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Echo Buds vs. AirPods

We’ve had a tendency to think of Google as Apple’s biggest competitor. Given that they go head-to-head on music, gaming, mobile operating systems, smartphones, streaming devices, and a dozen other products and services, it’s no surprise. But recently, Amazon has been elbowing its way into that fight and nowhere is it as obvious as Amazon’s new hardware — specifically its Echo Buds. Clearly aimed at the same buyers as Apple’s AirPods, but with plenty of differentiating features, the Echo Buds are a clear sign that Amazon’s ambitions are putting it on a collision course with the courageous crew from Cupertino.

But do the Echo Buds have what it takes to sway Apple fans from the super-popular AirPods? Let’s see how they stack up in some of the most important categories.

Price

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Apple has never been shy about charging premium prices for what it sees as premium products. At $159 for AirPods with a standard charging case and $199 for the model that comes with a wireless case, few would argue that these true wireless earbuds are a bargain. Still, their price hasn’t hindered their sales, which means a lot of buyers feel it’s an acceptable amount to spend. If that’s the case, those same buyers should swoon over the Amazon Echo Buds. At just $130, Amazon has stayed true to its product pricing strategy of selling hardware that undercuts the leading players.

You can only decide if spending less on a product makes sense based on all of its features, but if the price is a top consideration, Amazon has the edge.

Winner: Amazon Echo Buds

Sound Quality

Amazon Echo Buds
Riley Young / Digital Trends

With their open design, Apple’s AirPods have never been tops for sound quality. Without a good seal within the ear canal, many frequencies end up competing with external sounds to be heard. The Echo Buds use an in-ear design, with three sizes of ear tips to ensure a good fit and tight seal. As a result, sound quality is much better. By default, the Echo Buds deliver a boomier bass than the AirPods, however, an in-app EQ adjustment lets you compensate for highs, mids, and lows, and these adjustments follow you from app to app. With the AirPods, EQ is dependent on each app’s individual settings.¢

With a better design that leads to better sound, we think the Echo Buds take this one.

Winner: Amazon Echo Buds

Battery life

Apple AirPods
Riley Young/Digital Trends / Digital Trends

Nobody wants their true wireless earbuds to die halfway through the day, which is why we’re now seeing models that can manage up to 10 hours or more on a single charge. But neither the AirPods nor the Echo Buds fall into this camp. Each will last about five hours between refills, but there’s a difference when it comes to their charging cases. Apple’s case will keep you from needing to be plugged in (or from finding a Qi charger) for 24 hours, whereas the Echo Buds charging case only extends your time to 20 hours.

We’re not convinced that the amount of battery capacity in a charging case is as pertinent to buyers as the time between earbud recharging, but Apple can definitely claim a small victory here.

Winner: Apple AirPods

Voice assistants

Amazon Echo Buds on ear
Jennifer McGrath/Digital Trends

These days, Siri is at the heart of Apple’s mobile and smart home ambitions. The voice assistant is one of the biggest draws to its HomePod smart speaker, and Siri is the soul of the AirPods if you have an iPhone. With the ability to summon Siri hands-free, AirPods are the key to unlocking what Siri can do. But if you don’t own an iPhone, the AirPods lose a lot of their charm. They’ll work with Google Assistant on Android devices, but can’t operate hands-free and this option takes a few tweaks to get it to work.

The Echo Buds, on the other hand, are blissfully agnostic when it comes to voice assistants. If you prefer Android, they can be configured to work with Alexa or Google Assistant. If you use an iPhone, you get Siri as an option too, although only Alexa works hands-free at the moment on any of these platforms. The Echo Buds’ three-mic combo does an impressive job of picking up your voice even in loud environments, making Alexa a very responsive companion.

If you want choice over which A.I. does your bidding, only the Echo Buds can deliver with this kind of ease.

Winner: Amazon Echo Buds

Extra features

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Is simplicity a feature? Absolutely, and the AirPods are wonderfully simple to set up and use. But it should be possible to offer simplicity of use while still incorporating high-value extra features. So far, Apple has resisted giving the AirPods any kind of noise-canceling capabilities or the ability to handle moisture. Apple’s new AirPods Pro offer both — for a steep price of $250.

The Echo Buds feature both IPX4 protection from water, making them perfect for workouts, plus they include active noise reduction (ANR) technology from Bose — the first non-Bose products to do so. You can also vary the degree to which that ANR block sounds, from maximum to none at all.

Apple might well catch up on features in the next few months, but right now, the Echo Buds simply do more.

Winner: Amazon Echo Buds

Design

Apple AirPods
Riley Young/Digital Trends

Apple fans may adore the way the AirPods look and feel and for some folks, a true in-the-ear design will never feel comfortable. But judging by the number of individual AirPods that end up on the subway tracks in New York City, we’d say the design isn’t without its drawbacks. Still, Apple’s charging case is tiny and one of the best we’ve yet to find — an important consideration for an object that needs to go everywhere with you.

The Echo Buds may lack the smooth, white appearance of the AirPods, but what they lose on fashion, they gain on fit: The Echo Buds come with three sizes of ear-tips and a further three sizes of wing-tips. Not only should this guarantee a good fit for most people, it dramatically reduces the chances of needing a subway search and rescue mission.

However, the charging case for the Echo Buds is considerably bigger than the AirPods’ and that might be inconvenient for some people. Given that this category will mostly come down to personal preference, we think it’s a tie.

Winner: Draw

Conclusion

Now that we’ve reviewed the Amazon Echo Buds, we can call this comparison conclusively: The Echo Buds will be a better choice of true wireless earbuds for most people. Apple fans will still prefer the way AirPods mate seamlessly into their lives, but we think Amazon has put together one of the best values in a true wireless earbud we’ve ever seen, with a combination of sound quality and features that are hard to beat.

Buy Amazon Echo Buds Now:

Buy Apple AirPods Now:

Wondering how the Echo Buds compare to the new AirPods Pro? We’ve got that comparison too.

Looking for another option in a true wireless earbud? Check out our list of the best true wireless earbuds.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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