As the Google Pixel 6a phone arrives into the world for all to buy, it's flanked by Google's top-tier earbuds: the Pixel Buds Pro. I've been using these best true wireless earbuds to explore their pros and cons ahead of their official on-sale date (which is actually from right now: Thursday 28th July).
The Pixel Buds Pro introduce Google's Apple-a-like Audio Switching feature, meaning quick and easy hand-over between any Android phone and tablet on which you're signed into your Google account. No, that doesn't include laptops as part of that feature, but you can pair Pixel Buds with two devices simultaneously via Bluetooth so that's no issue anyway.
But what else is on offer and are these earbuds worth their £179/$199/€219 asking price? Here are my Pixel Buds Pro first impressions...
Do the Pixel Buds Pro sound good?
These are earbuds first and foremost so it's all about sound quality. Fortunately, I think the Buds Pro sound pretty good, as you'd hope from their lofty 'Pro' name. Google doesn't provide the specific frequency response on the official Buds Pro specs page (opens in new tab), but the bass is deep and the treble sparkly enough.
I feel the Pixel Buds Pro are largely about their design, though, which in the Coral finish I've received to review (photos on this very page) look visually striking. They wear well, although I personally find them a little uncomfortable in the ear canal after not a particularly long period of time – there are three included eartips in the box though (but no charging cable whatsoever, which might be a problem if you don't possess a USB-C charger).
Pixel Buds Pro: is noise-cancelling effective?
A big part of the sound is down to the Buds Pro's combination of sound isolation and active noise-cancelling (ANC) tech. The latter can be easily toggled on or off with a tap-and-hold on either one of the earbuds (this can also be customised as you wish during setup to handle other functions, such as Google Assistant instead).
The ANC in the Buds Pro is generally effectively, clearly cutting out higher-end hiss and helping to mitigate surrounding ambient noise. However, I find it's got some areas where it doesn't function so well: mid-to-upper frequencies aren't dialled out entirely, so you'll still be able to hear various sounds (think Velcro on shoes territory) quite clearly.
Furthermore, the ANC gives that 'locked in' feeling, but as the Pixel Buds Pro are lodged into your ears by design this means you'll hear anything from your mouth amplified: grind your teeth and you'll know about it; eat some crunchy cereal and it's fed right into your brain, which the best over-ear ANC headphones don't do at all.
Pixel Buds Pro price and competition
So to the main question at hand: are Google's Pixel Buds Pro worth their asking price? In the UK that opening sum is £179; it's €219 in Europe; or you'll pay $199 in the USA.
Crucially that's cheaper than the Apple AirPods Pro, which is clearly the kind of grade that Google wants to establish itself again. For me, however, the comfort isn't as good as Apple's earbuds (perhaps down to physical size), and the active noise-cancelling isn't quite as refined either.
However, there's a big win under Google's belt: the battery life per charge is pretty astounding, at around 7 hours per charge. That's, like, almost double the AirPods Pro's talk time equivalent. The Pixel Buds Pro's case adds a further two charges, too, so you'll get around 20 hours all in, or over 30 hours if you don't use ANC.
Elsewhere on the market, however, there's all manner of options to consider. Sony's expert earbuds, the WF-1000XM4, which feature better noise cancelling, cost barely any more at present. They don't offer Audio Switching, granted, but as you can connect to two devices that may not matter too much to too many people just yet.
So are the Pixel Buds Pro worth it?
So do I think the Google Pixel Buds Pro are worth it? There's the start of some exciting stuff here. The Audio Switching feature will, I presume, only continue to improve. The customisation is great. The swipe controls work pretty well and react to gentle touches. There's even spatial audio being added towards the end of 2022.
But I do think you can get a more comfortable fit and better active noise-cancelling elsewhere in the true wireless earbuds market. Perhaps not for a more agreeable price than what Google is asking, however, and given that these earbuds undercut Apple's AirPods Pro that's something that'll make this Android option appealing for many in my opinion.