Truly wireless earbuds have exploded in popularity over the past few years and, finally, Google is getting in on the fun. We were impressed just by the claims and the hardware during the reveal last year, but has the experience lived up? The first Pixel Buds 2 reviews have dropped to answer questions about sound quality, battery life, and more. Here’s a roundup.
Back in October at Google’s Pixel 4 launch event, the main thing we got to play with on the new Pixel Buds was the hardware. The buds themselves? Slim and understated. The case? Glorious. How does that hold up in real life? Really well, actually! MrMobile and Android Central praised Google’s design with the case, with Michael Fisher describing its texture as nearly identical to a real-life eggshell. AC’s Andrew Martonik said:
The matte case looks and feels wonderful, and the whole package is downright solid feeling — it’s also heavier than you’d think, especially if you’re used to the Galaxy Buds. The case lid has an extremely satisfying click as it flips open, and an even louder — yet equally satisfying — clunk when it closes. The hinge requires just the right amount of weight to flick open, but stays closed easily — that’s a tough balance, but Google absolutely nailed it.
The biggest question on everyone’s mind, though, has been sound quality. Was Google able to upgrade from last time around and keep up with the competition? Yup.
While sound quality on the new Pixel Buds isn’t top-of-the-class or absolutely mind-blowing, it’s also not bad by any means. The Verge said that the Pixel Buds sound quality was “quite nice” and offered “a very enjoyable listening experience.” Bass wasn’t particularly strong, but overall the sound is as good as you’d hope for. It’s a shame, though, that there are no EQ settings as The Verge pointed out.
It would’ve been nice if Google included EQ customization for people who might want it, but there’s no such option in the Pixel Buds Android app. “We’ve opted for simplicity in the user experience and the device options,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge. “From a hardware, software and overall acoustics standpoint, we have room to further boost lows, mids, and highs. However, we tuned Pixel Buds to give an optimal and more balanced sound performance for a great listening experience across the broadest spectrum of music genres.”
How about call quality? A mic test revealed that your audio might not be incredible, but it’s not bad either. Callers, on the other hand, sound excellent in your ears. The vent also makes things a bit more comfortable.
Speaking of that vent, noise cancellation is less than ideal. By the Buds’ very design, a fair amount of ambient noise gets through to the listener. Still, as Engadget points out, the silicone tips still mean Pixel Buds block out noise better than what came before. Google also included “Adaptive Sound” to better adjust the volume to compensate for the noise around you. It might not work particularly well yet, though.
…the company opted for a feature called Adaptive Sound that automatically, and temporarily, adjusts the volume based on your surroundings. Once you get away from the raucous crowd, the earbuds should return to the volume you had set.
With things like a white noise machine and running water to wash dishes (the latter of which Google mentions as a specific use case), I wasn’t able to trigger Adaptive Sound to do its thing. I was able to activate it with crowd noise from an archived soccer match on my TV, but the sound increase is very subtle. I almost couldn’t tell it even happened.
Comfort is an important point for sound quality too. Android Police said you “practically can’t tell you’re wearing them,” but some others found that the “wing” tip could be uncomfortable over time. Clearly, things will be a little subjective based on the person.
The Pixel Buds are tiny. The part that sticks out of your ear is somewhere between a dime and a penny in diameter, and sits pretty close to flush.
They’re also very comfortable. Google says the design is “based on scans of thousands of ears,” which sounds 1,000 percent like techy marketing bullcrap. But they genuinely do seem to disappear into my ears, because of both their shape and a “spatial vent” that’s meant to relieve the kind of in-ear pressure a lot of earbuds can cause.
What about software? Smarts were one of the biggest highlights of the original Pixel Buds and, really, they’re only better this time around. All of the original features are still around such as notifications, Google Translate support, and more. However, the Buds can also now use hands-free “Hey Google” commands which The Verge very much liked.
Android support? Of course, it’s great. Pixel Buds support Google’s Fast Pair standard which means pairing with almost any Android smartphone is a breeze. The recently launched Pixel Buds app, too, is available to make things run a bit more smoothly. It also includes the toggle for Google’s “Adaptive Sound” feature. Google even has an option (pictured below, via Android Central) which rings each earbud independently if you’ve lost them.
So, let’s talk battery life. Google rates the Pixel Buds at 5 hours using the Buds alone and the case is supposed to charge them up around 4 times. For the most part, it seems like those claims are accurate, but some reviews mentioned lower figures. Android Central, for example, found 4 hours was closer to average. Recharging is quick, too, with a couple of hours of power in just 10 minutes. While Galaxy Buds+ destroy everyone with an 11-hour total, Google isn’t too far behind the competition in this department.
Battery life is a bit behind the competition, though it isn’t terribly surprising considering their size. Google quotes 5 hours, and I could confidently make 4 straight hours of music or podcast listening before needing to charge. Considering how small and light the earbuds are, and how infrequently I’m likely to wear any earbuds for over 5 hours at a time, this is fine — especially when the case provides ample recharges. Though oddly I noticed a few times that one earbud will drain much faster than the other, by 10-15% in some cases, and sometimes it wouldn’t level out through a full discharge. Thankfully the case recharges the Buds quickly: you can get a couple hours back in just 10 minutes.
What’s the general consensus? Google Pixel Buds — while not perfect — are good enough in areas like sound quality, battery life, and design to hit the right points for a lot of people. For many, that’s because they are the AirPods for Android that we were hoping for, even if the price is a bit on the higher end.
More on Google Pixel Buds:
- Google launches truly wireless Pixel Buds for $179, available now
- Google Pixel Buds app hit w/ 1-star reviews because the app was ‘forced’ onto phones
- Pixel Buds hands-on: Google just (probably) won the headphone war [Video]
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