WhenWith the new real wireless Pixel Buds 2 ($ 179) last October, they appeared to be a major upgrade over the original models. The , who debuted in 2017, had a line between them and achieved extremely mixed reviews thanks to their curvy Mentos-like design and mediocre sounds. However, at the launch event for the new buds in 2019, the prototype models didn’t work, so we wondered how they sounded and performed.
- Improved fit with stabilizing fin
- Hands-free function and translation function
- Very good sound for real wireless
- Outstanding call quality
- Nice charging case with wireless and USB-C charging
- IPX4 sweatproof (splashproof)
I do not like it
- No active noise cancellation or transparency
- The battery life is not particularly long at 5 hours
- Not quite as comfortable as some rivals
- Additional functions do not work with iOS devices
A few months later, I got my hands on a pair and can solve the puzzle: they sound pretty good, perform well, and are worthy competitors in the premium arena for real wireless earphones, especially for Android users. (They are officially available in stores on Monday – white, black, mint, and orange will arrive later. Prices for the UK and Australia are not yet available, but $ 179 is converted to around GBP 145 or AU $ 275.)
Yes, the wearable Mentos look has returned, but I like the way the stabilizing fin – Google calls it an “arch” – has been integrated into the design. With a little clockwise rotation, the buds (5.3 grams or 0.19 ounces each) rotate securely in place and barely stick out of my ears. While the original Pixel Buds had an open design like the standardThese have a noise-isolating design, which means the earplugs get stuck in your ears and seal them outwards. (It is important to get a tight seal to maximize sound quality.)
You get decent passive noise reduction, but they don’thow , , and an increasing number of real wireless earbuds. Some of Pixel Buds’ closest competitors would be them ($ 150) and the ($ 180). I found these two models a little more comfortable with longer listening sessions and how you ultimately feel about the fit depends on the shape of your ear. But the new Pixel Buds should go well with most ears.
Aside from their improved design and fit over the original Pixel Buds, a few things stand out. First, the wireless 56.1-gram charging case (with USB-C charging port) is really nice. It is compact, lies firmly in the hand and has a smooth, matt finish. I liked it better than the AirPods case and it feels higher quality than the Galaxy Buds Plus case. In addition, the buds are easy to get in and out of and adhere magnetically to their charging contacts.
These are also the first “Hotword-enabled” earphones from Google Assistant. If you have an Android device running Android 6.0 or better, you can simply say “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google” and Google Assistant is ready to respond to your voice commands. The AirPods andalways on hands-free Siri and have the same function for Alexa.
WithHands-free access to virtual assistants will result in real wireless earbuds later this year, but this is pretty unusual at the moment. It worked pretty well with that I used this review and Google Assistant responded quickly to my voice commands. (You can also access the wizard by tapping and holding the right or left earbuds.)
After debuting in the original Pixel Buds, the Google Translate feature returns with the Pixel Buds 2. This is also a pure Android function. They are simply instructing Google Assistant to help you speak the language you want. More than 40 languages are supported. You tap and hold one of the earbuds and start speaking in the language listed under the headset icon. Your phone then translates and reads aloud what you said in your chosen language. Just before speaking the person you’re talking to, tap the correct microphone in Google Translate. The answer will be translated into your language and rendered on the Pixel Buds. It works surprisingly well, especially in quieter environments, although the person you’re talking to needs to hear your translated language through your phone’s speakers, whose volume is limited.
Although I thought that the sound quality of the Pixel Buds 2 was quite good – more on that in a minute – they worked very well as a headset for making calls. I’m not currently in New York, where I usually test call quality, but I made some calls and played New York City street noise (via YouTube) in the background while I was talking. I put the volume up quite a bit on a row of small speakers and the callers were impressed by how little noise they heard around me, although some were leaked when I spoke. Google says that “two beam-shaping microphones focus on your voice while speech accelerometers record jaw movements to know when you’re speaking.” The noise reduction is very effective. The Pixel Buds 2 are right there with the best earphones for making calls.
There is an app for non-pixel Android devices – it is integrated into the system with pixel phones – but no app for iOS devices, which is a shame. You can still use them with iPhones and Macs like standard Bluetooth headphones, but lose additional features like the ever-active Google Assistant.
As I said, there is no noise cancellation. Instead, there is an adaptive sound mode that automatically adjusts the volume to the environment in which you are. I haven’t seen any transparency mode, but the earphones are a bit ventilated so you don’t feel too congested and can hear your voice in the bud when you’re on the phone (Google calls it “spatial ventilation to reduce in-ear pressure and spatial Perception”). However, it is not a fully functional background noise function. I would call it Sidetone Lite. Note that a little noise will come out of the buds when you really crank your music. Therefore, you probably don’t want to play them at high volume in a quiet room with people sitting nearby.
Two IR proximity sensors detect when the buds are in your ears and automatically pause your music when you pull one out of your ear and continue when you put it back in. You can also use one bud independently of the other (if you want to go the single bud route for calls). It’s also worth noting that I paired the buds with multiple devices, but I had to manually select the previous device from the Bluetooth menu if I wanted to go back there. According to Google, 2 pairings with up to six devices are stored in Pixel Buds. As with the AirPods, there is a pairing button on the housing.
Like the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Plus, they have IPX4 waterproofness, which means they are splash-proof and sweat-resistant. I ran with them without any problems and found that the touch controls were responsive and worked very well. With a swipe function you can control the volume yourself via the buds.
Except for one or two minor Bluetooth interferences, my wireless connection stayed absolutely stable and I could be quite far from my phone (more than the usual 10 meters) before I lost the connection. The buds are using Bluetooth 5.0, and I haven’t noticed any audio lag when watching videos from streaming services like YouTube and Netflix.
The battery life is similar to that of the AirPods and AirPods Pro – 5 hours plus another 19 hours from the case (a 10-minute charge in the case gives two hours of battery life, according to Google). The Galaxy Buds Plus can deliver up to 11 hours at moderate volume. However, it is unclear what impact the constantly active Google Assistant has on battery life.
These have “tailor-made” dynamic 12 mm drivers and, as I said, sound very good for real wireless, with clearly defined basses and good clarity. You are just right with the Galaxy Buds Plus and the Jabra Elite 75t with roughly the same bass power or (it may be a little less bulky depending on the seal you get from the included earbuds, available in three sizes). The AirPods Pro sound a little more open, but the Pixel Buds 2 are a bit more detailed. I saw no way to adjust the bass and treble levels in the settings on the Pixel 4 or in the Android app.
For the sound, these do not rise to the level of the best-sounding real wireless earphones, to which they also belongand . However, both are more expensive, especially the $ 300 Sennheiser, which delivers a richer, more sophisticated sound with a larger sound stage. For example, if you listen to Red Hearse’s self-titled track with the Sennheiser, the bass goes deeper and the highs sparkle a little more. The sound of Momentum True Wireless 2 just feels bigger and more haunting.
Good or bad when it comes to sound, sometimes it is helpful to compare headphones with the top models to hear what you are missing. But if you only used the Pixel Buds 2 without hearing anything else, most people would be very happy with the sound.
In the end, Google finally has a line of wireless earbuds that are worthy competitors. They’re a little more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, which is likely to offer better value – they occasionally get a $ 10 or $ 20 discount – but the Pixel Buds 2 is a solid all-round package with some special features Features and excellent features call quality.