Amazon Echo Buds 2 Review: A More Affordable Alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro
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Amazon Echo Buds 2 Review: A More Affordable Alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro

Amazon’s second-generation earbuds have noise-cancelling and hands-free Alexa.

By Nicole Ngyuen
Fri, May 28, 2021 11:45amGrey Clock 3 min

I’ve worn earbuds more over this past year than any other. Between video calls and workouts at home, it felt like I was constantly putting some sort of implement in my ear.

Wireless earbuds have become essential—as has noise-cancelling technology to drown out the sounds of housemates. If you’re looking for a new pair, and are leery of dropping $399 on Apple’s shiny Pro ’pods, consider Amazon’s recent update to its Bluetooth buds.

The Echo Buds come in white or black. PHOTO: NICOLE NGUYEN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

The second-generation Echo Buds have active noise cancellation and built-in, hands-free Alexa. They’re smaller and sound better than the previous model—and they’re cheaper too.

The price—$120, or $140 with a wireless charging case—is why these headphones are worth your attention. Noise-cancelling earbuds from companies like Apple, Samsung and Bose all cost over $200. For significantly less, Amazon’s set offers similar audio quality and sound-blocking cancellation, with some trade-offs.

Active noise-cancelling doesn’t only seal out sound; it uses microphones to listen to ambient noise, then generates opposing sound waves to eradicate it. (If it helps, think of lining peaks with troughs, and troughs with peaks.) Good noise cancelling is difficult to do, especially in small, marble-size earbuds.

The AirPods Pro are my gold standard. They can’t isolate sound like bulkier over-ear headsets, but they successfully reduce daily din to levels that allow me to concentrate. During indoor and outdoor testing, I was surprised how well the Echo Buds 2 active noise cancellation held up in comparison—and for $130 less.

Outside, the grumble of passing trucks and the howling wind were imperceptible. Inside, I could hear my husband on his video call, until I put on music. Then, his voice faded into the background.

Noise-cancelling has to start with a secure seal. A range of ear-tip sizes (S, M, L, and XL) plus three pairs of optional ear-support wings are included in the box. You can test the fit in the Alexa app. A chime plays and rates the quality of your seal. With the default medium tips installed, my fit was “good.” Adding wings bumped my grade to “great.” My ears did feel sore after wearing the buds all day. Downsizing to small tips eliminated the pain, but broke the seal.

To ensure a good fit, the earbuds come with different-size round ear tips and optional ear-support wings. PHOTO: NICOLE NGUYEN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

A snug fit also improves the audio experience. Modern pop such as Griff’s “Black Hole” and classics like The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” sound great in the Echo Buds. The bass is particularly punchy, and the treble is clean. Competitors I’ve tested do produce more balanced audio, but at a much higher price.

The Echo Buds’ feature set is generally on par with competitors’. I got an industry-standard 5 hours and 15 minutes of battery life, with noise cancelling on and music playing. When you’re on the phone, an adjustable “sidetone” allows you to hear your own voice. There are programmable tap controls: a single tap can pause media, while a double-tap answers a call.

In other respects, the earbuds don’t meet the mark in the same way pricier buds do. For one, the important “pass through” mode—which allows you to hear outside sounds clearly while wearing the headphones—produces a noticeable, unnatural hissing.

You can only use Alexa hands-free while the buds are connected to a phone with the Alexa app. And while the assistant was fine at recognizing my voice, and telling me the weather outside or the date, Alexa had some trouble with other requests: “Set a timer for one minute” consistently yielded a “Sorry, I’m having trouble” response. An Amazon spokesman said the Echo Buds team wasn’t aware of the bug or how to fix it.

I often recommend that people get earbuds made by the same maker of their devices. They’re often optimised for connection reliability and pairing. But at this price, the new Echo Buds are a tempting proposition.

And if past Amazon deals are any indication, they’ll probably be even cheaper when Prime Day rolls around.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 23, 2021.



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From Gucci to Valentino, designers have a new ethos: Fun

By JACOB GALLAGHER
Wed, Jun 19, 2024 3 min

Not long ago, designer Jonathan Anderson attended a music festival where he surveyed the crowd and thought, Now this is where all the fashion has been lurking.

“I saw more people dressing more in high fashion than actually what was happening in fashion,” said Anderson , who designs the British clothing brand JW Anderson, as well as LVMH’s Loewe.

The free expression of these festival goers stuck with Anderson as it clashed with the risk-shy attitude that has guided much of luxury fashion in recent years. “I wonder,” said Anderson this past weekend in Milan, “has fashion become so conservative whereas what’s happening out there is actually way more avant-garde?”

Just a couple of years ago in Milan, “quiet luxury” was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. This collocation was a simplistic shorthand for where fashion was going: pricey but prim; light on logos but heavy on the wallet; all cashmere everything in gray, beige, navy.

Fashion is a creative industry and designers can only cup their mouths for so long. At the latest edition of Milan men’s fashion week, shouts in the form of new, notice-me clothes broke out from the runways.

“People want uniqueness, maybe they want something which is challenging somehow,” said Anderson, speaking after the latest JW Anderson show, which was widely held up as the most successful collection of a muddled Milanese sprint.

Highlights included winsome cardigans with children’s book depictions of London terrace houses, leather jackets contorted by ski-slope-like hems and a kitschy sweater showing a smirking pint of Guinness—an upmarket riff on a Dublin tourist souvenir.

The day after Anderson’s show, came the surprise online release of a bulging 171-outfit lookbook from Valentino, the first stab from the label’s new creative director Alessandro Michele, who helped lift Gucci to a more than $10-billion brand before leaving in 2022.

At Gucci, Michele ushered in a maximalist fashion moment, and based on this initial showing, his taste for theatrics is intact. Against a backdrop of winter-mint curtains, feather-haired models (often wearing gigundo nerd glasses and hoops of pearls) sported floppy dog-ear ties, Kermit-green suits and tapestry prints. Flipping through the collection, all the tired but fitting Michele comparisons came rushing back: Wes Anderson films, kooky grandmothers and leopard-clad psych-rock bands.

Model on the runway at the Gucci fashion show during Milan Fashion Week Menswear Spring/Summer 2025 held at Triennale di Milano on June 17, 2024 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Aitor Rosas Sune/WWD via Getty Images)

Valentino, which is part-owned by Kering, also made its commercial intentions clear by sending out 93 close-up photos spotlighting easy-to-buy accessories like V-logoed sandals and rectangular handbags.

Notably, Sabato de Sarno, the still newish creative director who replaced Michele at Gucci, seemed to be shrugging off his own restraints. Neither De Sarno nor François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Gucci parent company Kering, spoke to the press after the show, but the collection was a departure from the brand’s recent strategy of focusing on classic, trend-agnostic pieces that cater to older, wealthier clients.

De Sarno’s surf-inspired offering bounded between skin-revealing mesh polo shirts, skimpy thigh-high shorts and camp-collared shirts with blooming hibiscus flowers prints. It would be hard to imagine much of it on anyone over 29. (Actor Paul Mescal, 28, was already in the front row in a pair of those shorty shorts.)

Youthful abandon was the theme at Gucci’s mightiest Milanese competitor, Prada. “Sometimes when you get older you start to overthink a lot and you limit yourself,” said Raf Simons, who is co-creative of the brand with Miuccia Prada , the grand doyenne of Italian fashion. “When you are young, you just go. We like that spirit.”

Models wore navel-exposing shrunken sweaters and pre-wrinkled sportcoats, a seeming nod to teens who haven’t yet learned the wonders of ironing. A lurid palette of hot pink and electric blue spoke to juvenile fashion experimentation.

Throughout the long weekend in Milan, the feeling settled in that this new, shoutier tone was a necessary course correction during an unsteady period for the apparel industry, and really, Europe at large.

The chatter of the front row centred on this month’s European Union elections which saw a surge in support for right-wing candidates, catching pundits and leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron by surprise. Inflation also remains stubbornly high.

Pressingly, for the fashion world, some of the world’s largest luxury labels have been reporting a glut of unsold products and a dearth of shoppers. Past strategies don’t seem to be working and one could tell that brands were ready to try anything to spur shoppers to spend a bit more.

Even at Zegna, a label so synonymous with quiet luxury that the cast of “Succession” wore it on that money-mad show, the clothes were more conspicuous. In between its Learjet-bound sotto voce suits, one found vivacious coral patterned jackets in blue and yellow.

“For sure playing more with colors and prints, we had fun,” said Zegna’s artistic director Alessandro Sartori following his show. “It’s a sense of freedom that I wanted to express.”