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Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Pro-gress but not pro grade

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£149.00 from
Price when reviewed : £149
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The Pixel Buds Pro cater to Google’s core audience pretty well but don’t trouble best-in-class true wireless options


  • Hands-free Google Assistant
  • Comfortable fit


  • Microphone quality could be better
  • Limited control customisation

There’s no doubting Google’s innovative approach to business but it’s still playing catch up when it comes to true wireless earbuds. The Google Pixel Buds Pro are its first earbuds to offer active noise cancellation, a feature that’s been present on offerings from competitors such as Apple, Samsung and Sony for a few years now.

Smaller companies would struggle to make any meaningful impact entering the noise-cancelling earbuds market at such a late stage but Google has the platform – and brand loyalty – to just about get away with it.

The Pixel Buds Pro are solid all-rounders that, like their predecessors, are best paired with Android and, more specifically, Google smartphones. They’re a decent choice if you’re a Pixel owner or in search of hands-free Google Assistant access, but there are a number of better alternatives when it comes to sound quality and noise-cancelling performance.

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Google Pixel Buds Pro review: What you need to know

Google entered the world of wireless headphones back in 2017 with the original Pixel Buds. Those buds were linked with a short length of wire, a design that was dropped for the second-generation true wireless Pixel Buds three years later. The Pixel Buds Pro replace the 2020 iteration as the company’s flagship headphones and sit above the more affordable Pixel Buds A-Series, which were released in the summer of 2021.

They’re the company’s first true wireless earbuds to offer active noise cancellation alongside a transparency mode and provide up to seven hours of audio playback if you’re using their noise-cancelling capabilities. Turn ANC off and you’re looking at around 11 hours of playback, with the charging case, which can be topped up wirelessly, boosting those numbers to 20 hours with ANC on and 31 hours with it off.

Aside from active noise cancellation, the Pixel Buds Pro’s big draws are hands-free Google Assistant activation, real-time language translation via Google Translate and Bluetooth multipoint.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Price and competition

Google’s flagship buds have a list price of £180, but despite being launched a couple of months ago, are already on offer. At the time of writing, they were widely available for £149, which is a popular price point for noise-cancelling earbuds.

Our current favourite mid-range earbuds are the 1MORE EVO, which wowed us with a combination of impactful audio and effective ANC. Other great options include the eco-friendly House of Marley Redemption ANC 2 (£150) and Beats Studio Buds, which you can typically pick up for £129.

The Pixel Buds Pro are designed primarily with Pixel phone users in mind and other manufacturers have similarly system-specific buds available. Apple’s AirPods Pro are the go-to choice for those that favour iOS, while the Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Pro offer handy functionality for those with Galaxy smartphones. Both of those options are more expensive than the Pixel Buds Pro, however, and it’s worth noting that the AirPods Pro 2 were released recently and we’ll have a full review of them very soon.

The Huawei FreeBuds Pro 2 may shine brightest when paired with the Chinese manufacturer’s phones but perform impressively no matter your choice of operating system so are well worth considering, too.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Design and features

The Pixel Buds Pro take some design cues from their predecessors but are actually a rather different beast. They still feature circular touch surfaces sporting an embossed Google logo, but their main housings are elongated and quite a bit larger as a result. They also ditch the silicone stabiliser fins found on the 2020 Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series in favour of having you twist the buds to secure them firmly in your ears.

The buds possess an IPX4 rating for water resistance, which is adequate for gym and outdoors use, while the case is IPX2-rated, so can withstand a few drops of water but shouldn’t be exposed to anything more substantial than that. The case itself is a softly rounded pebble shape like its predecessors and perfectly pocketable.

I’ve seen some people describe the new design as uncomfortable and ill-fitting but, personally, I have no complaints. The largest silicone eartips created a reasonable passive noise-cancelling seal without probing too deep into my ear canals and the housings felt well-sculpted to the shape of my ears. There are four colourways available: the Charcoal, reviewed here, a whitish-grey “Fog”, Coral and Lemongrass, but all that actually changes is the colour of the touch control panels.

If you’re not using Google Assistant for hands-free control, these panels will be your primary method of operating the Pixel Buds Pro. They work consistently but customisation options in the Android Google Pixel Buds app are limited.

You’re only able to assign actions to touch and hold gestures (for hailing your voice assistant or toggling active noise control). Single, double and triple-taps are locked to play/pause, next track and previous track, respectively. Pleasingly, volume controls are present and executed via forwards and backwards swipes on the buds.

Bizarrely, if you’re using a Pixel phone – I used the Pixel 6a during testing – there’s no way to change the controls at all. Trying to open the app sent me straight to the “Connected devices” page in the phone’s settings, which offered nothing in the way of touch control customisation.

Google Assistant integration is seamless, however. Assuming you have voice match set up on your phone, simply uttering “OK Google” or “Hey Google” provides direct access to everything the smart assistant has to offer. It worked flawlessly throughout, never failing to pick up the wake words wherever I was, and it processed my requests and queries correctly, too.

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The Pixel Buds Pro’s microphones do their job proficiently for voice assistant-related activity and this extends to their real-time translation capability. This works in the same way it did with the 2020 Pixel Buds and A-Series: summon Google Assistant, ask it to help you speak a certain language and up pops Google Translate to record what you’d like to say. It then processes the recording, translates it into your target language and replays it for you.

To interpret what others are saying, you hold your finger on the mic button in the Translate app and the buds will listen to the response, have the app translate it and replay the results through the earbuds. It’s a feature that works as intended and will prove useful for some but the fact that it requires interaction with your phone reduces its appeal somewhat.

While the Pixel Buds Pro’s mics pick up voices pretty well, I found recording quality patchy and the same proved true on calls, particularly in windy environments. There’s nothing too unusual about the latter – many wireless earbuds struggle to isolate voices when it’s blowing a gale – but I’d expect more clarity in other circumstances. Recordings made in my flat sounded rather distant, a fact not helped by the Buds Pro picking up a fair bit of background noise.

The other main features of note all relate to convenience. There’s Bluetooth multipoint allowing you to connect to two devices simultaneously and audio switching, which lets you jump seamlessly between paired devices that are signed into the same Google account. Then there’s wear detection, which pauses audio when a bud is removed from your ear and resumes it when the bud is put back in. All are welcome inclusions but ones that you’d expect from a pair of flagship buds costing the best part of £200.

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Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Sound quality

The Pixel Buds Pro only support the SBC and AAC Bluetooth codecs and this puts them at a disadvantage to earbuds offering more advanced high-resolution options. They lack the level of precision and detail displayed by the Sony WF-1000XM4 operating over LDAC, the Galaxy Buds2 Pro using Samsung’s Seamless Hi-Fi codec, or the NuraTrue Pro streaming losslessly via aptX Adaptive.

They also lack any form of spatial audio support and EQ options are limited to “Volume EQ”, which is designed to enhance bass and treble frequencies when you’re listening at lower volume levels. It’s something that can be toggled on and off in the Pixel Buds app but I can’t say I noticed a huge difference when it was switched on.

There are rumblings that Google will add a five-band graphic equaliser along with a handful of EQ presets in the near future but, for the time being at least, you’re stuck with how the Pixel Buds Pro sound out of the box. That’s not terrible by any means, but audiophiles aren’t going to be rushing out to pick up a pair.

Their soundstage could be wider, but provided enough breadth for the various instrumental and vocal components of Pink Flloyd’s multilayered “The Great Gig in the Sky” to be communicated convincingly. The opening piano chords were handled with delicacy and I had no trouble pinpointing new aspects of the arrangement as they were gradually added.

The wailing vocals of singer Clare Torry are the most striking part of the song and the Pixel Buds Pro did them justice, articulating fluctuations in volume, pitch and tempo admirably. I found Torry’s shrieks a little too bright at high volumes, however, in part due to the nature of those vocals but also due to how the earbuds emphasise upper mid-range and treble frequencies.

Contrary to previous iterations of the Pixel Buds, the Pro’s biggest sonic strength lies in their bass reproduction. There’s plenty of low-end energy and bounce to their delivery and it’s telling that Google decided to drop the Bass Boost mode found on the 2020 Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series.

The bassline on Aluna and MK’s “Kiss It Better” demonstrated it’s not required here. Low frequencies have already been boosted to a level where they possess impact and authority. Despite this, Google has managed to retain a reasonable balance and Aluna’s lyrics remained defined on top of the beats bubbling away beneath them.

Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Noise cancellation

Noise cancellation is the Pixel Buds Pro’s big new feature and is a welcome addition to any pair of true wireless earbuds. The Buds Pro implement it in simple fashion – it’s either on or off or the Transparency mode is active, meaning you don’t get different levels of cancellation or attenuation that adjusts automatically based on the environmental sound around you.

Many of Google’s competitors are ahead of it in this regard: Sony has Adaptive Sound Control, Sennheiser has Sound Zones, Huawei offers three distinct levels of ANC plus an adaptive mode, and Bose lets you manually select from various noise-cancelling levels.

This doesn’t matter too much if the baseline noise cancellation is extremely effective, but the Pixel Buds’ attenuation would be more accurately described as middling to good. I was still aware of passing cars while walking down the street listening to a playlist at 50% volume – it was only once I hit 80% volume that those distractions faded away into the distance.

The Buds Pro also struggle to cope with any frequencies outside of the low-end ones that pretty much all noise-cancelling headphones attenuate effectively. Voices, the tapping of a keyboard, the buzz of a doorbell and yapping of a neighbour’s dog still proved disruptive and had me pushing up the volume to drown them out a little more often than I’d have liked.

The amplification of external sound while in Transparency mode was impressive, however. I was able to vaguely make out what was being said on a TV in another room while listening to a “Big Dance Energy” playlist at moderate volume and conversations can be had easily with those in close proximity.

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Google Pixel Buds Pro review: Verdict

The Pixel Buds Pro are a step in the right direction for Google, but the tech giant needs to do more if it’s to truly make a mark in the true wireless world. The new design works from an aesthetic and comfort perspective, improvements have been made on the audio front, and the addition of noise cancellation is appreciated.

None of those qualities stand out as system sellers in the way that hands-free Google Assistant does, however. It remains the Pixel Buds Pro’s big hook and that’s perhaps to be expected but they don’t do a huge amount to convince those that don’t use it everyday to choose them as their daily drivers.

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