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Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 wishlist: All the features I want to see
Google is relatively new to the wireless earbuds game compared to other big brands, having only released four pairs during its tenure. The company’s first edition, the Google Pixel Buds, launched in 2017 and hosted a bulky design, a high price tag, and an impractical charging case. However, Google’s latest iteration, the Pixel Buds Pro, offer users a broader mix of high-end features. The Google Pixel Buds A Series were the company’s first attempt at affordable earbuds and fixed many of the connectivity issues of the original Pixel Buds. Given that the Pixel Buds A Series launched in 2021, it seems an appropriate time to get excited about a feature-rich upgrade.
If Google wants to compete with the likes of Apple, Sony, Jabra, and Bose, there are a few improvements it will need to make to the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 before their anticipated release later this year. Here are all the upgrades I want to see.
Active Noise Canceling
Let’s face it, we all like our privacy when listening to music on our commutes to work. Google has shown with the Pixel Buds Pro that it is capable of implementing active noise canceling (even if there is a notable hiss from street sounds that manage to evade the isolation and noise canceling.) Nevertheless, we would like to see the company introduce ANC to Google’s updated A Series buds. It would also mean that Google could do away with its proprietary Adaptive Sound technology, which was more distracting than useful for the original A Series buds. Including ANC would make the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 a member of a very select few budget earbuds that host active noise canceling.
It’s also worth remembering that ANC is more than just a nice-to-have feature. Blocking out external sounds helps users to playback audio at lower volume levels, which in turn protects users’ hearing over the long term. It also makes listening with earbuds easier for long periods without suffering from ear fatigue. Considering virtually all new earbuds include ANC, we expect the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 to also adopt it.
Support for the aptX Bluetooth codec
Considering that the Google Pixel Buds A Series are targeted so heavily toward Android, it was a huge misstep to not include Qualcomm’s aptX Bluetooth Codec. While SBC works fine as a reliable backstop and AAC provides good-quality audio for iOS, the lack of aptX means the Google Pixel Buds A Series are unable to provide high-quality audio for Android users. We hope the updated A Series buds will support the aptX Bluetooth codec from day one.
There aren’t many budget earbuds out there that currently support aptX connectivity. The Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 could stand above the rest, providing Android users with up to 352kbps, 48kHz/16-bit audio streaming. It’s also a more reliable connection than SBC, and even more so than running AAC over certain Android devices.
A dust-resistant IP rating
While we expect the updated Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 will boast at least an IPX4 water-resistant rating, we hope the company will also include a dust-resistant IP rating. Producing a more resilient and robust design would make the next-gen buds more appealing to athletes who enjoy beach and outdoor sports, including rock climbing, volleyball, and bouldering. It would also make Google’s next budget buds more suitable for use in countries with drier weather.
A customizable EQ
You don’t have to be an audiophile to want more control over how your music sounds in your ears. While many other earbud brands have nailed the implementation of multiband EQs for a long time, Google has missed the mark with all of its previous earbud releases.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro includes a handful of EQ presets to choose from within the app, but fail to offer a native custom EQ. Google should take a leaf out of Sony’s book and offer at least a 5-band EQ on launch. We’d also appreciate a selection of presets that reflect different use cases for the next-gen buds, be that for listening to podcasts, bass boosting, or treble boosting. This is especially important, given the original A Series buds’ default frequency curve appears to be suited more for speech than for music.
A louder and more bassy sound profile
Most workout buds lay claim to a bassy-heavy sound profile. However, the Google Pixel Buds A Series substantially lacks volume below 400Hz. Treble frequencies past 3kHz also sound a little wonky, while mids also lack volume. This results in an overall sound profile that lacks volume and oomph. This is presumably a consequence of Google’s Adaptive EQ feature. The problem is that increasing the volume to hear more bass and mids will also increase the treble too loudly by comparison. Not such a great feature for what are otherwise good all-around earbuds.
We expect Google will up its game with the release of the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2. We would prefer to see a frequency response that more evenly follows our frequency curve above. That means producing more volume below 750Hz and rolling back some of the treble frequencies around 5kHz and 9kHz.
Will there be a Google Pixel Buds A Series 2?
Google is a leading player in the smartphone space thanks to Android and its own Pixel line of phones, and we see no reason why the company will let its foot off the gas with its complementary wireless earbuds. While there’s been no official announcement from Google yet, we fully expect to see the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 release in late 2023 or early-to-mid 2024. Google launched its most recent flagship earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro, as recently as July 28, 2022. While they serve as a decent pair of mid-tier buds, they lack some high-end features and are tailored heavily toward Android users. With other brands offering more for less, Google will want to remain competitive by updating its affordable Pixel Buds A Series with a feature-rich upgrade.
There’s no word on whether or not they will be called the Pixel Buds A Series 2, and we could perhaps see a shift to a Pixel Buds 2a branding to match the equivalent A series of budget Pixel phones.
- Google Pixel Buds — October 4, 2017
- Google Pixel Buds (2020) — April 27, 2020
- Google Pixel Buds A Series — June 17, 2021
- Google Pixel Buds Pro — July 28, 2022
Google has a mixed timeline when it comes to releasing its earbuds, as you can see from the list above. The original Pixel Buds were released in the fall of 2017, while the updated Google Pixel Buds (2020) were released in the spring of 2020. However, the Google Pixel Buds A Series and the recent Google Pixel Buds Pro launched during the summer. The Google Pixel Buds (2020) were also discontinued shortly after the release of the Google Pixel Buds A Series during the summer of 2021.
Google appears to favor a minimum two-year window before updating its earbuds. For example, the Google Pixel Buds (2020) were released over two and a half years after the release of the original Google Pixel Buds. Furthermore, the Google Pixel Pro were released two years and three months after the Google Pixel Buds (2020). By that metric, it would seem likely that we will see the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2 come to market sometime in the fall of 2023. However, with the launch of the Pixel 8 and no new pair of A Series buds, it’s looking increasingly likely we’ll need to wait until at least early 2024.
Should you wait for the Google Pixel Buds A Series 2?
The original Google Pixel Buds A Series remain on sale at the time of this writing, and still stand proud as some of the best wireless earbuds for under $100. However, given that we expect the next-gen upgrade to cost more at launch than their predecessor, it’s reasonable to question whether the next-gen buds will be worth it.
That said, the Google Pixel Buds A Series ($94 at Amazon) have proven themselves to be an excellent and affordable set of earbuds. Not only are they comfortable, but the addition of ear wings helps the buds remain secure during exercise. The buds also offer an IPX4 water resistance rating for sweatier workouts and the “Hey Google” voice assistant works seamlessly with Android to control your listening experience. If you are already part of the Google ecosystem, then the Pixel Buds A Series are a great choice. However, if you use an iPhone, you’ll miss out on important updates and features, such as Google Assisant support, bass boost, and in-ear detection. The inclusion of only SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs also leaves those looking for a more stable and higher-quality connection in the lurch.
If budget buds that house ANC are at the top of your agenda, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($99 at Amazon) play equally nicely with Android as the Google Pixel Buds A Series. These buds also offer Samsung’s Scalable codec for up to 512kbps, 96kHz/24-bit audio streaming. The battery will last five hours with ANC activated and also supports wireless and fast charging.
For those looking for a set of earbuds that offer solid isolation and the aptX Bluetooth codec for Android, look no further than the Jabra Elite 4 ($79 at Amazon). These earbuds also boast Bluetooth Multipoint, Spotify Tap, sidetone, a five-band EQ in the Sound+ app, pleasing sound quality, Fast Pair, and Swift Pair features. However, a major negative for iPhone users is the lack of support for the AAC Bluetooth codec. That means those on iOS will have to default to the backstop SBC Bluetooth codec instead, which has questionable signal strength.
Those embedded in the Apple ecosystem with a bit of extra cash should consider the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) ($195 at Amazon). For the added money, users gain access to Apple’s H1 chip for spatial audio with head tracking, Adaptive EQ, an IPX4 water-resistant rating, MagSafe wireless charging, Find My AirPods, seamless device switching, and over six hours of battery life. That said, the buds don’t host ANC and aren’t particularly effective at isolating your audio stream from environmental sounds. The fit is also fairly flimsy and the sound quality isn’t anything to shout about.
Yes. Google discontinued the Google Pixel Buds (2020) shortly after the release of the Google Pixel Buds A Series ($94 at Amazon) on June 17, 2021. The latter were seen as an affordable improvement upon previous Pixel Buds releases and fixed many of the connection problems that were present with earlier models.
While the Google Pixel Buds (2020) did make some improvements upon Google’s debut Pixel Buds, the company’s more recent A Series and Pixel Buds Pro models are seen as better, more up-to-date earbuds. In addition to boasting more reliable connectivity, these buds integrate seamlessly with Android and offer some useful features, such as “Hey Google” voice assistant.
If you are looking for a set of affordable earbuds that integrate well with Android devices, then the Google Pixel Buds A Series are worth it. The inclusion of the “Hey Google” voice assistant and easy-to-use touch controls make these earbuds a great choice if you’re already a member of the Google ecosystem. However, if you own an iPhone, you’ll miss out on many of the features that make these buds worth it, as well as losing access to important firmware updates. The Google Pixel Buds A Series also lack in volume and reproduce a sound profile that lacks in bass and mids. Those looking for a pair of bass-heavy workout buds should consider the Jabra Elite 4 ($79 at Amazon) instead.