Come summer, time can really fly by, product activity keeps popping up, travel happens, and wherever you go, there’s another device to add to the review list. I mention all of this because we gave you our “first listen” thoughts on the Google Pixel Buds Pro nearly a month ago. I don’t know where the past few weeks have gone, but I can imagine some of you wanting to get your final thoughts on whether Google actually nailed it with their most expensive earbuds to date.
What are Pixel Buds Pro?
As a quick recap, the Pixel Buds Pro are Google’s latest earbuds and the first true wireless earbuds to feature Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). They also happen to be very expensive at $199.99. They come in four colors: Charcoal, Lemongrass, Coral and Fog.
Google rates these new Pixel Buds Pro for up to 31 hours of battery life with ANC off and up to 20 hours with ANC on, thanks to what you get out of the battery in the case of extra power. This should mean 11 hours (ANC off) or 7 hours (ANC on) of use during a single listening session.
Each bud has touch controls for swiping forward or back (to increase or decrease volume), single/double-tap/triple, and long-press or touch-and-hold. There’s nothing customizable beyond touch and hold, which you can set up to toggle Google Assistant or ANC settings. These settings may be different for each bud.
The included case features wireless charging and can also be charged via the USB-C port. Connecting to your phone or computer via Bluetooth 5.0, the buds feature IPX4 water resistance (the case is IPX2), and 3 microphones with windscreen mesh to help you carry on your conversations. You also get access to the Pixel Buds app, which lets you control those touch controls I mentioned, turn the Smart Volume EQ setting on or off, access multipoint and audio toggles, and more.
Finally, ANC options include ANC on or off and transparency mode. This mode attempts to amplify the noise in the world in real time to help you safely cross the road or have a conversation with the person in the room.
So, are the Pixel Buds Pro easy to use?
During this review, I used two different pairs of the Pixel Buds Pro, the charcoal pair that Google sent me to test and the fog pair I purchased for future use. For the first week or two I used the charcoal pair and have been using the fog pair ever since. There is no difference between the two except for the exterior color. They have the same enclosure, the same feature set, and sound the same to my ears.
how they fit in
I’m going to steal from my “first listen” and say I still think these sound amazing. Google’s Pixel Buds seem to fit my ears perfectly out of the box, though, and that hasn’t changed with the Pixel Buds Pro. The sound and fit experience may vary for you, but I really can’t ask for a better out-of-the-box start.
The fit, which doesn’t use wingtips of any kind (it does come with different sized eartips), squeezes magically into my ears with very little wobbling or movement. I’ve worked out at the gym, taken them for runs, used them in the office, and done chores outside and haven’t had a bud. I really don’t think I can do any other way to get them affected unless I try to hang up or something. I wouldn’t do that – I’m getting old and hurting myself.
If there’s a negative impact on how the Pixel Buds Pro fit, it could be their overall size. These are big buds, I got them because of the ANC and battery, but they’re solid. Previous Pixel Buds have had this lightness, allowing me to wear them for long periods of time without any fatigue. For several weeks, I did experience some ear fatigue after prolonged listening (an hour or more). I might get more accustomed to their size through long hours of listening every day, or their weight and bulk might always cause me some problems. It’s hard to know.
So while the Pixel Buds Pro fit like a glove out of the box and won’t budge no matter what I do while wearing them, they’re a bit heavy and bulky in my ears. They may sound great, but wearing them for hours on end can be tiring.
Speaking of their voices…
A few weeks into this test, my thoughts on the sound of the Pixel Buds Pro are basically the same as what I said. In case you missed it, here’s most of the original listen:
The bass is smooth, deep, and truly supported in a satisfying way that most true wireless earbuds can’t. The highs have an intoxicating richness and clarity. When you play a blasting song on the Buds Pro, you’ll feel so excited. Yes, I took the typical tests on The Weeknd’s “High For This” and they passed with flying colors. I threw a bunch of Labrinth and his wild digital beats and heavy bass at them and left happily again. For the first time in a while, I brought out Jeff Buckley to try and feel that emotion, and your kids are in tears right now. Well, that’s a bit much. Old Caemp, after overplaying for the past two years, sounds fresh again. This is the best refreshing sound.
I’ve since added old Dashboard Confessional “Unplugged”, Ray LaMontagne, Ghostface Killah and more complaints to these Buds Pro, and my opinion is still that I love the sound. If I want crisp raw, soulful elegance or one of the greatest rappers of all time to bless my ears, I’ll happily reach for the Pixel Buds Pro and turn on ANC.nothing sounds fake or also Digital or similar ANC is distorting the sound in unflattering ways that the algorithm thinks you might like.
For sessions where I want rich and pleasant audio and the outside world disappears a little, I’ll probably stick with the Pixel Buds Pro. I’m thinking I need a way to keep my spirits up while my wife consumes Virgin River in my office, on a plane, or on the couch at night, and I’ll use these. For a more positive experience, like when running, I think the weight and size might keep these away from my ears, and I might go back to my cheap Pixel Buds A sometimes.
other things i like
- Battery Life: I don’t have any issues with battery life, probably because I never hit the battery limit when using a pair of earbuds. I haven’t lived a life where I needed earplugs for more than an hour or an hour and a half at most. I work from home, don’t commute, and rarely go out alone in public, so that wearing earplugs isn’t usually something I do very often. But when I put these on, I understood Google’s commitment to battery estimation. I have been using ANC for the past 30 minutes and my mood has dropped by 7%. Do the math, I’ll use them for 7 hours before they die. With ANC turned off, my tests were always close to 11 hours.
- touch control: Google brought back the front and rear volume controls I missed with the A-Series. These touch controls are very nice and really work well.They are sensitive but not sensitive also Sensitive in a potentially annoying way. Taps are precise, swipes give you easy access to volume, and long presses to toggle ANC mode or launch Assistant didn’t pose any problems. These are some of the best touch controls in the business (still).
- case: Google’s case for the Pixel Buds Pro is very similar to the case for the Pixel Buds (2nd gen). That’s a good thing, as the case is addictive, charges fast, and weighs a lot. When you hold these buds or throw them in your pocket or bag, they feel precious, like you got what you paid for. The addition of wireless charging is also a nice bonus.
- firmware update: Google has sent at least two or three updates to the Pixel Buds Pro in the first month of ownership. If you know one thing Pixel products come with, it’s great software support. Assuming the Pixel Buds Pro have no hardware flaws, these really should get better. so exciting,
- Google Assistant: Works really well on these earbuds. You can say “OK, Google” without yelling, and it starts up pretty quickly. While I wouldn’t use it for a lot of things, setting reminders, asking about my day, or checking notifications would seamlessly use these as a Nest Hub or my phone throughout my day.
- multipoint connection: The Pixel Buds Pro allow you to connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, and if there is an incoming call, it will try to intelligently or automatically switch to one of them. You can also quickly switch between the two as audio sources. In my limited testing (as I rarely receive or make calls), this worked well. If anything, I can tell you that switching media sources is very simple and works as advertised.
- incoming call: This is one of the flaws in my review of the earbuds, and I know you’ll be upset about it, but yes, I’ve only had a few calls and may not be able to advise you properly. Unfortunately, I just don’t call or call a lot of people. However, I did have a long conversation with my dad about these issues and could hear him clearly. Nor did he say his connection was poor. This is just one of those areas where you have to rely on other reviews and what they have to say. Apologize.
What could use some work?
- Real EQ settings or presets: Google may one day give us EQ settings for the Pixel Buds, but they haven’t. And I’m well aware that most phones from companies like Samsung have an EQ option built in, so maybe Google doesn’t need to. But I really wish the Pixel Buds app offered some presets or something. You can’t control the sound when you’re listening to the Pixel Buds Pro. There is a “Volume Equalizer” option, but its only task is to “boost bass and treble frequencies at lower volumes”. I would like to be able to further adjust the sound to my style or to the type of music.
- Transparent mode is fine: Transparency mode is designed to help you still hear your surroundings while providing a high-end audio experience. It worked fine for me during testing. For one, there’s a noticeable buzzing sound when you turn on the mode, probably because it’s actively listening to your surroundings. But it doesn’t sound like a person talking or a car driving. For example, when I typed this review, I was sitting outside and my wife was watering her flowers (I think) and talking to me. The conversation was mostly one-sided, as I didn’t hear much about her, the hose, or any other sound she made. Google will probably continue to tweak this, so I’ll give them a chance to do so.
What do we buy or what?
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. While they work great during my workouts or runs or on the go, their weight and strength are a little tiring at times. However, I’ll continue to test in these cases to see if my ears will get used to them, since the sound is so cute, I’d rather not go back to the low-end Pixel Buds A sound, even if those will fit a lighter.
For you, the question may start with what your budget is. At $199, these aren’t cheap. You do get a lot of the high-end features you’d expect for $200, along with ongoing software support. They’re also $30 cheaper than Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. My ears love these, and for the price, I think they’re worth it.