Amazon Echo Buds and AirPods Pro Join the Crowded Wireless Earbud Market
Last month, Amazon hosted an event during which they announced a collection of new hardware products, which includes smart glasses, security systems, and smart rings, all of which integrate with the company’s Alexa virtual assistant. The first of these products to reach consumers is the Amazon Echo Buds, which are available for purchase starting tomorrow, October 30th. Reviews for Amazon’s take on the truly-wireless earbud trend are out as of today, and they show that the premium devices offer excellent sound quality as well as cutting-edge features. The Buds’ $129 price tag positions them as a viable alternative to products like the similarly-priced Samsung Galaxy Buds, Apple’s AirPods and AirPods Pro, and the upcoming Google Pixel Buds and Microsoft Surface Buds.
Manufacturers each have their own take on the aesthetic presentation of their wireless earbuds, and Amazon is no different. The Echo Buds are arguably more stylish than their competitors; whereas some complain that AirPods resemble Q-tips and the Samsung Galaxy Buds appear too utilitarian, the Echo Buds feature a sleek, cylindrical plastic design which looks more understated and fashionable, a relevant consideration with wearable technology. Regrettably, the Echo Buds are available only in black, whereas the Galaxy Buds come in white, black, and yellow, and while the AirPods are only available in white, the upcoming AirPods Pro will be offered in a range of colors. Like their competitors, the Echo Buds are designed to be stored in a charging case when not in use, which provides up to 20 hours of playback time per charge.
What sets the Echo Buds apart from their competition is their inclusion of active noise reduction technology from Bose, a first in the truly-wireless-earbuds space. While not as powerful as the active noise cancellation technology featured on some over-ear headphones, the technology present in the Echo Buds can mitigate annoying hums or other ambient noises for a clearer listening experience. Like many of its competitors, the Echo Buds also feature pass-through ambient audio, allowing you to remain engaged in your surroundings if you so choose. The sound quality of the earbuds has been well-received, offering crisp audio and deep bass. Unfortunately, the Echo Buds’ case does not support wireless charging and instead relies upon the outdated Micro USC charging cable.
Yesterday’s announcement of the AirPods Pro was uncharacteristically unceremonial, perhaps indicating a lack of confidence in the viability of the product on Apple’s part.
Also releasing tomorrow is Apple’s premium take on the wireless earbuds concept, the AirPods Pro. Though they release on the same day as the Echo Buds, their hefty $249 price tag puts the AirPods Pro in a class all of its own. For that additional price, the AirPods Pro offer a number of significant upgrades over their cheaper predecessor. Unlike the standard AirPods, the AirPods Pro feature an in-ear design with rubber tips, allowing for better sound quality, and offer noise cancellation in addition to the ambient-audio passthrough feature of its predecessor. Though the AirPods Pro technically work with Android devices, they are optimized for iOS, as pairing the AirPods with an iOS device unlocks features like Ear Tip Fit Test, which measures how well the rubber ear tips fit in the user’s ear. Like most Apple products, the case for the AirPods Pro charges using a Lightning cable, though the product also supports wireless charging which should work with generic accessories.
For most people, especially people without iPhones, the AirPods Pro will be a tough sell, as several competitors offer alternatives with similar features at a lower price. Yesterday’s announcement of the AirPods Pro was uncharacteristically unceremonial, perhaps indicating a lack of confidence in the viability of the product on Apple’s part. The Echo Buds, however, with their compatibility with both Google Assistant and Siri as well as high sound quality, seem like a good option for somebody who is in the market for a new pair of truly wireless earbuds, as long as you don’t mind the lack of USB-C and wireless charging.
Tyler Olhorst is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.