The Apple faithful have been waiting years for the AirPods Pro: Finally, a set of AirPods that have some degree of sweat- and water-resistance and active noise cancellation (ANC). But these extras come at a proportionately extra price. The AirPods Pro are $250, making them among the most expensive true wireless earbuds you can buy. So how is it possible that Amazon’s brand new $130 Echo Buds seem to offer so many of the same features as the AirPods Pro, but for $120 less? Did Amazon cut too many corners, or is Apple just resting on the power of its brand reputation to charge whatever it likes?
We’ll get to the bottom of this right now in our comprehensive head-to-head (or bud-to-bud?) comparison. No stone will be left unturned. And in the end, you’ll be able to decide which true wireless earbuds are right for you.
If it wasn’t obvious from the introduction, let’s be clear: The Amazon Echo Buds are a lot cheaper than the Apple AirPods Pro. In fact, at $130, the Echo Buds aren’t just cheaper than the AirPods Pro, they’re also cheaper than the least expensive version of the AirPods. We like to cover this category up-front because we want you to keep it in mind as you read the rest of the comparison. It’s possible that the Apple AirPods Pro will justify their sky-high $249 price tag as we delve into their features, but on a pure dollars-to-dollars basis, this is the Echo Buds’ category by a mile.
Winner: Amazon Echo Buds
With a fully noise-isolating in-ear design and three sizes of silicone ear tips, the AirPods Pro sound way better than Apple’s AirPods — which is hardly a surprise. But they also sound better than a lot of true wireless earbuds, including the Echo Buds. We’re not talking about a massive difference, but the AirPods Pro are appreciably superior.
Given that the Echo Buds make use of balanced armature drivers — the same technology used in top in-ear monitors costing upwards of $900 — we were frankly expecting them to take this category. But it turns out there’s nothing wrong with good ol’ neodymium-magnet dynamic drivers when well-implemented. The AirPods Pro manage to produce a sound that is a bit warmer and a bit more nuanced, which is all it takes to win this round.
Winner: Apple AirPods Pro
Design, fit and comfort
The Amazon Echo Buds use a combination of three sizes of silicone ear-tip and three optional sizes of ear fins (wingtips) to achieve a good fit for most users. A feature within the Amazon Alexa app helps people determine the right size. We found that even without the wingtips, the Echo Buds stayed securely seated in our ears. The wingtips helped lock them in place during vigorous activities. The design is very comfortable, but like most in-ear earbuds, you can get a little fatigued after wearing them for a few hours.
The AirPods Pro also use an in-ear design with three sizes of ear tips. Like Amazon, Apple has also included a way to analyze fit using its software. Despite their golf-tee shape, more of their mass sits inside the ear and they’re a good bit smaller overall when compared to the Echo Buds. Despite not having ear fins, they stay nestled securely even during vigorous activities.
Our reviewer found that the Echo Buds were a bit more comfortable, but we’ve also seen online reviews that suggest the opposite. Given that personal preference is likely the deciding factor here, this one’s a tie.
We’ve praised Apple’s AirPods for their super-easy pairing and effortless integration into the iOS ecosystem, and we expect no less from the AirPods Pro. But much of what makes the AirPods such a solid choice for Apple users gets stripped away once you try to use them with an Android device. Pairing is less straightforward, you lose hands-free access to a voice assistant, and there’s no battery life indicator. The Echo Buds compensate for all of these cross-platform drawbacks through the use of the Amazon Alexa app.
The app coordinates all of the Echo Buds’ functions from customizing the double-tap and long-press on each earbud to selecting your choice of the voice assistant. Pairing is almost as instantaneous through the Alexa app as it is when using AirPods with an iOS device. The app also shows you the battery life of each earbud and the charging case. Only Alexa works hands-free on the Echo Buds, but you can set-up double-tap access to Siri on iOS or Google Assistant on Android.
We believe the AirPods Pro will remain the most convenient choice for iOS users, but for everyone else (or those who use multiple platforms) the Echo Buds offer more.
Winner: Amazon Echo Buds
Both the AirPods Pro and Echo Buds offer circuitry that uses external microphones to detect and reduce outside sounds. But they use different techniques to do so. The Echo Buds use Bose’s Active Noise Reduction (ANR) while the AirPods Pro use Apple’s own Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology. Noise cancellation is a tricky business and not every company that tries to do it is successful. One company with an exemplary track record is Bose, and we found the Echo Buds to be very good at reducing external sounds.
But Apple must be doing something right: The noise cancellation on the AirPods Pro is fantastic, as is the transparency mode that lets in outside sounds when you need to hear the world around you.
Neither of these true wireless earbuds are as accomplished at noise canceling as the superb Sony Sony WF-1000XM3, but the AirPods Pro come closer.
Winner: Apple AirPods Pro
Battery life for the Echo Buds and the AirPods Pro is rated at about five hours of continuous playtime. Both products will see a slight dip in these numbers depending on volume level, and use of ANC/ANR. However, the AirPods Pro pack just a bit more power into their charging case. The AirPods Pro wireless charging case extends the total battery life to 24 hours, while the Echo Buds (non-wireless) case top out at about 19 hours. We’re not sure that this is going to be a deal-breaker for many people, but Apple definitely takes this category.
Winner: Apple AirPods Pro
On the whole, as you can see from this showdown, the Apple AirPods Pro have proven themselves superior to the Amazon Echo Buds in several key categories like sound quality and noise canceling. Given their $249 price tag, it would be surprising if this were not the case.
But there’s the rub: Despite being better, we’re not completely convinced that the AirPods Pro fully justify the extra $120 it costs to buy them. Or put another way, we don’t think they’re twice as good even though they cost almost twice as much.
So yes, the AirPods Pro are better and if you’re already an Apple fan looking for an excuse to upgrade from your existing AirPods, look no further. But for everyone else, we suspect you’ll still be very happy going with the Echo Buds, and happier still that you’ve saved yourselves a wad of cash.
Are Apple AirPods waterproof? Everything you need to know
So, you just bought yourself a nice new pair of AirPods, or you're thinking about it because they're among the best wireless earbuds you can buy, and you're wondering if they're waterproof. The answer is no, AirPods are not waterproof and you should not wear them while swimming or in the shower or during a water balloon fight. But, if the pair of AirPods you've got (or got your eye on) is either the third-generation AirPods or the first or second-generation AirPods Pro, then you're in luck as they are water resistant.
We're going to get into what all that means and break down how water resistant each AirPods model is and what their water-resistance ratings mean for your daily activities. Let's go.
Water resistant vs. waterproof
As we mentioned above, none of Apple's AirPods -- AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPod Max -- are waterproof. But what is "waterproof" anyway? From an electronic device standpoint, being waterproof means that the device is watertight and can be completely submerged in water. There's a common ratings system designed for electronics to measure this (as well as dust and dirt resistance) known as the IP (Ingress Protection) rating, which we cover in our post on the water-resistance rating system.
The Lightning connection on AirPods Pro may be a thing of the past if Apple finally makes the switch to USB-C. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends
One of the worst-kept secrets in Cupertino, California (if anyone's actually trying to keep it, anyway) is that the iPhone 15 is going to switch to USB-C from Apple's proprietary Lightning connection when it's announced later this year. That's likely due in no small part due to the European Union, and generally speaking, it's a good thing because proprietary cables are bad for you, even if they're great for Apple. (And arguably better for the product.)
Soon, Apple AirPods Pro will be able to react to your environment
At Apple's annual WWDC event today, Apple announced some clever new AirPods Pro skills to make it easier to get the most from the earbuds' active noise cancellation and transparency modes. The new enhancements will be supported by iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma, which will both be available in the fall.
The first feature is called Adaptive Audio, an optional mode that sits between full noise cancellation and transparency modes. It uses onboard processing to determine the right amount of noise canceling and transparency for your given situation and automatically applies those changes.