Google has just released its newest earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro. While they look pretty much identical to the Pixel Buds 2 and the budget Pixel Buds a-series, there are some new features here. I got a pre-release set of Lemongrass coloured Pixel Buds Pro from Google and in this review I’ll take a look at what’s new, how they work, how they sound and if I can recommend them for you.
At A Glance: Google Pixel Buds Pro Review
Fit and Comfort
Noise Cancellation Effectiveness
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are some of the most beautiful and comfortable earbuds I’ve ever reviewed, with great sound quality. Now they also have noise cancellation.
- Sound quality is great
- Super comfortable
- Now with Noise cancellation + Transparency mode
- Easy pairing
- Killer battery life
- Noise cancellation could be better
What’s new with the Google Pixel Buds Pro?
The first thing you might notice is that Google has nixed the silicone fin from the new design. While some might think that makes them more prone to falling out… not so. I’ll get to that in a moment. You can also check out Google’s most recent earbuds release prior to this, the Google Pixel Buds a-series review which I had the opportunity to test.
There are a couple of new features on these earbuds, key among them is the addition of noise cancellation and transparency mode, and a big extension to battery life over the previous versions. Pixel Buds Pro now offer from 7-11 hours of life in the buds and 20-30 in the case, a huge jump on the Pixel Buds 2’s four hours in the buds and 24 in the case (and the range there depends if you are using noise cancellation or not; ANC drains the battery faster).
Not yet available but coming soon according to Google is Spatial Audio, which mimics the audio effects of a surround sound system.
Can I use Pixel Buds Pro with Apple iPhone?
One of the first questions I get asked with these is if they work with Apple phones and the answer is YES. While Google has designed these for use with its Pixel phones (like the new Pixel 6a which I just reviewed), and other Android phones (all Android 6.0+ devices), Pixel Buds Pro do work as a standard Bluetooth earbud for other Bluetooth 4.0+ devices, including iOS, tablets, and laptops.
Set up – Works on both Android and Apple Devices
Setting up the Pixel Buds Pro was easy, and I tried it on both the Pixel 6a smartphone and the Apple iPhone 13. The buds will link automatically to a Pixel phone using Fast Pair and you’ll be connected without much work from you; just open the lid and watch for the light on the case to flash, then you’ll see a pop up on your screen.
On an iPhone, you need to push the small pairing button on the back of the charging case and wait for a light to flash. Then go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings and tap to connect.
Fit, feel and comfort
The Google Pixel Buds Pro, like the previous generation and the a-series buds are some of the most beautiful and comfortable earbuds I’ve ever reviewed. The pebble shaped case is smooth and soft and slides easily into pocket or purse. It has this soft matte tactile quality that just makes you want to hold it and play with it, kind of like you might do with a smooth river stone.
The buds themselves are similarly nature-inspired and soft and comfortable with perfectly rounded edges, not a corner or ridge in sight and sit very flush with the ear.
Comfortable for Sleeping? Hell yeah!
Unlike 95% of earbuds out there, the new Pixel Buds Pro are comfortable and soft enough to sleep in, even for side sleepers.
Pixel Buds Pro come with three sizes of ear tips for a better fit. Medium are already on the buds, and you can swap to small or large. A snug seal gives you better sound, optimal noise cancellation, and improved mic performance so it’s worth tweaking.
You can also run the 20 second seal check test using the Pixel Buds app.
I found the buds, despite the lack of fin, fit me quite well, and held securely even through a lot of movement.
The water resistance on the Pixel Buds Pro is IPX4 on the buds and IPX2 on the case.
Pixel Buds Pro come in four colors: Charcoal, Fog, Coral, and Lemongrass, but it’s only the buds themselves that have the hit of colour; the case remains white with a black detail at the lid.
Pixel Buds App
If you’re running an Android phone you’ll want to download the Google Pixel Buds App from the Play Store. The app offers some special features and controls that you otherwise won’t get if you’re using an iPhone, for example. You’ll be Abel to see detailed battery life, and adjust settings, like turning off the soft bell that rings when you successfully insert them in your ears.
It does not seem to exist for iOS.
Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode
The big innovation in the Google Pixel Buds Pro (but bot new technology by any means) is the twin function of noise cancellation and transparency mode.
Noise cancellation uses digital technology to listen for outside sounds that may be bleeding into your ear, and it cancels them out before you hear them. Transparency Mode allows those outside sounds in when you need to be alert for a doorbell, flight announcement or barking dog. I’ve been hoping Google would add it to the newest iteration and I’m glad to report they did.
You can toggle between these modes using the touch controls on the buds. Just long press on either earbud.
I wore these on a cross-Canada flight recently and found that both modes work well enough. I was blissfully able to block out a group of rowdy travellers and write this review.
After a while in the departure lounge though my music stopped and I just left the buds in to act almost as ear plugs. I noticed that it started to sound like a lot of crowd noise was swelling outside my ears; it actually sounded like ambient crowd noise at a football game or similar. I pulled the Buds Pro out to see what was going on, and there was nothing happening. It seems I was just starting to ‘hear’ that dull digital signal almost as its own sound.
I will say that the noise cancellation is most effective with some kind of audio playing. Without any music or podcasts going, it was probably only an 8/10 at dulling the screaming of children and a round of tin can basketball in the waiting area.
In short, I’m super glad noise cancelling has been added, but it’s not perfect yet.
Fixing the plugged ear feeling
Google was also touting the ability to nix that plugged ear feeling you can get with earbuds. Though this feature existed in the Buds 2, I found it lacking. In the Buds Pro, it’s much more effective to my ear. When Active Noise Cancellation is on, sensors constantly measure the pressure in your ear canal so the earbuds can actively relieve it and help keep them comfortable.
Sound quality: great audio!
The sound quality on the Google Pixel Buds Pro remains outstanding, with the sumptuous bass and excellent balance I first noticed on the Pixel Buds 2. The sound quality is absolutely top notch and will satisfy any audiophile in my opinion. If for some reason you want to make adjustments, the Pixel Buds App gives you EQ options (though this feature was not available in my pre-release period, so I’ll have to update this )
Phone call quality
Call quality on Pixel Buds Pro is similarly great and my callers said I sounded perfect, while they sounded exactly as I’d hope.
Multiple connections: Multipoint
You can connect Pixel Buds Pro to multiple devices, and Google calls this Multipoint connectivity, saying Pixel Buds Pro can automatically change sound sources from one device to another without needing to click into Bluetooth menus. Multipoint connectivity is supposed to allow you to automatically switch between compatible devices including Android, iOS, tablets, and laptops.
I can confirm this worked absurdly well, even across both the Pixel 6a and Apple iPhone; the signal stayed connected to both simultaneously, making it easy to answer work and personal calls. You do have to toggle this feature on first in the Pixel Buds settings on a Pixel phone. Even so, I was able to also connect my MacBook and iPhone to the buds too, not needing the app to make that happen, so a big high five there for Apple users.
There’s touch controls on the Pixel Buds Pro (Google calls them gesture controls) and they’re simple, straightforward and easy to use. Controls are identical on both earbuds (unless you opt to customize one earbud to manage your noise cancellation and the other for Google Assistant).
You can tap to play/pause media, answer calls, double tap to skip a track, end/reject call, stop the Assistant, triple tap to rewind/go to previous track and swipe back or forth to adjust volume. A long press on your earbud will toggle between ANC and Transparency mode.
Battery life on the Pixel Buds Pro: so. much. battery.
Google has made the Pixel Buds Pro with killer industry-leading battery life. You get more juice if you don’t use noise cancellation:
With ANC On:
- Up to 7 hours of earbuds listening time
- Up to 20 hours of total listening time with charging case (or just 13 hours extra from the case)
With ANC Off:
- Up to 11 hours of earbuds listing time
- Up to 31 total hours listening time with charging case (an extra 20 hours from the case)
There’s wireless Qi charging or charge them up quick using USB-C. Plus, with quick charge, a 5 minute charge gets you an hour of listening.
Features coming soon
Google is continuing to roll out features for the Pixel Buds Pro. Available on launch day will be Volume EQ: With Volume EQ, EQ tuning adapts dynamically to your listening volume, making subtle changes to the frequency curve as you change the volume. This ensures that highs, mids and lows are balanced and nuanced at any volume, so you can clearly hear all sounds in a song. As I didn’t have a chance to spend time with this in my pre-release period, I’ll take some time to test this out in the coming days.
Later this Fall Spatial Audio will appear. With spatial audio you’re supposed to feel like you’re getting a more theatre‑like experience with sound that seems to come from all around you, not just like it’s piped through a tube into your ear. There’s not a tonne of content yet made with Spatial Audio, but when you do find it, it’s a pretty cool effect.
Some of the features on the new Pixel Buds Pro are holdovers from the previous version, so I’m not going to get too deep into them here. There’s in-ear detection where the buds will automatically pause your music and turn off noise cancellation if you remove one of the buds. And the popular—and very effective and accurate—Google Translate reappears too. Choose Conversation Mode and the Google Translate app on your phone and the Google Assistant becomes your personal audio translator. I went in depth on this in my review of Pixel Buds 2….
Overall review: Google Pixel Buds Pro
Overall Google has another winner here, and I love these earbuds. The fit, design and comfort are bar none and way outdo any close competitor. The sound quality is fantastic, the bass is solid and the overall sound is well balanced.
Noise cancellation and ambient mode are a welcome addition here, if a puzzling omission from the previous generation. It’s also good to see popular features like multiple connections, translation and in-ear detection are still packed into these tiny buds. The touch controls work well and in all they are a joy to wear and use.
Downsides? Honestly I’m struggling to find any issues with these or valid complaints. If I was being nitpicky I might say it would be nice to have the colour profile extend to the case, or be a bit more vibrant…
But I can definitely recommend Google Pixel Buds Pro to you —especially for Pixel Phone users and even for iPhone owners.
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