Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Now this is better

The Pixel Buds Pro are Google's first high-performance ANC earbuds with stellar Google Assistant integration

The Google Pixel Buds Pro noise-cancelling wireless earbuds unboxed
(Image: © Alex Bracetti/Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Despite some curious design decisions, the Pixel Buds Pro are respectable noise-canceling earbuds with great sound and deep Google Assistant integration.

Pros

  • +

    Powerful noise cancellation

  • +

    Full, dynamic sound

  • +

    Reliable controls

  • +

    Greater ANC playtime than AirPods Pro

  • +

    Superb Google Assistant integration

Cons

  • -

    Fit feels loose

  • -

    No USB-C charging cable supplied

  • -

    Price seems high compared to more feature-laden rivals

  • -

    No third-party digital assistant support

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Google Pixel Buds Pro: Specifications

Price: $199 / £179 / AU$299 

Colors: Charcoal, coral, fog (gray), and lemongrass

Battery life (rated): 7 hours (ANC on), 11 hours (ANC off), 20 hours (charging case with ANC on), 31 hours (charging case with ANC off)

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 (codecs: AAC and SBC)

Water resistance: Yes (IPX4 rated)

Size: 0.88 x 0.87 x 0.93 inches (per bud); 0.98 x 1.97 x 2.49 inches (charging case)

Weight: 0.22 ounces (per bud); 2.2 ounces (charging case)

Google has released several versions of the Pixel Buds over the years. While the original was a failed attempt at smart wireless earphones, the follow-up Pixel Buds 2 achieved success as a true wireless model, and the affordable Pixel Buds A-Series was recognized by many as a great pair of wireless in-ears under $100 to beat the Apple AirPods. Now, the Android giant aims to conquer the noise-cancelling earbuds market with the all-new Pixel Buds Pro.

For this fourth-generation model, Google added active noise cancellation (ANC), Bluetooth multipoint, longer battery life, stronger wind resistance, and new sound features including Volume EQ and Spatial Audio. The company has also made some noteworthy decisions in key areas that affect comfort, charging, and price. 

Want to know how these flagship buds perform? Our full Google Pixel Buds Pro review breaks it all down. For more, check out our Pixel Buds Pro vs Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro (opens in new tab) face-off. 

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Price and availability

You can purchase the Google Pixel Buds Pro for $199 / £179 / AU$299 at major online retailers, including Amazon (opens in new tab), Best Buy (opens in new tab) and B&H (opens in new tab), or via Google Store (opens in new tab). It is available in four colors: charcoal, coral, fog (gray), and lemongrass. Inside the box are a wireless charging case, three sets of different sized tips, user guide, and a safety guide.

These buds share the same MSRP as top sellers like the Beats Fit Pro and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, two models with premium noise-cancelling performance. Category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279) are more expensive, but mid-tier gems like the Sennheiser CX Plus ($128) offer more functionality for considerably less.

For all of the latest wireless earbuds sales, bookmark our best headphones deals page.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Design and comfort

  • Clean, minimalist appearance
  • Semi-water resistant charging case with cool design
  • Loose fit won't work for all

These buds have the same oval, low-profile design as the Pixel Buds 2, but with a few noticeable modifications. There are mic openings on the front, the color options are more vibrant, and Google got rid of the wing attachments bundled with previous models, which was a mistake (more on that later). IP certification remains untouched (IPX4) for sweat and water resistance. The build quality is also sturdy, consisting mostly of hard plastic that feels durable enough to protect the earbuds from heavy knocks.

The Google Pixel Buds Pro wireless earbuds resting on an Etch-a-Sketch

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The popular egg-shaped charging case returns, and the cool design is something that several other earbud rivals have copied. It’s slim, small, lightweight (2.2 ounces), and has strong magnets to keep the lid tightly closed. Another unique feature of this case is that it's semi-water resistant and IPX2-rated. My only complaint is the case surface scuffs easily; my review unit came with a small dirt mark on the front that I was unable to remove. 

The Google Pixel Buds Pro charging case being held in hand

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Comfort was pleasant for the most part. Google has added sensors that measure the pressure in your ear canal when activating ANC mode to help improve long term comfort. My ears felt no discomfort when using the buds periodically for short burst throughout the day, but there was some slight pinching around the ear concha when listening to music for lengthy stretches.

Our reviewer testing comfort and fit on the Google Pixel Buds Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Google could have done a better job with fit, though. Proprietary Silent Seal technology is employed to maximize ANC and reduce leakage by having the buds optimize performance to your ear shape, and this appeared to work well in terms of range of audio output and noise cancellation during my testing. 

The real problem was that the tips didn’t maintain a tight seal in my ear for longer than 30 minutes, and needed readjusting from time to time. There are no wings to help secure the fit. Keeping the wings would have fixed this problem. 

The Pixel Buds Pro come with an Eartip Seal Check, but the results are 50/50.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Controls and digital assistant

  • The best true wireless Google Assistant experience
  • Intuitive touch and motion detection
  • No third-party digital assistant support

We reckon that you'll be buying the Pixel Buds Pro mostly for their Google Assistant integration and experience, which no other wireless earbuds can match. Assistant wake words (“Hey Google” and “OK Google”) will immediately fire up the AI bot. Google’s software executes commands super fast, and the speech recognition is fantastic thanks to the three-mic array that precisely registers every syllable I spoke in my long-winded inquiries.

Our reviewer testing the Google Pixel Buds Pro's touch controls

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Google Translate was just as reliable — being able to translate over 40 languages in real time is awesome, and the Pixel Buds Pro makes using this remarkable feature effortless. You can use the feature by either choosing Conversation Mode or opening the Translate app. Notifications is the other big Google feature that updates users on calendar events, traffic updates, flight changes, and incoming emails and messages.

The Pixel Buds Pro also have responsive wear detection (auto-pause/play), and touch controls that can be enabled through single/multi-tap, swipe, and long-hold gestures.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Sound quality

  • Balanced sound overall
  • Volume EQ works well at balancing frequencies at lower volumes
  • No aptX support

Google isn’t a brand I immediately think of when it comes to the best sound, but the Pixel Buds Pro show off the company's talent with a better audio than I've heard before. An 11mm (around 0.43-inches) dynamic speaker driver is fitted to each earbud and — combined with a custom six-core audio processor — gives these buds rich sound across a broad range of musical styles. 

They have a usefully wide frequency range, and listening with ANC enabled doesn’t affect quality or the level of enjoyment. Tracks like Hall & Oates "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)" demonstrated superb layering. The synths and mechanical drum sample at the start blended well, and the drums had some nice kick. More compelling were the soulful harmonies sprinkled throughout the hook and song's conclusion. These came through clearly and sounded prominent over the thumping bassline, showcasing the Pixel Buds Pro’s ability to balance lows and mids.

The Google Pixel Buds Pro playing Hall & Oates "I Can't Go For That (No Can't Do)" during our testing

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The low-end on these buds was surprisingly good. Google's sound profile handled the distorted drums and grumbling bassline on Tame Impala’s “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” much better than I thought they would, creating impactful reverb that hit the right spot. 

Highs were also adequately represented. Instrumentals like Herbie Mann’s “Yardbird Suite” delivered terrific instrumental separation. The high-pitched xylophone notes were clear and striking, while the cymbals and double bass remained distinguishable in the background.

Enabling the new Volume EQ feature on the Google Pixel Buds Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Volume EQ is designed to boost bass and treble frequencies when listening at lower volumes, and is particularly impressive. Not every ear will catch the differences in performance at lower volumes, but those with detailed listening will pick up on the emphasized low end, especially on contemporary tracks. 

All audio testing was done on Apple Music and Spotify across several devices that included a Google Pixel 6 ProSamsung Galaxy Note 20 UltraiPhone 12, and MacBook Pro. Streaming over Bluetooth 5.0 via AAC and SBC was solid, granted I would have preferred codecs support for aptX HD or LDAC, but the overall audio quality feels pretty decent all the same. 

According to Google, a five-band EQ and spatial audio (for compatible Pixel devices) will be introduced later this year.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Active noise cancellation

  • Effective noise cancellation
  • Useful wind noise protection
  • Clear-sounding Transparency mode

Google’s noise cancellation removes most low and mid frequencies external sounds with ease. I couldn’t hear any chatter from family members several feet away, nor the loud sounds from the TV or tumble drier noises coming from the laundry room. Aircraft that flew over the house went unnoticed. The mesh covers helped to limit the amount of wind noise being picked up by the mics, and did a good job of protecting my hearing from the potentially harmful sounds.

The Pixel Buds Pro noise-cancelling setting could also handle a few high frequencies (e.g., bird chirps, iPhone ringer), but not all. High-pitched sounds like my toddler’s cries were audible, along with sirens and whistles. I felt the AirPods Pro performed slightly better and kept these distractions from having a presence on my listening soundscape.

Our reviewer testing the Google Pixel Buds Pro's active noise cancellation in his child's playroom

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Transparency Mode increased my awareness during daily strolls. I heard cars coming up the block and other incidental noises that required attention when crossing streets and bridges. The feature was most useful during office hours, where I could hear my son waking up from his naps via monitor and communicate clearly with my wife from across the room.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Special features and app

  • Useful extra features…
  • Ease of use could be better

You'll need to download the Pixel Buds app to access the extra features. This gives access to a handful of perks, including the ANC/Transparency mode, battery level indicators, control customization, Ear Tip Seal Check, firmware updates, Volume EQ, and other wireless functions (more on this later). Besides that, there’s a shortcut to the Google Assistant settings and the option to add a home screen widget for the app.

Accessing the Google Pixel Buds Pro's settings and extra features

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

These aren’t the most, nor the least, feature-laden wireless earbuds out there, but at least Google places some of the more popular features right at your fingertips. Add Google Assistant, Translate or Find Your Earbuds to the list as well.

One hiccup during my testing was when the Pixel Buds app disappeared from my apps list after the download was complete. Unable to find it, I had to find other ways to access these features, which really could be inconvenient for casual mobile users. The homescreen widget came in clutch here, though if you go into your Android phone’s Bluetooth settings and select the product, everything shows up.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Battery life and charging case

  • Practical playback times
  • What’s that about no USB-C cable for charging?
  • Quick charging times similar to AirPods Pro

Google has increased battery life on the Pixel Buds Pro, offering up to 7 hours with ANC on and 11 hours with ANC off. Realistically, these playtimes drop by 1 to 1.5 hours when factoring in listening at high volumes, and using Google features. I’m not complaining since the buds provided a reasonable 3 days of noise-cancelling use (2 hours daily) before needing a recharge. A 5-minute quick charge netted me 1 hour of listening time; 15 minutes gets you up to 3 hours.

The Google Pixel Buds Pro charging case on a wireless charging pad

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

The wireless charging case holds between 20 to 31 hours, depending how you use the buds; ANC/Transparency sucks up a lot of juice, for example.

Not including a USB-C cable for charging feels incredibly cheap, Google.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Call quality and connectivity

  • Acceptable for voice and video calls
  • Bluetooth multipoint and Google Fast Pair

The Pixel Buds Pro doesn’t make our list of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls, but it’s decent for when you need to make calls in a pinch. There were some complaints about muffling and low volume, but people could still make out my words. What intrigued me most was how well the noise cancellation and wind resistance worked in call mode. The mics blocked out most external sounds and the mesh covers kept whisking effects to a minimum. 

Using the Google Pixel Buds Pro as a calling headset

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Google has always been more platform neutral than Apple, and the Pixel Buds Pro show it. Not only do you get instant connectivity with Android devices via one-tap Google Fast Pair, but the pairing process for iOS/macOS devices is just as seamless. Holding onto the pairing button on the back of the case will have the buds instantly pop up in your Bluetooth settings.

One-tap Google Fast Pair being executed on the Google Pixel Buds Pro

(Image credit: Alex Bracetti/Future)

Multipoint technology is supported, and is enabled in the settings. It operates flawlessly during my testing. While connected to my Pixel 6 Pro mobile and MacBook Pro laptop at the same time, I was able to switch between music platforms (e.g., Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music) on both devices, and the buds didn’t scramble connections or misinterpret functions. 

Bluetooth wireless range is lengthy, extending up to 70 feet (21 meters) in open spaces.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Verdict

The Google Pixel Buds Pro are a great pair of noise-cancelling earbuds built for Android users with multiple devices and those looking for the very best Google Assistant experience. They have powerful ANC and sound, and their versatile functionality makes them a very exciting earbud option indeed. At the same time, though, you’ll have to deal with the potential of a loose and unsecure fit, and no third-party digital assistant support. There are other earbuds out there that deliver greater functionality for a similar price, but none are able to offer the full Google experience quite like the Pixel Buds Pro.

Next: find out how these flagship buds compare to their closest rival in our Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro face-off. 

A lifestyle journalist with an affinity for consumer products, Alex has over a decade of experience and has worked with popular publications such as Complex, Thrillist, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, AskMen, and Hoop Magazine. He currently focuses on audio, reviewing the most coveted headphones in the market for both Tom’s Guide and Laptop Magazine.