TL;DR

The Pixel Buds Pro are a solid pair of active noise cancelling (ANC) true wireless earbuds. They have good sound quality and a comfortable and compact design, but are slightly let down by their ANC performance. At S$299, they’re a much better deal than the original Pixel Buds were at S$269. However, there are better offerings from competitors such as Jabra for cheaper.

Google Pixel Buds Pro Specifications

  • Bluetooth 5.0, SBC/AAC codec
  • 11mm drivers
  • Active Noise Cancelling, Transparency Mode
  • IPX4 water resistance (case is IPX2)
  • USB-C wired charging, Qi wireless charging
  • 7hr battery life, 20hr including case with ANC on (11hrs, 31hrs respectively for ANC off)
  • 5-min charge of buds in case gives 1hr listening time with ANC on
  • Features: multipoint, in ear detection, customisable touch-and-hold functionality,
  • Only Charcoal colour is available in SG

Design & Fit

The Pixel Buds Pro come in a compact, matte white polycarbonate case that’s barely larger than that of the cheaper Pixel Buds A-Series, and just 10g heavier. I loved the build of the original Pixel Buds case, and the design here is unchanged. It feels solid, the hinge is satisfying to open and close, and — most importantly — it slips into pockets without issue. As an added bonus, it’s IPX2 rated against splashes.

The buds themselves are chunkier than the cheaper Pixel Buds A-Series, no doubt due to the ANC tech that’s inside. That’s not an issue though, as they’re still relatively light at 6.1g each.

I found the buds to be comfortable even over long sessions. This is partly due to the fact that there aren’t any wingtips — these were present on the original Pixel Buds and the Pixel Buds A-Series, and I found them to be very uncomfortable. Despite the lack of wingtips, the Pixel Buds Pro fit snuggly in my ears — well my right ear anyway. I couldn’t get it to fit as snug in my left ear no matter which size of eartip I tried (there are three sizes that come with the earbuds). I wore the buds during a run, and while the right bud stayed firmly in my ear the whole time, the left one came loose and I had to adjust it frequently. Your mileage may vary.

Even with a snug fit, I found the passive noise isolation to be not great. Which brings me to the ANC.

ANC & Transparency Mode

ANC on the Pixel Buds Pro leaves more to be desired. It does a decent job at blocking out the low frequencies, but hardly do anything to higher-frequency noises. In fact, there are times when I found having ANC off preferrable to having it on, since having it on draws your attention to high-frequency noises, which are far more distracting than the low hum that you get with ANC off.

This was particularly true on my commute on the MRT (Singapore’s tube/metro system). When moving through underground tunnels at higher speeds, the noise from the tunnel gets higher in frequency. The Pixel Buds Pro does hardly anything to block this noise, and you end up with an annoying whine. I did a comparison with the Nokia E3511, and found the Nokia’s ANC to perform better, even at half the price of the Pixel Buds Pro. Oh, and the Pixel Buds Pro’s ANC also does hardly anything to conversations in the office — I can hear individual words clearly when music isn’t playing. The ANC just doesn’t hold up compared to some other offerings I’ve tried, such as the Jabra Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active.

I recognise that this is an uncommon opinion. Other reviewers seem to be praising the quality of the ANC, saying that it practically blocks out all sound. Maybe there’s an issue with my review unit, or my ears. Or maybe I just use my earbuds in environments where high-frequency noises are prevalent. This review from SoundGuys seems to agree with me though, citing a hiss that’s present when ANC is on, indicating that high-frequency sounds are not cancelled well.

If you use your earphones in environments with mostly low-frequency noise, the Pixel Buds Pro’s ANC should be fine enough. But if you’re using it on your regular commute on the MRT going through tunnels, this might be something that you should take note of. It’s not a dealbreaker, just a slight annoyance/disappointment.

On the bright side, transparency mode works great. It sounds natural and I can easily hold a conversation. However, I didn’t use this feature often in practice, as I’d have to tap to pause, then tap-and-hold to turn on transparency mode. When someone walks up to you and starts conversing with you, that series of steps takes a few awkward seconds. It’s simply faster to remove a earbud, which will automatically pause the music and activate transparency mode via the in-ear detection feature.

Sound

Sound on the Pixel Buds Pro is excellent. It sounds natural and well-balanced, with a good amount of bass, mids, and highs. You don’t get the muddy and/or overpowering bass that certain cheaper earbuds get. This is apparent in songs like Taylor Swift’s ’tis the damn season and Billie Eilish’s my future where the bass stays in the background where it should be instead of drowning out the vocals. That’s not to say that bass doesn’t slap though, it still gets my head bobbing on my regular rotation of hip-hop tracks from artists like Saba, Tyler the Creator, and Logic.

Soundstage is pretty decent as well for earbuds, with a good amount of instrument separation and directionality.

Perhaps the only minor complaint that I have is some sibilance present on certain tracks, such as the cymbals on Jon Bellion’s Wutup Snow?. The sibilance is also somewhat noticeable in podcasts, with “s” noises sounding a bit harsh. But overall, it’s not a huge issue.

Miscellaneous

  • Touch controls have everything you need. Swipe to control volume, and a series of taps controls play/pause and skipping through tracks.
  • Customisation is present but somewhat limited. You access Pixel Buds Pro’s settings straight from the Bluetooth settings rather than through a separate app. You can:
    • Access Find My Device to ring your earphones, or view the last known location
    • View touch controls, and customise touch-and-hold for the left and right earbuds independently. For touch-and-hold, you’re limited to choosing between toggling ANC and Talking to Assistant. But you are able to control which of the three modes you want to cycle through (ANC, Off, Transparency) when toggling ANC.
    • Toggle audio switching (switch audio seamlessly between Android devices), and multipoint (connect to multiple devices at the same time). Multipoint doesn’t seem to disable AAC HD audio.
  • You can use one bud while keeping the other in the case
  • No audio latency issues
  • I didn’t test the microphone extensively, but from what I gather they sound good enough but not exceptional
  • I have no reason to doubt their battery life claims. In my two weeks of using the earphones with ANC on for multiple hours every day, I’ve charged the case twice. While 7hrs might not be enough continuous listening for a long flight, 5mins in the case gives an additional hour of listening time.

Pricing & Conclusion

Pros

  • Good sound quality, balanced sound
  • Compact, slim case design
  • Comfortable
  • Good fit, but your mileage may vary
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • ANC performs poorly on high-frequency noise relative to competitors
  • Sound can be a bit sibilant on certain instruments

At S$299, the Pixel Buds Pro are not a bad deal. If you’re looking for a pair of ANC buds with good sound quality, a compact case, and a comfortable design, you can’t really go wrong with them.

However, I’ve reviewed the Jabra Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro, and honestly think that they’re the better deal. You get better battery life (8/9hrs with ANC on, 30+hrs with case vs 7hrs and 20hrs respectively), just as excellent sound quality (without the sibilance), superior ANC, and much richer customisation controls through Jabra’s Sound+ app. And they’re currently cheaper at S$228 and S$258 respectively (you can get even more discounts if you use vouchers on Shopee and Lazada). Not sponsored, just my honest opinion.

With this in mind, the Pixel Buds Pro are a tougher sell. There’s nothing particularly unique about the Pixel Buds Pro. Even things like the Google Assistant and multipoint support, you can get on competitors like the Jabras.

However, if you simply like the Google brand or prefer the design of the Pixel Buds Pro, they’re still not a bad choice.

You can purchase the Pixel Buds Pro from Google’s official store. In Singapore it only comes in one colour – Charcoal.


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