The Apple AirPods Pro have garnered plenty of media and cultural attention since its release—these are the default active noise cancelling (ANC) earbuds for most iPhone owners. Amazon is attempting to rock the boat with the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), which appear plain, but pack plenty of tech under the smiles emblazoned on each earbud. Let’s find out if the new ANC Echo Buds have the same mass appeal as the AirPods Pro, and whether or not you should throw even more of your hard-earned cash Amazon’s way.
Amazon and Apple approach design differently
The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) and Apple AirPods Pro don’t share any DNA: the former looks unassuming, perhaps even drab, while the latter has a modest yet attractive all-white, glossy finish. Apple’s stems may appeal to the clumsy music lover, as they’re easier to grip than a more traditional earbud design like Amazon’s. Then again, the stem-free build of the Echo Buds is more covert and preferable for exercise—you won’t catch your towel or shirt on the Echo Buds as you dry off. Both sets of true wireless earbuds are fine for working out, with the same IPX4 rating.
Start here: What makes a good set of in-ears?
Each pair of buds features angled nozzles and removable ear tips that create a good seal, so long as you take a moment to find the best fitting ones. Amazon and Apple also include pressure-relief vents in each earphone, which increases comfort without compromising isolation or noise cancelling performance.
The charging cases are a standard affair, but Apple’s case features the proprietary Lightning input while the Echo Buds case uses the standard USB-C input. The AirPods Pro case supports wireless charging by default, but Amazon has a tiered set of options: the non-wireless case bundle costs $20 USD less than the wireless charging case bundle. While this may be a turnoff for some, the Echo Buds still ring up quite a bit cheaper than the AirPods Pro.
Can you customize the controls?
As long as you download the Alexa app (available on all mobile OS), you can customize the tap controls.
|1 tap||Play / pause|
|2 taps||Next track / answer or end call|
|3 taps||Previous track|
|Hold||Toggle ANC or passthrough|
To customize the AirPods Pro touch and gesture controls, open the Settings app on your iPhone and select the Bluetooth tab. Once you press the “i” icon next to your AirPods Pro, you may adjust the following controls:
|Action (stems)||Either earbud|
|Three taps||Previous track|
|Hold||ANC, Transparency, or disable Noise Control|
|"Hey Siri"||Change volume, request directions, playback control, receive messages, and more|
Unlike Apple, Amazon makes its software available on all platforms
The Amazon Alexa app is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, so you get an identical experience no matter what smartphone you own. The same can’t be said for the Apple AirPods Pro, which require an iOS or iPadOS device to access updates and take advantage of any software features.
iPhone owners get a host of excellent features with the AirPods Pro, like Spatial Audio (Apple’s version of object-based surround sound), Find My AirPods, hands-free Siri access, customizable controls, Adaptive EQ, and battery optimization to list a few. Die-hard Apple fans will appreciate how instantaneously the earbuds sync across Apple devices when linked under the same iCloud account, which is great for automatic device switching. One feature Apple refuses to add to its repertoire is a custom EQ module, which Amazon includes at a basic level for its Echo Buds.
Downloading the Alexa app opens the door to a few other features, like voice assistant integration across your smart home Alexa devices and syncing up various music services (Amazon Music HD or Audible). You also get unrestricted access to Amazon’s ear tip fit test; Apple offers this feature too, but again, its utility is limited to Apple hardware. Universal access to Amazon’s ear tip fit test is reason enough to buy the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) over the AirPods Pro: it’s an easy way to check your work and make sure you found the optimal ear tips, which is key for the best isolation and noise cancelling performance.
Do the AirPods Pro or Echo Buds have better noise cancelling?
Amazon took a risk with the Echo Buds by ditching the Bose Active Noise Reduction (ANR) of yesteryear in favor of its proprietary active noise cancelling tech, proving fortune really does favor the bold. These earphones significantly outperform the Apple AirPods Pro when it comes to both midrange frequency isolation and noise cancelling. The charts above should compel anyone in need of a good set of commuter earbuds to get the Echo Buds (2nd Gen).
Noise cancelling technology generally doesn’t do much to affect frequencies above 1kHz, which is where passive isolation comes into play. This is key for any set of earbuds or headphones to physically block out incidental noise like the clang of dishware or your roommates’ fits of laughter. Both earbuds will do a similarly good job of preventing these sounds from entering your ear canals. The AirPods Pro do a better job of blocking out really high-pitched sounds, but the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are a generally a little more consistent.
Do the AirPods Pro or Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) sound better?
The AirPods Pro and Amazon Echo Buds are both tuned to please the average consumer’s ear, but the AirPods Pro have a more accurate and versatile frequency response, closely aligning with our house curve. This is great for out-of-the-box listeners with no interest in putzing around to create a custom EQ, but anyone itching for more control should weigh the importance of the Echo Buds’ in-app equalizer.
Apple’s tuning amplifies bass notes with minimal midrange frequency masking, yielding loud bass that still makes it easy to hear vocals clearly. The same can’t quite be said for the Echo Buds, which reproduce bass notes two-and-a-half times louder than mids. While Amazon’s sound profile reflects consumer earbuds at large, it also introduces more opportunities for auditory masking, which can make it hard for you to perceive vocal and instrumental detail.
Both pairs of earbuds sound perfectly fine, but if you have a more eclectic music library, you’ll appreciate the AirPods Pro for their more accurate frequency response. Again, the Echo Buds don’t sound bad but they are more notably bass-heavy.
Which headset has the better microphone?
Microphone quality is not the Echo Buds’ best asset. Instead, its performance is middling and makes some lower voices sound “muffled.” The AirPods Pro microphone isn’t perfect either, but it generates more accurate voice transmission across the frequency spectrum. Take a listen to the audio samples below:
Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) microphone demo:
Apple AirPods Pro microphone demo:
Do the Echo Buds or AirPods Pro support better Bluetooth codecs?
The Echo Buds and AirPods Pro both use Bluetooth 5.0 and support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs, allowing iPhone owners to appreciate consistent high-quality audio. Android devices, while compatible with AAC, don’t play well with the codec across different hardware. In extreme cases, certain Android handsets are better off forcing SBC streaming in lieu of AAC.
You won’t be able to take full advantage of these tech giants’ music streaming services, Amazon Music HD or Apple Music, with either pair of earbuds because Bluetooth bandwidth can’t stream lossless audio. In other words, your preferred streaming service shouldn’t dictate which Bluetooth earphones you purchase.
The AirPods Pro have better battery life
When connected to an iOS device with ANC enabled, the AirPods Pro last 5 hours, 6 minutes on a single charge which is slightly better than the Echo Buds’ standalone battery life of 4 hours, 42 minutes. Popping the Echo Buds into the case for 15 minutes grants you 120 minutes of playtime, which is a little faster than the AirPods Pro: 10 minutes of charging yields 60 minutes of playback.
The AirPods Pro case provides an extra 19.5 hours of battery life before you need to charge it with the included Lightning cable or atop a wireless charging mat. Amazon’s case supplies you with an additional 10 hours of battery life before it needs a recharge. Again, if you want wireless charging with the Echo Buds. you need to make that distinction in your virtual shopping cart.
Apple AirPods Pro vs. Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Which should you get?
Whether you’re wed to Apple or Android, the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is the better value between these two sets of noise cancelling earbuds. The Amazon Echo Buds outperform the AirPods Pro in many ways: Amazon’s democratized Alexa app makes the full menu of features accessible to all, and its noise cancelling outranks Apple’s. Amazon even includes removable wing tips to ensure a secure fit when exercising, something you have to shop around for with the AirPods line. However, there are still plenty of reasons for certain shoppers to run with the AirPods Pro.
While many love to loathe Apple’s closed ecosystem, it works incredibly well. Anyone who owns multiple Apple devices will get a much more impressive feature set from the AirPods Pro. And yes, while it’s a shame Apple still hasn’t released a way to tweak the EQ, the default sound profile of the AirPods Pro is quite good. The AirPods Pro is the set of earbuds for iPhone users and anyone who values a good microphone in a small package.