Google is first and foremost a software company, but in recent years they have made several even very successful hardware products. Most recently, the Google Pixel 7 phone series, the Pro model of which was awarded premium mobile phone of the year.
But Google won’t settle for being in your pocket. The smallest member of the Pixel family, the Pixel Buds Pro, will be right up your ear canal.
Google Pixel Buds Pro are completely wireless premium class earbuds. And like the competition, the Pro designation indicates that the earbuds feature active noise cancellation (ANC).
The earbuds themselves are quite small. Thanks to the size, the earbuds sit quite comfortably and discreetly in place once they’ve been shoved into the ear canal. The case, on the other hand, is milky white and so soft and rounded that it is hardly associated with audio electronics. The case can be charged by USB-C as well as wirelessly.
When the Google Pixel Buds Pro are first put into use, the accompanying app (which installs automatically) performs an ear and fit test to ensure they fit snugly.
A tight fit in the ear canal is essential for the earbuds to have anything resembling bass response. The loose-fitting Nothing Ear (stick) is an example of the opposite.
The Pixel Buds Pro don’t have that problem. In fact, they have bass response that is among the best and most convincing I’ve heard from a set of completely wireless ANC earbuds.
The app installs automatically when the earbuds are paired with your phone, and once setup and customization are over, it doesn’t make much of a fuss. In fact, I had to search my phone to find the app at all. Which is almost a pity, as it’s among the better and more advanced apps. But on the other hand, it shows that it and the earbuds work without requiring further attention. Returning to the app, however, you have the option of choosing from a range of equaliser settings or making your own with a five-band equaliser. The default setting, however, was so well balanced that I found no need to adjust.
The sound in the Google Pixel Buds Pro is, on the whole, excellent. And frankly, much better than I’m used to from completely wireless earbuds.
For me, the Google buds aren’t going to replace the speakers in my office or living room. Or for that matter my over-ear headphones. But they’ll be perfect for music on the train or plane.
By far the most impressive thing about the tiny Google earbuds is the bass, which is both good and plentiful. Even though the driver in the earplug measures just 11 mm in diameter, it manages to reproduce bass so that it’s felt all the way down the back of your neck. But not in an exaggerated, rumbling way. Just warm and rich.
The rest of the tonal range is also handled well, and voices sound quite natural and free. Which, alongside musical benefits, is also essential for mobile calls.
The noise reduction almost inevitably affects the openness of the soundscape, but only to a modest degree. All in all, it has to be said that Google has succeeded far better in getting good sound out of their earbuds than they have so far managed with their smart speakers, which have never got above alarm clock-radio quality.
It’s clear that Google has a dream of being for the Android community what Apple is for its own followers: an integrated solution where products work closely together in an ecosystem that covers all the technical needs of customers. In a way that is not achieved by choosing products from different vendors.
Voice control via earbuds is nothing new. It’s been a buzzword since voice assistants, including Google Assistant, came on the market. But where it usually takes the patience of a saint and the insight of an engineer to get things set up to work together, with the Pixel devices the process is streamlined among themselves to a degree I haven’t encountered before.
It just works – nearly!
Once the Pixel Buds Pro are recognised by the Pixel 7 Pro, things simply start working. Which you’ll notice, for example, the first time the Google Assistant spontaneously reads emails and texts into the headphones – and sends voice dictated replies back.
While the earbuds and phone are making a commendable effort to act as digital servants, voice control is still a discipline that requires sportsmanship – and learning the precise magic words that each device in the home understands. If you’re in a hurry, in most cases it’s still quicker to grab your phone and control things from there.
That includes controlling the earbuds themselves. Touch controls basically let you select music tracks, turn the volume up or down and handle phone calls, as well as turn ANC and ambient sound on or off. But it’ s not going to be easy or intuitive. That’s not the Google Pixel Buds Pro’s fault. There’s just not a lot of navigational space on the end of a wireless earbud.
Good ambient sound
The noise cancellation on the Google Pixel Buds Pro works just as it should. It’s not the most effective noise cancellation I’ve experienced, but office and traffic noise is muffled to a distant hum that can be easily ignored. Especially in the imortant midrange. In the high range, the noise reduction is less effective. This has the curious effect that engine noise from cars on the street disappears, while tyre noise is still heard. Which is probably good for road safety, as you’re not completely disconnected from reality.
Which brings us on to transparency mode. It works better than usual: the sound from the surroundings is transmitted via the microphones into the earbuds in such a natural way that you can actually stand having the function switched on. And without music listening being disturbed or interrupted like on some wireless earbuds.
The Google Pixel Buds Pro is a well designed product in a market where competition is intense and fierce. There is hardly an electronics manufacturer that does not have at least one pair of completely wireless ANC earbuds in its range. What makes Google’s offering recommendable is partly a sound that is well above average in the price range, but especially a complete integration with Google’s services and especially their products. If you’ve bought a Google Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro phone and are looking for wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro is the obvious choice.