New 2020 Google Pixel Buds 2 review

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Erin Lawrence

google pixel buds 2020, review

It’s been a long wait, and even longer for Canadians looking to get their hands on the new and redesigned fully wireless Google Pixel Buds earphones. They’ve just launched in Canada this week and I had a chance to test drive them in advance of that launch to see how they are and report back. I’ll talk about the features of these truly wireless earbuds, the sound quality and what sets them apart from other earphones.

Google Pixel Buds 2 review

Let’s take a good look at these. Upgraded from the original Pixel Buds (review here) which had a cord between the buds, the new 2020 model officially known as Pixel Buds 2 is fully wireless.

Pixel Buds are Google’s smallest product to date, and were created to offer a snug, secure fit that’s still comfortable. They’re designed to have a super low-profile form factor, and to stay secure and not move around even as you do.

Pixel Buds will come in three colours in Canada: Clearly White which I received, and coming later Almost Black and Quite Mint, which I am already coveting.

These earbuds are sweat and water resistant with an IPX4 rating, meaning your Pixel Buds will stand up to water and sweat while you work out or commute in poor weather.Google pixel buds, 2, 2020, review, how to

Worth noting for some of you is that these do not offer any kind of active or digital noise cancelling or ambient mode.

The case is soft, smooth and feels just like the nicest river rock you ever found, and it could double as a fidget toy too. Thea earbuds themselves by the way also have that pebble-smooth feel and fit comfortably in my ears. They’re also extremely low profile.

Setting up new 2020 Google Pixel Buds

Getting your Pixel Buds set up is easy; push and hold the tiny button on the back, and watch for the pop-up on your Google Pixel Phone. Follow the prompts to configure them.

If you’re pairing these to another phone, that’s easy too. Push and hold that button
then head to your phone’s Bluetooth menu then tap to connect.

Sound quality: Google Pixel Buds

 

I tested the new Pixel Buds out with a variety of music. If you want to check out my test playlist on Spotify it’s linked up here.

The sound quality is absolutely great. It’s well balanced with clear vocals and solid bass. The Pixel Buds don’t lean towards either the high or low end, there’s no tinniness or rasp to them. In short, the sound quality is outstanding.

Pixel Buds 2 have custom 12mm dynamic speaker drivers which Google promises delivers a rich, full sound that sound great no matter the genre and I can definitely agree to that.

Pixel Buds: No noise cancelling, but noise isolationGoogle pixel buds, 2, 2020, review, how to

As noted earlier, there’s no noise cancellation but the Pixel Buds’ eartips gently seal the ears to isolate loud outside noises (passive noise reduction) and deliver powerful sound. The spatial vents reduce that plugged-ear feeling, and let through just the right amount of environmental sound so you can stay aware.

New Pixel Buds Call quality

If you’re using your phone for conference calls a lot these days, you know a good pair of headphones can be a lifesaver. The Pixel Buds promise clear calls thanks to two beamforming mics.

These microphones focus on your voice, while voice accelerometers detect jaw movement to know when you’re talking and that is some futuristic shiplap! All this technology means you can be heard in noisy and windy conditions, like when you’re running or biking.

To test it I decided to grab the Old Dyson Supersonic since it wasn’t windy here…and see how I fared. Surprisingly my husband said he was able to hear me fine, though he was able to get some of that background noise. But in my opinion, if you can carry on a conversation with the hairdryer running, that’s pretty good voice focus.

Surprisingly my husband said he was able to hear me fine, though he was able to get some of that background noise. But in my opinion, if you can carry on a conversation with the hairdryer running, that’s pretty good voice focus.

Adaptive Sound in Pixel Buds: more testing required

The Pixel Buds 2 have what’s called Adaptive Sound. This technology automatically optimizes volume based on environmental noise, but it only works when paired to a Google Pixel Phone. In theory this feature will automatically adjust volume for you when you’re moving from loud areas to quiet ones.

I didn’t have a good chance to test this feature out in these kind of environments and I didn’t notice anything just turning them off and on in the house, so I’ll have to report back on how well the Adaptive Sound works

How to adjust Adaptive Sound

If you’re using a Pixel device running Android 10+, click on the Bluetooth menu, tap the gear icon beside your Pixel Buds’ name and select Adaptive Sound. Use the toggle to turn it on and off. If you’re using another Android device, launch the Pixel Buds app in your app drawer and select Adaptive Sound.

Adaptive Sound is temporarily disabled when you manually adjust your Pixel Buds’ or your device’s volume. This prevents the system from changing your desired volume. Adaptive Sound will be automatically re-enabled when you enter an environment with a significantly different noise profile.

Google Pixel Buds 2 Touch Controls

You can control almost anything using taps on the earbuds. Swipe forward or back to adjust volume; tap to answer calls or play/pause. I found these tap controls work very well and are easy to adjust to.

Surprisingly my husband said he was able to hear me fine, though he was able to get some of that background noise. But in my opinion, if you can carry on a conversation with the hairdryer running, that’s pretty good voice focus.

Charging + Battery life

So how much juice do you get with the new Pixel Buds? Google says they’ll last up to 5 hours of listening and for up to 2.5 hours of talk time before you have to place them
in the charging case to recharge. When the charging case is fully charged, it stores multiple charges for your earbuds so you can have up to 24 hours of listening time and up to 12 hours of talk time. I’d say this is about standard for truly wireless earbuds these days.

Handily, the Pixel Buds charging case is Qi enabled and can wirelessly charge on any compatible charger. The charging case contains a battery and your earbuds can charge inside without the case itself being attached to a power
source at that moment. The earbuds status light inside the case will be orange to indicate that one or both your earbuds are charging. Conveniently, the new Pixel Buds can charge with the charging case lid open or closed.

What do the lights mean? Google Pixel Buds

The Case status light (the outside light) near the USB port will indicate battery levels of the means Pixel Buds charging case battery is full, or able to charge earbuds for at least one full charge. A Blinking orange light means the charging case battery has less than one full charge left for the earbuds. Solid orange Pixel Buds charging case battery is charging.

Google Pixel Buds 2 have in ear detection

In-ear detection is enabled automatically if you pair your Pixel Buds with an Android 6.0+ device with Fast Pair enabled, and will then remain on for any connected host device. You can disable this feature manually using the Pixel Buds settings in your Connected Devices settings menu. If you remove an earbud, the sensors within your Pixel Buds will recognize that your audio should automatically pause; when you put your earbud back in, your audio will resume.

How to Find my Google Pixel Buds 2

If you misplaced your earbuds, you can make them ring. To ring your earbuds, they must be nearby and connected to your Fast Pair compatible phone. In Pixel Buds settings under Connected Devices, settings, tap Find Device > Pick which earbud you’d like to ring.

Google pixel buds, 2, 2020, review, how to

Google Translate – amazing for travel

Like the previous Pixel Buds there’s built in Google translate in the new Pixel Buds.

There are actually two ways to utilize Google’s translation features in 40+ languages in real-time with Conversation Mode and the Google Translate app on your phone.

Tell the Google Assistant to help you interpret a language. Simply touch and hold either earbud or say “Hey Google” or “OK Google” and ask the Assistant to “Help me speak [language].”

I tested this feature out by playing a Spanish video and letting Google translate it for me and found it worked very, very well well. Yes, this has existed before, but it’s still pretty cool having your own digital interpreter.

For example, you can say “Hey Google, help me speak Spanish.” You can then begin your conversation by touching and holding either earbud and start speaking in the language listed under the headset icon. Your phone then translates and reads out loud what you said into your selected language. When the second person starts speaking, tap the right microphone in Google Translate and their response will be translated into your language and played back to you in your ears via your Pixel Buds.

Google pixel buds, 2, 2020, review, how to

Open the Google Translate app on your phone. In the top left corner, choose the language you speak and
in the top right corner, choose the language the other person is speaking. Tap “Conversation” and touch
and hold either earbud to begin translating your conversation. Follow the steps above and begin your
conversation by touching and holding either earbud and start speaking.

Overall review new Google Pixel Buds 2

These are great headphones! I’m positively wowed by them and think they’re useful, versatile, comfortable and easy to use. The audio quality is outstanding and will make listening to just about anything enjoyable.

They’re also very easy to get out of the case, unlike some other slippery wireless earbuds.

If I was going to find stuff to complain about, I’d say I’m a bit surprised there’s no noise cancelling technology or no ambient mode in here. It’s becoming much more common and it’s really handy on really good headphones. For that, I guess we’ll wait for Pixel Buds 3…

Overall though whether you’re an Android phone user or not, you’re going to love the Google Pixel Buds 2. They sell for about $239CAD and you can get them from Google and many other electronics retailers.

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