The Pixel Buds Pro are Google's fourth crack at wireless earbuds (and its third pair of true wireless buds). With the exception of 2017's awkward first generation, which had a wire connecting the two buds and a hard-to-use charging case, each pair has been generally good, but never quite on par with what Google's competition was offering.
That's changed. The Pro buds tick all the right boxes: they have good audio quality, competent ANC, and killer battery life, not to mention icing-on-the-cake features like wireless charging, Fast Pair, and Bluetooth multipoint. Google's cracked the code: these are great earbuds.
With great audio, ANC, and a fantastic transparency mode, the Pixel Buds Pro deliver a premium earbud experience in ways Google's past attempts couldn't. If you're an Android user with $200 to spend on earbuds, these are a great pick.
- Battery Life: ANC on: 7 hours, ANC off: 11 hours
- Noise Cancellation: Yes
- Mono Listening: Yes
- Bluetooth : 5.0
- IP rating: IPX4 (buds), IPX2 (case)
- Supported codecs: AAC, SBC
- Dimensions (earbuds): 23.72 X 22.03 X 22.33 mm
- Charging: USB-C, wireless
- Driver size: 11mm
- Price: $200
- Good audio with ample bass
- Competent ANC and a fantastic transparency mode
- Can connect to two audio sources simultaneously
- Great touch controls
- No high-bitrate codec support
- Practically nonexistent EQ settings (at launch)
- Somewhat bulky
Design, hardware, what’s in the box
The Google Pixel Buds Pro look like a bulkier version of the last two pairs of Pixel Buds. Thankfully, the parts that go in your ears aren’t much larger, but the Buds Pro will stick out farther than previous generations. They also don’t have the stabilizing fins past iterations did, which makes me worry one could pop out on a run, never to be found again. That said, it hasn’t been an issue yet; the Pixel Buds Pro stay put in my ears at least as well as other earbuds with similar form factors, like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro. The pre-installed medium ear tips fit me fine, and I've found the Pixel Buds Pro to be quite comfortable.
While 2020’s Pixel Buds and the Pixel Buds A-Series both have what Google calls a “spatial vent” to let in some ambient noise and avoid the plugged-ear sensation closed earbuds can cause, the Pixel Buds Pro don’t — it’d be at odds with their active noise cancelation. Google says that instead, the Buds Pro “actively measure the pressure in your ear canal so the earbuds can relieve it and stay comfortable.” I personally don’t notice the plugged feeling many users find uncomfortable in this type of earbud, and I haven’t noticed the Pixel Buds Pro feeling any more or less comfortable than other buds in this regard. I asked Google for clarification about how this supposed pressure management system works, but it never gave any.
The Pixel Buds Pro come in four colors: Charcoal, a dark gray; Fog, a pleasant gray-blue; Coral, a pinky-orange; and Lemongrass, a lively greenish yellow. Coral matches the Pixel 6’s Kinda Coral colorway, and Lemongrass, of course, goes with the Lemongrass Pixel 7. I’m a little annoyed we didn’t get a version to match the Pixel 7 Pro’s striking Hazel colorway, but I think going with mostly bolder colors was the right call here. These earbuds aren’t exactly low-profile, and trying to hide them with more neutral shades wouldn’t be effective anyway.
The Pixel Buds A-Series (left) are considerably smaller than the Pixel Buds Pro (right).
The Buds Pro’s case is wider and just a hair taller and thicker than the last two versions, and the finish is slightly more matte, but it keeps the same general shape, look, and feel. There’s a USB-C port on the bottom and a single button on the back, used to connect the buds to devices that don’t support Fast Pair. Unfortunately, unlike the A-Series, there are no fun color pops here: every color of Buds Pro comes with the same black-and-white charging case.
Interestingly, all the Pixel Buds Pro come with in their tiny box is the charging case, two additional sets of ear tips in a cute little cardboard tube, and some literature. There’s no USB cable included. I can’t say that bothers me at all; $200 earbuds from Google probably aren’t going to be anybody’s first USB-C device. But if you’re hurting for cables, know you won’t pick up a spare with the Buds Pro.
Sound quality, features, and battery life
As flawed as prior Pixel Buds have been, both 2020’s Pixel Buds and last year’s A-Series offered great audio quality. The Pixel Buds Pro don’t disappoint, either. I’d characterize sound here as natural and spacious, with full but not overwhelming bass.
Comparing the Pixel Buds Pro directly with both the Pixel Buds A-Series and the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, I’m a little surprised to hear how similar they all sound. They’re not exactly the same, of course, but differences are subtle — for example, the kicks at the start of Childish Gambino’s Redbone get a little distorted on the Galaxy Buds with the volume cranked. That doesn’t happen on the Pixel Buds Pro. If that seems hyper-specific, you’re not wrong, but as this class of earbuds matures and converges on similar hardware, it’s also converging on similar audio. But all these earbuds sound great, and it’s hard to complain that the Pixel Buds Pro “only” meet the same standard as similar alternatives.
I like the way the Pixel Buds Pro are tuned out of the box; highs and mids are airy and clear, and bass is ample and bouncy, but nothing sounds conspicuously overstated. If you don't share that opinion, though, you do have the option to tweak the buds' sound to your liking. Months after launch, Google finally added a full five-band equalizer to the Pixel Buds app, meaning you can adjust (in Google's words) low bass, bass, mids, treble, and upper treble independently of one another and across volume levels. Previously, the only option like this available was a Volume EQ toggle that boosted bass when your volume was around 30 percent or lower.
There’s no support for LDAC or Qualcomm’s aptX codecs here; the Buds Pro exclusively use SBC and AAC. Even so, listening across genres on Spotify (in “Very high” quality), I couldn’t pick up on any unusual compression. Crashing cymbals sound smooth, without the telltale warbly quality bad compression can cause, and instrument separation remains good, even in busy compositions. I haven’t had issues with latency, either — though your mileage may vary there, depending on which devices you’re connecting your buds to.
Microphone quality is good, but not outstanding. As I’ve used the Buds Pro for my usual calls, nobody’s complained that I sound distant or that they can’t make me out over background noise, even with my office window open with the sounds of traffic and construction pouring in. Recordings taken in a noisy environment show that other earbuds, like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II, have the edge in filtering unwanted sound out of calls. I was still fully audible through the Pixel Buds Pro, but more background noise made it in, too.
Google says the Pixel Buds Pro use “a custom processor, custom algorithms, and custom speakers” in their noise canceling, as opposed to “off-the-shelf solutions.” That extra effort doesn’t translate to a vastly better or meaningfully different ANC experience from other premium earbuds, but the Pixel Buds Pro cancel noise about as well as other options in this price range. Low, humming sounds like air conditioning or running engines are practically muted, with higher-pitched and irregular noise like you might hear in a coffee shop — clinking silverware or people talking — dampened to a lesser extent. If you were holding out hope Google had a machine-learning ace in the hole to revolutionize ANC as we know it, the Buds Pro won’t meet your expectations. Industry leaders like Bose and Sony have Google beat here. Still, it’s good to see Google was able to manage competent noise cancellation on its first try.
Google’s transparency mode here, on the other hand, is excellent. You’ve got the option to have the Pixel Buds Pro pipe in audio from your surroundings in real time, and it comes through with striking clarity. The volume of this real-world audio is fixed at a level that sounds very natural; at low volumes, the music playing in your buds can easily be overtaken by sound in your environment. For my money, this is a much better way to allow for situational awareness than a physical opening to the outside world, like the Pixel Buds A-Series and Sony LinkBuds have.
Touch controls are mostly the same as in 2020’s Pixel Buds: one tap to play/pause, two taps to skip forward, three to skip back. You can also adjust volume up and down by swiping forward and backward on either bud—an extremely useful feature we sorely missed in the A-Series.
In prior Pixel Buds, pressing and holding on either earbud called up the Google Assistant. That’s still an option here, but you can also set a long-press on either earbud (or both earbuds) to swap between transparency mode and ANC. It’s nice to have the choice, especially because, like previous generations, the Buds Pro listen for Hey Google voice commands. With both robust on-bud controls and hands-free access to the Google Assistant, you rarely need to fiddle with your phone — the Buds Pro can even read your incoming notifications to you.
Pixel Buds Pro charge on both generations of Pixel Stand, but the first generation requires they be placed upside-down.
In another first for Google earbuds, the Pixel Buds Pro come with support for multipoint audio. You can connect them to two audio sources at one time, and the earbuds will switch between them as needed. For example, you can answer a call on your phone while watching a video on your laptop, without having to take your earbuds out or fiddle with any settings. Multipoint audio works with pretty much any modern device that supports Bluetooth; it’s a feature baked into the earbuds, not the devices they connect to. I’ve been using it primarily with my Mac desktop and my Pixel 6. My Mac has a gnarly habit of pausing media playing on my phone when a desktop notification comes in, which isn't an issue with most multipoint audio devices I've used. I don't have the same problem when the buds are paired to my phone and, say, a tablet.
The Buds Pro also support Google’s new Fast Pair-based audio switching feature. Fast Pair support here also comes with its usual benefit of providing a seamless connection experience with Android devices: just pop the Buds Pro's case open near your phone, tap the notification, and you're set. It might sound minor, but I miss Fast Pair in every pair of headphones and earbuds that doesn't have it.
Battery life in prior Pixel Buds has been a pain point, with the A-Series only managing about five hours on a charge, even without any noise cancellation to speak of. Google claims the Pixel Buds Pro can manage seven hours at a stretch with ANC on and a marathon 11 hours with it off. Having used the buds for months, that still feels right to me.
A single charge can see me through a full workday of mixed use, including listening to music, taking calls, and using the ANC without music playing for some home office peace and quiet. The charging case holds about two additional charges, and can be topped up over USB-C or wirelessly. The Pixel Buds Pro are a major improvement from previous generations regarding battery life.
Should you buy them?
The Google Pixel Buds Pro are great earbuds for anybody not using an iPhone.
I liked certain things about Google’s last two pairs of Pixel Buds — the sleek design, the small size, the strong audio quality, and in the case of the A-Series, the price. But each was flawed in ways that made them hard to recommend to most people. Even setting aside the niche open-back-style design and scrimpy battery life, they both suffered from flaky connectivity and a persistent hissing and crackling at low volumes that drove me nuts.
The Pixel Buds Pro don’t have any of those problems. An excellent transparency mode lets you hear the outside world on demand rather than at all times, and significantly beefier batteries mean you should be able to wear them just about all day. Connectivity woes have been ironed out, too. It’s a shame for audiophile types the Buds Pro don’t support high-bitrate codecs like LDAC, but SBC and AAC are perfectly capable of handling Spotify streams and YouTube videos.
It took a few tries, but Google finally got it right. If you’ve got $200 to drop on a pair of wireless earbuds and use an Android phone (the Pixel Buds app isn’t available on iOS), the Pixel Buds Pro are a great choice.
UPDATE: 2022/10/19 11:00 EST BY TAYLOR KERNS
This review has been updated to be accurate as of October 2022.
Q: How do the Pixel Buds Pro compare to the Pixel Buds A-Series?
Both pairs of Pixel Buds currently available offer great audio and always-on Hey Google voice command detection, but compared to the A-Series, the Pixel Buds Pro have ANC, better battery life, Bluetooth multipoint, and wireless charging. The Pixel Buds A-Series cost $99; the Pixel Buds Pro cost $200. Your decision will likely come down to how much you want to spend.
Q: How do the Pixel Buds Pro compare to the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro?
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 Pro sound great and have comparable ANC to the Pixel Buds Pro, but their battery life is shorter, rated at five hours per charge with noise canceling turned on (to the Pixel Buds Pro’s seven hours). The Galaxy Buds 2 Pro support 24-bit audio in supported apps when connected to a Samsung phone or tablet; the Pixel Buds pro don't have a comparable feature. The Pixel Buds Pro do support Bluetooth multipoint and always-on Hey Google detection to talk to the Google Assistant; the Galaxy Buds 2 Pro do not. Samsung's Pro earbuds retail for $230, $30 more expensive than the $200 Pixel Buds Pro.