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Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

The place to chat about audio/video devices & software, computer hardware & software, and other electronic gadgets.
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Lester The Nightfly
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Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:19 pm

Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Thu Sep 26, 2019 2:54 am

Just put in a pre-order for the Amazon Echo Buds announced today.

While folks might get geeked up (in a good way or a bad way) about the built-in Alexa voice assistant feature, what sold me was reading the spec's that listed what's pumping the sound in these things. Two Knowles balanced armature drivers in each bud. What does that mean? Well, Knowles is the preeminent manufacturer of balanced armature audio drivers. BA's work differently than a standard dynamic speaker in that it doesn't use a coil around a cone to produce the sound waves. Think of a BA as a something mechanical (an armature) pushing on the diaphragm that makes the sound.

They are very efficient, can be made very small and typically have a very flat frequency response if tuned right. They first came into use in hearing aids. Then folks started using them in high end In-Ear-Monitors (IEM's) for live stage work for musician's replacing foldback speaker setups. IEM's can be, and still are nasty expensive (you can easily drop $1K or more on a good custom shell 3 or 4 way BA IEM) but they really do live up to the name of being considered 'monitor' quality in terms of sound. If there's a complaint about how they sound it usually will not please "bass-heads" because the physics and technology simply can't produce the 'thumpa-thumpa' a larger cone style speaker diaphragm can, but if they music you enjoy runs from the lower end of mid-rage to crisp highs you'll be hard pressed to find anything that you can stick in you ear that will sound better.

As you may have figured out, I'm a real fan of BA IEM's. A number of years ago I had a set of custom IEM's made (single driver) and was knocked out how well they sounded. About a year ago I replaced those with a 3-way driver set and they're even better. The sound quality is totally different than your average earbud. That Amazon can put out a product with a two-way set for under $150 is astounding. The Echo Bud is also using some technology from Bose for the noise reduction/cancellation feature.

I'll post a full report after they arrive (product release and ship date looks to be the end of October) but I'm am very excited to give these bad boys an audition. Stay tuned!



thatonedude
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:39 am
Location: Ypsilanti, MI

Re: Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

Post by thatonedude » Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:54 am

You can pry my Etymotics and my KZ ZST's from my cold dead hands. :P

Seriously though, I'm looking forward to trying these out. Might be a future birthday present to myself. So far, the initial response from most of the tech rags has been positive, but they all demoed them during the press event, so I'm going to wait until after they're released to see how they perform in real-world scenarios (and I can't wait for your opinions on them as well).

BTW Lester, who did your customs? I've never had a set done, and I've been looking into it recently...


Made you look

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Lester The Nightfly
Posts: 853
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:19 pm

Re: Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:58 pm

thatonedude wrote:
Fri Sep 27, 2019 12:54 am
You can pry my Etymotics and my KZ ZST's from my cold dead hands. :P

Seriously though, I'm looking forward to trying these out. Might be a future birthday present to myself. So far, the initial response from most of the tech rags has been positive, but they all demoed them during the press event, so I'm going to wait until after they're released to see how they perform in real-world scenarios (and I can't wait for your opinions on them as well).

BTW Lester, who did your customs? I've never had a set done, and I've been looking into it recently...
Etymotics, nice and comfy, sound pretty good too!

My first set of customs were from Clear Tune Monitors, out of Florida. The impressions were taken by a gal at the Costco hearing aid center (which I understand they no longer perform). I really have nothing bad to say about either. The guy that owns Clear Tune was great to work with via emails, the product performed very well for the money. After owning them for five years or so I contacted them about doing a re-shell (your ear canal's do change somewhat over time, so refitting is not unusual). Unfortunately their policy changed and they won't do re-shells any longer.

After that bit of news I decided to just get a new pair with three drivers. I had heard a lot about a company in Minneapolis* by the name of Alclair that was making some well regarded IEM's, so I went with their Reference Triple Driver. My thinking was this model has a very flat frequency response so they are easy to EQ for my "old man whose ears are shot from sitting in edit bays for 30 years" hearing loss. To that end I picked up a neat gadget, an EarStudio ES100 bluetooth receiver that allows fairly precise tweeking from an audio source (iPhone in my case) along with a lot of other tricks. It's a very slick gizmo.

* I learned from the audiologist I used for this pair that per capita there are more hearing aid and custom IEM manufacturers in Minnesota than any where in the US

I used Soundsouce in Portland,OR for the impression fitting, although if you happen to be in Minneapolis or Nashville you can go to the Alclair office and get an impressions done for free. It's super important to get a good ear impression made. Most manufacturers offer recommendations for local audiologist's on their websites.

I'm very pleased how the Alclair's turned out. The build quality is excellent, sound is outstanding, fit very good considering I learned from Soundsource I apparently have an odd turn in my ear canal that makes a perfect fit a real challenge. All in all I'm very happy with these IEM's.

The single best resource on the subject of custom IEM's would be https://www.head-fi.org/. Tons of reviews and helpful hints. Someone over there will have an answer for any question you may have.

Good luck, keep me posted on how it goes.



thatonedude
Posts: 21
Joined: Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:39 am
Location: Ypsilanti, MI

Re: Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

Post by thatonedude » Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:20 am

Head-Fi is one of my favorite haunts. I'm also active in the headphones community on Reddit. Learned a lot from them in my short time in this hobby.

I'm still starting my search for my customs. So many options. Haven't even gotten the impressions done yet -- still searching for an audiologist out here. I know that I can do the impressions myself, but I'm not risking that! Lol

BTW, the pair of Ety's I have use a dynamic driver, not a balanced armature driver like their other models. Still has the same "Etymotic sound" the others have. Couldn't live without them.

The KZ ZST (great IEM for under $30) is a hybrid BA/DD IEM. More of a V-shaped signature, but still impressive.

Hopefully the Echo Buds get a worthy spot in my collection.

Sent from my Pixel 3a XL using Tapatalk





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Lester The Nightfly
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Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:19 pm

Re: Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Sun Sep 29, 2019 2:10 am

thatonedude wrote:
Sun Sep 29, 2019 12:20 am
Head-Fi is one of my favorite haunts. I'm also active in the headphones community on Reddit. Learned a lot from them in my short time in this hobby.

I'm still starting my search for my customs. So many options. Haven't even gotten the impressions done yet -- still searching for an audiologist out here. I know that I can do the impressions myself, but I'm not risking that! Lol

BTW, the pair of Ety's I have use a dynamic driver, not a balanced armature driver like their other models. Still has the same "Etymotic sound" the others have. Couldn't live without them.

The KZ ZST (great IEM for under $30) is a hybrid BA/DD IEM. More of a V-shaped signature, but still impressive.

Hopefully the Echo Buds get a worthy spot in my collection. Image

Sent from my Pixel 3a XL using Tapatalk
Good, because it's an exceptionally bad idea.



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Lester The Nightfly
Posts: 853
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:19 pm

Re: Amazon Echo Buds - Totally wireless earphones

Post by Lester The Nightfly » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:07 pm

A right-out-of-the box review:

There's a lot to like about these but that said I would call them a "v1.0" (first version) product.

They sound very good, but with a few niggles. As with any earbud, the fit and seal will make or break the sound. Luckily mine fit pretty well, for sure better than a number of more well known products. There's an app that works with the Echo buds to help in the process by sending a test tone to the buds and (I guess) evaluating the leakage via the microphones. The results seem to vary, sometimes it says excellent fit, other times it says a poor fit often with the placement being the same, just different test runs.

Much to my surprise these really kick out the bass when seated properly. Almost too much to be considered "flat". One thing I did notice is not only does the fit/seal make a large difference but volume levels as well. Much below 30% volume (on an iPhone Eight) and the bass is just way too much. Kick it up to around 70% and they go flat response immediately and sound supremely well balanced with a nice soundstage as well. I understand Amazon run them as a true two-way setup with one of the balanced armatures handling low end duty, the other mids & highs. Until I get some more ear time logged, the volume thing is what troubles me the most.

The Bose noise reduction works quite well, subtle but effective. It also allows "passthough" (environment sound added via the mics) and "sidetone" (your voice in the phone call mix). The "Alexa" feature works well and because there is not dedicated volume control it is the only way to adjust volume other than from the bluetooth source itself. Button control on the buds can be user set (skip ahead, back, noise reduction on/off, etc.) and software updates are accomplished via your phone "over-the-air", no hardwired connection needed.

If there's interest I'll add to the review, but first blush these are a nice value proposition that should only get better with time and some software tweeks like changing the cross-over frequency between the drivers and figuring out how to add volume control to the button controls.



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