These days I flounce off down the stairs, apparently talking to myself, but anyone who knows about my gadget-filled life will figure out that I’m only giving commands to a virtual assistant — perfectly normal.
Amazon’s Alexa has found a home in many headphones and earbuds from various companies, but Amazon itself entered the game later and has now introduced the Echo Buds 2.0 in India for ₹11,999. These buds improve on the first gen which didn’t make it here.
The Echo Buds 2 look surprisingly uncharismatic for an Amazon product. Not that it matters much as these are going right into your ears where hopefully, no one will see them very much. They’re not in the stem design that Apple’s Air Pods and all its imitations have. A round button (black, in my case) will plug your ear and in will go the soft ear-tip that protrudes slightly from it. There are extra tips in the package and some wings in case you want to improve balance and fit. They’re comfortable, but you do have to give them a gentle twirl to make sure you’ve got them in secure and with a good seal.
The set-up for the Echo Buds involves connecting them through the Alexa app, like all other Echo products. It definitely takes a lot longer than than the one-tap connection you have for other wireless audio gadgets. But if you’re to use the Echo Buds for their main purpose, the app and hooking into the Amazon ecosystem is what it’s all about. Access the Buds’ settings as you would any other device’s in the dedicated tab and see if you’d like to opt for a fit test.
Once all that’s done, the Echo Buds are ready and all complete with Alexa functions. That means you can ask the same questions you would from a regular Echo speaker. To trigger Alexa, just say her name or tap on an earbud. You’ll hear the familiar ping and can ask what you’d like, or control your smart home products and lights, play music from your preferred and linked services, and so on.
The Echo Buds are really targeted at people who are big Alexa users. They’re tuned to sound clear — and they do — and though listening to music is very much part of the equation, the sound doesn’t match up to many other earbuds in this category. There is a bass present, but perhaps not as much as the typical Indian customer would like. The focus is on clarity — the treble is prominent and can even be a bit sharp at higher volumes. These aren’t loud and full-bodied so you do tend to increase the volume but then bring it back down because it can get a bit shrill. You and Alexa can hear each other quite clearly though.
The Alexa app will show you that there’s also active noise cancellation on these buds. Again, not up there with the other big names in music, but good enough to put a dampener on outside noise. I could still hear the whoosh of a ceiling fan, for example, but it wasn’t that prominent. You can toggle between ANC and Pass Through by long-pressing the earbuds.
Many controls for the earbuds can work with the Alexa voice command, but it’s not flawless. I expected trouble because I have a lot of Alexa speakers around — would the buds know I was speaking to their Alexa? And yes, they did. Although you can hear the other speakers pinging in response, the one that would respond would be the closest — the buds when I was wearing them. It does some other interesting things too, such has handing off from a speaker to the buds if I’m listening on a speaker and switch to the buds.
Calls have been pretty clear with the Echo Buds. No one suspected I was on earphones, in fact. My commands to call are usually routed to mobile numbers but you can use the Drop In feature to call any of your own Echo speakers or those of others who have granted permission. This too is nice and clear. You can use a single bud if you like, but multi-point use isn’t available.
The Echo Buds are nice for Alexa users who have a lot of activities tied up with the assistant and for whom she’s the assistant of choice.