The Pixel Buds Pro are Google’s first in-ear headphones with active noise cancellation – and they are in direct competition with the Airpods Pro from Apple. The test shows how the little plugs fare in this tough battle.
Those who have the choice are spoiled for choice: Wireless in-ear headphones with active noise cancellation are now available from almost every well-known manufacturer – in really good quality. It is almost surprising that Google is now joining the Pixel Buds Pro.
In terms of the Android ecosystem, however, this makes sense – because Google can tailor the functions of the earplugs to their own smartphones, such as the Google Pixel 6a (here in the test). What the Pixel Buds Pro can and cannot do follows in this review.
220 euros – and hardly any equipment
The scope of delivery of the headphones, which cost around 220 euros, is spartan: the Pixel Buds Pro come with an egg-shaped charging case, a small cardboard box with two alternative rubber attachments (large, small – the medium size is attached by default) and a handful of reading material. No cable and certainly no charger far and wide.
It should have been a cable, because the Pixel Buds Pro offer a USB-C charging connection and as all devices are converted to this standard, every other cable in the collection helps. The missing charger is a gift, the headphones are expensive enough without them.
The price is also immediately noticeable in the earplugs: the charging case is of high quality, offers a first-class feel and can also be charged wirelessly, so that the Pixel Buds Pro can be charged at any wireless charging point.
The high quality continues with the earphones, the bean-shaped plugs are in no way inferior to the Airpods Pro in terms of workmanship. However, you have to be clear about the color before you buy it – there are four subtle tones to choose from: red, green-yellow, black and blue-grey. This is only expressed on the cover cap of the plugs, which is not removable.
Pixel Buds Pro: High comfort, great sound
The wearing comfort of the Google Pixel Buds Pro is very high. If you can find something suitable for the plug among the three different sizes, the headphones will sit securely and will not become uncomfortable even after many hours of wearing. The in-house app for the Pixel Buds Pro also helps to find the right size. But: This is only available for Android, there is currently no corresponding software for Apple devices.
This is not a problem for the pure use of the Pixel Buds Pro, because they connect to almost any Bluetooth transmitter, so they can also be connected quickly and easily to an iPhone, Macbook or other playback sources. However, they only show their full strength if you connect them to an Android smartphone with the appropriate software. Then there are functions for sound optimization, a voice assistant and other options, such as a location function. You can only find out the status of the battery if you stay in the Google ecosystem. Otherwise there are only two states of charge: charged or not charged – or rough guide values in the form of a colored LED on the case.
The playback is controlled via the headphones. A handful of gestures are available for this, with which you can accept calls, stop music, change the volume or activate the language assistant. This is easy to learn and works perfectly.
In terms of sound quality, Google is convincing. The sound of the Pixel Buds Pro is balanced, the bass is spot on, and the highs and mids are not overpowered. The style of music doesn’t matter, the headphones work with “Electric Callboy” as well as with the “Lofi Girl” stream. The plugs currently lack the ability to reproduce sound in three dimensions (“spatial audio”). Google promises an update for the fall.
The active noise suppression is absolutely sufficient for everyday use, but does not shield against enormous noise exposure as well as, for example, the Airpods Pro do. The same verdict applies to the permeable listening mode. With the Airpods Pro, it sounds as if you don’t have headphones in your ears, the Pixel Buds Pro are noticeable through a quiet noise and change sounds audible, for example the clicking of a keyboard.
The built-in microphones gave no cause for criticism in the test, the voice quality is more than sufficient for telephone calls or calls.
A deficiency was then noticed
The range of the headphones had a somewhat negative effect. Connected to a Macbook Air M1, the transmission already weakened significantly two rooms further. This was so noticeable because the same distances have never been a problem for the Airpods Pro.
Important topic: runtime. In the test, the Google Pixel Buds Pro managed a full working day with activated noise cancellation. After a short stay in the charging case, there was still enough reserve for the evening, especially in the permeable mode, which does not put too much strain on the battery. The charging case managed around two charges before it had to be connected to the cable or onto the charging plate.
Conclusion: Google Pixel Buds Pro convince
Strong showing from Google, these headphones are fun! The sound was just as convincing as the battery life and the active noise insulation. The Pixel Buds Pro play to their strengths to the full, especially in connection with an Android smartphone within reach, and they sit very comfortably in the ear.
When it comes to sound quality, there are better competitors such as Sony, Bang
If you mainly use Apple devices, the Airpods Pro will probably remain the first choice – also because of the software. But what the plugs from Cupertino are for iPhone users, Google now also offers for Android fans. At a fair price, measured by the great performance.
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