The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is the budget-friendly version of the Google Pixel Buds (2020). Where some might think new is always better, others believe the more expensive a product, the higher its quality. We’re going to compare these two Google true wireless earbuds to determine who has made the right judgment call and which should be on your shopping list.
How does the Google Pixel Buds A-Series design differ from the Pixel Buds (2020)?
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series and Google Pixel Buds (2020) look almost identical. They have similarly shaped charging cases and each set of buds houses funky-looking wings to keep them stable in your ears. A definite downside of both headsets: the wings are not removable. If they don’t fit your ears just right, you may end up in pain or your earbuds may fall out easily. The A-Series is a tad larger than the 2020 iteration, though it is somehow also lighter in weight. Both earbuds have an IPX4 rating so, assuming you can get a decent fit with the inbuilt wings, they’ll serve you well as workout earbuds. They also both feature air pressure vents to help reduce the uncomfortable suction sensation that some listeners experience with silicone ear tips, though it does detract from the buds’ stability and minorly affects isolation.
Both of the Google headsets feature capacitive touch controls, and both let you access Google Assistant hands-free. With the Pixel Buds (2020), you can control volume levels with the touch controls, which isn’t an option with the A-Series. Both buds have automatic ear detection, so you can pause and play your music by removing and inserting the earbuds.
How do you pair Google’s true wireless earbuds?
Pairing the Google Pixel Buds (2020) to an Android phone is a satisfying process thanks to Fast Pair. Make sure Bluetooth is enabled on your Android and then open the buds’ charging case. A card will appear on your screen prompting you to pair and bada bing bada boom, you’re connected.
If you don’t have an Android phone, you can still pair the Pixel Buds (2020) the old fashioned way. The Pixel Buds A-Series does not support Fast Pair so you’ll have to connect it to all of your devices old school. Both iterations of the Pixel Buds support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs for audio playback.
What software features are available on each pair of Google Pixel Buds?
While neither the Google Pixel Buds A-Series nor the Google Pixel Buds (2020) have active noise cancelling (ANC), both have a feature called Adaptive Sound. It automatically adjusts the output volume of your media depending on the level of environmental noise it detects around you. This feature can be useful because it masks the unwanted ambient sound of the world by boosting what you do want to hear, but we recommend exercising caution with this feature. Too much volume blasting can cause permanent hearing damage and regardless, the feature tends to destroy musical dynamics.
Both headsets support Google’s real-time translation feature, though it’s not that useful because you need to have the Google Translate app open on your phone in order to use it. The Google Pixel Buds (2020) has Attention Alerts which lower the volume of your media if it detects a sound like a siren or a baby crying. If you download the Pixel Buds app (Android only), you can use the Bass Boost equalizer feature, check your firmware version and perform updates if needed, and locate your earbuds if you lose them with either headset.
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If you don’t have an Android phone you’re mostly out of luck when it comes to features. You won’t be able to access any smart assistant—not Siri, not Google Assistant—through your earbuds. You won’t be able to use the real-time translation feature and you won’t have access to any of the app-based features.
Does the Google Pixel Buds A-Series have better batter than the Google Pixel Buds (2020)?
On a single charge, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series lasted 4 hours, 44 minutes when subjected to our testing. It supports quick-charging, yielding 180 minutes of media playback or 90 minutes of phone calls after 15 minutes in the case. It charges via USB-C and does not support Qi wireless charging.
Though the Google Pixel Buds (2020) is said to have 5 hours of battery life, it lasted 6 hours, 8 minutes on a single charge during our test. This more expensive product is compatible with Qi wireless mats, and it supports quick-charging—pop the buds in the case for 10 minutes to enjoy 120 minutes of listening time.
Which Pixel Buds headset isolates sound more effectively?
Neither of the earbuds in question has active noise cancelling, and for that matter neither has very effective passive isolation. As the below charts show, both headsets do an okay job of blocking out sounds above 1000Hz, but any low, rumbling sounds will likely be audible despite getting the best possible fit with the buds.
One reason neither the Pixel Buds A-Series nor Pixel Buds (2020) isolates noise very well could be the one-size-fits-most wings on both headsets aren’t going to fit everyone perfectly. Silicone ear tips often struggle to keep sounds at bay if they’re too thin, which could be a factor here. Though the lack of effective isolation is a significant drawback for many people, if you’re looking for a pair of workout earbuds, it’s best for your safety to choose a pair that lets you remain aware of your surroundings.
Does the sound quality differ between the Google Pixel Buds (2020) and Pixel Buds A-Series?
The biggest drawback of the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is that its maximum volume output is extremely quiet when hooked up to some Android phones, though it is fixable. The A-Series is roughly 25dB quieter than the average pair of true wireless earbuds when this problem arises, and if you want to fix this you’ll have to go through your Android’s developer settings. We’re hoping Google will fix this issue with a firmware update, but for now, it’s a frustrating quirk of the A-Series buds.
Related: What is frequency response?
The default frequency of the A-Series is a little unusual as it emphasizes mids and highs a lot but hardly emphasizes lows at all. This sound profile is most suitable for listening to human speech, like in podcasts or Zoom calls, because the dips in the higher frequencies reduce sibilance (harsh “s” sounds). For listening to music, we recommend enabling the Bass Boost feature in the Pixel Buds app. This will emphasize low frequencies a healthy amount and make your music more pleasing to listen to.
The Google Pixel Buds (2020) has a more neutral frequency response with a slight boost in the bass tones and the highs. This type of sound signature makes this headset more consumer-friendly, and if you want even more bass, these buds have Bass Boost as well. Unfortunately, neither headset has a customizable equalizer so if the Bass Boost and default sound signatures don’t do it for you, you’re left to your own devices (no, really, plenty of smartphones have integrated EQs in the settings app).
Which pair of earbuds is better for phone calls?
Each of the Google Pixel Buds A-Series earbuds houses two microphones, which help ensure vocal clarity while blocking out environmental noise. Unfortunately, the A-Series is sometimes too sensitive and will recognize your speaking voice as environmental noise and attempt to shut it out.
The mic on the Google Pixel Buds (2020) is also pretty good. It picks up most vocal frequencies effectively and does well with speech intelligibility. Check out our microphone demos to decide for yourself which headset sounds better.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series microphone demo:
Google Pixel Buds (2020) microphone demo:
Should you buy the Google Pixel Buds A-Series or Google Pixel Buds (2020)?
There aren’t too many differences between the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and Google Pixel Buds (2020) except for the A-Series’ potential volume issue. Both headsets are built almost identically and have Android-specific software features. The A-Series is significantly cheaper than the 2020 iteration of these buds, but the only major features it’s missing out on are Qi-wireless charging, Fast Pair, and Attention Alerts.
The sound signature offered by the Pixel Buds (2020) will probably be preferable to many people, but the Bass Boost feature brings the A-Series’ sound quality close to par. If you want a cheap pair of earbuds, we recommend an alternative like the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2.