Home / Technology / Pixel Buds A-Series Review: Excellent Headphone Value for Android Users

Pixel Buds A-Series Review: Excellent Headphone Value for Android Users



Google Pixel Buds A-Series are quite unusual, because they are new, but not exactly an upgrade. They look and sound very much like last year Pixel Buds 2, which debuted at $ 179, but is now sells for less. However, instead of adding new features – such as active noise reduction – they have actually lost a few. Why? They only cost $ 99: “A”

; stands for affordable price. The new lower price is the real story here, and what makes these a good wireless value, especially for Android users. They are available for Pre-order now and send June 17th.

Which

  • lower price
  • Almost the same sympathetic design and sound as the Pixel Buds 2, but weighs a little less
  • Hands-free Google Assistant
  • Very good sound for the price
  • Excellent call quality
  • Compact charging bag
  • IPX4 sweat resistant (splashproof)

Do not like

  • No volume up / down sweep controls
  • No real feature upgrades to previous model
  • Average battery life

Like I said, not much has changed. They have the same sympathetic design as Pixel Buds 2, with integrated sports fin and relatively discreet appearance. They do not protrude from your ears as much as many buds, and they not only fit my ears, but I thought they were comfortable to wear.

What is different?

However, there are some small differences. Pixel Buds 2 were already relatively light, but these are even a little lighter – Google says that Pixel Buds A is “about 20% lighter over the earplugs and case” compared to Pixel Buds 2. Along with Clear White, comes in a new Dark Olive color and has slightly different materials and is not two-tone. The inside of the buds have a glossy, unlike matte, finish, and the color matches the color of the outside of the buds. In addition, the inside of the case also has a glossy surface and the color matches the color of the buds.

On the surface, Pixel Buds A looks very much like Pixel Buds 2.

David Carnoy / CNET

The other thing you will notice is that the nozzle you attach the earplug to now is made of plastic instead of metal, which is probably more durable. Pixel Buds A also has two charging pins as opposed to three, and they lack a sensor. I was worried that they did not have an ear detection function (this is the function where your music stops when you pull the earplugs out and continues when you insert the buttons again), but it turns out that Google engineers were able to optimize ear detection in Buds A with an IR sensor, according to a spokesperson. So no case there.

The case is the same – it is nice and compact – but unlike Pixel Buds 2, the A-series does not have wireless charging, only USB-C charging. These also lack swipe for volume control function – you can not slide your finger over the knob to adjust the volume. You must now use the volume controls on the device you are streaming from or access Google Assistant by saying “Hello. Google,” then ask it to increase or decrease the volume. For Android users, Google Assistant is always on, listening for voice commands like Siri does with AirPods, so you do not have to press a button to access it (unless you turn off the feature).

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But there are subtle differences, with Pixel Buds 2 (on the left) having a metal nozzle, an extra sensor and three charging pins instead of two.

David Carnoy / CNET

Finally, the A-Series does not have the Attention Alerts feature that detects certain ambient sounds, such as a crying baby, dog bark or an alarm siren, and alerts you while you are wearing the knobs. I have a feeling that not many people bothered with the experimental function, but many liked the swipe to control the volume function – it is one of Pixel Buds’ signature functions. Personally, I can live without it for the price reduction.

Similar performance

Like Pixel Buds 2, Pixel Buds A is equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, but they are powered by a new chipset. When Pixel Buds 2 first came out, there were widespread complaints that the wireless connection was not solid – people dropped out a bit – and while subsequent firmware upgrades improved performance, it appears that Google has addressed any A-Series connectivity issues. I had almost no dropouts during the test period, but like all other real wireless earplugs, these are not completely fallible.

As far as I can tell, they sound like Pixel Buds 2 – or very close to them anyway. For optimal sound, you need a tight seal, but you should be able to get one with one of the three included earplugs. These are comfortable earplugs, and they hold well in your ears and can be used for sports activities, including running. They have an IPX4 water resistance, which means they are splashproof, the same as AirPods Pro.

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Like Pixel Buds 2, the buds do not protrude from your ears as much as some other buds do.

David Carnoy / CNET

They sound pretty good in general, with good bass that is not loose or inflated and has decent clarity with a little sparkle in the treble. They do not have the more refined, richer and more open sound of earplugs at the higher end as Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 or Sony’s WF-1000X series, but their sound compares well with the sound of other earplugs at his price. There is a bass boost mode along with an adaptive sound mode that increases and decreases the volume according to the amount of ambient noise around you, but the EQ options in the app are limited.

They support streaming using the AAC codec, which both Apple and Android devices use for audio streaming, but not AptX streaming.

They were supposed to work well for a variety of music genres, but I noticed that they were a bit challenged when I hit them with some complicated rock tracks where many instruments played. Again, they lacked the more refined and articulated properties of high-end knobs, but most should be quite happy with the sound.

I thought these were very good for calling. To test the call quality, I hit the streets of New York and called while the traffic was passing. The knobs did a very good job of reducing a lot of background noise during calls, and callers said they could hear my voice clearly. To make a call, they measured themselves well against AirPods Pro, so they seem great in that department.

Battery life remains a bit overwhelming for non-noise-canceling earplugs. They are rated at five hours at moderate volume levels, and you can get an extra 19 hours from the charging bag.

Note that there is no multi-point Bluetooth pairing that allows you to pair the buttons with two devices at the same time – such as a computer and a smartphone – so you can seamlessly switch between the two when a call comes. It’s a bit of a rare but useful headphone feature. However, you can connect these to multiple devices, not just two at a time.

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Buds have splashproof with an IPX4 waterproof, just like the AirPods Pro.

David Carnoy / CNET

Pixel Buds A: Concluding Thoughts

Like I said, this is a bit of an unusual product because it’s the next generation, but not really an upgrade for owners of the previous model. But I think that’s a smart move from Google. When trying to expand the audience for its genuine wireless earbuds, this price is below $ 100 where it needs to play.

You have gotten Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Plus sells for around $ 100 these days, and although they’ve been out for a while, they remain a good value at that price with very good sound (they have a little more bass than Pixel Buds) and excellent battery life. The Anchor Liberty Air 2 Pro and Amazon Echo Buds is priced around $ 130. Both of these models have active noise reduction and sell occasionally for $ 100, so they are also direct competitors that deliver comparable sound (I like the Anker Liberty 2 Pro sound a little better). However, none of these models have a hands-free Google Assistant.

So while I do not know if Pixel Buds A is necessarily any better than the competition, considering their strong design and solid performance, they are a very good value at $ 99 and a top choice for Android users. True, they work with Apple devices, but they lack certain features like hands-free Google Assistant or an iOS companion to upgrade the firmware. So Apple users should take a passport unless they also have an Android device.


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