Sometimes just doing enough is not enough.
Such is the case with Google’s new Pixel Buds Pro, a much-needed update to Google’s latest line of wireless earbuds. After last year’s budget Pixel Buds A, the Pixel Buds Pro promise something more: premium wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation (ANC), great battery life, and improved comfort.
And in general, Google has managed this. These are very good wireless earbuds that work seamlessly with Google’s pixel phonesgive Android Fans something like the smooth experience iPhone users get along AirPods. Only problem is they are priced exactly the same as $200 Beats Fit Promy personal gold standard for earphones.
Is there a reason to go with Google over Beats, or has Apple won the earbud battle again?
Eggs Cellent comfort
Same case, new buds.
Credit: Mashable Composite
Sorry for the awful play on words, but once you see a photo of the Pixel Buds Pro, you’ll understand. Google redesigned these new Pixel Buds from previous incarnations, adopting an egg-shaped body with silicone ear tips and no stabilizing arch. There’s still a circular outer panel with simple touch-based playback controls (one tap to pause, two to skip, etc.) and a prominent Google “G” logo so everyone knows which tech company you’re rocking with.
Real quick: I want to give the Pixel Buds Pro props for offering a way to adjust the volume by default without Touch your phone. You can swipe forward or backward on the touch panel to increase or decrease the volume. That is great useful and shockingly not common in wireless earbuds.
Google has also done a great job with the Pixel Buds Pro when it comes to comfort. I was initially a bit concerned about the lack of an in-ear stabilizer as I usually find earbuds with these are much better at…staying in the ear. But so far I haven’t had any slippage with the Pixel Buds Pro. The eartip sits fairly deep in the ear canal, forming a tight seal that blocks outside noise (though not alone, as we’ll discuss later) and keeps the earbuds stable.
Seriously, I just angrily shook my head left and right to test it and there was no movement at all. (No, there is no video of this and never will be. Sorry.)
The earbuds also come in three different sizes, although the standard medium size was fine for me. I wish I had more to say about the charging case, but it’s almost exactly the same little, oval-shaped guy that came with previous Pixel Buds. There’s a Bluetooth pairing button for non-Pixel devices and a USB-C charging port, and it supports wireless charging but is otherwise self-explanatory.
Pixel perfect setup
Setting up the Pixel Buds Pro is incredibly easy. Just open the case next to a Pixel phone and you’ll be greeted with a quick pairing notification. The Pixel’s Bluetooth menu has a settings page for Pixel Buds with the ability to check battery life, change sound modes, remap touch commands, and install software updates. On non-Pixel Android phones, this is part of the Pixel Buds app on the Play Store instead. And on iPhones you are SOL. The Pixel Buds Pro work well with an iPhone via Bluetooth, but you can’t adjust any settings or download updates at all.
Lots of features to read through on a Pixel 6a.
One neat thing, though, is that Pixel Buds Pro can quickly switch between Android and non-Android devices just by tapping them in your device’s respective Bluetooth menus.
Overall, Google has packed a robust feature set into Pixel Buds Pro. Android users can do whatever they want with a modern pair of earbuds. For iOS users, they technically work. However, without great sound quality, it doesn’t matter.
Oh my god they finally have ANC
Big sound from these little egg boys.
Credit: Mashable Composite
I’ll get that out of the way now: the Pixel Buds Pro have pretty great sound quality. The full range of high, mid and low tones in each song comes through clearly, with special emphasis this time on the bass. Google said the Buds Pro’s focus is on everything coming through well in the low register, and in my testing it seems to have succeeded.
Our test material this time is OutKast because I can’t stop listening to OutKast lately. They could be the best American musical act of all time. More importantly, they understood the value of heavy bass during their heyday in the ’90s. title like “Ball of Players” sound great on the Pixel Buds Pro, with bass hitting the eardrums with a reasonable, satisfying sound blow when you most expect it I have no complaints about the native sound quality of the Pixel Buds Pro, and it only gets better when you consider the part where Google at last added active noise cancellation.
That music just sounds good isn’t a huge revelation with the Pixel Buds Pro, as was the case with previous models. It’s the fact that you can now listen to music in a crowd, or on a train platform, or maybe even next to a jet engine (I haven’t tried that) without stopping or cranking the volume to dangerous levels. The Pixel Buds Pro’s ANC is fantastic and pretty much drowns out all ambient noise unless you turn the volume all the way down.
There’s also a useful transparency mode if you want to talk to someone but don’t feel like pulling out an earbud. Just long press the touch panel and you can hear the world around you, at least enough to order food or something. You probably wouldn’t want to have a full conversation that way, but nobody likes the guy who talks to people with earbuds on.
Last but not least, the battery life is excellent. Google rates this at seven hours of playtime with ANC on, and I got almost exactly six hours in my tests. Not quite what Google said, but almost enough for a full day’s work.
Keeping up is not enough
It should be clear by now that I consider the Pixel Buds Pro to be very good wireless earphones. Between hard-hitting bass, fabulous comfort and the long-awaited integration of (extremely effective) ANC, Pixel devotees can pick these up with no worries in the world. However, I have serious questions about their value to most customers.
Why would anyone want these over the Beats Fit Pro? I can understand wanting an Android-specific pair of earbuds over AirPods, but despite Apple’s funding of Beats, these particular earbuds are platform-agnostic thanks to an app you use for settings and updates. I still think they have the best sound quality for the price coupled with slightly better comfort thanks to an in-ear stabilizer. Excellent battery life also makes the Beats Fit Pro an enticing choice.
Google has certainly done enough to keep up with the competition here. I would recommend the Pixel Buds Pro over the $250 bucks AirPods Pro or even Samsung’s more Android-friendly $150 Galaxy Buds 2. But when such an incredible pair of earbuds as the Beats Fit Pro already exist and can play well on either of the two major mobile operating systems, it’s just a bit tricky to figure out the best audience for the Pixel Buds Pro.
Google Pixel 6a shows that size doesn’t have to exceed expectations