Google Pixel Buds headphones left a very positive impression on me. I used the company’s first TWS, the simplified PixelBuds A-Series, for a very long time because they did not have an active noise[cancellation, and the sound was similar to Huawei FreeBuds Pro, which I used for almost two years. Despite this, I love both Pixel Buds models very much.
The Pixel Buds are fabulous headphones for the iPhone when you need sound without embellishment. But with Android, I could not use them – too much “mind” was in these headphones. They kept trying to read me all the notifications, and I was too lazy to set it all up. And at that time, I did not have an Android smartphone, which I constantly used, although I owned a small and pleasant Pixel 3.
Pixel Buds A-Series, released in the summer of 2021, turned out to be excellent headphones for jogging. Noise in the forest where I ran was not needed. There were no “traffic jams” in my ears. At the same time, these headphones showed themselves perfectly in conversations – the interlocutors did not complain that I could not be heard, although, it would seem, the form is not very suitable for these purposes. And the “fin” holding the headphones in your ear was gentle and didn’t cause the discomfort you could get from a similar thing in the first Pixel Buds.
And now comes the Pixel Buds Pro. Google’s first headphones with an active noise-cancellation. I will say immediately: I was not too fond of the headphones themselves, even on the renders—some strange beans, far from neat models without noise cancellations.
Design and What’s inside!
The box has changed. It’s thinner but more prolonged. The design style plus or minus is the same:
Of the innovations – is a tiny tube for ear cushions. If earlier it was a small box that you risked tearing at the first opening, the case for their storage looks very neat and reliable.
By default, the headphones, as always, wear middle ear cushions. In the tube, the small and large are divided into sides. They do not mix because they are separated from each other. Very convenient.
The case has become slightly more prominent but still pleasant and tactile, and it is not difficult to carry it in the pocket of jeans – the case practically does not protrude due to its compact design.
The hinges keep the open case from slamming shut. Why this is needed is a mystery since now the headphones can be updated even in a closed case.
But the headphones themselves have become scarier. Adding to this effect is the fact that I have a dark grey version. In their experience, the white Pixel Buds look much more affluent. Immediately it seems that I am holding in my hands the “plugs” of thousands for three rubles, although they cost $ 199 in the U.S. before paying state taxes.
Comfort and Noise Cancellation
If you wear vacuum headphones, you will not have any problems with these headphones. They’re comfortable, but the lack of a fin I’m used to in other Pixel Buds will cause you to occasionally crank these headphones in search of the optimal position in your ear.
The active noise-cancellation turns on as soon as you insert both headphones into your ear. It is not bad – definitely better than in Huawei FreeBuds Pro of the first generation, and also several times cooler than the second generation and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro2, where there seems to be no active noise maker at all (probably the firmware has already been corrected).
But only in its strength did the active noise-cancellation Pixel Buds Pro loses to the leading competitors. For example, AirPods Pro is a leader in sales and the work of this noise-cancellation. It’s a pity, the sound is far from perfect, and I can’t wear these headphones – they do not fit me, no matter what ear cushions I install.
What’s extremely bad about the Pixel Buds Pro is the “transparency” mode. It’s wildly unnatural. I am writing this text in the “Lastochka” of Tula – Moscow. I turned on this mode. The sound of the train can be heard perfectly, and some individual sounds from the gadgets of the neighbors are also clearly audible. But the votes don’t stand out at all. My neighbor just asked me to skip it – I’m sitting on the edge. And basically, I just guessed what he wanted. I got up at random and let him pass. Phew. Guessed. It would not be enjoyable, of course.
At the same time, I heard the heels of a train employee passing by. I think when she was almost in the next car. I exaggerate a little, but only a little.
The surfaces of the headphones are touch-sensitive. Here you can quickly stop or turn on the music and change the modes of operation of the noise-cancellation with a long press (by default, either it or the transparency mode is turned on, you can not turn off the microphones).
Also, quick swipes can change the volume of music and the interlocutor. And here’s the thing: I learned to make the sound quieter only after three weeks because it’s not apparent.
The volume is added by sliding your finger up, sideways, down – anywhere. It is reduced by only one movement – from the edge next to the goat down the diagonal:
Why does swiping down increase the volume? Who thought of that?
Unfortunately, there’s no Pixel Buds app on iOS. All settings are available only in the Bluetooth menu:
That is, updating the headphones without an Android smartphone will not work. And it is necessary to update the headphones: at the first turn on, the sound was so disgusting that I wanted to throw out this misunderstanding and never return to it again. You can’t even write a review about this. But you are reading this text, and this is a minor spoiler: the headphones after the update sounded.
The application is needed to update the headphones and learn how to control them and what ear pads to use. As always, only the big ones suited me.
Also, headphones can be adaptive equalizers, but this feature works only with Android. This feature can be turned off, which I would still do almost immediately – in any headphones, I have not yet heard a well-working adaptive equalizer. Well, this, you know, how to use True Tone on iPhones: the picture changes depending on the ambient light. That is, you can not process photos usually, and your eyes go crazy from the changing temperature of the picture.
Both models of Google Pixel Buds without active noise-cancellation were scolded for the stability of the connection. I emphasize that I did not experience any problems. Probably, the fact is that I used these headphones for other purposes, that is, with iOS, and not with Android.
The main problem I faced was the unexpected suspension of music playback. The headphones themselves pause it. This happened about once a day, hardly more often. It is incomprehensible and unpleasant, but it is possible to live with such constancy.
While writing, I noticed one interesting feature: when watching a video on YouTube, there are no visible audio delays. But there is a delay when viewing reels and stories on a social network that cannot be called. Why? Wonder.
It seems that the shape of the headphones does not allow them to be used for conversation. However, this is not the case. The interlocutor hears you, and you sound perfect—no need to strain.
But not always. I don’t know what the quality depends on – the position of Mercury or some other external factors, but in some telephone and messenger conversations, you sound too quiet. And this, of course, is not customizable.
For example, I talked to my mom in a “cart,” walking the same route a few days apart. There weren’t very many cars around. For the first time, I could be heard very well (only the nasty creaking brakes of a passing KamAZ could be heard better). The second time, everything went wrong. Mom kept saying, “Huh?” and asking me to repeat everything I said.
In general, there is no stability in conversations under seemingly identical conditions. How to defeat this is unclear.
Google promises 7 hours of operation of headphones with the active noise-cancellation turned on and 11 hours without it. Unfortunately, during the weeks of using these headphones, I did not have the opportunity to check this indicator. I am on the train for an hour and a half, the noise-cancellation is turned on, and the headphones are only 10% down. I think it’s a very decent indicator.
The company also promises that the case will last about 31 hours of headphones. Here we are talking about the operation of headphones with the noise canceled. But this is possible only with Android smartphones. If you turn on the noise-cancellation, the case will last for 20 hours of work.
There is wireless charging if someone cares about this fact.
So, the most important thing. 11-mm drivers are responsible for the sound. The same ones were installed in the Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series.
When playing music, I like these headphones. They’re not for bass heads, where the bottoms outweigh everything. Here the sound is relatively smooth, called “without embellishment.” I’m just a fan of that.
It is impossible to distinguish specific frequencies: bass, middle, sibilants, and everything in between is in place. Voices are audible. The keys are loud. Bass synth can be heard. The bass barrel that turns on does not interfere with the sound. Except that you can listen to a small Sidechain – a technique of “pushing” the sound under the “barrel” so that the sound seems to pulsate when it beats the rhythm. But this was done by the producer when mixing the track, and not headphones trying to invent something that is not there.
There is no audible sidechain in Lenny Kravitz’s Johnny Cash track. There’s a classic-sounding pop-rock, where the slide guitar plays nicely on the sides, highlighting the headphone scene.
Alas, the scene here is small. But this is physics, which, unfortunately, you can not deceive: if you want a volume of space, wear large full-size headphones, where there are 40-mm drivers, or pay attention to magnetic planar headphones. “Gags” on the stage will not help you.
In Pixel Buds Pro, I heard that taking’s We Were Younger Then intro has backing vocals whispering some of the phrases. And I’m on the train, by the way!
But there is one problem with this track: suddenly unpleasant sibilants breakthrough, drum crashes, or strong blows to the simbals – in general, some of the plates in the chorus. Headphones play this moment very hard for the ears. There is a small but unpleasant overload. But it is worth emphasizing that the matter is probably in the same source file that Yandex Music has, and the headphones are not at all to blame here:
Good-sounding headphones have a problem: you hear track problems with them. And the song Out of My Head by John Newman was no exception. The sound engineer recompressed the vocals. It began to sound too squeezed at the tops and completely cut off. There was a tough job with a limiter and a diesser cutting out whistles and hisses. But the question is why the voice sounds are cut off by frequencies when the track does not seem so.
Now the last track. Otherwise, I’m all hung up on all sorts of alternatives. I wanted to talk about Barton Hollow by The Civil Wars, but there is nothing special to say except that the sound engineer overloaded the male vocals when mixing. But the song sounds very dynamic and lively. Generally, top.
So there’s that. Last track. Tesla Boy — 1991. An excellent dance wave, combining the vibes of the 1980s and more modern electronics. With Pixel Buds Pro, I have the same complaint about the song as with other good headphones: Anton Sviridov made his voice too quiet. I understand that you will not hear anything profound in the lyrics. It instead emphasizes the song itself, its melody. But still, sound mixing is not where your brain is annoyed by any of the factors. For example, the volume of vocals is too low against the background of compelling synth bass and a loud vocal sample. But that’s not the problem with headphones.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are good headphones. Just like that. They have many drawbacks, like non-obvious touch controls, the ability to update only with the help of an Android smartphone, unpredictable volume when talking, lousy transparency mode, and a sudden pause, which the headphones set about once a day. Oh yeah. It’s also wildly scary headphones.
But in terms of sound quality, the power of an active noise-cancellation, and the convenience of a compact case that easily fits in your pocket, I will forgive them for these, in fact, minor flaws.
There is, however, a much more significant disadvantage. I would love to buy these headphones at a U.S. price of $199 before taxes.
Still, soon I will have a new Beyerdynamic Free Byrd. And for these even scarier headphones, I have high hopes. It remains to wait for them.