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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Anger Does a Lot More Damage to Your Body Than You Realise

We all get mad now and then. But too much anger can cause problems.

By SUMATHI REDDY
Fri, May 24, 2024 3 min

Anger is bad for your health in more ways than you think.

Getting angry doesn’t just hurt our mental health , it’s also damaging to our hearts, brains and gastrointestinal systems, according to doctors and recent research. Of course, it’s a normal emotion that everyone feels—few of us stay serene when a driver cuts us off or a boss makes us stay late. But getting mad too often or for too long can cause problems.

There are ways to keep your anger from doing too much damage. Techniques like meditation can help, as can learning to express your anger in healthier ways.

One recent study looked at anger’s effects on the heart. It found that anger can raise the risk of heart attacks because it impairs the functioning of blood vessels, according to a May study in the Journal of the American Heart Association .

Researchers examined the impact of three different emotions on the heart: anger, anxiety and sadness. One participant group did a task that made them angry, another did a task that made them anxious, while a third did an exercise designed to induce sadness.

The scientists then tested the functioning of the blood vessels in each participant, using a blood pressure cuff to squeeze and release the blood flow in the arm. Those in the angry group had worse blood flow than those in the others; their blood vessels didn’t dilate as much.

“We speculate over time if you’re getting these chronic insults to your arteries because you get angry a lot, that will leave you at risk for having heart disease ,” says Dr. Daichi Shimbo, a professor of medicine at Columbia University and lead author of the study.

Your gastrointestinal system

Doctors are also gaining a better understanding of how anger affects your GI system.

When someone becomes angry, the body produces numerous proteins and hormones that increase inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation can raise your risk of many diseases.

The body’s sympathetic nervous system—or “fight or flight” system—is also activated, which shunts blood away from the gut to major muscles, says Stephen Lupe, director of behavioural medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s department of gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition. This slows down movement in the GI tract, which can lead to problems like constipation.

In addition, the space in between cells in the lining of the intestines opens up, which allows more food and waste to go in those gaps, creating more inflammation that can fuel symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating or constipation.

Your brain

Anger can harm our cognitive functioning, says Joyce Tam, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. It involves the nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex, the front area of our brain that can affect attention, cognitive control and our ability to regulate emotions.

Anger can trigger the body to release stress hormones into the bloodstream. High levels of stress hormones can damage nerve cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, says Tam.

Damage in the prefrontal cortex can affect decision-making, attention and executive function, she adds.

The hippocampus, meanwhile, is the main part of the brain used in memory. So when neurons are damaged, that can disrupt the ability to learn and retain information, says Tam.

What you can do about it

First, figure out if you’re angry too much or too often. There’s no hard and fast rule. But you may have cause for concern if you’re angry for more days than not, or for large portions of the day, says Antonia Seligowski, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who studies the brain-heart connection.

Getting mad briefly is different than experiencing chronic anger, she says.

“If you have an angry conversation every now and again or you get upset every now and again, that’s within the normal human experience,” she says. “When a negative emotion is prolonged, when you’re really having a lot more of it and maybe more intensely, that’s where it’s bad for your health.”

Try mental-health exercises. Her group is looking at whether mental-health treatments, like certain types of talk therapy or breathing exercises, may also be able to improve some of the physical problems caused by anger.

Other doctors recommend anger-management strategies. Hypnosis, meditation and mindfulness can help, says the Cleveland Clinic’s Lupe. So too can changing the way you respond to anger.

Slow down your reactions. Try to notice how you feel and slow down your response, and then learn to express it. You also want to make sure you’re not suppressing the feeling, as that can backfire and exacerbate the emotion.

Instead of yelling at a family member when you’re angry or slamming something down, say, “I am angry because X, Y and Z, and therefore I don’t feel like eating with you or I need a hug or support,” suggests Lupe.

“Slow the process down,” he says.

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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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