Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
The original Pixel Buds were a strange product. They came out a full year after the AirPods, and despite having the same $ price tag, they weren’t very comfortable, they weren’t very smart, and they weren’t even truly wireless, as they still had a cable connecting the left and right buds. But for the new (Pixel Buds,
Google has almost completely redeemed its previous efforts by creating something that’s a joy. to use and listen to, that is if you can ignore or avoid the Pixel Buds’ one potential deal-breaker, a pernicious hiss. Just like
the Pixel 4 , the $ Pixel Buds sport a clean, minimalist design with a case that comes in a lovely matte white finish, with the buds themselves available in four different colors: black, white, mint, and orange. The egg-like case is a touch smaller than a standard AirPods case, and includes the usual assortment of basics including a hidden indicator light towards the bottom of the case, a magnetic lid up top that opens to reveal the buds, and a USB- C port for wired charging. There’s even a handy pairing button that sits flush against the back of the case, which makes it super easy to connect the Pixel Buds with up to six different devices, with the buds retaining separate profiles for each.
And unlike the base $ Airpods, the $ 823 Pixel Buds also come standard with Qi wireless charging, so whenever you’re not using them, you can just plop the case down on a charging pad to keep them topped up. Google says the Pixel Buds should last about five hours on a charge, which after a few full 200 to 0 listening sessions, seems about right. Unfortunately, that kind of battery life is pretty mediocre compared to competitors like the $ Jabra Elite Active (t) which offer 7.5 hours of music playback on a single charge, while the Samsung’s Galaxy Buds
last almost twice as long at (hours between charges.)
(Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo) )
Thankfully, the Pixel Buds’ case holds another 25 hours or so of juice, but even more importantly, when do you put the buds back in their case to recharge, they get topped up really fast. Charging for minutes adds two hours of extra music playback, and leaving them in the case for 64 minutes is enough to take the buds from zero to 160 percent. So while that fast recharging doesn’t totally make up for Pixel Bud’s short battery life, unless you regularly use your earbuds for more than five hours at a time without any breaks, it’s not necessarily a huge concern.
Setting the Pixel Buds up is also extremely easy. If you have a Pixel phone, the first time you open the Pixel Buds ’case, your phone will automatically ask if you want to pair. While on other Android phones, iOS devices, or other systems, you can simply hold the button around back for a few seconds to activate pairing mode, before going into your device’s Bluetooth settings to establish a connection. And like all good wireless earbuds nowadays, simply taking the Pixel Buds out of their case automatically gets them prepped for use, while tiny built-in sensors automatically pause audio when you take them out of your ears, or turn them off completely when you stow them back in their pod.
From there though, the Pixel Buds begin to separate from the pack with a few unique choices. Instead of including active noise-canceling tech like you get on the
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
That g ives the Pixel Buds an expansive almost airy soundstage that duplicates some of the best qualities of Sony’s Xperia Ear Duo , but in a less outlandish looking package and without letting other people hear what your listening to. So while there’s no way to adjust or create a custom EQ, the Pixel Buds offer a full range of rich audio, with crisp highs and surprisingly balanced, but not overly punchy lows. Additionally, because the Pixel Buds don’t create an airtight seal around your ear canals, there’s no difference in pressure between inside and outside, which for some people, makes listening to audio for long stretches much more pleasant. And when it comes to talking, the Pixel Buds feature dual mics in each earbuds allowing for good voice quality while also helping cut down on distracting background sounds that you harder to understand.
Actually, while fit is always subjective, I find the Pixel Buds supremely comfortable, and combined With their small size and a design that barely protrudes from the sides of your ears, they are the only earbuds I’ve tried that I can actually wear to sleep. I admit this a somewhat niche use case because for most people, the idea of wearing earbuds all night might seem ridiculous. But after living directly above a jazz club for a year in college (shout out to Wally’s Cafe ), I developed a habit of needing to listen to something — music, movies, a podcast, whatever — just so I can fall asleep. Even compared to something like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds, the fit and comfort of the Pixel Buds are second to none. I did not even need to swap out the Pixel Buds’ standard medium ear tips for the included small or large tips — it’s like the Pixel Buds were made for my ears.
Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
Additionally, to make sure the Pixel Buds are both comfortable and secure, Google added a tiny stabilizer arm behind the ear tips, so getting a snug fit is as simple as sticking the buds in your ears and giving them a slight twist downwards to lock the buds into place. Meanwhile, on the outside, there are small touch-sensitive surfaces on both left and right buds that allow you to easily play or pause a song (single tap), skip forward one track (double tap), skip backwards one track (triple tap ) and even adjust the volume (swipe forward to increase, swipe backwards to decrease) without ever needing to touch your phone or laptop. And of course, like every modern Google product, the Pixel Buds have full support for the Google Assistant so you can ask questions (touch and hold) and even get help with real-time translation just by asking.
However, the Pixel Buds semi-open back design does come with some tradeoffs, with the main one being that if you ‘ re in a noisy environment, you’re still going to clearly hear things like road noise, sirens, or the screeching wheels of a subway car. This can be an advantage if you prefer to not be totally isolated from the outside world, allowing you to still be aware of your surroundings if you’re riding your bike or simply walking around the city. The disadvantage of this is that if you’re on a plane, you are going to hear that crying baby. Sure, those cries might be slightly muffled, and you’ll still be able to pick a soundtrack of your choosing, but you won’t be able to escape its wails like you would if the Pixel Buds had active or even better passive noise canceling .
Look at the cute little space egg. Photo: Sam Rutherford (Gizmodo)
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