There’s a surfeit of true wireless audio devices today. Despite that, it’s difficult to find one that fits so seamlessly into Android as do the Google Pixel Buds Pro. While these earbuds will work on Apple’s iOS, they lose the companion app and some features, including the convenient Fast Pair. Ironically, users are thinking of the Pixel Buds Pro as Android’s AirPods.
The Buds Pro sit in a pebble-shaped case with an egg-shell texture. It may cause a thin pocket to sag but its weight implies solid internals such as a bigger battery. The buds themselves look as if they could be too big but they turn out to be comfortable and wearable for long sessions. The case is IPX2 splash resistant and the buds are IP4 rated.
Android’s Fast Pair greets the Buds Pro when these are removed from their case. If the playback device doesn’t have the companion app, it’s a good idea to get it from the Play Store. The app presents all the features, some of which are deal breakers for certain users. The buds support Audio Switch, which means they automatically switch between playback sources based on what the user does. This even works for calls. The buds can also connect to two Bluetooth devices at the same time with the Multi-Point feature. All one has to do is stop on one device and start on another. Another convenience is that one can use one bud at a time.
A key feature is an access to Google Assistant, which can be set up with preferences in the app. The Assistant can then be triggered with a tap on the chosen earbud or with a Hey Google. One can have notifications read out or otherwise use the Assistant’s features as usual.
The buds’ touch controls can be set via the app as well and the user will find that these are very sensitive and responsive. If found to be accidentally triggered too often, these can be turned off. Buds don’t often include volume controls, but swiping forward or backward sets volume.
The Buds Pro feature active noise cancellation (ANC) with a transparency mode and an ‘off’ mode. ANC is reasonably good rather than dramatic and avoids creating uncomfortable sealed-in pressure. These earbuds don’t have a very tight seal as they don’t extend too deep into the ear canal. They don’t fall out of one’s ears but often feel like they could. The transparency mode, as is usually the case, heightens the sharpness of ambient sounds for times when the user wants to stay alert.
The sound profile of the Pixel earbuds will easily please casual music listeners. There’s a gently prominent bass and discernible treble but the mid-range is somewhat recessed. These earphones don’t approach audiophile territory and are not meant for the demanding listener who looks for a high degree of separation and detail. Instead, the sound is generally pleasing for mainstream everyday use.
SBC and AAC codecs are supported but no AptX. There is only a volume EQ at the moment and it isn’t really needed because it only allows adjustment of treble and bass at lower volumes. A five-track EQ is said to be in the works. Strangely, the volume is somewhat low with the result that one listens at around 70 to 80 per cent level. Sound quality will depend on a good fit, which users can achieve by using the fit test in the app and changing ear tips if suggested.
Calls and speech tended to be consistently clear.
Battery life for a single charge is about seven hours. The case gives an additional 13 hours. Quick charge is supported, so a five-minute boost will give an hour’s worth of play. Wireless charging is also possible.
The Pixel Buds Pro cost ₹19,990, which is somewhat more expensive than they should be. Strengths include exceptional comfort, effortless integration with Android, including pairing and swapping devices and hands-free access to the Google Assistant. Drawbacks include a lack of a more granular EQ and a fit that doesn’t feel quite secure.