Posted August 2, 2022 Posted by John Scalzi
I’ve been using Google’s Pixel Buds since their first iteration a few years ago, and I just picked up the newer version, the Pixel Buds Pro (seen above in their “Lemongrass” color scheme) because I was curious how this new “premium” version of the buds, complete with active noise cancellation, compares to the previous versions. ‘I have had. I got them today and have been playing with them ever since; Here are some first impressions.
1. For starters, the earbuds are larger and shaped differently than previous Pixel Buds, in part to accommodate active noise cancellation. I get it, but I preferred the older design, largely because the last two iterations of the earbuds included little plastic “wing tips” that helped secure the earbuds in the ear. These don’t, and I’m already having trouble with the left earbud, because the shape of my left ear canal is such that unsecured earbuds of any kind have historically never stayed in place effortlessly. I went for a short walk and the left button fell off twice.
You can probably fix some of that by changing the little rubber tab that fits inside the ear to a different size (earbuds come with three different sizes for these), but it would have been even better, for meYour mileage may vary anyway, if Google had been able to keep the wingtip design feature. As it is, for now you’re unlikely to use these particular buds for vigorous exercise or running.
two. Does the new active noise cancellation make up for the (slight) drawback of the missing wingtip? I suspect that for many people, the answer will be yes. The ANC is pretty decent; it doesn’t block out noise like my sony wh-1000xm4 headphones, but i didn’t expect them to, because these are headphones and the sonys are over-ear headphones. A one-to-one comparison is not fair. The Pixel Bud Pro reduce outside noise; I can still hear the world with noise cancellation on (as long as I’m not blasting music at a ridiculous level, which I don’t do much anymore because I’m old and my hearing is a precious resource), but it’s discreet and easy. to ignore.
When one does it you need to pay attention to the outside, the Pixel Bud Pros come with a “transparency” mode, which is different from simply turning off the noise cancellation mode; in my experience it boosts the frequencies for speech, and other critical noises are supposed to be there, so they can cut off whatever else you’re hearing. I tried it to talk to my wife and mother-in-law while listening to music; does the job very well. You can switch between noise cancellation and transparency modes with a long press on the buttons. You can also just disable noise cancellation entirely in settings.
3. As for the music, it sounds pretty good from the start. Once again, these are headphones with tiny drivers, so don’t expect monster bass response, but overall everything I threw at headphones sounded decently full (especially electronic/EDM stuff), and I was able to pick up little details in the music that I’d miss with less headphones on or if I’m hearing something out of place. my two watt computer monitor speakers. They’re the best-sounding Pixel Buds, hands down, and I’m happy to listen to my music with them. I also wore them for a phone call with Krissy earlier in the day; again, they were perfectly fine to let me hear her, and they had no problem hearing my voice to talk to her.
Four. The buttons are touch sensitive and you can control volume, pause, play and noise cancellation with them (you can also assign the touch for Google Assistant if you want). These all work perfectly fine, as they did with previous versions, but I’d also add the caveat that if you have to fiddle with the buttons to any extent, hello, weirdly shaped left ear canal! – You’re going to activate these various features as you play, which is vaguely annoying.
As for Google Assistant, I have it set to be voice activated, and the times I’ve used it, it worked exactly how it was supposed to, with no hiccups or issues. Google Assistant is both the most useful and the most colorless of all virtual assistants, and that’s fine with me. I don’t need it to be lively and interesting, I need it to access things on my phone whenever I want. He does it very well.
5. Speaking of things that were done really well, integrating the Pixel Bud Pro with my Pixel 6 Pro (yes, I’m well sucked into the Google ecosystem) was seamless and ridiculously easy; I literally just opened the lid of the Pixel Buds Pro holding case and my phone was like, “Oh hey look Pixel Buds, do you want me to plug in?” Why yes Pixel 6 Pro me do, Thank you. Much easier than having to do the usual chicken Bluetooth sacrifice to get something to connect to, or whatever. And there’s no lag or (so far) any dropped or static connectivity that was an issue with previous Pixel Buds before software/firmware updates.
For things that aren’t Pixel phones (or Pixelbooks, I understand, integration there is just as easy), there’s regular Bluetooth connectivity available. You’ll have to check with someone else on how it works with that. I’ll be here, enjoying my perfect connection experience.
6. Other stuff: I’ve had them for less than a day, so I can’t speak to battery life, but Google claims a listening session of up to seven hours before they need to be put back in their case to recharge, which that’s something like a 40% increase over previous iterations, and the case will handle 20 hours of charging before needing a top-up. Previous versions of Google’s outbreaks/cases hit the advertised marks in this regard, so I have no reason to doubt this estimate.
The Pro Buds’ carrying case is marginally larger than those on previous iterations, but not enough that I could see it looking at it on its own; In fact, I had to put the Pixel Buds A case next to it to see it. This iteration of the case can be charged wirelessly if that’s what you want. The buds come in four color combinations; I chose the “lemongrass” colorway because it stands out, and that way when my left ear bud falls off, I can find it more easily on the floor.
7. Are the Pixel Buds Pro worth the $199 Google charges for them? If you’re as into the Google ecosystem as I am and want noise cancellation in your headphones, I’d say yes; even with my annoyingly troublesome left ear canal, at this early stage I’m really enjoying the overall sound experience they provide. If you don’t care about noise cancellation, still want the Pixel Buds, and want to save $100, you’ll be fine with the Pixel Buds A iteration, which is still available to buy, and with which my user experience was perfectly good.
But yes: so far, the Pixel Buds Pro are pretty nifty. More updates as guaranteed.