Solid audio and ANC
Excellent battery life
Stylish and comfortable
Lacking audio adjustments
Some features still buggy
Here’s a quick snapshot of the Pixel Buds Pro’s main specs:
The Pixel Buds Pro arrive in a small cardboard box, with the buds nestled in the same rounded case of the now defunct 2020 Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series. Accessories include a small set of instructions, and a tube bearing two extra pairs of ear tips. Notably missing from the package is a charging cable.
Pixel phone users will get settings baked in, while other Androiders will need to download the Pixel Buds app (not available for iOS) to unlock most settings and features. The earbuds should then automatically appear on your phone’s home screen when you open the case.
The Pixel Buds have had their ups and downs, but since going fully wireless in 2020, the exterior design has been right on the money. The egg-shaped case, one of our favorite parts of the last two pairs, remains. It feels good in your hands and slides comfortably into your pocket. (It is odd to me that the case is white no matter the color of your buds, but I’m no style expert.)
Flipping the cap reveals a pair of circular touchpads peeking out in your choice of four colors, once again recalling the previous Pixel Buds. That’s where the similarities end, though. Lifting the Pro buds from their charging stands feels almost like pulling a tooth as they emerge in oval-shaped nubs.
Those nubs sit snugly in your ear’s concha, while the ear tips slip into your ear canal. For me it was an instant fit, comfortable even after multiple hours of listening. Similar to competitors like the Galaxy Buds Pro, these are meant to fit without plugging your ears (Google says a sensor measures the pressure), yet they feel more secure than Samsung’s pair (and definitely the AirPods Pro). They should even hang tight for jogging, though their lack of ear hooks could mean they’ll slip a bit if you sweat. Those with smaller ears (like my wife) may also have more trouble wedging the buds in place.
Ear size notwithstanding, my only real complaint is that, because of their long and flattened housings, it took me a while to figure out how to properly put them back in the case. But I quickly got used to it.
Controls may seem like a simple or even trivial part of the earbuds equation, but as your primary interface, it’s of utmost importance. While I’m usually a proponent of physical buttons due to years of poor touch-control experiences, the Pixel Buds Pro nail it. Mirrored on both sides, they seamlessly allow control over calling, playback, and ANC with a few taps or holds.
The volume-control slide gesture, carried over from the 2020 P-buds, is my favorite function. It’s both smartly designed and perfectly executed here, allowing for easy adjustment when your phone’s out of reach. For those who do a lot of heavy workouts, buttons are still more accurate, but as touch controls go these are among the best in class.
There are also great features in the package, though similar to other tech giants like Apple and Samsung, many of them are confined to one side of the mobile aisle (i.e. Android). While anyone can access ANC and transparency mode, Android users get convenience features like Android Fast Pair for automatic syncing and “Hey Google” for calling up Google Assistant. Android Switching (again, borrowed from Apple buds) lets you automatically swap between an Android tablet or phone when you get a call.
Within the Pixel Buds app (or your Pixel phone settings) are options like an earbuds finder, the ability to turn on/off auto-pause sensors, and “Volume EQ” meant to calibrate the sonic frequencies for high or low volume. Multipoint connection is also an option, letting you pair the buds to most Bluetooth-ready phones and computers for easy swapping. However, the feature wouldn’t show up in the app on my Samsung S20 (more on that below).
You won’t get fancier extras like 360-audio or head tracking (though this may be coming), speak-to-chat, or even the Adaptive Audio feature from previous Pixel Buds generations. And while Google has promised a 5-band EQ will arrive in the fall, currently there’s no way to adjust audio performance. Still, apart from that omission, it’s a solid toolkit, and features like a wireless charging case (something the $200 Beats Fit Pro omit) help round out the package.
As Google is well aware by now, if you don’t have solid noise canceling in your flagship earbuds, they’re not flagship buds. The Pixel Buds Pro’s noise canceling impresses out of the gate, especially for a first effort. The buds hung tough with similarly priced options like Jabra’s Elite 85t in our Airplane Drone test, even outdoing Jabra’s pair in the lower registers. Like the AirPods Pro, they compensate by introducing some white noise in the upper midrange, but it’s a pretty successful solution.
ANC is less effective for upper frequency sounds like keystrokes and voice chatter. Both Jabra and Apple’s buds seem to have an edge there, not to mention top options like Sony’s WF-1000XM4, Bose’s QuietComfort Buds, and even Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3. But, at just $200, we’ll cut the P-buds some slack. What you get here is more than enough to grant you some sonic solitude, whether at your home office or mowing the lawn.
Transparency mode is also (oddly) new for the Pixel Buds line. It’s handled somewhat intriguingly here; the sound is less sharp and synthetic than a lot of earbuds I’ve tested. Though some listeners may consider Google’s more laid back approach a bit muffled, I prefer a softer attack over too much sizzle. It’s not the best out there but for my purposes it does the trick.
The Pixel Buds Pro raise the stakes for the brand when it comes to audio quality. This is a fuller, richer sound than you’ll get in previous models, and while it doesn’t offer the same definition or balance as some of my favorites like Sony’s WF-1000XM4, there’s impressive punch down low and some fine details in the upper register, too.
This sound signature is quite stylized, rather than neutral. The upper register presents some sparkle that raises the buzz and twang of acoustic instruments. It can occasionally get a bit shouty, but overall I found the exaggerated colors enjoyable, especially for horns where it lights up brass and woodwinds with a satiny finish.
The middle of the sound could use a bit more presence, and you won’t be blown away by the bass—until you are. For most recordings, bass is balanced and even on the lighter side, but when deeper sub-bass kicks in, the sound reverberates through your eardrums with impressive authority. In a few cases, it became overbearing, and I wished the promised EQ was available to back things down, but rarely did I note any distortion. Overall, the P-buds Pro hold their own, especially for their price point.
When it comes to calling, while I’ve only had a week or so of testing, the results have been generally positive. A friend with well-trained ears thought I was on my phone during the full conversation rather than earbuds, even when I stepped under the bathroom fan. While my side of the calls I made was middling in quality, that’s the case with most earbuds I test.
The Pixel Buds Pro claim up to 11 hours of battery life per charge (31 total), though the important caveat there is that is with Active Noise Control set to “off” from within the app (it’s not currently toggleable). With noise canceling engaged, I measured around 6 hours and 45 minutes before the right bud died (though that was with a short call in the mix). That number is more in line with recent releases like Jabra’s Elite 7 series, but still well ahead of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, AirPods Pro, and Beats Fit Pro (to name a few “pros”).
The fact that the buds reach a full 11 hours under optimal conditions is still impressive, more for overall earbud longevity than playtime. Rarely will you feel the need to wear earbuds longer than 4-5 hours, but extended battery could mean the Pixel Buds Pro will last you an extra year or more than some rivals.
On the battery flipside, while the playback time is great, the case holds less than two charges. That means you’ll get around 20 hours with ANC, unlike the 24+ hours of many rivals. It’s not a huge deal, just something worth considering.
While generally well-stocked, the Pixel Buds Pro omit a few features we’ve come to expect. Most notably, there’s very little in the way of audio adjustments: you can’t adjust ANC or transparency mode, you don’t get any options for calling like “sidetone” to control how you hear your voice, or audio settings to turn on or off ANC during calls. And while the EQ is mentioned in press materials, it’s not here yet.
You can also only adjust one control type (the hold control) while some buds let you map controls however you like. And though it’s less of an issue for me, there’s no 3D virtual audio options like Samsung and Apple buds—even Apple’s top Beats and cheaper AirPods 3 offer head tracking and Spatial Audio. There’s also no option for high-end audio codecs like aptX or aptX HD, though Apple’s AAC codec is included.
Unlike the 2020 Pixel Buds, the Pro gave me no trouble with core functionality. The controls, the audio and Bluetooth connection were all essentially flawless. That’s the good news—especially considering the previous pairs reported connection woes and other issues.
But some of the options within the app simply weren’t available for me; namely Multipoint connection and Android Device switching. I tried several fixes, including updating my phone to Android 12, uninstalling and reinstalling the app, and multiple back and forth emails with Google’s lovely PR folks, to no avail. Looking online it appears some other users, including those with Pixel phones, had similar issues, though some were able to resolve them.
I also had an odd occurrence where the Pixel Buds Pro case’s in-app battery indicator was appearing and disappearing. I expect most of these issues to be resolved via firmware/software updates, but for now I’m simply unable to use those features.
The new Pixel Buds Pro are the best earbuds Google has made, and more than that, they’re serious contenders for any Android user looking for price-friendly flagship buds. While there’s still some polish to work out (especially when it comes to the missing connection features) these buds shine with excellent controls, good features and performance, and great battery playback time. They’re also comfy and rather stylish, too.
Those looking for an Android alternative will want to check out Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro and even the Galaxy Buds 2, both of which offer good features at competitive pricing. If you want a pair unchained by either mobile OS, Jabra’s Elite 85t and the sportier Elite 7 Active are similarly well outfitted, with good overall performance, multiple adjustable settings, and advanced features like multipoint connection.
If you want superior ANC and sound quality, you’ll want to look at the Sennheiser Momentum TW 3, or the pricier WF-1000XM4 (especially if you can find them on sale).
Otherwise, the Pixel Buds Pro are enticing. While they’re not a great choice for iPhone users, Androiders of all kinds are going to like a lot about what they find here. It’s been a long road, but Google finally has a pair of Pixel Buds worthy of flagship status.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Managing Editor – Electronics
Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2012. Since then he’s had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.
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