Google’s latest Pixel Buds earbuds have been given the “pro” treatment, with better sound, noise cancelling, multipoint Bluetooth and a comfier design aimed at rivalling Apple’s AirPods Pro but for Android users.
The Pixel Buds Pro cost £179 ($199/A$299), sitting above the firm’s £100 Pixel Buds A-Series as Google’s new top model. They will work with any standard Bluetooth device, including PCs and iPhones, but have special features designed for Android.
They are larger than the A-Series earbuds but have a similarly low-profile and sympathetic look that doesn’t protrude far from your ear. A smooth plastic cap with subtle “G” branding is all people see when they are in your ear.
The earbuds are held in place with a traditional silicone tip, of which three sizes are included in the box. They feel secure and comfortable to wear even for extended periods without the “plugged-in” feeling of some similar models, but a lack of stabilising wing makes them less suitable for exercise.
The coloured cap is touch-sensitive for a set of very effective gesture controls. Tap once to pause or play, twice and thrice to skip tracks, or hold to turn on or off noise cancelling. Swipe forwards and backwards for volume control, too, which is very welcome. The music pauses when you take out an earbud and resumes when you reinsert it.
The Buds Pro last for up to seven hours of playback with noise cancelling, which is longer than many rivals. They magnetically clip into a flip-top battery case, which is easily pocketable and can recharge the earbuds just under three times for a total of 20 hours of playback. A five-minute quick charge of the earbuds adds an hour of listening.
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5, SBC, AAC
Battery life: seven hours (ANC) plus up to 20 hours with case
Case dimensions and weight: 63.2 x 50 x 25mm; 50g
Earbud dimensions and weight: 23.7 x 22 x 22.3mm; 6.2g each
Water resistance: earbuds IPX4 (splash); case IPX2
Driver size: 11mm
Case charging: USB-C, Qi wireless
Good sound and noise cancelling
The Buds Pro are Google’s best-sounding earbuds yet. They produce super-clear audio with excellent separation of tones even on complex tracks. The bass is precise and punchy, reaching the deepest of notes, mid tones are rounded and highs are pretty detailed, sounding great in most music genres.
They are fairly bass-heavy and can sound a little too clean in some tracks, lacking a bit of raw energy in grunge, but I think most will enjoy them. The volume EQ boosts low and mid tones for better balance at lower volumes. Google promises to add a full equaliser and spatial audio for immersive movie surround sound via updates later this year.
Overall, they are excellent earbuds that make a step up from everyday listening, falling just short of the very best from Sennheiser and Sony.
The noise cancelling is similarly capable, reducing most low rumbles, road noise and that of fans, and matching the performance of Apple’s AirPods Pro. They are not quite as capable as Sony’s best, struggling more with higher tones such as keyboard clicks, but are still overall very good. They suffer a little from wind noise, and their ambient awareness mode is good but not quite as natural-sounding as the best.
Finally, call quality was very good, sounding natural and clear even in noisy environments, although a little bit of background noise from the street crept into the call.
Connectivity and settings
The Buds Pro are standard Bluetooth 5 earbuds, supporting the standard SBC and AAC audio formats and Google’s Fast Pair with Android. They can be used in mono, which is handy for calls, and support seamless switching between paired devices. They support multipoint for connecting to two devices simultaneously, such as a phone for calls and a laptop for music.
They have Google’s new automatic audio-switching system that connects the Buds Pro to whichever of your Android phones or tablets is taking a call or playing media. It doesn’t work with PCs, Macs or other devices, so multipoint is generally more useful.
Google Assistant is another advanced feature that only works with Android. Touch and hold one of the earbuds or use the “Hey Google” wake phrase to then make it read your notifications or messages, send replies, control music playback, adjust the volume, give you directions from Google Maps, perform real-time translation with Google Translate and other tasks.
Google does not provide an expected lifespan for the battery, but it should last in excess of 500 full-charge cycles with at least 80% of its original capacity. Like most wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro are not repairable, making them ultimately disposable.
For comparison, the Sony WF-1000XM4 cost £199, Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3 cost £219.99, Beats Fit Pro cost £199, Apple AirPods Pro cost £239, Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro cost £149, Jabra Elite 7 Pro cost £199, Bose QC Earbuds cost £209.95, and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 cost £99.
With the Pixel Buds Pro, Google has finally nailed Bluetooth earbuds.
They are comfortable, sound great and have solid noise cancelling, and the battery lasts a good seven hours. The controls are excellent, as is the pocketable case. They have useful features such as multipoint connectivity for more than one device at a time and good call quality.
While some flashier features are limited to Android – I wouldn’t recommend buying them if you didn’t primarily use an Android phone – the basics work just as well with PCs and iPhones if you have a mix of devices.
They are beaten on sound quality and noise cancelling by the very best, but for everyday earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro are great and undercut top rivals on price, too.
You cannot repair the earbuds or replace the battery, which makes them ultimately disposable and loses them a star.
Pros: great sound, effective noise cancelling, long battery life, very comfortable, good case, great controls, Fast Pair, multipoint, fancy Google Assistant features with Android.
Cons: no high-quality Bluetooth audio formats, no cross-platform settings app, waiting on updates for EQ and spatial audio, case marks easily, no stabiliser wings for exercise, not repairable.