If Apple’s AirPods Pro are the benchmark for measuring the quality of any new pair of wireless earbuds, then Google has them beat with its new Pixel Buds Pro. Not only do they sound better than Apple’s flagship earbuds, but they also cost $50 less, have better battery life, and come in cuter colors.
These earbuds work fine with iPhone devices, but their full suite of features shines through when you pair them with an Android device. For starters, they pair quickly. You can also easily connect them to multiple devices and swap between them, so if you have the buds in your ears while watching a movie on your laptop and a call comes through, you can just answer your phone without having to fiddle with anything. More importantly, these buds never fell out during my plodding runs, they feature wireless charging, and did I mention the cute egg-like case? What more could you need for podcasts and Beyoncé?
The best part about the Pixel Buds Pro is how comfortably they fit in your ears. The medium-sized buds have a form-fitting peanut shape that sticks right in my medium-sized ear canals with ease, but never loses grip. I’ve tried to headbang these buggers out of my ears. I’ve taken them on 7-mile runs in the woods. I’ve showered with them in after said runs. They stay in there perfectly despite the lack of ear fins—they use the same standard silicone ear tips you’ll find on most earbuds, but the overall ergonomics just make them hug my ear holes.
The exterior of each bud comes in a few colors. My favorite is the tangerine orange (or what Google calls Coral), but my review unit was a discreet gray, which looks handsome but isn’t as fun. Frankly, a part of the reason to get these instead of AirPods is the aesthetic difference between Apple’s monolithic white and Google’s playful pastels.
Using them is just as easy as using AirPods. The outside of each bud is touch-sensitive, with intuitive controls. Tap once to play or pause, twice to skip songs, and long-press to turn the active noise cancellation on or off, depending on whether you want to hear the world. I also like that swiping left or right adjusts the volume—oftentimes earbuds with touch sensors forgo volume controls for playback controls.
These buds are also plugged into Google Assistant, so you can shout “Hey Google” and demand it set timers or play a certain song. It’s useful for the few times I didn’t want to touch my phone, but it’s still a novelty in public, where you might not want to look like you’re yelling at yourself. To each their own, I guess.
Like the controls, the case the buds come in is smartly designed. It’s harder to put an earbud into the wrong slot, and I like how flat it lays on my wireless charging pad between listening sessions. It’s also just nice to hold. Like a little tic tac.
Into the Music
A single 11-mm dynamic driver inside each Pixel Buds Pro delivers a surprisingly robust soundstage, made possible in large part by Google’s excellent digital signal processing and noise canceling.
Music comes through with presence and personality, especially in the bass, which tends to have more punch and separation than what I’ve heard from prior Pixel Buds. While listening to my testing playlist, the midrange is the only place where the buds lose some definition. That’s to be expected when a single driver has to handle perfect bass response and shimmery highs (and does so well)—you tend to lose something, somewhere. Still, I’m glad Google’s engineers focused on the areas most people care about.