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Google Pixel Buds Pro
July 28, 2022
23.7 x 22.3 x 22 mm (earbud)
63.2 x 25 x 50 mm (case)
62.4g (earbuds and case)
Google gifted the Pixel Buds Pro with active noise cancelling (ANC), so now you can perform your usual productivity tasks while dampening the outside world. Conversely, if you’d rather invite the world in, the Pixel Buds Pro has a few Android-specific features, such as access to the Google Translate app and a transparency mode. Small details like Google Assistant integration make the Pixel Buds Pro less of a music listening set of earbuds, and more of an extension of the Google universe.
Does it deliver on the hype? We spent five days with Google Pixel Buds Pro and learned everything you need to know before taking the plunge.
Editor’s note: this Google Pixel Buds Pro review was published on July 28, 2022, and is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.
The Pixel Buds Pro is tailored specifically for Android phone owners, who can use the Pixel Buds app to receive updates and control how the earbuds function. Avid Google Assistant fans can use the Pixel Buds Pro’s direct voice assistant access.
What’s it like to use Google Pixel Buds Pro?
Our test unit has a nearly identical matte white case with black accents as the Google Pixel Buds (2020). Now it has an IPX2 rating, and the LED has moved from the bottom portion of the case to up near the lid. A simple thumb flick will flip up the stiff lid, revealing the muted Lemongrass-colored caps on the black buds. (The Pixel Buds Pro also comes in Charcoal, Fog, and Coral color options.) Stamped on the almost sandstone textured cap is the signature Google ‘G’, which is where the touchpad resides. The style evokes a more subdued interpretation of late 1990s bubbly design cues, a bit reminiscent of the Volkswagen Beetle or fruit-flavored Mentos.
The earbud nozzle measures about 6mm in diameter, and behind it sits an 11mm dynamic driver. Google ships the Pixel Buds Pro with three ear tips: small measures 11mm, medium is 12mm, and large is 13mm. I wear a small in one ear and a medium in the other ear, because everybody’s ears are different. The buds gently screw into your ears. With an IPX4 rating, you could take the earbuds for a run, these aren’t the best running earbuds. The Pixel Buds Pro fit isn’t as secure as older Google Pixel Buds models that feature stabilizing ear wings. The app will run an ear tip fit test, though its actual usefulness is questionable, as the test claims every size ear tip is a great fit in my testing which isn’t true.
Nevertheless, the Pixel Buds Pro feels comfortable, though it requires readjustments when out for a walk. Google also ditched the Adaptive Sound feature found on the Pixel Buds A-Series, opting instead for more useful active noise cancelling tech. You can still enable Adaptive Sound through a Google Pixel 6 phone’s settings menu, but it’s not in the Android app anymore. So, rather than automatically adjusting your volume to overwhelm external noise, ANC detects the external noise and cancels it out. This way, your volume is left unaffected and you can likely do yourself a favor and listen at a quieter level.
How do you control Google Pixel Buds Pro?
By default, the Google Pixel Buds Pro has mostly intuitive controls. An interesting addition is that a swipe forward and back motion will raise or lower your volume. The Pixel Buds Pro is one of the few sets of true wireless earbuds to have this feature. Sony uses swipes on several of its headphones, like the WH-1000XM5, but not on the earbuds. You also get more common features from the Pixel Buds Pro like automatic play/pause as you insert or remove the buds, as well as optional mono listening. The controls are the same on both buds and from an accessibility perspective, that’s a plus.
Sometimes you’ll misfire a command, for example, accidentally pausing audio (single tap) when intending to turn on ANC (hold). Folks with sweaty hands can find the swiping a little harder to execute, due to the touch panel’s texture. Even so, swipes feel better than taps, which sound and feel bad in your ears no matter how lightly you thump the buds with a finger. With that said, one colleague dislodged the buds from his ear when trying out the volume control swipes. You can also go hands-free and program the buds to respond to “Hey Google” too.
TAP AND HOLD
Considering how much customization Google offers users in the Android experience, it’s surprising what little control you get to change the Pixel Buds Pro touch controls. You can’t change a swipe forward gesture to skip a track, for instance; this motion is set to control volume only. The customization boils down to three things: you can toggle in-ear detection on/off, choose if you want to dedicate one earbud to the Google Assistant, and determine what listening modes to cycle through directly from the earbuds. By default, Google enables ANC and transparency mode as your onboard listening modes, but you can throw normal mode into the cycle with the app.
Should you use the Pixel Buds app for Google Pixel Buds Pro?
Android users can download the Pixel Buds app. It provides updates, some limited customization, and the ear tip fit test. If you’re eager to use Google Assistant, you’ll want the app to help set that up and probably dedicate an earbud to controlling it. Once set up to your liking, you probably don’t need the app for anything other than updates, so you can set and forget it. We might have all acclimated to granting our headphones and earbuds permissions, but it’s worth mentioning again that this is very much tied into Google’s data collecting ecosystem. You’ll have to agree to the terms and conditions to access some of the features one might argue you’ve already paid for.
If you forget the buds somewhere, there’s a Find device function that’s similar to Apple’s Find My feature. You’ll have to enable this in your settings (granting location data) before you lose the buds for it to work. Pixel phone and Android users can also integrate the Pixel Buds Pro with the Google Translate app. This way, you can start a conversation and receive a response all with the headset and your phone.
The app lacks a custom equalizer, and instead offers a Volume EQ.
A new addition that’s perhaps an example of trying to fix something that wasn’t broken—equalizers—is Volume EQ. This feature purports to automatically adjust your EQ as you increase or decrease volume. It seems to just turn up or down bass and treble in relation to your volume, so at quiet volumes, those frequencies are boosted and at louder volumes, the function turns those frequencies down.
At the time of testing, Google doesn’t include a more conventional equalizer or EQ presets. Spatial audio is also absent but slated to arrive in Fall 2022. Even without these features, it’s still useful to get the app. For Pixel phone owners, the app works at a system level, and you can find it in the Connected devices menu of the Settings app.
If you have an Apple iPhone, there is no app available for you. You can still use the Pixel Buds Pro without the Pixel Buds app, but you won’t receive updates. This also means iPhone owners won’t be able to customize any settings or access controls other than what’s available through default on-ear options. Again, you won’t be able to access a normal listening mode, as the Pixel Buds Pro defaults to toggling between the ANC and transparency modes. You also won’t be able to use the Google Translate function. Whether you’ll have access to the forthcoming features like EQ and spatial audio likely depends on if you have a friend with an Android device at that time to get an update.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro volume varies depending on the source device it’s paired to. Most surprisingly, this volume issue presents itself with the Google Pixel 6. With the Pixel 6, the buds play too quietly, even at max volume. Try going through the “Developer options” on your phone to fix that. It worked when we encountered the same issue with the Pixel Buds A-Series, however, we have yet to successfully replicate that fix with the Pixel Buds Pro. Perhaps this will get cleared up in a future update. For now, volume output seems normal when paired with an iPhone.
Try the volume fix if you have problems because it might work.
- Go to Settings.
- Go to About phone.
- Tap on where it says “Build number” seven times.
- Tap the back arrow.
- Go to System & updates.
- Scroll down and select “Developer options.”
- Enable the “Developer options” toggle.
- Scroll down and enable the “Bluetooth absolute volume” toggle.
Your earphones should immediately work at normal volume. If they don’t, restart your device.
How does the Google Pixel Buds Pro connect?
Pairing is easy with the Pixel Buds Pro with Fast Pair for Android. Your choices are SBC or AAC Bluetooth codecs over Bluetooth 5.0. AAC and SBC are interesting choices for a set of earbuds intended primarily for Android owners, because AAC tends to perform best with iPhones and rather inconsistently with Android phones. AAC support is a requirement for anything using Bluetooth 5 but curiously, Google doesn’t also include something better for Android like aptX. Cost should not be the reason either, considering that you can grab Jabra Elite 4 Active for far less money and gain aptX support.
The inconsistency is the key gripe with picking only AAC and SBC for a primarily Android-oriented earbud.
Paired with a Samsung tablet defaulting to AAC, there’s pretty obvious latency while streaming YouTube. In contrast, when watching the same video paired to an iPhone over AAC there’s scarcely any latency at all. Paired with the Pixel 6 with AAC, the latency isn’t a bother either. This makes sense because the product was presumably developed and tested with the Pixel 6 in mind.
With that said, Fast Pair works great and it’s easy to switch between devices. The Google Pixel Buds Pro also comes with multipoint, and it works seamlessly. Kudos on that front.
Bluetooth connection is pretty easy regardless of your device.
- Open the case, leaving the buds in the case.
- Make sure Bluetooth is on in your phone settings.
- On Android, a notification will appear and you’re basically done. On an iOS device, press and hold the button on the case for three seconds.
- In your Bluetooth settings, select the Pixel Buds Pro. Now you’re connected.
How long does the Google Pixel Buds Pro battery last?
Following our standardized testing of constant real music playback, peaking at 75dB(SPL), the Google Pixel Buds Pro lasted 7 hours, 6 minutes on a single charge, with ANC on. That’s pretty much bang on with the battery life advertised. The case supplies an additional 13 hours. This figure is definitely quite good for wireless buds, especially those with ANC. Google also lends the Pixel Buds Pro case optional wireless charging or via standard USB-C.
Yes, placing the buds in the case for five minutes yields 60 minutes of playtime (ANC on).
How well does the Google Pixel Buds Pro cancel noise?
The Pixel Buds Pro is Google’s first set of active noise cancelling earbuds. It has vents to help avoid the unpleasant pressure in your ear that can happen with a good seal and ANC. The buds dull the noise of traffic somewhat, though due to the uneven application of ANC filtering and isolation, a notable hiss is usually present. This occurs because some external noise doesn’t get filtered or blocked by the ANC and isolation. Once you have music playing, it becomes hard to notice. As you can see in the chart above, the Pixel Buds Pro ANC effectively quiets sounds below 400Hz, attenuating frequencies within that range anywhere from 12-35dB. Typically ANC does its best work on low frequencies.
Using the ear fit test in the Pixel Buds app is a good chance to try to optimize your fit for isolation, although its efficacy is a bit limited. The test indicates that every ear tip fits perfectly, unless the Pixel Buds Pro is halfway out of the ear. It’s probably better to trust yourself to get it right, and then double-check with the test. No matter how good your fit is with the Pixel Buds Pro and its standard ear tips, you’ll contend with uneven isolation above 400Hz. For the person really looking to optimize, third-party memory foam ear tips could possibly help with isolation.
How does the Google Pixel Buds Pro sound?
Sounding kind of hyped on both ends of the frequency spectrum, the Pixel Buds Pro greatly exaggerates the bass and treble response, though it roughly follows the idea of our target curve. Bass (below 500Hz) receives a notable increase in volume, and sub-bass below 100Hz is over amplified by more than 6dB, relative to our preference curve. Treble receives a big bump between 4-8kHz, with up to 10dB of extra emphasis, and then rolls off above 9kHz. This can cause fricatives to verge into ear-piercing territory on a given “s-” sound, especially during a phone call or a meeting with those loud untamed “s-“ sounds. It also can mean that cymbals will play back louder than you expect. The emphasis on the highs and sub-bass occasionally overwhelms the mids.
Lows, mids, highs
Listening to the dreampop track Dream About Me by The Depreciation Guild, the fundamentals all come through fine but there’s a lot more bass than necessary with the hefty thud of the kick drum. The treble-laden electronic snares and hi-hats also play loudly. Arpeggiated guitar and lead guitar occupying the higher frequencies are sufficiently audible, while the lower, midrange distorted rhythm guitar seems much quieter and pushed into the background. The louder bass and treble make it hard to appreciate the melodic midrange synths in the verses, which might go unnoticed if the listener isn’t already familiar with the song. It’s dreampop, so if you can hear the vocals at all, it’s a win—and you can with the Pixel Buds Pro.
With something relatively sparse like Lay Myself Down by Mazzy Star, the bass volume is a bit higher than necessary but doesn’t distract too much from other song elements. Because the track doesn’t have a lot in the sub-bass range, where the greatest frequency exaggeration is, the bass sounds acceptable. The acoustic guitar plays at a good volume, which is fine for most of the song until the instrumentation gets more complex. Throughout, the tambourine is too loud and comes across as brash and distracting, especially compared to the slide guitar. Meanwhile, Hope Sandoval’s voice sounds marginally more muffled than it ought to, though she still sounds pretty good. Towards the last minute of the song, a string synth pad plays, hidden under the exaggerated acoustic guitar, bass, and tambourine.
No, the Volume EQ does not make audio sound better. Google describes the Volume EQ function as turning up treble and bass as you turn down the volume. There’s a kind of logic at play here, as it should make the sound of the earbuds more consistent across volume steps by compensating for how our hearing works. For the person who always turns up the volume to hear more bass, maybe you’ll be less tempted.
Can you use the Google Pixel Buds Pro for phone calls?
Each earbud has three microphones, and under ideal conditions, your voice will sound fine. Sibilant sounds (s-, sh-, z-) come through with too much emphasis. In a busy office, the noise rejection is not amazing, but the Pixel Buds Pro still prioritizes your voice. For a Zoom meeting, this is totally serviceable. The Google Pixel Buds’ weakness lies in wind noise rejection. Whole sections of your voice may get lost. Particularly, higher register voices seem to sound worse, with more sibilant exaggerations and during our wind tests, the lower register voices come through better.
Google Pixel Buds Pro microphone demo (Ideal):
Google Pixel Buds Pro microphone demo (Office):
Google Pixel Buds Pro microphone demo (Wind):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Google Pixel Buds Pro?
The Google Pixel Buds Pro makes some improvements over its predecessors, but this is a pretty restrained entry. As the nearly identical appearance of the Pixel Buds (2020) case design shows, sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel (or egg, as the case may be). The charging case is great. It’s improved with an IPX2 rating and wireless charging. the gesture controls work without much in the way of misfires. The battery life impresses us, batting well above average for true wireless earbuds. The boosted bass and treble frequency response is too much for some genres but works perfectly fine for rock and pop.
Combined, ANC and isolation block noises like air conditioners for the most part. Folks working indoors and taking calls can use the Pixel Buds Pro for meetings (or podcasts, as a last resort). For productivity-minded folks who use Google Assistant regularly, the integration makes it a wise choice.
However, aiming the Pixel Buds Pro at Android owners and only including AAC and SBC codecs is a real misstep. It limits video viewing and challenges folks to gamble on the latency outcome. The fit is also more precarious without stabilizers, although, the buds feel lightweight and the vents curb any in-ear pressure. Perhaps the IPX4-rated buds may suit folks with very small ears best.
Overall, the price seems a little steep for the Google Pixel Buds Pro performance at the time of this review. Until we see the full specifications in action (like the forthcoming Spatial Audio), the app functionality limitations do not befit the price tag. At $199 USD, you should have access to an equalizer and more ability to customize your controls. Maybe wait and see what comes of firmware updates, if you’re on the fence.
How does Google Pixel Buds Pro compare to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro?
Let’s address price and value first: the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro debuted at $199 USD like the Pixel Buds Pro, but now its price regularly drops to $149 or $179 USD. When you purchase the Galaxy Buds Pro, you get a more durable pair of earbuds (IPX7) that can withstand a literal drop into a pool. Samsung’s charging case supports USB-C and wireless charging, and can fast charge the earbuds.
At publish, the Samsung Galaxy Bud Pro has a more pleasing and consistent frequency response than the Google Pixel Buds Pro. Samsung’s bass and treble responses aren’t nearly as boosted as Google’s. You can choose from a handful of EQ presets for the Galaxy Buds Pro within the app (there is no native custom EQ). Low-frequency noise cancelling isn’t as effective through the Galaxy Buds Pro compared to the Pixel Buds Pro, but you do get more consistent isolation performance from Samsung above 1kHz.
Neither set of earbuds has iOS app support, so iPhone owners don’t get an advantage with one pair over the other. However, there are some features on the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro that are exclusive to Samsung hardware. Unlike the Pixel Buds Pro, the Galaxy Buds Pro supports three Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec. Samsung’s proprietary codec works like aptX Adaptive, negotiating between connection stability and audio quality. Wireless PowerShare is a trick up the Galaxy Buds Pro’s sleeve, as you can charge the case atop any compatible Samsung device. While you may not use this feature regularly, it’s great if you’re in a pinch mid-flight or waiting around at the airport. Moreover, you can take advantage of Samsung 360 Audio when the Galaxy Buds Pro is paired with a Samsung phone.
With Samsung’s earbuds, you don’t have to wait around for features like spatial audio and can enjoy them today. If you aren’t loyal to either company, the Galaxy Buds Pro is bound to be the better deal today.
What should you get instead of the Google Pixel Buds Pro?
Skating in at just under $200 USD, it’s worth considering what else costs the same money as the Google Pixel Buds Pro. Certainly, anyone using Android who’s interested in watching a lot of video content will want a better suited codec. You can pick up the Sennheiser CX Plus True Wireless with its great sound, ANC, and aptX codec for reliable video streaming. It helps that the CX Plus True Wireless usually sells for $20-50 USD less than the Pixel Buds Pro. Like the Pixel Buds Pro, the CX Plus earbuds have an IPX4 rating against water and sweat. Battery life is shorter at 5 hours, 44 minutes per charge. Sennheiser also doesn’t have any surround sound on the buds, though neither does the Pixel Buds Pro at present, even if it’s forthcoming.
If you don’t mind shelling out a bit more money, pick up the Sony WF-1000XM4 to basically get all your needs covered. You get the surround sound, IPX4 rating, great ANC, an equalizer, and LDAC codec for Android (and AAC for iPhone).
What are good Pixel Buds Pro alternatives for iPhone owners?
iPhone users should probably skip the Pixel Buds Pro if they have any desire to access updates or finesse their experience through an app. Instead, consider the H1-equipped AirPods Pro, or something with equally solid app support for all OS platforms. The CX Plus True Wireless works well for iPhones, because it has the AAC codec and shares the same app no matter your phone. You could also grab the Jabra Elite 7 Active and get virtually the same battery life, AAC for your iPhone, more control over ANC, as well as an app that works for iOS or Android, a better IP57 rating, and a good default sound. If you get a good fit, it can easily accompany your workout.
Frequently asked questions about the Google Pixel Buds Pro
For most people, the active noise cancelling onboard the Google Pixel Buds Pro is the main reason to grab the latest version. If you don’t want or need ANC, the Pixel Buds A-Series sounds pretty similar to the Pixel Buds Pro with the bass boost on, and it fits better due to its built-in stabilizers. Otherwise, you get a significantly better battery life on the Pixel Buds Pro, and possibly more premium features in future updates. With that said, if you just want basic buds with Google Assistant integration, the Pixel Buds A-Series is an attractive option at about half the price.
As of July 28, 2022, the Google Translate app supports the following languages:
- Chinese (Mandarin only)