Amazon has launched its second-generation Echo Buds earbuds in Australia, featuring some welcome improvements over the first generation. The news should please those that were quick adopters of generation one, who liked the convenience of Alexa functionality in true wireless buds but were a little let down by niggling issues in the device.
To be fair, generation one did have some things going for it. As well as Alexa integration, it had Bose’s proprietary noise reduction technology, but a consensus from reviewers was that its audio quality couldn’t quite reach the likes of competitors like Apple’s AirPods, and it needed a firmware update to prevent overheating while charging.
Amazon has stepped up the Echo Buds audio quality in Gen 2 by incorporating Active Noise Cancellation (ACN) technology, which is the sought-after ambient noise reduction technology in 2021. The Echo Buds ACN blocks out “twice as much ambient noise,” Amazon says. This should deliver a noticeable improvement in sound quality to the user.
This year we’ve seen ANC delivered at its most affordable price ever in true wireless earbuds, with devices like Huawei’s FreeBuds 4i making the technology available at a never-before-seen low price point.
The new Echo Buds, which will retail for AU$169, are not far off the retail price of AU$159 for the Huawei FreeBuds 4i, which if you weigh up the other improved features – including the Alexa integration - seems quite competitive. A wireless charging model of Gen 2 will retail for AU$199, which also sounds reasonable.
The other major change to the Echo Buds (Gen 2) is a design overhaul. Amazon have modernised the earbuds to be smaller, lighter and arguably more comfortable than before. The earbuds themselves are about 20 percent smaller, but the case is nearly half the size, being approximately 40 percent smaller.
This is a big deal because it means users who were reluctant to carry the case before, will probably now do so and should benefit from the extra battery power they get from the case on the fly.
Battery life, while still on par with what you’d expect in 2021, looks to have dropped a little in Gen 2 according to Amazon’s press materials. While Echo Buds (Gen 1) offered up battery life of about 5 hours of playback on a single charge and 20 hours with the case, Amazon says the Echo Buds (Gen 2) offers 5 hours playtime on a single charge and about 15 hours when the earbuds are paired with their case.
Still, users will have the option to turn off ACN and Alexa modes that should provide more battery life if they choose to. Amazon says Echo Buds (Gen 2) also have Quick Charge that provides up to 2 hours playtime from just 15 minutes of charging time. This should also balance out some of the reduced battery life in Gen 2.
In Australia, both the black wired Echo Buds (Gen 2) and the wireless charging versions of Echo Buds Gen 2 are available now at Amazon. The Echo Buds (Gen 2) will be released in New Zealand in early 2022.