WhenWith the new true wireless Pixel Buds 2 ($ 179) last October, they seemed like a big upgrade over the original models. The , which debuted in 2017, had a string between them and achieved downright mixed reviews thanks to their curvaceous Mentos-like design and mediocre sound. However, at the 2019 kickoff event for the new Buds, the prototype models didn’t work, so I wondered how they sounded and performed.
- Improved fit with stabilizing fin
- Hands-free function and translation function
- Very good sound for real wireless
- Excellent call quality
- Nice charging case with wireless and USB-C charging
- IPX4 sweatproof (splash-proof)
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 I can solve the puzzle: they sound pretty good, perform well, and are worthy competitors in the premium arena for true wireless earbuds, especially Android users.
Yes, the wearable Mentos look has returned, but I like the way the stabilizing fin – Google calls it an “arch” – has been incorporated into the design. With a small clockwise twist, the buds (5.3 grams or 0.19 ounces each) spin securely in place, barely sticking out of my ears. While the original Pixel Buds had an open design like the standard These have a noise-isolating design, which means that the earbuds will jam in your ears and seal them off. (It’s important to get a tight seal to maximize sound quality.)
While you get decent passive noise attenuation, they don’t offer anyhow , , and an increasing number of true wireless earbuds. Some of the Pixel Buds’ closest competitors would be these ($ 150) and the ($ 180). I found these two models a little more comfortable for longer listening sessions and how you end up feeling about the fit depends on the shape of your ear. But the new Pixel Buds should be a good fit for most ears.
Aside from their improved design and fit over the original Pixel Buds, a few things stand out. First, the 56.1 gram wireless charging case (with USB-C charging port) is really nice. It’s compact, sits tightly in the hand, and has a smooth, matte finish. I liked it better than the AirPods case and it feels more premium than the Galaxy Buds Plus case. In addition, the buds are easy to get on and off and magnetically adhere to their charging contacts.
These are also the first “hotword enabled” earbuds from the Google Assistant. If you have an Android device with Android 6.0 or better, you can just say “Hey Google” or “OK, Google” and the Google Assistant will be ready to respond to your voice commands. The AirPods and always on, hands-free Siri and have the same function for Alexa.
WithHands-free access to virtual assistants will lead to true wireless earbuds later this year, but this is pretty uncommon right now. It worked pretty well with that I used this review and the Google Assistant was quick to respond to my voice commands. (You can also access the wizard by tapping and holding the right or left earbud.)
After debuting in the original Pixel Buds, the Google Translate feature returns with the Pixel Buds 2. This is also a pure Android function. You just tell the Google Assistant to help you speak the language you want. More than 40 languages are supported. You tap and hold one of the two earbuds and start speaking in the language listed under the headset icon. Your phone will translate and then read aloud what you said in your selected language. Just before the person you are speaking to, tap the correct microphone in Google Translate. The answer will be translated into your language and played through the Pixel Buds. It works surprisingly well, especially in quieter environments, although the person you’re speaking to will have to hear your translated speech through your phone’s speakers, which have a volume cap.
While I thought the Pixel Buds 2’s sound quality was pretty good – more on that in a minute – they did very well as a headset for making phone calls. I’m not currently in New York, where I usually test call quality, but I’ve made some calls and played New York City street noise (via YouTube) in the background while chatting. I turned the volume up on a row of small speakers quite high and callers were impressed with how little noise they heard around me, although some had leaked when I spoke. Google says that “two beam-shaping microphones focus on your voice, while voice accelerometers capture jaw movements to know when you are speaking.” The noise reduction is very effective. The Pixel Buds 2 are right there with the best earbuds for making phone calls.
There is an app for non-Pixel Android devices – with Pixel phones, it’s built into the system – but no app for iOS devices, which is a shame. You can still use these with iPhones and Macs like standard Bluetooth headphones, but lose additional features like the always-on Google Assistant.
As I said, there is no noise cancellation. Instead, there is an adaptive sound mode that automatically adjusts the volume based on the environment you are in. I didn’t see a transparency mode, but the earbuds are a little ventilated so you won’t feel too clogged and hear your voice in the buds when you’re on the phone (Google calls it a “spatial vent to reduce in-ear pressure and help spatial perception “). I would call it Sidetone Lite. Note that a little noise will come out of the buds when you really crank your music up. Therefore, you probably don’t want to play this 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 resume 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, Pixel Buds stores 2 pairings with up to six devices. As with the AirPods, there is a pairing button on the case.
Like the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Plus, these are IPX4 waterproof, which means they’re splash-proof and sweat-resistant. I ran with them without any problems and found the touch controls to be responsive and work very well. With a wipe function, you can control the volume yourself using the buds.
Aside from a minor Bluetooth glitch or two, my wireless connection remained perfectly stable and I could be quite a long way from my phone (more than the usual 10 meters) before I lost the connection. The Buds use Bluetooth 5.0 and I didn’t experience any audio lag when watching video from streaming services like YouTube and Netflix.
The battery life is similar to the AirPods and AirPods Pro – 5 hours plus an additional 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 always-on Google Assistant has on battery life.
These have “bespoke” dynamic 12mm drivers and, as I said, sound very good for true wireless, with well-defined bass and good clarity. You’re spot on with the Galaxy Buds Plus and Jabra Elite 75t with roughly the same bass performance or (it can be a little less plump, depending on the seal you get from the included earbuds, which come in three sizes). The AirPods Pro sound a bit more open, but the Pixel Buds 2 are a bit more detailed. I didn’t see a way to adjust the bass and treble levels in the settings on the Pixel 4 or in the Android app.
For sound, these don’t go up to the level of the best sounding real wireless earbuds, including theand . Both are more expensive, however, especially the $ 300 Sennheiser which delivers richer, more refined sound with a larger soundstage. For example, when you listen to the self-titled Red Hearse 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 immersive.
When it comes to sound, sometimes it helps to compare a pair of top of the line headphones to hear what you’re missing. But if you were to just use 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 bit more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, which are probably the better value for money – they get the occasional $ 10 or $ 20 discount – but the Pixel Buds 2 are a solid all-round package with a few specials Features and excellent call quality characteristics.
First published on April 27th.