Amazon today announced a new set of Echo Buds, promising improvements to the sound quality and noise-canceling abilities of the original while maintaining a low price of $120 — less than half the price of the AirPods Pro, its most obvious competitor. That’s cheaper than most earbuds with ANC in general, too.

The earbuds have a sleeker design available in either black or white, and, crucially, are 20% smaller than their predecessor. It also uses shorter nozzles that are less likely to dig up earwax and is vented to reduce pressure on the ear. There are many times I’ve tested a pair of earbuds and offered to let my girlfriend try them out, only to find out they don’t fit her at all, so I definitely appreciate the size reduction.

Performance-wise, Amazon promises to maintain the sound quality while making noise-canceling twice as effective as their predecessor. You are able to turn the feature on and off via Alexa, as well as enable a Passthrough mode to help you be more aware of your surroundings instead. Meanwhile An optional ‘VIP filter’ also helps you minimize the notifications by only allowing alerts from priority contacts to ring on your earbuds.

I generally refuse to use Alexa on my phone — sorry, I’m team Google Assistant — but I appreciate being able to access some features without touch controls. I often use a single earbud when riding my bike, and being able to bark commands at my headphones rather than finagle with a tiny touch surface is something I appreciate a lot.

Also, mercifully, the headphones now charge via USB-C, the one port to rule them all. May Micro USB forever disappear from our collective memories.

While it would be easy to dismiss the Echo Buds as just another me-too Amazon product, the originals did have some objectively solid performance, and were among the cheapest way to get active noise canceling in a pair of true wireless earbuds. The new buds look a lot better, if you ask me (though I still detest the Amazon logo), and hopefully, their smaller size will make them suitable to a wider range of users.

Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and we’ll let you know what we think when we get our hands in a pair. If you’re interested in picking a pair up already, Amazon is currently selling the Echo buds at $100 for a limited time before their release in May.

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