I’ve had the original Google Pixel Buds buds (first generation) for a couple of years now. That line (and the second generation of it) was cancelled some time ago in favor of the Pixel Buds A Series.
As of late though my original Pixel Buds have been acting up and the left headphone will often be dead when I open the lid for the case. I would have to leave the lid of the charger open after taking the left headphone out and putting it back in again for it to charge correctly and then I would be able to finally use them for whatever I pulled them out to do. It was time for an upgrade.
Today I’m going to review the Pixel Buds Pro series with active noise cancellation. I’ll specifically be comparing them to my original Pixel Buds and the A Series. Let’s get started!
The Google Pixel Buds Pro contain active noise cancellation and are Google’s most premium wireless headphones set that they offer. They work well with any Android device and have no features that are exclusive to having a Google Pixel phone.
The charger is pretty much identical looking to other Pixel Buds models. The shape for the headphones is different for the “Pro” series though vs. the original Pixel Buds and A Series. It’s well built and my original Pixel Buds charger continues to work well to this day so I expect the Pixel Buds Pro charger will do at least as well.
The headphone shape itself is a little different from previous models. Here’s a side by side comparison:
At first glance you may think “whoa, those must stick way out when you put them in your ears”. They don’t. It sits at about the same height on your ear. It’s just placed into your ear much better than the older model which sticks in your ear rather than sit. I’ll discuss this difference and the implications of it more in the “Wear Comfort” section.
The headphones are very light and comfortable and will rest in your ear. They feel solid and I have no doubt the durability will last longer than the battery inside it will (a few years at most depending on usage for any battery in a device like this).
One complaint I have about the design of my original Pixel Buds and the Pixel Buds A Series is that it creates a small pressure point in your ear. It usually would take several hours for it to become uncomfortable and since I primarily used them for working out it wasn’t too much of a problem.
On the occasions where I was traveling or for some reason was going to be using them longer for a couple of hours the very small point where the pressure is on the A Series / older designs would actually be sore when I took them out for a little while.
I’m very pleased to report that because the Google Pixel Buds Pro have a completely different design this pressure point is completely eliminated. The A series design kind of stuck in your ear (which was great, it would never fall out). The Google Pixel Buds Pro actually kind of rest in your ear more rather than stick in there. You place them in and then rotate them to create a complete seal.
As a consequence of this there is no pressure point. Once you rotate them into place they are actually comfortably resting in your ears with a much larger surface area in contact with your ears than the A series had (eliminating the pressure points).
The noise cancellation on the Google Pixel Buds pro is actually very impressive. I’m sure this is due to the resigned way they fit into your ears creating a much better (and more comfortable) resting seal.
When you first pair your Google Pixel Buds with your phone it will actually do a seal test (that you can perform at any time). It’s important enough to have a good seal that they included a function to test for it! That looks like this:
When I have them on I can only hear the loudest clicks from my keyboard. On the treadmill I can only hear the loudest part of my steps or when my shoe partially drags across the treadmill and creates that annoying higher pitched scraping sound.
Like most noise cancellation technology it’s particularly good at removing particular types of noise. It’s great at removing rumbling vibration noises (such as a plane engine) or white noise especially. It’s not very good at removing very loud high frequency sounds (like the loudest part of a click of a mechanical keyboard). Those you will hear but they will be very dulled / muted.
I would actually rate the noise cancellation as pretty close to some of my Sennheiser portable headphones that go partially over the ear. I think this is due to the Google Pixel Buds Pro sealing my ears better than partial over-the-ear headphones. It’s a better seal (and much closer to your eardrum) and so less noise leaks through.
I’ll probably just use the Google Pixel Buds Pro for my next flight rather than my old over-the-ear Sennheiser set (although Sennheiser does make really nice gear).
The audio quality is better with the Google Pixel Buds Pro than my Google Pixel Buds. You can hear and distinguish more sounds that I wouldn’t have been able to hear/distinguish as well on my original Google Pixel Buds. I think this is partly due to the way they seal with your ears giving a better and more isolated environment.
If you are an “extreme” audiophile then I’m sure there has to be better choices than these for that. I’m sure that you can find earbuds that produce better mids or highs or whatever it may be but this is a well-balanced set of headphones that will sound pretty great to most people. They won’t sound cheap or tinny like an off-the-shelf bad set of headphones.
Despite being called the “Google Pixel Buds Pro” though these are definitely a consumer line of headphones. You aren’t going to find sound engineers using them while they’re working in the studio. Of course. These are headphones with a rechargeable battery that will eventually wear out with normal expected use within a few years. It doesn’t make sense to put extremely expensive unobtainium drivers/parts into headphones that you know have a lifespan of maybe 2-3 years at best and the battery is not meant to be user-replaceable (or anyone replaceable).
That is why this review is for the general consumer who wants to buy a pair of good wireless headphones with noise cancellation knowing full well that rechargeable wireless headphones are an item that will wear out within a few years and you will buy the latest model to replace it at that time. For studio work I would hope you would invest in solutions meant to be used in that setting (and hopefully for longer than the designed lifetime of this product because studio quality generally isn’t cheap).
Compatibility with Android Devices
Since Google is the company that makes Android they have to be really careful about locking other manufacturers out of any of the features of their devices including their accessories. This is smart and it’s also the right thing to do.
You will not gain any additional features whatsoever by having a Google Pixel phone / watch. They will work perfectly with any Android phone including the companion Pixel Buds app.
I actually got my wife a set of Pixel Buds A Series for my wife for Christmas because I knew they were really good for working out. They work flawlessly with her Samsung Galaxy S22 (as does her Pixel Watch I got her). It does not matter that she does not have a Google Pixel phone.
She expressed interest in trying out the Google Pixel Buds Pro though during her workout to see how they stacked up. This gave me another chance to test compatibility with the Samsung Galaxy S22 devices as well as get another heads up comparison between the two models.
The battery is rated for 11 hours of battery life according to Google. On my original Pixel Buds the battery life was rated for 5 hours. This is just the battery life though before you need to pop it into the case to charge (which actually happens very quickly, the batteries are tiny relatively speaking and there’s not much to charge). If you’ve ever used any other Pixel Buds the battery life is much better on the Pro series.
After about an hour workout though the battery life was only down to about 93%. This feels like much, much longer than twice the battery life of my older Pixel Buds but no doubt the battery has started to wear out on my old pair. You could use them for the better part of a waking day before having to put them back in the case to charge back up.
Additional Noteworthy Features
- The headphones support Google’s “Find My Device” which is handy for locating the headphones if they’re lost/misplaced
- Noise cancellation can be turned off or set to “Transparency Mode” which will actually let you hear things going on in the room even though the headphone seals your ears and blocks out a natural amount of noise anyway. This lets you hear that noise even with the headphones in
- The device has touch controls that can be set up within Android including functions for swiping foward, back, single tapping, double tapping, triple tapping as well as touch and hold.
Pros / Cons
- Comfortable to wear for long periods of time
- Battery life of 11 hours which is more than twice the other Pixel Buds models
- Great sound quality
- More than twice as expensive as the Pixel Buds A series
They’re a lot more expensive than the Google Pixel Buds A series. That is the primary thing you are going to have to weigh between the Google Pixel Buds Pro and the Google Pixel Buds A Series.
Do you only use them to work out or watch videos occasionally for a couple of hours at a time? Then going from $69 to $199 is quite a jump in price to get the Google Pixel Buds Pro series and I’m not sure that would be worth it.
If you are someone that knows they are going to use them for hours every day or someone who travels a lot or would benefit from the noise cancellation I would highly recommend upgrading to the “Pro” series. I know I will just be sticking with the “Pro” series from now on as the Google Pixel Buds lineup continues to evolve.
The headphones earn a recommend from me. Google didn’t lock out or make any special/additional features for Google Pixel phone users. I absolutely love that for antitrust reasons / worries about their competitors ditching Android / a whole multitude of reasons Google is doing the right thing here and shipping hardware that plays nice with their direct hardware competitors.
The noise cancellation is fantastic. The seal the headphones get around your ears creates a very quiet environment that will let you stay focused on whatever you’re doing. They’re much more comfortable to wear (especially for long periods of time) than the A series / original Pixel Buds. They will be great for long trips / commutes.
My wife has had as great of an experience with them on her Samsung Galaxy S22 as I have had on my Google Pixel 7 Pro without missing out on any exclusive features. I asked her to tell me honestly (for review purposes) whether she would have preferred I got her the Pixel Buds Pro after trying them during her workaround and she unequivocally said yes once I made it clear that I would not be offended. I 100% agree with her and I would have bought her the Pixel Buds Pro if I had tried and reviewed them before I bought her the Pixel Buds A Series with her Pixel Watch for Christmas.
I’ll be releasing my review for the Google Pixel Watch soon. Even though I have had the Google Pixel Watch longer it’s harder to review than the Google Pixel Buds Pro since there’s just a lot more to cover with the Pixel Watch since it has a screen / operating system / etc. but stay tuned for that!