Time can really fly when it’s summer, product events pop up, travel happens, and everywhere you turn there’s another device to add to the review list. I’m mentioning all of them because we gave you our “first listen” thoughts on the Google Pixel Buds Pro about a month ago. I have no idea where the last few weeks went, but I can imagine some of you wanting to get the final thoughts on whether or not Google nailed it with their most expensive earbuds yet.
What are Pixel Buds Pro?
To quickly recap, the Pixel Buds Pro are Google’s latest earbuds and the first truly wireless earbuds with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). They can also be quite expensive at $199.99. They come in four colors: Charcoal, Lemongrass, Coral and Mist.
Google rates these new Pixel Buds Pro to have up to 31 hours of battery life with ANC off and up to 20 hours of battery life with it on, in which case you’ll get extra charge from the battery. During a single listening session, this means 11 hours (ANC off) or 7 hours (ANC on) of use.
Each bud features touch controls including forward or backward swipe (volume up or down), single/double/triple tap and a long-press or touch and hold. Nothing is customizable beyond touch and hold, where you can set that action to toggle Google Assistant or ANC settings. These settings may be different for each bud.
The included case has wireless charging and also charges via the USB-C port. Connection to your phone or computer is via Bluetooth 5.0, the bud has IPX4 water resistance (IPX2 in the case), and 3 microphones with wind-blocking mesh covers to aid your conversations. You also get access to a Pixel Buds app that lets you control the touch controls I mentioned, turn the Smart Volume EQ setting on or off, access multipoint and audio switch toggles, and more.
Finally, ANC options include turning ANC on or off as well as a transparency mode. You know, this mode tries to amplify noise in the world in real-time to safely cross the street or carry on a conversation from someone in the room with you.
So, are the Pixel Buds Pro any better?
For this review period, I used two different pairs of Pixel Buds Pro, the charcoal pair that Google sent me to test, and a fog pair that I bought ahead of time. For the first week or two I used the charcoal pair and have been on the mist pair ever since. There is no difference between the two other than the exterior color. They have the same case, same set of features and sound the same to my ears.
How do they fit?
I’m going to hunt down my “first listen” here and say that I still think these sounds pretty awesome. Again, though, Google’s Pixel Buds seem to fit my ears perfectly out of the box, and that doesn’t change with the Pixel Buds Pro. The sound and fit experience may be different for you, but I really couldn’t ask for a better out-of-box start.
The fit, which doesn’t use any kind of wing tips (it comes with a difference in ear tip sizes), magically fits into my ears and barely moves or rattles. I’ve worked out at the gym, taken them for runs, used them in my office, and worked outside the home and still haven’t dropped a bud. I really don’t think I could have gone any other way for them to fall unless I was trying to hang upside down or something. I’m not going to do it – I’ll get old and hurt myself.
If there’s any negative about how the Pixel Buds Pro fit, it’s probably their overall size. They’re big ol’ buds, which I get because of the ANC and battery, but they’re beefy. Previous Pixel Buds had this lightness that allowed me to wear them for long periods of time without any fatigue. For several weeks now, I’ve definitely experienced some ear fatigue after extended listening (an hour or more). I may be able to get more used to their size with daily long listens or their weight and bulk may always give me some trouble. Still hard to know.
So while the Pixel Buds Pro fit like a glove out of the box, and no matter what I do while wearing them, they’re a bit bulky and heavy on my ears. They may sound great, but wearing them for hours can be tiring.
Speaking of how they sound…
Several weeks into this test and my thoughts on how the Pixel Buds Pro sounds similar to what I originally said right out of the gate. In case you missed it, here’s the bulk of that initial listen:
The bass has a smooth, deep depth that sustains in a truly satisfying way that most true wireless earbuds can’t. The highs have a richness and clarity that is intoxicating. There’s an excitement when you throw a big booming song into the Buds Pro. Yes, I gave The Weeknd’s “High For This” my usual test and it passed with flying colors. I threw a bunch of Labrinth and his wild digital beats and heavy bass at them, and came away happy again. I brought out Jeff Buckley for the first time in a while to feel that emotion and your boy is tearing up now. OK, that’s a bit much. The old camp, after overplaying the last two years, sounded fresh again. It’s heady sound at best.
I’ve since added old Dashboard Confessional “Unplugged,” Ray LaMontagne, Ghostface Killah, and more to this Buds Pro, and my takeaway remains that I love the sound. If I want clear rappers, vibrant elegance or one of the best rappers ever to bless my ears, I’ll happily reach for the Pixel Buds Pro and turn on the ANC. Nothing sounds fake or anything very Distorts sound like digital or ANC in an uncomfortable way that an algorithm thinks you might enjoy.
For sessions where I want lots of pleasant audio and the outside world to disappear somewhat, I’ll probably continue to use the Pixel Bud Pro. I think when I’m in the office or on the plane or on the couch at night when my wife swallows the Virgin River and I need a way to be present, I’ll use these. For more active experiences, such as when out running, I think the weight and size may keep them away from my ears, and I’ll probably go back to my cheaper Pixel Buds sometimes.
Other things I like
- battery life: I haven’t had any problems with battery life, probably because I never exceed the battery limit when using a pair of earbuds. I don’t live a life that requires earbuds for more than an hour or an hour and a half max. I work from home, don’t commute, and am rarely out in public by myself so wearing earbuds isn’t something I do very often. But when I wear these, I’m getting close to what Google promises for battery estimates. I’ve had ANC on for the past 30 minutes and I’m down 7%. Calculate it and I’ll use 7 hours before I die. With the ANC off, my tests always came in around the 11-hour mark.
- Touch control: Google has brought forward and backward volume controls that I missed while using the A-series. These touch controls are very good and really just work. They are not sensitive yet very Sensitive to the point of being annoying. Taps are precise, swipes give you easy access to volume, and long presses to switch ANC modes or fire up Assistant are no problem. These are the best touch controls in the business (yet).
- case: The case that Google has used for the Pixel Buds Pro is very similar to the case for the Pixel Buds (2nd Gen). That’s a good thing, since this case is addictively clicky and flippy, it charges quickly, and it has a nice weight to it. When you hold these buds or slip them into a pocket or bag, they feel premium, like you’re getting what you’re worth. The addition of wireless charging is also a nice bonus.
- Firmware update: In this first month of ownership, Google has already sent at least two or three updates to the Pixel Buds Pro. If there’s one thing you know you’ll get with a Pixel product, it’s great software support. Assuming there are no hardware flaws with the Pixel Buds Pro, they should only get better. it’s exciting
- Google Assistant: It works really well on these earbuds. You can say “OK, Google” without yelling and it will light up very quickly While I don’t use it for a ton of action, setting reminders, asking about my day, or checking notifications, these work as seamlessly as a Nest hub or my phone during my day.
- Multipoint connection: Pixel Buds Pro allows you to connect to two Bluetooth devices at once and will intelligently or automatically try to switch to one of the devices when a call comes in. You can switch between the two as quickly as an audio source. In my limited testing (because I rarely make or receive calls), it works well. If anything I can tell you that switching media sources is very easy and works as advertised.
- call: Here’s a flaw in my review of the earbuds, and I know you’ll be upset about this, but yeah, I’ve only made a few calls on them and can’t possibly offer you the right take. Unfortunately, I just don’t call or talk to many people on the phone. However, I had a long talk with my father about this and could hear him clearly. He also did not say anything about the connection being weak. This is just one of those areas where you have to rely on other reviews and what they say. apologizing
What could use some work?
- Real EQ settings or presets: Google may one day give us EQ settings for Pixel Buds, but they haven’t yet And I’m well aware that most phones from companies like Samsung have built-in EQ options, so maybe Google doesn’t need to. But I want to offer some preset or something for pixel bud app. When you listen to Pixel Buds Pro, you have no control over the sound. There is a “Volume EQ” option, but its only function is to “enhance bass and treble frequencies at low volume levels.” I want to be able to change the sound more depending on my style or type of music.
- Transparency mode is fine: Clarity mode is supposed to help you hear your surroundings while giving you a high-end audio experience It worked fine for me during testing. For one, there’s a noticeable hum when the mode is on, presumably because it’s actively listening for your surroundings. But sounds like a person talking or driving come out incoherently For example, as I’m writing this review, I’m sitting outside and my wife is watering her flowers and (I think) talking to me. The conversation is mostly one-sided because I can’t hear her, the hose, or any other sounds she’s making. Google will likely continue to tweak it, so I’ll give them a chance to do so.
What do we buy?
As mentioned above, I’ve already purchased a pair and plan to use the Pixel Buds Pro when I need a high-end audio experience in wireless form. And while they worked fine during my workouts or runs or commutes, their weight and softness was a bit tiresome at times. However, I’ll keep testing in that situation to see if my ears get used to them, because the sound is pretty good and I don’t want to go back to the lower-end Pixel Buds A sound, even if they do fit lighter.
For you, the questions probably start with your budget. At $199, these aren’t cheap. You get many of the high-end features you’d expect for $200, along with ongoing software support They also clock in at $30 less than Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. My ears love them and for the price, I think they are worth it.