I've been ordering products from Amazon for 20 years now and have always had good experiences when it came to price, selection, and customer service. I can't remember a time when I purchased a first-party Amazon item (Kindle, Echo, etc.) or something from one of the company's sub-brands (AmazonBasics, Happy Belly snacks, Amazon Essentials clothing, etc.) that I wasn't at best pleased with, and at worst indifferent to.
That record has suffered a bit after trying the AmazonBasics Ultra-Light True Wireless Earbuds. I decided to give these a fair shake, I mean I really tried, but I just couldn't do it. Maybe that's because my expectations were too high from my recent flings with more premium Bluetooth earbuds like Apple's everpresent AirPods or Amazon's excellent Echo Buds, but I came away supremely disappointed.
Actually, my positive experience with the Echo Buds and a fortuitous advertisement on my Amazon homepage are what prompted me to give these a try. I thought, these are about $100 less than the Echo Buds and have some of the same features.. how bad can they be? Silly, silly me.
A pain in the buds
Bottom Line These true wireless earbuds hit a great price point and promise many desirable features, but can't quite deliver on those promises. If there weren't already a ton of other good, cheap earbuds, I would tell you to try your luck with these. As it stands, I don't think you need to (or should).
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Can be worn individually
- Smaller, more manageable case than many other buds
- IPX4 splash-resistant
- Slow to charge
- No hands-free access to assistants
- Cheap-feeling case
- Weak Bluetooth
- No app controls
Okay, so now you know how I really feel about these earbuds, so let me explain why I feel that way.
Basic buds The good
On paper, there is a lot to like about these earbuds. They come in at a great price, and they are available in either white or black color options. The case is smaller enough than the Echo Buds case to make a noticeable difference in the hand or in my pockets, though like the Echo Buds, it still feels pretty cheap. Scratch that, it feels really cheap. Like almost Tic Tac container cheap.
The earbuds themselves look and feel quite nice, and I found they fit in my ears just fine. They are lightweight to the point that I didn't really notice that I was wearing them after a while. I also liked that I could just press on the clicky surface buttons to turn them off and that I could use them one at a time if I wanted to. Plus, when they're turning on and pairing, they flash a cool red and blue led light around the rims, which makes me feel like I'm that Lobot dude from Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back.
The pulsing LEDs on setup make me feel like a cyborg.
The sound coming from the earbuds is pretty good — not the best, not the worst. I wasn't expecting a miracle, but I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality, especially at the gym. They're obviously not as good at blocking out sound as the Echo Buds with their Active Noise Reduction feature, but they're entirely usable in this regard.
Speaking of the gym, I wore these earbuds for several weight training workouts, as well as some hiking and trail running, and not once did they fall out of my ears. They sport IPX4 water resistance, which is supposed to protect against light splashes, and they held up to my perspiration with no problems.
Basic buds The bad and the ugly
The first impression with these earbuds was great, but every use after that was a total crapshoot for me.
I actually tested two different sets of earbuds, as my first pair mysteriously died after only eight days of use. One earbud stopped working entirely on day seven, the other on day eight. I will give Amazon customer service their due, as they quickly shipped out a replacement pair and a free return slip. I was able to resume testing less than two days later, but unfortunately, the experience didn't improve a whole lot.
When it comes to wireless earbuds, there's almost nothing worse than being in the middle of an hour-long run only to have your music continue to cut out, and then drop-off altogether. Talk about frustrating! I don't need to hear myself panting; give me Pantera (or something to that effect).
Bluetooth woes were my Achilles heel.
While the second pair I received are still alive and kicking, they continuously struggle to maintain a reliable Bluetooth connection to my devices. For the sake of thoroughness, I tested these earbuds on an iPhone, Android phone, and even the Mighty Vibe MP3 player. The supposedly simple task of unpairing from one device and re-pairing to another gave me fits for some reason. Sometimes they refused to work at all, or one would pair but not the other. It was so exasperating that I finally just gave up.
Aside from these frustrations, the earbuds are lacking in a few key areas that I find important. For starters, the battery life never seemed to last near the seven hours that was promised, and the charging case gave me mixed results as well. I learned after a few days that I shouldn't leave the case plugged in and that you should only charge every three months. Really? Who does that — and how?
Conveniently, you can summon the Google Assistant or Siri at the press of one of the side panel buttons, but there is no hands-free summoning of your personal voice assistant (to be expected at this price point). There is also not an accompanying app to mess with EQ controls or settings, so you're stuck with what your phone can do.
Not the right fit
There is nothing wrong with wanting an affordable pair of true wireless earbuds, and even though I wouldn't put these at the top of any list, you can find a lot of good options for cheap true wireless earbuds if you know where to look.
I recommend that you look past the AmazonBasics Ultra-Light True Wireless Earbuds in favor of something like the Aukey EP-T21s that my colleague Joe Maring recently reviewed. Alternatively, if you can stomach a higher price, Amazon's Echo Buds are superb, and they recently were put on sale for $40 off. Bottom line, don't resign yourself to a crummy experience just because you don't want to spend a lot.
How low can you go
There are a lot of true wireless earbuds that target affordable price points, but few go as low as the Aukey EP-T21. You'd be right to assume that earbuds this cheap wouldn't be worth the time of day, but the EP-T21 somehow manage to offer a tremendous all-around user experience. Build quality is top-notch, there's an IPX4 rating for water-resistance, and everything sounds as good as you could ask for.
Solidly smart earbuds
Alexa breaks out
These wireless earbuds by Amazon are a solid first swing at a new product category and form factor for Alexa. The fit and sound are surprisingly good for the price, and the convenience of hands-free Alexa and Google Assistant/Siri at a tap is a really useful combination.
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