After thePixelBuds then their more affordable version, the
Pixel Buds A-Series, Google is returning to the high-end niche this time with the Pixel Buds Pro. These are the first pair of true wireless headphones from the brand to offer active noise reduction (RBA), which is moreover adaptive, and a multipoint connection. New features that allow Google to join the leading pack of premium headphones. But can the Google Pixel Buds Pro hold their own against a competition that has offered this type of functionality for a long time?
A design that gains in comfort and discretion
Appearances can be deceiving. In the case of the Pixel Buds Pro, the charging case looks exactly like that of the Pixel Buds, with its matte white livery and its black border at the level of the closing cover. But the similarity ends as soon as we discover the headphones whose design has been significantly redesigned. More elongated than the previous Pixel Buds, they no longer have the stabilization fin that was wedged in the ear. Despite this, The Buds Pro sit very naturally in the ear and stay firmly in place.
On the left, the Pixel Buds 2 with the integrated stabilization fin. On the right, the Pixel Buds Pro. © Marc Zaffagni
They are also less prominent and therefore more discreet. Three sizes of silicone tips are provided and you can check the effectiveness of the passive isolation with the in-app test to make sure you have chosen the right tip. We found the Pixel Buds Pro even more comfortable to wear and more stable in prolonged use than the Pixel Buds and the Buds A-Series which however do not deserve in this register.
The ergonomics of the Pixel Buds Pro (left) have evolved significantly to improve stability and comfort. © Marc Zaffagni
Going back to the charging case, it’s a little overweight compared to the other two models, but its pebble shape is still compact and easy to slip into a pocket. The matte white finish may seem flimsy and prone to smudges, but our extended experience with the Pixel Buds and then the A-Series Buds has shown us that’s not the case. The Buds Pro case is splash-proof (IPX2), a plus compared to the Buds A-Series. It offers just under two full charges and supports charging via USB-C and Qi wireless. ”
5 minute headphone charging in the case gives you up to 1 hour of listening time when active noise cancellation is on », announces Google. We were able to confirm this performance during our test.
The headphones themselves withstand sweat and splashes (IPX4, same as the Pixel Buds A-Series), which makes it possible to consider sports use, provided they are cleaned properly after training.
© Marc Zaffagni
Noise reduction: a successful first
The Pixel Buds Pro release the first active noise reduction system on Google headphones. And it proves to have an efficiency close to the references in this field, which are theAirPods Pro,
Sony WF-1000XM4 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3. Provided you have taken the time to properly adjust the passive isolation with the appropriate tips, the RBA of the Buds Pro creates a real immersive bubble that blocks most sounds, especially in the bass . Some shrill or metallic noises are sometimes a little less well attenuated, but the overall experience is excellent. We were also able to appreciate this efficiency while listening to music without being bothered by the crash of a jackhammer which was activated one floor above us. For a first try, Google succeeded.
Some may regret the absence of manual adjustment for the intensity of the noise reduction, but the effectiveness of the adaptive system is such that it is frankly not necessary to go and play with the settings. The transparency mode that accompanies the RBA also pleasantly surprised us with its very natural rendering devoid of breath. To switch between these two modes, all you need is a long press on one of the earphones. Also meets the hands-free function for clear sound during phone calls. The Buds Pro are a little less comfortable in noisy environments, which some of our interlocutors perceived. But they are among the best students in their category and can easily be used in the context of a telework activity.
© Marc Zaffagni
Listening: a pleasant and versatile sound
The Pixel Buds Pro feature 11mm drivers that have been specially developed for these headphones. Without transition, we can say that these are the best true wireless that Google has ever offered. The audio quality is significantly higher than that of the Pixel Buds A-Series, with a much warmer and richer rendering. The bass is particularly pleasant: well defined, enveloping and deep.
The stereo separation is well marked. In particular, we were able to appreciate these sound qualities when listening to several tracks from Ben Harper’s latest album, Bloodline Maintenanceon Qobuz, as well as on summer girl of Haim. the Kiss from Prince gave us another fine example of the vibrancy and presence that the Buds Pro can deliver. In contrast, Purple Rain allowed us to put our finger, or rather our ear, on a lack of treble that did not fully restore the vocal energy of the Kid from Minneapolis. Same feeling of lack while listening Barn on ZZ Top’s RAW album where Dusty Hill’s big bass solo could be more powerful.
Also missing is support for the aptX and LDAC audio codecs for Bluetooth streaming which are supposed to offer better audio rendering with high definition sources such as those offered by streaming services like Amazon Music, Qobuz or Tidal. Nothing really penalizing though. The versatility of these headphones allows you to enjoy all musical styles in very good conditions.
The fit quality test helps optimize the performance of the Pixel Buds Pro. © Marc Zaffagni
To get into the comparison game, let’s say the Buds Pro don’t offer as high an audio quality as the WF-1000XM4, Momentum True Wireless 3 or Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay EX, but they’re not. very distant and are in any case superior to the AirPods Pro. Last precision for the most picky users, a five-band equalizer will be available this fall via a software update.
Google also plans to introduce a “Spatial Audio” 3D surround mode for movies and series that should work with some recent Pixel smartphones. We will probably know more about this when the new Pixel 7 is presented this fall.
On the left, the case of the Pixel Buds Pro is a little larger than that of the Pixel Buds 2. © Marc Zaffagni
Autonomy: one of the best on the board
The Pixel Buds Pro have very good battery life. Google advertises seven hours at moderate volume levels with noise reduction and 11 hours without. This is what we got during our test. This places these headphones among the most enduring in their category, with Sony’s WF-1000XM4 still holding the prize in this area. With the two additional recharges offered by the case, the total autonomy of the Pixel Buds Pro is 20 hours with RBA and 31 hours without. What to see coming for long journeys.
In terms of functionality, we find the full touch interface of the Pixel Buds, with in particular the adjustment of the volume by a horizontal sliding gesture which is, from our point of view, the most intuitive among the existing solutions. The touch controls are responsive, complemented by wearing detection that mutes music when an earbud is removed and resumes when it’s back in place.
Pixel Buds Pro have a quick pairing function with Android devices. © Marc Zaffagni
The Buds Pro are Bluetooth 5.0 compatible. No particular concern to report both from the point of view of the range and the robustness of the signal. The multipoint connection allows automatic switching between two devices, whether they are Android, iOS, macOS or Windows terminals. We tried it with a Pixel 6 Pro and a Windows 11 desktop computer and everything works as advertised, allowing you to switch between them according to use and need. The latency level was correct on a smartphone with the usual applications (like YouTube and Netflix which apply latency compensation), no problem with image/sound desynchronization in video. On the other hand, on PC where there is no latency compensation, there was indeed a noticeable lag. Same in video games.
Hands-free access to the Google Assistant is also included with passive listening which allows it to be activated at any time with a “Hey Google” to adjust the volume, change songs, reply to an SMS. or launch the real-time translation service.
At €219, the Pixel Buds Pro face the Sony WF-1000XM4, AirPods Pro, Momentum True Wireless 3 or the Oppo Enco X2.
Sony and Sennheiser are superior in terms of audio quality, but the difference is not huge. The Buds Pro are close in RBA and offer the best battery life on the board, just behind the WF-1000XM4. The Enco X 2 shine on audio quality and comfort, but they are left behind by the Google earphones when it comes to battery life and noise reduction.
We can say that Google has successfully entered the seraglio of high-end noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones. The Pixel Buds Pro are comfortable, durable, have very good sound quality and an RBA worthy of the best. Android users looking for the maximum integration of Google services will find the most complete headphones here.
Images: Marc Zaffagni