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Amazon Echo Buds review: Is life better with Alexa and Bose ANC in your ear?

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £120

Can the Alexa-enabled Echo Buds kill off Apple’s AirPods?


  • Competitively priced
  • Decent noise cancellation
  • Alexa, Siri and Google Assitant


  • Basic design
  • Connectivity issues
  • Limited touch controls

It’s taken a while, but Amazon is finally ready to enter the wearable audio arena. The all-new Echo Buds are the very first headphones in Amazon’s now extensive Echo device family, and they’re by far the smallest, too. Although the Echo Buds aren’t the first headphones in the world to carry in-built Alexa, they are the first pair made by Amazon itself.

Perhaps unexpectedly, they also support Siri and Google Assistant. And then there’s that other major selling-point: Bose Active Noise Reduction. With so many features at such a fair price, the Echo Buds look, on paper, to be the best-value wireless headphones on the market. But what about in practice?

READ NEXT: Best noise-cancelling headphones

Amazon Echo Buds review: What you need to know

Amazon’s first in-ear wireless headphones are, essentially, a cheaper and more basic alternative to Apple’s AirPods. They come with built-in Bose Active Noise Reduction Technology and Alexa hands-free support and are also compatible with Google Assistant and Siri. Inside each Bud is a Knowles dual-balanced armature driver, and there are three microphones on each headphone to help pick up your voice. And with IPX4 splash and sweat-resistance, they should withstand light rain showers and intensive workouts without any trouble.

On the box, Amazon claims that the Echo Buds will deliver “up to 5 hours of music playback per charge” and roughly 20 if topped up using the charging case throughout the day. Over the course of the past week, I’ve found this estimation to be pretty accurate. In a typical day of commuting, I’d listen to music for about 2hrs, and with this sort of use, they go from around 100% to 50%. Obviously, the charge life will be affected by volume level and use of the Bose ANC feature.

Amazon Echo Buds review: Price and competition

Amazon has priced its Echo Buds at a fiercely competitive £120, which is less than half the cost of the Apple AirPods Pro (£250). Even the standard AirPods cost £150, which is a big enough gap to make people opt for Amazon over Apple. And because the Echo Buds also work with Siri and Google Assistant, they’re covering every possible consumer base.

There are some other worthy non-Apple rivals out there too. The Libratone Track Air+ (£179) have many similar characteristics to the Echo Buds, but battery life is better and their design is much more distinctive. They may be almost £60 more but for under £200 they’re the best around.

Meanwhile, fitness enthusiasts may prefer something along the lines of the JLab Epic Air Elite, which go for £150. They have outstanding sound, a much more secure fit than the Echo Buds and are a better choice if you want to remain aware of your surroundings while out and about.

Amazon Echo Buds review: Design, fit and connectivity

Amazon’s Echo Buds are small, shiny black pearls of plastic with discreet ear tips that jut out from the front end. They look much like any old generic pair of wireless in-ear headphones, as worn by a million commuters every day. In fact, there’s not even any Amazon branding on the Buds themselves. The distinctive ‘swoosh’ is only found on the compact charging case, which is topped up via microUSB.

I wouldn’t call the Echo Buds uncomfortable, but I definitely found them harder to fit than similar in-ear headphones from the likes of Anker, Apple and Google. Each pair of Echo Buds comes with three sets of ear tips and ‘wingtips’, in small, medium or large. Upon popping in the Echo Buds for the first time, they immediately popped back out, and one went rolling off along the floor. The only way I could get them to stay put was by using the largest ear tips and well as the largest size of the optional wingtips. With the wingtips affixed, however, it can be tricky to get the Buds charging case to shut properly.

Being an Amazon device, Alexa is obviously the Echo Buds’ primary smart assistant. As soon as you connect the Buds to your phone and sync them with the Alexa app on your phone, you can issue Alexa smart commands using only your voice. When there’s no Wi-Fi or data present, however, you’ll have to live without those functions. To make use of the Alexa voice features, your phone will need to be running either Android 6.0 or iOS 12 at minimum. Not everyone will be able to make use of the Echo Buds’ Alexa features: see Amazon’s list of non-compatible mobile phones here.

Then, of course, there’s that Google and Siri smart assistant support. Since I only own an Android handset I was unable to test out Siri functionality, but the iPhone users at the Echo Buds launch event seemed to be getting on fine. Unfortunately, my experience with Google Assistant on the Echo Buds hasn’t gone too well.

With touch controls, it’s meant to be very easy to activate Google Assistant (“simply press and hold your earbud”, say the instructions) and give it commands through the Echo Buds’ microphones. When it works it’s excellent, but when it chooses not to – which is frustratingly often – it can take several reboots of the Alexa app, or even my phone, to get the Buds to play ball with Google.

The touch controls options are poor in general, too. There are only two choices: a double-tap and a long press. I found that, when everything works well, it’s best to have the ANC function controlled with a double-tap and use the long hold for Google Assitant activation. To pause, I simply take one Bud out, and for volume adjustment, I either tell Alexa to do it or use my phone’s manual slider.

Amazon Echo Buds review: Noise cancellation and sound quality

At the launch event for the Echo Buds, myself and a group of fellow Alexa acolytes were led on a walking tour of London’s incredibly busy Soho to test their audio quality and noise-cancelling capabilities. Maybe not the safest place to be wandering around with noise-reducing earbuds and pumping music, but a good way to tell whether or not the function works.

Switching back to non-ANC mode, which Amazon calls ‘Pass-through’, it’s clear how much of the surrounding noise the Bose ANC actually blocks out. I’m not a fan of the filtered non-ANC and find that, as with other noise-cancelling headphones, it adds a significant amount of background babble that isn’t actually there, making a bar with around fifty people sound like a cavernous hall with five hundred. You can at least adjust how much sound ambient sound it lets through using the Alexa app.

Conducting a test phone call in the middle of a heaving street, I found the Bose ANC to be extremely effective and in fact essential for hearing the other person’s voice. There are three microphones on each Bud, and they seem to do a great job of picking up the voice; I was able to invoke Alexa with the quietest mumbling of commands. Since the Echo buds are integrated into the Alexa infrastructure, you can issue all the smart home commands that you’d normally give to your Echo (or other) smart devices at home.

The audio quality for music isn’t stunning on the Echo buds, but it’s well balanced and does a good job, with the soundscape filling up the whole ear. Amazon has kitted each bud out with a Knowles dual-balanced armature driver, and these deliver adequate bass and much higher volume than you’d ever need. Keep in mind that the quality of the audio and noise-cancelling is greatly affected by the security of the seal between your ear the earbuds. For £120, though, the sound is admittedly impressive; the Apple AirPods Pro are better, but they cost over twice as much.

Amazon Echo Buds review: Verdict

Should you buy the Echo Buds, then? I’m leaning towards saying yes. Amazon’s first wireless headphones are far from perfect, with their relatively short battery life and annoying connectivity issues, but at £120 these complaints aren’t too serious.

For Amazon aficionados who’ve already bought into the Alexa experience, getting a pair of Echo Buds is probably the next logical step anyway. And if you’re after a pair of decent noise-cancelling earbuds at a fair price then the Echo Buds fit the bill – no matter whether you own an iPhone or an Android.

Amazon Echo Buds specifications

OS supported:

iOS and Android

Smart assistants: 

Amazon Alexa (hands-free), Siri and Google Assistant


Knowles dual-balanced armature drivers


External beamforming microphones x 2,  internal microphone (on each Bud)


IPX4 splash and sweat resistant


Bose Active Noise Reduction Technology


Realtek RTL8763B Bluetooth System on Chip, Intel S1000 Digital Signal Processor, Analogue Devices ADAU1777 Audio Codec


Wi-Fi/data (for Alexa app and smart features), Bluetooth 5.0 Hands-Free Profile (HFP), Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP), Audio/Video Remote Control Profile (AVRCP)


microUSB (charging)


Bud: 22 x 23 x 24mm; Case: 57 x 77 x 29mm


Bud: 7.6g; Case: 70g