Amazon is back with a new set of Echo Buds. Though they bear the same name as the first- and second-gen Echo Buds, these new Echo Buds offer an entirely different, semi-in-ear, stem-based design that has more in common with Apple’s second-gen AirPods than it does with Amazon’s previous designs. The latest Echo Buds are also surprisingly affordable at just $50.
While the decision to keep the name the same may be confusing, the decision to create a set of wireless earbuds with a semi-in-ear shape makes a lot of sense. Fully in-ear buds like the second-gen Echo Buds, the AirPods Pro, and Sony’s WF-1000XM4, provide distinct advantages for sound quality and they also set the stage for active noise canceling (ANC). However, lots of people find these earbuds uncomfortable to wear. The silicone tips increase the sensation of having an object wedged in your ear, and some folks complain of a sucking feeling, especially when ANC is turned on.
These concerns in part explain why Apple’s original AirPods design — also a semi-in-ear shape — has continued to sell despite the fact that they’re now several generations behind in terms of tech features. It also explains why Amazon has chosen to release these new Echo Buds — they let Amazon try to capture that segment of the population that doesn’t like fully in-ear designs.
The AirPods comparison extends beyond design. Like the AirPods, the new Echo Buds give you hands-free access to a voice assistant, though in this case, it’s Amazon’s Alex instead of Apple’s Siri. Also like the AirPods, you won’t get ANC on the new Echo Buds and there’s not much in the way of passive noise isolation, so you can expect to hear more of your surroundings when music isn’t playing.
For now, the new Echo Buds are only available in black, and they come with a clamshell-style charging case. The second-gen Echo Buds give you the option to order them with a wirelessly-charging case for more money, but so far Amazon hasn’t indicated if the new version will offer a similar option.
The new buds have a claimed five-hour battery life (again, very similar to the AirPods) and the case contains three full recharges for a total of 20 hours of operation. Inside the earbuds are 12mm dynamic drivers, which Amazon says will deliver “rich sound and balanced bass.” They’re compatible with Bluetooth Multipoint for simultaneous connections to wireless devices, and the controls can be customized using the Amazon Alexa app.
Amazon hasn’t indicated whether the new Echo Buds offer any kind of official water resistance rating, though if the pattern of mimicking the AirPods holds, there won’t be any IPX rating.