Amazon is offering six months of free music with its second-gen Echo Buds release.
The new generation of Alexa-enabled hearables from Amazon are only $99 for a limited time. They come in Black or Glacier White and Amazon has its sights set firmly on both Apple and Spotify with this offer. Offering hardware and six months of free music for less than AirPods is tempting for many. But it may also pull subscribers from Spotify, who’s only hardware on offer isn’t freely purchasable – yet.
The new Amazon Echo Buds feature a smaller design and a more comfortable fit, with active noise cancellation. They also charge wirelessly, unlike the first-generation Echo Buds. Amazon says the new Echo Buds feature more balanced song and extended dynamic range. Amazon says the new buds’ ANC technology is also twice as good at canceling background noise.
The one sticking point for me would be the voice-activated controls. You need to ask Alexa to enable ANC and passthrough mode – which is awkward. The Echo Buds that support wireless charging come at a premium $139.99, putting them closer to AirPods territory. Amazon says “Customers who qualify will also receive six months of Amazon Music Unlimited and Audible Plus for free.” To qualify, you must be eligible for a free trial of Amazon Music Unlimited or Audible.
“The all-new Echo Buds are better in so many ways—a smaller design, a more comfortable fit, Active Noise Cancellation technology, a new color and wireless charging option, and high-performance drivers for dynamic audio,” said Tom Taylor, Senior Vice President, Amazon Alexa.
“It’s never been easier for customers to bring Alexa with them throughout their day—whether at home, walking the neighborhood, or commuting to work, all they have to do is ask to play music or podcasts, call to check in on a loved one, add an item to their to-do list, and so much more.”
The free music offer is hard to pass up, but I’m wary of digital assistant-powered earbuds. Alexa may be here to stay, but Microsoft’s Cortana efforts have fallen flat to the point that its discontinuing support. Amazon is hoping the earbuds will be a loss-leader for its music streaming service.
But the five hours of playback and only 15 hours of total time in the charging case is kind of lacking. You can buy much cheaper wireless earbuds that sound on par with what Amazon offers for around $60 to $70 – no digital assistant installed, either.