The Pixel Buds Pro are the 4th attempt at wireless earbuds by Google and arguably the most complete on paper. They also happen to be the most expensive, with features like Active Noise Cancellation, touchpad controls, wireless charging, Bluetooth 5.0, Spatial Audio (soon), big sound promises from an 11mm speaker driver, and more. At $199, these need to deliver.
Google sent me a pair of Pixel Buds Pro for review purposes and we’re working through that process now to share you with final thoughts on whether or not they do. Today is actually the day that most will publish reviews, but I was out of town when these were delivered and so we are a couple of days behind. But look, I’ve been using these constantly for 2-3 days now and wanted to at least give you some initial thoughts for those wanting a pair right away and are trying to decide.
Google makes earbuds for my ears.
I know that I was one of the few who really liked the first true wireless Pixel Buds and that they were later found to be plagued by design and hardware issues. I also know that I gave the Pixel Buds A pretty good marks, even as the cheaper pair without all of the fancy features so many earbuds ship with. I am clearly a fan of Google’s earbuds even if that’s the unpopular opinion to have.
For the Pixel Buds Pro, I am once again enjoying this experience and one of the reasons has to do with fit. Google really knows how to make earbuds that fit perfectly into my ears. In fact, that was one of the biggest reasons I liked both of the previous Pixel Buds models before this, because it was as if Google used my ear to shape them. They were both light and freeing, never budged no matter what I was doing, and that let me wear them for hours without fatigue.
These Pixel Buds Pro fit my ears right out of the box with their medium tips (they also come with small and large tips). It takes a bit of extra wiggling to get them in the right spot, but once you find it, they don’t move much. They are on the larger side, thanks to ANC, though they don’t have those awkward wing tips or anything to make wearing them difficult. All you really need to do is give them a bit of a twist and then slot right in, somewhat magically.
So far, I’ve worn the Pixel Buds Pro in casual, at-my-desk settings, as well as during a couple of intense workouts. Never once have they fallen out. I will say that I notice them far more often than the other pairs of Pixel Buds and I think that’s because of their size and weight. That’s not surprising when you look at what Google packed into these, but I could see my ears getting tired of them after a longer session. Again, we’ll test that to find out.
Overall in terms of fit and feel, the Pixel Buds Pro wear nicely (at least in my ears).
The sound is pretty phenomenal.
With a $200 price tag and a long list of features, I think Google was right in suggesting the Pixel Buds Pro deliver “premium, immersive sound.” During most weeks, I’ll go without ever placing a pair of earbuds in my ears because I work from home with speakers in my office and have found peace in running or working out without them. With the Pixel Buds Pro these past few days, I’m going out of my way to wear them and crank all the tunes.
There is a smooth, deepness to the bass that really holds up in satisfying ways that most true wireless earbuds can’t. Highs have a richness and clarity that’s intoxicating. There’s an excitement when you throw a big booming song at the Buds Pro. Yes, I ran my typical test of The Weeknd’s “High For This” and these passed with flying colors. I threw a bunch of Labrinth and his wild digital beats and heavy bass at them, once again coming away happy. I brought out Jeff Buckley for the first time in a while to try and feel that emotion and your boy is tearing up now. OK, that’s a bit much. Old Caamp, after overplaying it the past two years, sounded fresh again. This is head-filling sound at its best.
The ANC also works quite well and can really reduce outside noise in impressive ways. My ultra-clicky keyboard can’t be heard with it on, a toilet flush produced nothing, and cars flying by my house only brought a soft scream. I’ve used ANC in several pairs of buds over the years, but this is one of the first times I was like, “Wow, this really does work well.”
Of course, you can use the “Transparency” setting to let in outside noise and it also works well. The sound quality isn’t reduced with this on either, in case you were wondering. I have not yet tried the Buds Pro with ANC turned completely off, so I’ll get back to you on that experience.
Some other notes.
- Battery life: I don’t have any serious battery notes for you because I haven’t had enough time with the Buds Pro, but after a long 1.5 hour listen yesterday where I’m pretty sure I had ANC off, I dropped about 15% in each bud. That would get me close to the 11 hours of use Google claims with ANC off if I ran them dry.
- Touch controls: The full range of touch controls are back! Google brought back forward and backward volume controls, and omg, yes. I missed these from the A-Series and can’t tell you how much I enjoy them here. We also have single, double, and triple taps for pausing or changing tracks, as well as a customizable touch-hold press to fire up the Assistant or toggle ANC. You can even set one side to long-press for Assistant and the other for ANC, which is how I have them setup. You can even completely turn off the touch controls if you want.
- Audio switching and multipoint connections: Google is letting the Pixel Buds Pro do some cool multi-device actions that I have not been able to test yet. They’ll smartly switch between multiple Android devices (like a phone and tablet) and also let you connect to a setup of a phone and PC, should you want audio from a computer but still have access to your phone for a call. I will do my best to test these, but the audio switching doesn’t seem like something I would use much.
- The case: The case for the Pixel Buds Pro reminds me of the Pixel Buds (2nd Gen) in so many ways. It’s a heavy, well-built case with a black interior. Its lid has good movement and is very addictingly flippy in a way you might click a pen to annoy people. It has wireless charging and USB-C, as expected. The Buds Pro do fit inside it a bit awkwardly at times, as if they need some extra help getting situated. Maybe I just need more practice.
- Calls: Haven’t taken any yet! Will do soon.
- Audio cutouts: Haven’t experienced a single cutout yet, so maybe Google finally fixed that with this third attempt. I was able to leave my phone in the office and walk all of the way to the back corner of my house without losing connection. I covered both ears at that back-house point and that finally caused a minor cut. So far, the connection seems the best of any Pixel Buds to date.
- The app and its settings: There are some new settings in the Pixel Buds app, so here they are in case you were curious.
OK, I actually wrote a lot there. I’m enjoying them if you can’t tell and like sharing thoughts.