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Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) vs Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

How committed are you to the Apple ecosystem?
By
January 6, 2022
Image of the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) next to an image of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)

Ever since the massive success of the original Apple AirPods, seemingly every major consumer technology company has expanded into the true wireless earbud market. Amazon’s latest offering is the Echo Buds (2nd Gen), which aims to sway users away from the flashy Apple AirPods (3rd generation).

With perks such as active noise cancelling (ANC), adjustable fit, and Alexa integration, is the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) a better value than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

Does the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) fit better than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

A hand holds a Apple AirPods (3rd generation) earbud by the stem to reveal the open-type fit and embedded sensors with the open case in the background.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) has a more rounded speaker element opening meaning a better fit in your outer ear—and a worse fit at the ear canal opening.

Apple redesigned the shape of the AirPods this time around, but the earbuds still take a one-size-fits-all approach to comfort. There are no swappable ear tips, so if your ears don’t match up to the Apple standard, you’ll be stuck dealing with comfort and fit issues. The lack of a tight seal means the earbuds don’t block out environmental noise, and there’s also no ANC.

On the other hand, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) features a bevvy of different fit options. There are three different sized silicone ear tips, as well as two sizes of rubber ear stays that rest against the outer ear for a more secure fit. Additionally, the companion app features an ear tip fit test to ensure that you are using the right combination of ear tips and ear stays for you.

The Amazon Echo Buds (Gen. 2) and their several ear sleeve options.
If you’ve performed the fit test to find the right ear sleeve sizes, these earphones aren’t going anywhere you don’t want them to.

The charging cases included with both sets of earbuds are small enough to fit in most pockets. Lightning, MagSafe, or standard wireless charging powers the AirPods case, while the Echo Buds can be configured with a wireless charging case for an extra $20 USD.

If you plan to use your earbuds for exercise, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) and Apple AirPods (3rd generation) are both suitable options. Both sets of earbuds include an IPX4 rating, which protects against sweat and light splashes of water. Still, Amazon’s earbuds will stay in place better than Apple’s.

How do you control the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) and Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen)?

A hand holds the AirPods (3rd generation) in the right ear while touching the force sensor stem.
To take advantage of automatic ear detection, you need an iPhone or iPad.

Replacing the tap functionality of earlier AirPods generations, the AirPods (3rd generation) features a force sensor built into the stem (akin to the AirPods Pro). You can easily identify the touch-sensitive part by the oblong divot, so you won’t be stuck tapping away to no avail. You can also activate the voice assistant when connected to an Apple device with the “Hey Siri” command.

Action (stems)Either earbud
One tap
Play/pause
Two taps
Skip forward
Three taps
Previous track
Press and hold
Siri
"Hey Siri"
Change volume, request directions, playback control, receive messages, and more

The Amazon Echo Buds (3rd Gen) has a capacitive touchpad on either earbud to control basic functionality. If you wish to access Siri or Google Assistant instead of Alexa, you can change the long press to activate those voice assistants from within the Alexa app.

ActionCommand
1 tap
Play / pause
2 taps
Next track / answer or end call
3 taps
Previous track
Hold
Toggle ANC or passthrough

Both sets of earbuds feature ear detection that automatically pauses your music when the earbuds are taken out of your ear, and resumes playback when you put them back in. However, the AirPods features a more advanced skin-detection, which won’t resume playback when you set the earbuds down on a table or in your pocket.

How do you connect the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) and Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) to your device?

A person holds open the case to the Amazon Echo Buds (Gen. 2), while it attempts to connect to a phone.
Be sure to download the Alexa app before connecting your buds to your phone if you want all the features to work.

Once you’ve installed the Alexa app, pairing the Echo Buds to your device is as simple as opening the case. Similarly, popping open the AirPods charging case lid near an Apple device will instantly connect to your device, while the H1 chip syncs the earbuds to your iCloud account for seamless switching from your iPhone to your Macbook or iPad. Pairing the AirPods to an Android phone requires manually pressing the pairing button and selecting the earbuds from within your Bluetooth settings.

Both earbuds support Bluetooth 5.0 with SBC and AAC. AAC works best with Apple devices, while the standard SBC will provide a reliable connection to any other devices you connect your earbuds to.

Read more: Understanding Bluetooth codecs

What software features do the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) and Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) have?

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) open case holds the earbuds and sits on a wood surface.
The new case diverges from previous generations’ cases, more closely mirroring that of the AirPods Pro.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) does not have a companion app, and therefore most software functionality is limited to those with an Apple device. Apple device owners get firmware updates, hands-free Siri access, and Spatial Audio support. Through the Apple Settings app, you can name your AirPods, choose what happens when you press the force sensor on either earbud stem, and toggle automatic ear detection on or off. Other extras include the ability to select which microphone is used for calls, battery optimization, and Find My AirPods to identify lost earbuds.

On top of all of the integrations that the Alexa voice assistant has to offer, by using the Alexa app with the Echo Buds (2nd Gen), you gain:

  1. Equalizer control
  2. Find my device
  3. ANC settings
  4. Enable wake words
  5. Adjust tap controls
  6. Ear Tip Fit Test
  7. Workout data
  8. Live battery data for each earbud, and the case
  9. Power saving mode

Does the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) have better battery life than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

Battery life received a noticeable boost with the newest version of the AirPods. With continuous playback at 75dB(SPL), the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) lasted 6 hours, 21 minutes on a single charge. In comparison, the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) battery only lasted 4 hours, 42 minutes.

You might like: The best eco-friendly headphones

MagSafe provides a new way to power the latest AirPods, but the MagSafe charging mat does not come included with the AirPods. The AirPods (3rd generation) charging case provides an additional four charges to the earbuds, with fast charging providing 60 minutes of playback time from only 5 minutes of charging.

An aerial view of the Amazon Echo Buds (Gen. 2) in grey.
Though nondescript, the Amazon Echo Buds (Gen. 2) are unmistakably an Amazon product at a glance.

USB-C powers the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) charging case, which in turn provides an additional two charges to the earbuds. Charging the Echo Buds for just 15 minutes provides 120 minutes of music playback.

Will the AirPods (3rd generation) or Echo Buds (2nd Gen) last a long time?

True wireless earbuds aren’t built to last, so the total battery lifespan of either set of earbuds is limited. With optimized battery charging mode enabled, the AirPods don’t charge past 80% until you need it. This helps preserve the lifespan of the AirPods, but you still shouldn’t expect these earbuds to last more than a couple of years of regular use.

Does the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) block out more noise than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

A man wears the left earbud of the Amazon Echo Buds (Gen. 2).
The rubber ear stays and fit test ensure the best possible performance of the Amazon Echo Buds (Gen. 2).

If you frequently find yourself in noisy environments, you’ll have a much better experience with the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation). Not only do the silicone ear tips on the Echo Buds passively block out more noise than the AirPods, but the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) also features active noise cancelling to quiet low-frequency sounds around you.

With ANC enabled, most noise will only sound about one-quarter as loud. This is supremely helpful when transiting on a bus or plane, or for tuning out your noisy co-workers in the office. The Echo Buds also features an audio passthrough mode that amplifies sounds around. This is good when you need to be aware of your surroundings.

On the other hand, the Apple AirPods simply isn’t designed to block out noise. There’s no attenuation to frequencies below 2kHz, so you’ll have to crank up the volume on the headset to hear your music when in noisy environments. Not only will this impact the way your music sounds due to the effects of auditory masking, but sustained playback at high volume levels can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

Does the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) sound better than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation)?

Frequency chart showing the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) with a dip in the mid range frequencies compared to the SoundGuys consumer curve and Apple AirPods (3rd generation)
The dotted yellow line shows the frequency response of the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), the cyan line shows the frequency response of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation), and the pink line shows the SoundGuys target curve for consumer headphones.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) has a fairly standard frequency response that most people will prefer, whereas the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) boosts low and high frequencies and makes them much louder than mids. The Echo Buds’ 10dB reduction around 200-500Hz leaves the fundamental frequencies of vocals and some instruments to sound too quiet. Luckily, this can be resolved with some adjustments to the in-app EQ.

In contrast, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) has a neutral response from 50Hz-8kHz, before dropping off at the extreme ends of the human hearing range. This means most music will sound good on these earbuds, but make sure you don’t force the earbuds too deep into the ear canal to attain the benefit of the bass reflex ports on the top edge of the earbuds. Adaptive EQ makes slight adjustments to the sound to align with the fit of the earbuds in your ear, and you can also adjust your system EQ from within the Apple Music settings.

Does Spatial Audio make the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) sound better?

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) open case holds the earbuds and sits on a wood surface.
The earbuds have bass reflex ports on the top edge. If you force the main nozzle output into the ear canal you don’t get the low-end contribution from the rear port.

Spatial Audio works best on tracks that have been mixed in Dolby Atmos, which allows sounds to be placed in simulated locations around your head as if they’re movable objects rather than static channels. Additionally, the new Spatialize Stereo mode on the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) converts any audio source to a virtual surround sound. However, in most cases the regular stereo mix will sound better than with the Spatialize Stereo effect layered on top.

Become an expert: How does surround sound work in headphones?

In addition to Spatial Audio, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) features head-tracking technology, which can be toggled on by selecting Head Tracked from within your device’s control center. Rotate your head one way, and this mode will pan your music the other way, giving the effect of the music staying in one place in front of you. This creates the effect of a virtual stage in front of you, bringing you closer to feeling as though you are present at an actual live performance.

Which headset is best for phone calls?

Both sets of earbuds feature microphones that are adequate for taking calls on the go. You won’t be doing professional voice recording work with either of these true wireless earbuds, but that’s okay; that’s not what these microphones are for. When it comes to answering calls, both earbuds strip away background noise to focus on your voice.

Listen to the microphone demos below and let us know which you think is best.

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) microphone demo (Ideal):

Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) microphone demo:

Which microphone sounds better to you?

98 votes

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) vs Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Which should you get?

If you don’t have an iPhone, the choice is simple—get the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen). With multiple ear tip sizes and active noise cancelling, the Amazon earbuds offer the kind of versatility that most people will greatly appreciate.

The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) in black against a white background.
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) with wireless case
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

On the other hand, if you’re deep within the Apple ecosystem, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) might be worth a look. Automatically connecting to all your iCloud devices is a nice convenience, while perks such as Spatial Audio and the great battery life might pique your interest. Just be careful not to listen with the AirPods in noisy environments due to the unsealed nature of the earbuds.

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) true wireless earbuds in the open charging case against a white background.
Apple AirPods (3rd generation)
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

What should you get instead of Amazon and Apple’s earbuds?

The Apple AirPods Pro in a man's left hand (foreground) with an iPhone and the AirPods Pro wireless charging case in the background.
For fit’s sake, the AirPods Pro is the best AirPods you can get—by virtue of the fact that they’re the only ones that seal your ear canal.

If you can, we’d highly recommend making the jump from the regular AirPods to the AirPods Pro. The inclusion of silicone ear tips and ANC enables the AirPods Pro to outperform the regular AirPods in pretty much any environment.

Android users, especially Samsung device owners, should check out the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. These earbuds have good noise cancelling and a consumer-friendly sound, and can frequently be found on sale for less than both the AirPods and Echo Buds.

Finally, both Apple and Android users should consider the Beats Studio Buds. The Beats Studio Buds reproduces more bass than the AirPods (3rd generation), shares the same IPX4 rating, and works nearly as well on Android as it does on iOS. If you’re more workout-oriented, the Beats Fit Pro may be more your style since the earbuds have integrated wings that grip your ear.

See more: The best true wireless earbuds