Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Shut up and take our money

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Shut up and take our money

MSRP $200.00

“They’re the very best earbuds for Android fans.”

Pros

  • Compact and cozy
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Very effective ANC/transparency
  • Wireless charging
  • Bluetooth Multipoint

Cons

  • No real EQ adjustments
  • No high-quality/low-latency codecs
  • Still no iOS Pixel Buds app

Perhaps it’s not fair to all the time view Google and Apple as locked into some form of gadget death-match. But relating to wireless earbuds, comparisons are inevitable. And let’s face it: Google has struggled to create a version of its Pixel Buds that may go toe-to-toe with Apple’s AirPods Pro.

But that struggle is over. Google’s latest Pixel Buds Pro are stylish, comfortable, and filled with the form of features Android fans have been asking for — the largest addition being energetic noise cancellation (ANC).

Just how good are they at $200? And do they deserve a spot amongst the very best wireless earbuds? Let’s check ’em out.

What’s within the box?

Pixel Buds Pro in coral color with the extra eartips.Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Hardly anything. You get the Pixel Buds Pro, already housed of their charging case, a clever little cardboard tube containing two extra sizes of silicone eartips (you get three in total), and a printed quick-start guide. Expecting a charging cable? So was I, however the Pixel Buds Pro are the primary wireless earbuds I’ve encountered that don’t ship with one. Provided that it’s often Apple that likes to ditch hardware before persons are really ready for them to accomplish that, this was a surprise.

Alternatively, you’ll be able to charge the case wirelessly. And there’s also a fairly good likelihood that for those who’re buying Pixel Buds Pro you have already got a phone that uses USB-C. So there’s that.

Design

Google Pixel Buds Pro charging case seen next to a charging case for the Google Pixel Buds A-Series.Charging case for the Pixel Buds Pro (left) and Pixel Buds A-Series. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Viewed from the surface of the Buds Pro’s case, it doesn’t seem like much has modified because the now-discontinued second-gen Pixel Buds, or their cheaper replacements, the $100 Pixel Buds A-Series. It’s the identical matte-finish egg-like container with an angled flip-top lid. (And it’ll pick up the identical marring that each one things matte are inclined to pick up.) Look closely and you’ll be able to see it’s actually a tiny bit wider than the previous case, but that makes no difference in any respect to the way it feels within the hand, or its pocketability.

All the significant changes are with what’s inside. The Buds Pro look almost similar to their predecessors once you see them in someone’s ears. But they use a really different shape on their interior surfaces. Gone are the built-in stabilizer arcs — those little rubber stems within the Pixel Buds Gen 2/A-Series — that provided a secure anchor. They’re replaced by a bigger overall body that makes greater contact with the within your ear. That gives for a decidedly different feel, which we’ll get into in a minute.

Google Pixel Buds Pro seen next to Google Pixel Buds A-Series.A Pixel Buds Pro earbud (left) seen next to a Pixel Buds A-Series earbud. Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Pixel Buds Pro and an AirPod Pro.The stem-less Pixel Buds Pro earbud (right) alongside an AirPods Pro earbud. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

But those arcs had one other profit: they made it super easy to pluck the buds from the charging case. With the Buds Pro, it’s harder to grab them between your thumb and forefinger, but you quickly realize that putting a finger behind them (near the lid) and prying forward works each time.

Once they’re in your ear, nevertheless, all differences in design go away. The Pixel Buds Pro are very low-profile. For me, they sit almost totally flush to my outer ear. And though the outer surface is now interrupted by two microphone vents, the touch-sensing controls work the exact same way — more on that in a moment.

Google has kept the IPX4 rating on the earbuds and even added a small amount of protection for the case itself — IPX2, which is a pleasant added touch in case the case is to be hit by spraying water. Within the U.S., you’ll be able to buy them in one among 4 colours: fog (light gray with a tinge of blue), charcoal (not-quite-black), lemongrass (Gatorade yellow/green), and coral (reddish-orange). You’ll see lemongrass and coral on this review.

As an evolution of the Pixel Buds design, the Buds Pro are a complete success — keeping virtually every thing that we liked.

Comfort, controls, and connections

Most Pixel Buds users agree that they’re very comfortable even when worn for long periods, and the Pixel Buds Pro largely proceed that legacy. Due to their larger body and the best way it makes contact along with your concha (the outer a part of your ear), you might find that your ears feel fuller, but I discovered no real difference by way of wearability — the Buds Pro feel great, they usually compare well to the $200 Jabra Elite 7 Pro, and the AirPods Pro. And at 0.22 ounces, they’re essentially similar in weight to the unique Gen-2 buds (0.20 ounces).

Speaking of the Jabras and AirPods, Google has mimicked these earbuds by adding its own version of a fit test to the Pixel Buds app, which lets you know for those who’ve actually picked the very best of the three sizes of eartips for performance in addition to comfort.

Man wearing Google Pixel Buds Pro.Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

In case you’re amongst those that never found the second-gen or A-Series secure enough, you could have higher luck with the Pros. On the flip-side, those with smaller conchas (the little bowl just outside your ear hole) may find them less comfortable, and even too big for a superb fit.

One among the explanations the Gen 2 and A-Series feel so good is that they use a vented design that naturally relieves any air pressure difference between your ear canal and the surface world. Unfortunately, that also led to some unwanted sound creeping in, requiring an automatic volume boosting system to compensate, something it didn’t all the time do thoroughly.

The Pixel Buds Pro are also vented, but it surely’s a latest design. Based on Google, “Sensors actively measure the pressure in your ear canal so the earbuds can relieve it and stay comfortable.”

Stability-wise, they’re very secure. For light exercise, they won’t budge in any respect and even once you begin to do higher-impact work, they’re decent for a set of non-hook-style buds. As with most wireless earbuds, talking for five minutes or more will begin to work them loose.

If given the selection between touch and physical controls, I are inclined to pick the physical ones for his or her superior precision and tactile feedback. But I haven’t any complaints in regards to the Pixel Buds Pro. Taps on the touch surface register almost each time, and also you get a confirmation tone to let you recognize it’s working — one tone for every tap. It’s lots more reliable than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.

An extended-press flips you between ANC and transparency mode, exactly the best way the AirPods Pro work. I’m an enormous fan of the quantity adjustment which you perform with a really intuitive forward or backward swipe gesture — way higher, in my view, than asking Siri to do it for you the best way the AirPods Pro require, though for those who want, Google Assistant can try this, too.

The Pixel Buds Pro are the best-sounding Pixel Buds up to now.

You furthermore mght can perform the same old set of commands: play/pause, track skip forward/back, and call answer/end/reject. Plus, the Pixel Buds’ signature feature — with the ability to summon the Google Assistant with just your voice — remains to be here and as helpful as ever, for every kind of requests.

There’s no technique to customize these gestures as you’ll be able to on the Jabra Elite 7 Pro, but because they’re intuitive, it makes them easy to memorize. You possibly can, nevertheless, adjust the long-press function a bit of for those who’re on Android. You possibly can add “off” to the ANC-on and transparency modes, and you’ll be able to opt to have that work from each earbuds, or split left/right long presses between it and Google Assistant.

Either earbud could be used by itself for calls and music.

Pixel Buds Pro in their case.Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

On Android phones, pairing the Buds Pro is so simple as unlocking your phone and flipping open the lid, which immediately triggers Google’s Fast Pair feature, providing you with a one-tap way of getting arrange. It’s just one step more complicated on an iPhone with the same old Bluetooth menu method.

Higher yet, Google has improved its Fast Pair system with a latest audio-switching feature that helps you to associate the Pixel Buds Pro with your entire signed-in Android devices. Those devices are then given prioritized access to the buds. A phone call on Device A can interrupt a movie playing on Device B, as an example — but a text message from device A wouldn’t. These priorities could be modified each time you select.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Apple does something very similar once you use its audio and computing devices along with iCloud.  It seems to work, but I couldn’t work out adjust the prioritization of sounds and devices the best way Google says we must always have the opportunity to do.

And, for the primary time, a set of Pixel Buds supports Bluetooth Multipoint. So even for those who’re not using audio switching to leap backwards and forwards between signed-in Android devices, you’ll be able to maintain a simultaneous connection to any two Bluetooth devices. It really works great between Android devices, in addition to with a mixed marriage between Android and iOS.

Sound quality

The Pixel Buds Pro are the best-sounding Pixel Buds up to now, and I feel they beat the costlier AirPods Pro for overall fidelity. Although Google reduced the scale of the drivers from 12mm on the A-Series to 11mm for the Pro, the higher passive noise isolation and excellent ANC come together to finally allow you to hear the complete potential of those buds 100% of the time.

I’ve all the time admired how crisp and clear the A-Series are, and in quiet situations, you’ll be able to appreciate their decent bass performance too, especially when using the Bass Boost feature. However the moment you step outside, the A-Series’ open design allows that low-end to get washed away. The Buds Pro, are effectively a closed-back version of the Gen-2/A-Series, they usually do what closed-back designs do best — allow you to hear the complete range of their performance irrespective of where you utilize them.

Despite that closed-back quality, the Pixel Buds Pro maintain and even improve on the soundstage, which is pleasingly wide and lets your favorite music escape the confines of your head, for a way more immersive experience.

As Google’s first wireless earbuds with ANC, it did a terrific job with the Pixel Buds Pro.

I’m a bit of disenchanted that Google selected to omit any form of support for high-quality (or low-latency) Bluetooth codecs. With the usual SBC and nearly-standard AAC, you’re getting perfectly decent wireless sound, but without the aptX family of codecs, Sony’s LDAC codec or any form of low-latency mode, the Pixel Buds Pro can’t quite profit from their potential for fans of hi-res audio, or those that prefer to game — something of an odd selection provided that Google owns a streaming music service (YouTube Music) and a streaming gaming service (Stadia).

Google is so confident that you simply’ll like the best way it has tuned the Pixel Buds Pro, this time you don’t even get a Bass Boost option — just the flexibility to toggle on and off its latest Volume EQ feature, which the corporate claims will improve sound at lower volumes.

I attempted flipping it on and off at a wide range of volumes, however the difference was all the time super subtle even in perfectly quiet conditions. Outside, it made no difference for me in any respect. It’s a pleasant line on a marketing sheet, but probably not something you’ll actually notice.

But all that default tuning might actually be excellent news for any iPhone users that select to make use of the Buds Pro, as Google still doesn’t offer a Pixel Buds app for iOS, so that you’re stuck with whatever you get out of the box, settings-wise.

But with or without this tweak, the Pixel Buds Pro are great for a wide range of genres of music and will satisfy all but the largest bass-heads and the pickiest audiophiles.

One thing I couldn’t test is Google’s upcoming support for spatial audio on the Pixel Buds Pro. It’s slated to launch later this yr. And while Google hasn’t said much about it, there’s every reason to expect it would mimic what Apple is doing with AirPods Pro. The inclusion of a motion-detecting accelerometer and gyroscope in each earbud should let the Pixel Buds Pro do accurate head-tracking, which is the important thing component that sets Apple’s spatial audio experience other than other wireless earbuds.

Noise cancellation and transparency

Pixel Buds Pro and the case.Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

As Google’s first wireless earbuds with ANC, it did a terrific job with the Pixel Buds Pro. When ANC mode is engaged, it provides excellent dampening of every thing but the very best of frequencies. Without delay, as I type, I actually have a fan below my desk keeping me cool during this intense summer heat, but apart from feeling the air across my ankles, I actually have almost no awareness of it in any respect. Other noises, like traffic, or the din of construction are also well contained.

The Buds Pro don’t cut out quite as much high-frequency sound because the AirPods Pro, nevertheless, and their wind protection isn’t as strong: on a breezy day, or while cycling or running, some wind sound will get picked up by the ANC system. This will not be unusual, even in products which are on their second or third generation of ANC tech, just like the mighty Sony WF-1000XM4, but it surely’s still value being aware of.

Your callers can have no problem hearing you clearly.

If wind noise is something you’re thinking that you’ll need to address, consider the AirPods Pro or Jabra Elite 7 Pro — they’re each superb with wind.

The one other note about ANC performance is that for those who engage when there’s literally no noise for the earbuds to cancel, you might notice a really slight background hiss. If that happens, that’s a superb cue to show off ANC, which you’ll be able to do within the Pixel Buds app, or using the touch controls.

Transparency on the Buds Pro is top-notch and inside spitting distance of the AirPods Pro, which, despite being almost 4 years old, are still the very best. The Pixel Buds Pro don’t quite elevate themselves to that magical feeling of wearing nothing, but you’ll haven’t any problem in any respect hearing what you wish and wish to listen to, including your individual voice and people around you.

Higher yet, switching between the 2 modes is fast and straightforward with a long-press on either earbud.

Call quality

Using the Pixel Buds Pro for calls or videoconferencing works thoroughly indoors, in quiet environments and you’ll be able to get decent results outdoors or in noisy spots too, but it surely’s something of an uneven performance.

In either case, your callers can have no problem hearing you clearly. But as outside sounds begin to get louder and compete more along with your voice, the noise canceling algorithms will begin to smear your voice a bit, decreasing its detail and depth.

A pleasant touch is with the ability to switch into transparency mode before or during a call so you’ll be able to hear your individual voice as clearly as you hear your callers, which helps reduce calling fatigue.

If getting the best possible calls under all conditions matters to you, the Jabra Elite 7 Pro is likely to be a better option, but otherwise, the Pixel Buds Pro can be just superb.

Battery life

Pixel Buds Pro case charging wirelessly.There’s no USB-C cable within the box, however the Pixel Buds Pro can use any wireless charger. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Google claims an honest seven hours per charge when you may have ANC enabled and a really impressive 11 hours when it’s off. That’s higher than each the AirPods Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Nevertheless, the case doesn’t have much of a capability — just shy of two full charges, so that you’ll only get 20 hours of total playtime with ANC on. But that jumps to 31 hours without ANC, so at the very least you’ve got options.

Some reports from individuals who received their Buds Pro sooner than expected show that not everyone seems to be glad with the battery life they’re getting, but from my short time with these buds, Google’s numbers seem bang-on. Unfortunately, there’s no fast-charge feature, so when the buds run out, you’ll just need to wait to get them going again.

Pixel Buds Pro in their case. In the sun.Pixel Buds Pro are a no brainer for those who’re on Android and great for everybody else. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

Our take

Android fans wishing that they had a real AirPods Pro alternative can be thrilled with the Pixel Buds Pro. They’re comfortable, sound great, and have every thing they should develop into your go-to earbuds for work, play, and every thing in between.

But speaking of the AirPods Pro, those buds at the moment are three years old, and if the rumors are true, Apple can be updating them in 2023. If and when that happens, it’s quite possible they’ll launch with a slew of features that willl set a latest bar for wireless audio, putting Google once more on the back foot. But for now, the Pixel Buds Pro are definitely having a moment.

Is there a greater alternative?

At this price, there are loads of incredible selections in wireless earbuds, however the one model that prospective Pixel Buds Pro buyers should consider is Jabra’s excellent $200 Elite 7 Pro.

They’re incredibly close performance-wise on things like sound quality, ANC, transparency, battery life, and wireless charging, they usually even share features like Bluetooth multipoint, a fit test, and find my earbuds.

Where the Elite 7 Pro have a slight edge is robustness (with an IP57 waterproof rating versus the Buds Pro’s water-resistant IPX4), higher overall call quality, and a deep set of EQ adjustments to get their sound dialed in excellent.

Alternatively, the Elite 7 Pro don’t support wake-word voice assistant access (although they do provide you with a selection of your phone’s assistant or Amazon Alexa), they usually don’t feature the Pixel Buds Pro’s upcoming spatial audio capabilities, for what that’s value.

How long will they last?

As with most wireless earbuds, this probably comes all the way down to their internal batteries. And with a starting life span of seven hours with ANC on, that’s not bad — you’ll still have the opportunity to get good use out of them even once they deteriorate to only 50% capability, and there’s no telling when that can occur. In case you clean them usually and wipe away any salt and sweat when you’re done using them, I see no reason they shouldn’t last so long as every other wireless earbuds on this class.

Google backs the Pixel Buds Pro with a normal one-year warranty.

Must you buy them?

Yes. Especially for those who’re an Android user, Google’s Pixel Buds Pro are a great audio companion that ought to get even higher over time as Google releases latest features like spatial audio. There’s nothing stopping iPhone users from using them, too, they usually work great with iOS. But you simply won’t get the complete experience, and there’s no technique to adjust their settings or update their firmware.

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