The earbuds are Amazon’s latest effort to lure people who don’t want Apple and to attract those who want to use Echo products and bring Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant in their ears everywhere they go within Bluetooth range.
The new Echo Buds have active noise cancellation, like the AirPods Pro. Amazon says they block twice as much background noise as the first model. The feature makes for better listening in places like airplane cabins or crowded streets.
Amazon seems to have addressed a lot of the complaints I had with the first version of Echo Buds. They’re 20% smaller than the first generation and are supposed to be more comfortable thanks to a redesign and a variety of rubber tips that come with the headphones.
They also come with a carrying case that’s 40% more compact than the older model. And, finally, the case uses a more modern USB-C charger that you might already have for your laptop, tablet or phone. You can also opt for an upgraded case that supports wireless charging, a feature also offered by Apple, for $20 more.
Amazon said each bud has three microphones to help improve audio quality in noisy environments. They’ll also help Alexa hear you better and improve your voice clarity in phone calls. It improved the bass and treble, too.
There are a couple of new software features. Amazon is introducing a feature to help you find your lost earbuds by just saying “Alexa, find my buds,” for example, which is similar to Apple’s Find My software. Alexa will also offer public transit directions in seven cities — New York, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Jersey City and Philadelphia. Support for other cities will launch in coming months, Amazon said.
Amazon says the second-generation Echo Buds will offer five hours of music playback with noise cancellation on (or 6.5 hours if it’s off) and up to four hours of call time. The case offers up to 15 additional hours (or 19.5 hours with active noise canceling off.)
The Echo Buds will launch on May 13 in white and black. They’ll start at $99 for the regular model or $119.99 for a version with the wireless charging case. After a promotional period that ends May 12, they’ll cost $119.99 and $139.99, respectively.