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Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): New hands-free Alexa earbuds available to preorder in the UK

Amazon is promising better sound and more effective noise cancellation from its second-generation Amazon Echo Buds

Amazon has confirmed the UK release date for the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen).

The second-generation Echo Buds were released in the US earlier this year and are now available to preorder from the retail giant’s UK website, with units shipping on 10 November.

We were reasonably impressed by the original Echo Buds when we reviewed them in 2019, praising their competitive price, noise-cancelling abilities and support for Siri and Google Assistant in addition to hands-free Alexa functionality.

However, a basic design, connectivity issues and limited touch controls prevented us from giving them a wholehearted recommendation. We won’t know exactly how the second-gen Echo Buds compare until we’ve tested them, but they seem to have made some meaningful improvements in key areas.

Preorder now from Amazon

Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Price and availability

The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) can be preordered now in either black or a new “glacier” white colourway and there are a couple of variants available.

The base model comes with a charging case that’s topped up via USB-C and costs £110, while a version that supports wireless charging costs a little more at £130.

Amazon has introductory offers on both variants, but these are exclusive to Amazon Prime members. Those with Prime can pick up the cheaper model for just £80 and the model with wireless charging for £100. Preordering the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) will also net eligible customers six months of access to Amazon Music Unlimited.

If you’re not already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial of the service using the link below.

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Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): What’s new?

The Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) are 20% smaller than their predecessors and replace the last generation’s glossy touch panels with matte-touch surfaces adorned with Amazon’s logo. The nozzles that fill your ear canals have been shortened and small vents have been incorporated into the buds’ design to help reduce in-ear pressure while using them.

All of these design tweaks sound positive on paper and will hopefully translate to a secure, comfortable fit and a more attractive aesthetic than the original Echo Buds. To help achieve a good fit, Amazon is including four pairs of eartips with the buds, along with two pairs of wingtips. There’s also an “eartip sizing test” within the Alexa app to help you work out which combination of tips is right for you.

The Echo Buds (2nd Gen) promise a few other upgrades, too. Amazon says the active noise cancellation (ANC) cancels twice as much noise as the first-generation model, which is a bold claim and one we look forward to testing.

The ANC offered by the original Echo Buds used noise-reduction technology from noise-cancelling experts Bose and was impressive for a pair of mid-range earbuds. If it’s actually twice as effective this time around, there won’t be many similarly priced earbuds able to compete with the second-gen Echo Buds on the ANC front.

Like their predecessors, the second-gen Echo Buds offer a passthrough mode that pipes in external sound to enable you to be more aware of your surroundings. The level of ambient sound the buds allow in can be adjusted via the Alexa app, which is handy.

Amazon also says the quality of the microphones has been improved, which should result in clearer calls and fewer occasions when Alexa mishears your commands.

We’ve not been provided details about the audio specs, but again Amazon is promising an upgrade, with the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) offering “even better sound” than the originals. While we weren’t blown away by the first generation’s audio quality, we thought it was well balanced and able to deliver a reasonably wide soundstage underpinned by a decent bass response.

This time around, Amazon says the Echo Buds’ “high performance” drivers deliver “crisp, balanced sound with extended dynamic range” and “increased fidelity in bass and treble”.

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Sadly, these various upgrades seem to have negatively impacted battery life. With ANC and hands-free Alexa on, the Echo Buds offer up to five hours of audio playback per charge, with the charging case providing two full charges of the buds. That’s only 15 hours total, which by current standards is pretty poor, and is five hours short of what the original Echo Buds delivered.

The cases can now be charged by either USB-C or a Qi wireless charger rather than micro-USB, which goes some way to offsetting this reduction in battery life, but there’s no getting away from the fact that other buds out there offer significantly more playtime.

Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen): Returning features

The big draw of the Amazon Echo Buds was their hands-free Alexa functionality, and that of course makes a return in this second-generation model. You’ll be able to summon Alexa by simply uttering her name and gain access to the myriad commands the voice assistant has at her disposal.

Siri and Google Assistant are also supported again and accessed via the Echo Buds’ touch controls, which remain pretty simple. A single tap will play or pause your music; tapping twice skips to the next track and answers calls, and a triple tap takes you back to the previous song. Long-pressing either earbud will cycle between the ANC and passthrough modes, but there’s no way to adjust volume without hailing Alexa.

Lastly, the second-gen Echo Buds retain the IPX4 rating of the originals, meaning they’re able to withstand splashes of water from all directions, marking them a decent choice for exercise and outdoors use.

Preorder now from Amazon

We’ll be getting a review sample of the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) soon, so be sure to check back to read our full review and find out whether Amazon’s latest headphones are worthy of a spot on our best wireless earbuds roundup.

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