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Google Pixel Buds Pro
What we like
What we don't like
Google Pixel Buds Pro
Google has ruled the web for years and turned its attention to our ears in 2017. Google’s fourth set of Pixel Buds are called the Pixel Buds Pro, and these are the company’s first with active noise canceling (ANC). The Pixel Buds Pro drive a hard bargain that undercuts Samsung and Apple’s Pro earbuds, and since their release in 2022, Google has added new features to keep its buds competitive. Does Google strike gold with these buds, or do other true wireless earbuds outshine them? Find out more in our Google Pixel Buds Pro review.
Update, July 2023: Added details about a pending update that will support Clear Calling and Super Wide Band speech.
Google Pixel Buds Pro review: What you need to know
- Google Pixel Buds Pro: $199 / €219 / £179
Google released the Pixel Buds Pro on July 28, 2022, just over one year after the Pixel Buds A Series. Google’s earbuds support in-built “Hey, Google,” so you can call upon Google Assistant without reaching for your phone.
Google’s Pixel Buds stick to a defined flat aesthetic. Free of sharp edges or jagged seams, these earbuds feel premium. The earbuds are almost cylindrical and include three sizes of silicone ear tips (small, medium, and large). You won’t see any wing tip stabilizers like you will with the A Series. Google’s Pro and A Series buds feature a standard IPX4 rating that protects the earbuds from water sprays. Only the Pro variant comes with a water-resistant IPX2 case, though.
Reminiscent of an egg, the Pixel Buds charging case can only lay flat. Its lid snaps open and shut with a satisfying click. A single LED below the seam is all that decorates the case beneath a black dividing line. Placing the Pixel Buds Pro case onto a Qi mat engages wireless charging (2.5W). Listeners who don’t own this can always use the included USB-C charging cable instead.
These are Google’s first active noise canceling (ANC) earbuds. While transparency mode is absent from the A Series, it’s on the Pro earbuds. Owners can cycle through ANC, transparency, and off from the earbuds touch controls. The Android-exclusive Pixel Buds app makes it easy to reconfigure the tap-and-hold function. All other controls are static, but you can disable the automatic wear detection. With this on, media pauses when you remove the buds and resumes when you insert them.
The Pixel Buds Pro have productivity-focused features like multipoint, and cutting-edge ones like spatial audio.
Like the A Series, Bluetooth 5.0 keeps the Pixel Buds Pro connected to your phone, and they can stream over the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs. As one would expect, you can use Google Fast Pair to pair the Pixel Buds Pro to any Android 8.0+ device. The Pixel Buds Pro also support Auto Switch and Bluetooth multipoint. The former lets you switch between devices under a unified Google account. Meanwhile, enabling multipoint lets the Buds Pro actively connect to any two devices. This way, you can stream a YouTube video from your Macbook and get notified about an incoming call from your Android phone.
Since their release, Google has expanded the Pixel Buds Pro feature set to include spatial audio with head tracking and a custom EQ. To engage with spatial audio and head tracking, listeners need a Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 7, or Pixel 7 Pro phone running Android 13 or later. Spatial audio fans must also subscribe to a compatible service like HBO Max or Disney Plus. To toy around with the custom EQ, non-Pixel phone owners must download the Pixel Buds app. There is no iOS Pixel Buds app. iPhone owners can use the Pixel Buds but can’t access any software features.
The Pixel Buds Pro battery life is longer than average, lasting seven hours with ANC on and 11 hours with ANC off. The case supplies a spare 13 hours of noise canceling playback or 20 hours of listening with ANC off. Fast-charging the buds for five minutes supplies 60 minutes of playtime with noise canceling.
The Pixel Buds Pro come in four colors: Fog, Charcoal, Lemongrass, and Coral. They retail for $199, but often dip below $150.
What I like about the Pixel Buds Pro
Google’s earbuds feature a lightweight, sturdy build that looks playful and professional. An embossed G logo adorns each bud’s touch panel, which is a pleasure to use. Unlike some competitors’ earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro never registered any false commands when I was tapping and swiping through commands. Adjusting volume levels from the buds proved convenient whether I was on a walk or making a mess in the kitchen.
The case and buds have an IPX2 and IPX4 rating, respectively. This means everything is at least a little bit water-resistant. Both came in handy when I was wearing the Pixel Buds Pro while out on a walk and some pesky spring showers rolled in. I pulled out the case to protect the buds and didn’t have to be wary of droplets landing on it. Due to their IPX4 rating, the Pixel Buds Pro make for great workout buddies that can weather sweaty ears.
Aside from an attractive design and rugged build, Google has some great ANC tech under the hood. Walking underneath a rail line as a train passes is a literal pain to my ears. Yet, the sound became bearable when doing so with the Pixel Buds Pro’s ANC on. The ANC didn’t mute the train — it’s too loud — but it did make it sound more like background noise, not something pummeling my senses. In this situation, the Pixel Buds Pro noise cancelation sounded almost as good as the AirPods Pro (2nd generation). Suffice it to say, listeners will definitely hear a difference toggling ANC on or off.
Google's noise canceling is very good and doesn't create a ‘plugged ear' feeling, thanks to its pressure relief vents.
The other side of the listening mode coin is transparency mode. This uses the earbuds’ microphones to filter external noise into your ears. Google’s execution of this mode is one of the best I’ve tested. With transparency mode on, everything sounded natural. Earlier implementations of this tech made background noise sound robotic and introduced distortion.
You don’t have to worry about battery life when using ANC or transparency mode. During my testing, the Pixel Buds Pro never ran out of juice or came close to it. When subjected to a standardized battery test with music peaking at 75dB (SPL), the Pixel Buds Pro lasted seven hours, six minutes with ANC on. You get an extra 13 hours of ANC playtime from the case and should be able to squeeze 20 hours of juice before recharging everything.
Google’s Pixel Buds app works on all Android devices and unlocks access to various features, though if you have a modern Google phone like the Pixel 6 or Pixel 7, you won’t even need it — it’s all available in Bluetooth settings. In typical Google fashion, you can enable hands-free Google Assistant access if you permit Google Voice Match. Google always recognized my voice, even when I asked it questions from a crowded grocery store.
Other key features include an ear tip fit test and a custom EQ. The ear tip fit test worked well enough. My result indicated a poor fit with the small ear tip on my left ear, but a good fit with the small and medium ear tips on my right. Then there’s Google’s custom EQ. This gives you five bands to tinker with for the perfect sound (Upper Treble, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Low Bass). I found decreasing the bass and treble to varying degrees sounded best, but to each their own.
You’ll also find Bluetooth multipoint and Auto Switch nested within the Pixel Buds app. I connected to my iPhone 12 mini and Google Pixel 6 simultaneously with multipoint. Slightly different, Auto Switch let me hop from the OnePlus 11 to the Pixel 6 without fiddling with the phones’ connection settings.
Spatial audio sounded excellent through the Pixel Buds Pro. I felt enveloped in sound when watching the Interstellar 4K HDR Teaser in Dolby 5.1 as a test case. Google’s responsive head tracking is smooth, but I found the effect disorienting. Unfortunately, even minor head movements changed the audio’s direction. This movement was particularly noticeable when Matthew McConaughey was narrating the trailer.
What I don’t like about the Pixel Buds Pro
Google is a software company, not an audio company, and it shows. The default sound of the Pixel Buds Pro is wonky, with unusually loud bass and treble. When listening to I Am America by Shea Diamond, I noticed a much louder bassline with the Pixel Buds Pro compared to the AirPods Pro 2. Likewise, the cymbal hits were more pronounced than I’m accustomed to. Thankfully, Google’s custom EQ made it easy to adjust the buds’ sound profile to my taste.
Further, the lack of aptX support and only limited SBC and AAC codecs may bum some audio enthusiasts out. Historically, AAC has underperformed on Android. This means you might not get reliable, high-quality audio with the Pixel Buds Pro, depending on your Android device. What I noticed most during this Pixel Buds Pro review was audio-visual lag. Latency became especially noticeable after pausing and resuming a video with the Pixel Buds Pro. This wasn’t the case when I watched the same videos with the Jabra Elite 4 over aptX on the Pixel 6.
While I love the option to adjust the volume on the go, the swipe gesture often loosened the earbuds. A gentle swipe backward to decrease volume would break the earbud’s seal. After adjusting the volume, I usually had to readjust the fit. It’s a small nuisance, but vertical volume controls would remedy this.
Many listeners will feel the need to adjust the sound before truly enjoying the Pixel Buds Pro.
Relatedly, the Pixel Buds Pro fit feels precarious, which was only reinforced by gentle swipes knocking them loose. The earbuds stayed in place while moving my head, but they never felt secure. The last time I felt this way was with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live. Those buds (beans?) never fell out either, but I never felt confident they’d stay in place.
Also, while Google reigns king of software, some of its features fall flat, including Find My Device. This lets you view the product’s last-known location on a map and emit a sound through the earbuds. Apple’s implementation remains more powerful, allowing you to track a product in real time. That said, you can track non-Google products through the Find My Device app, making it more versatile than Apple’s Find My network.
Finally, we have microphone quality. In ideal conditions, the Pixel Buds Pro mics sound very good but disappoint in noisy ones. When I spoke from a quiet room, the person on the other end of the call had no issue hearing me. However, when I spoke outside or from a store, my conversation partner had difficulty hearing me over all the background noise. The Pixel Buds Pro mics sometimes dropped my voice while suppressing background noise. You can get an idea of the microphone quality from our standardized samples below.
Google Pixel Buds Pro microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Google Pixel Buds Pro microphone demo (Office conditions):
Google Pixel Buds Pro microphone demo (Windy conditions):
The Google Pixel 7 series phones have Clear Calling, which helps the phone’s mics suppress background noise and optimize vocal frequencies. This makes voices sound clearer in noisy environments, and according to 9to5Google, we will see Clear Calling in the next Pixel Buds Pro update. We’ll also see Super Wide Band speech support which will improve perceived speech quality.
Google Pixel Buds Pro specs
|Google Pixel Buds Pro|
Earbud: 23.7 x 22.3 x 22mm
Case: 63.2 x 50 x 25mm
Earbuds, ANC on: 7 hours
Case and earbuds, ANC on: up to 20 hours
Earbuds, ANC off: 11 hours
Case and earbuds, (ANC off): 20 hours
11mm custom dynamic drivers
Pressure relief vents
Wind-blocking mesh covers
Mics and sensors
Three mics per earbud
Touch capacitive sensors
IR proximity sensor
Motion detecting accelerometer and gyroscope
Spatial Audio with head tracking
Google Pixel 6 series or Pixel 7 series running Android 13+
Ear tip selection
S, M, L
Any Bluetooth 4.0 device (Android/iOS)
Android (6.0 or later)
Google Assistant enabled phone
Should you buy the Google Pixel Buds Pro?
The Pixel Buds Pro are very good earbuds for any Android phone owner. Sure, spatial audio is exclusive to certain Pixel phones, but this doesn’t hamstring the experience. Android phone owners can go buck wild with the five-band EQ settings and “Hey, Google” functionality. Plus, anyone can enjoy the water resistance that adds ruggedness to these otherwise fashionable buds.
Since the earbuds’ initial release, Google has remedied many of the major complaints levied against them. Listeners can customize the sound to their liking, and the Pixel Buds Pro offer spatial audio after a quick update. Seeing these features upon release would have made the Pixel Buds Pro more competitive. That said, knowing that Google regularly updates its products may inspire confidence in tepid buyers. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, flagship earbuds should come with these important features at launch. On the other hand, at least Google adds functionality to its earbuds throughout their lifecycles. It also means we can’t recommend the Pixel Buds Pro for iPhone users — you’ll never get access to any of the added features because there isn’t a Pixel Buds app for iOS.
The Pixel Buds Pro are very good earbuds for any Android phone owner, and Google regularly adds features to make them even better.
Google phone owners who don’t care to use spatial audio or noise canceling can save about $100 by choosing the Pixel Buds A Series ($94 at Amazon) instead. These look like the Pixel Buds Pro but have stabilizing wing tips. The improved fit complements the IPX4 rating, making the A Series a great pair of workout earbuds. While the Pixel Buds A Series lack a custom EQ in the Pixel Buds app, you can enable Bass Boost mode for better sound than the default Pixel Buds Pro response.
Listeners who don’t want their earbuds to have brand-exclusive features may like the Sony WF-1000XM4. These earbuds cost $278 at Amazon, and feature very good ANC paired with the best passive isolation around. You’ll hardly notice a thing with these buds. You can tailor the sound through the Headphones Connect app and create a custom Sony 360 Reality Audio profile. The design is about as premium as it gets, and until the WF-1000XM5 come out, these are the best ANC buds for most people.
If you have a Samsung phone, we would still recommend the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro ($179 at Amazon). Like the Google Pixel Buds Pro, the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro perform best with a matching phone. When used with a compatible Galaxy phone, you can access 360 Audio with head tracking, 360 Audio recording, Samsung Dual Audio, and more. Samsung’s ANC is even better than the Sony WF-1000XM4. Granted, Sony’s flagship earbuds block out more ambient noise than Samsung’s. The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound good and have a nice bass bump, though less dramatic than the Pixel Buds Pro.
If you want a more affordable pair of pro-tier buds, don’t forget about the OnePlus Buds Pro 2 ($149 at Amazon). These earbuds have noise cancelation, a custom EQ, and spatial audio with head tracking. A stemmed design makes it easier to grip the earbuds, which is useful for those with limited dexterity and clumsier folks. A dust and water-resistant IP55 rating make these some of the most durable premium buds.
Want good ANC but don’t want to spend a lot of cash? The Jabra Elite 4 ($79 at Amazon) are a great pair of affordable ANC earbuds for Android users. You get active noise canceling, Google Fast Pair, and a custom five-band equalizer that works on any device. These buds are more durable than Google’s and boast an IP55 rating. If you’re willing to spend a bit more but still save some cash over the Pixel Buds Pro, the Nothing Ear 2 ($149 at Amazon) are great earbuds with a stemmed design. These support multiple Bluetooth audio codecs, including LHDC 5.0 for lossless streaming from compatible devices.
Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Q&A
Regarding technical capabilities, yes, the Pixel Buds Pro are better than the A Series. With the Buds Pro, you get noise canceling, spatial audio with head tracking, and a custom EQ — all of these things are missing from the Pixel Buds A Series. That said, when you enable Bass Boost, the A Series actually sounds a bit better than the default Pixel Buds Pro sound profile.
Further, athletes may prefer how the Pixel Buds A Series fit since they feature permanent wing tips that resemble the Beats Fit Pro. If you don’t need any of these features, the Pixel Buds A Series are great Android earbuds for a more affordable price.
The Pixel Buds Pro feature an IPX4 rating, which means they can endure water sprays from any direction. Do not submerge the earbuds in water or shower with them. The case has an IPX2 rating, which makes it less durable than the buds, but it can survive some water droplets.
The Pixel Buds Pro earbuds last seven hours with ANC on. Keeping ANC off entirely will net you 11 hours of standalone playtime. The USB-C charging case provides an extra 13 hours with ANC on, and 20 hours with ANC off.
Since the Pixel Buds Pro support Google Fast Pair, pairing the buds to an Android phone is a breeze. To pair the Google Pixel Buds Pro to an Android phone for the first time, follow these steps:
- Put the Pixel Buds in the case.
- Place the case near your phone.
- Close the case and wait a few seconds. Open the case and keep the buds inside.
- A pop-up will appear and display your Pixel Buds.
- Tap Connect.