical shape of the buds right, at least their software tries to figure out a better fit for you.

The charging case is sturdy, easy to flip open, has helpful LED‘s for charging and battery level as well as magnets to hold the buds in safely.

IPX4 rating is better than no water resistance but it is the lowest IP rating, you can’t (or definitely shouldn’t) use these in the rain.

What it does poorly

The shape of the buds is a circle with a squarish edge which doesn’t make sense because it isn’t curved like a human ear. They fitted kind of well enough in my ears to wear for up to an hour or so, but it wasn’t comfortable and one of the buds fell out at least once a day.

To check the fit issue wasn’t just an issue for my ears, I looked at reviews made by people who’d bought these buds and bad fit was a common complaint eg:

Amazon Top1000 reviewer Keran:

“The fit – it is awful. No matter which size you change to, this product will pop out of your ears, often at the most inopportune times. If anything the wingtips exacerbate the problem and if they don’t tear when you are putting them on, they will likely tear when removing them”.

Controls are via touch panels on each bud. Unfortunately it’s really easy to trigger false presses when taking these buds in and out.

You can swap between noise cancelling and passthrough with a long press but the 3rd option of disabling noise cancelling and passthrough for just an isolated fit is only available via the Alexa app. This is a bit annoying as it requires going through several menus.

Passthrough mode is a good idea in theory to let you temporarily hear outside noise like traffic or train announcements. Unfortunately though it properly amplifies ambient sound like passing traffic. Passthrough mode is unusable because it also adds a loud continuous hissing sound.

Speaking of noise cancelling mode I tested it on:

  • a 737 domestic flight (not effective, only managed to hear the TV show by turning volume way up)
  • a Sydney bus (blocked out a little of the bus engine and traffic noise but far from completely) and
  • a Sydney train (removed a bit of the train noise but I could still clearly follow the conversation of two people talking 3 metres away).

Overall I’ll call that a noise cancelling fail.

The Amazon Buds 1st gen weren’t sold in Australia, but according to USA reviewers they had better noise cancelling because the tech was licenced from Bose whereas the 2nd gen buds have Amazon’s own inhouse noise cancelling.

Should you buy them?

If you’ve read this far you’ll already know the answer is no, you probably shouldn’t.

Alexa, please test the 3rd generation model Echo Buds in a wide variety of human ears so they fit without hurting and don’t fall out.

Further, Amazon should either concentrate on a good isolating fit for the 3rd gen and not bother with active noise cancelling features, or licence noise cancellation tech from an audio company that knows how to do it well.

These buds simply do not deliver the experience they promise, and as such we cannot recommend them.