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If you’re in love with Alexa, Amazon’s first-generation Echo Buds were a great pair of headphones. Sure, they didn’t have the same sound quality or noise-canceling abilities as premium options from Apple and Samsung, but they were cheap, decent, and worked better with Amazon’s voice assistant than any other pair.

With its second generation, the Seattle-based tech giant refines its buds to something even more competitive. Wireless charging and noise-canceling join a brand-new pair of 5.7-mm drivers and beamforming microphones to create what’s probably the best overall experience in wireless earbuds below $150.

Add to that some of the best app integration available today, and the new Echo Buds are some of my favorite jack-of-all-trades headphones.

New for Gen Two

The new Echo Buds don’t really resemble their predecessors, apart from being made from the same matte plastic. The old case was more flat than tall, with the earbuds sitting at an angle inside, while the new wireless charging case is tall and thin.

They look and feel more streamlined. The buds themselves are now totally round on the outside, and what previously were two shiny, raised touch controls are now indistinguishable from the rest of the headphones, save for the Amazon arrow logo.

Noise-canceling chips, new mics, and better drivers mean the new Echo Buds feel a touch bulky, though they’re still 21 percent smaller than their predecessors. Still, I had no problem with them in my average-sized earholes; they land firmly in the post-Frankenstein’s Monster era of wireless earbuds.

Finding the right fit is a big priority for Amazon. Pop open the case, pair them to the Alexa app on your phone, and it’ll make sure that you’ve chosen the right ear tip size (Amazon includes four options, as well as two sizes of silicone earfins), thanks to a fit test inside the app.

Amazon Echo Buds and ear tips
Photograph: Amazon

I like the Echo Buds’ fit a bit more than AirPods Pro (8/10, WIRED Recommends), because they don’t have the little elephant trunks of the AirPods, but I’ve got to hand it to Apple on noise-canceling. Even with the wrong size of eartips on Apple’s flagship earbuds, they reduce background noise noticeably better than these Amazon buds. Still, the Echo Buds beat AirPods Pro on battery life (5 hours with noise-canceling to Apple’s 4), and they come with a quick charging capability that will get you 2 hours of listening with a 15-minute trip to the wall.

As with most non-Apple headphones, the Echo Buds work better with Android phones than iPhones, though they are compatible with Siri and Google Assistant, in addition to Amazon’s own helper. I spent the vast majority of my listening time using a Samsung Note 20 Ultra 5G that Samsung provided me on long-term loan, and they worked flawlessly. I even paired them to my Galaxy Watch with ease.

Alexa Onboard

If you like Alexa. the best part about the buds is how easy they make it to summon Amazon’s AI assistant. I liked using the Echo Buds to set timers, check the weather before runs, and check my schedule with my hands free.

Obviously, your mileage will vary based on how much you like voice assistants and Alexa in particular, but it’s worth trying the voice-activation feature before you turn it off.