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Google Pixel Buds 2 overview: new design, higher sound

Google Pixel Buds 2 review: new design, better sound

“Google’s latest Pixel Buds significantly improve audio quality.”

Optimized setup

Attractive look

Excellent language integration

Useful functions

Average battery life

No noise cancellation technology

It was only a matter of time before Google brought its first real competitor into the real wireless earphone arena. To be honest, I’m surprised that it took so long.

Google has released its second-generation Pixel Buds, a pair of earphones for $ 179 that scraps the wire that holds the originals together and adds new design elements and countless features. You may not fully influence the Apple loyalists of the world, but the new Pixel Buds are impressive and should be the buds of choice for Android users for the foreseeable future.

Out of the box

The packaging for the Pixel Buds – technically the Pixel Buds 2, for which I will use the official name of Google in this test – is tiny, white and decorated with various pictures of the buds themselves. Inside are the buds, which are in a wireless charging case, as well as additional earplugs, a USB-C charging cable and the corresponding documentation.

Google Pixel BudsNick Woodard / Digital Trends

I usually unpack everything, take a quick look at the product, and then check the quick guide to see if there are any setup quirks that I need to stick to. But I never opened the brochure with the Pixel Buds.

When I pulled the first bud out of the shell, a notification appeared on my Pixel 2 smartphone asking me to pair with the buds. A second prompt followed, instructing me to download the associated app and starting the rest of the setup process from there.

All thanks to the “Fast Pair on Android” function from Google, with which you can pair your Pixel or Android 6.0+ device with the earphones immediately. I’m the first to admit that most earphone setups are fairly simple, but this was as simple and rational as possible, and more closely matches how Apple’s AirPods work.

The original buds, which were $ 20 cheaper when they were first released, had a fair amount of connectivity issues. In my time with them, I have not found any such problems with the new Pixel Buds, which are equipped with Bluetooth 5 technology.

design

The Pixel Buds aren’t the smallest earbuds in the game (at 5.3 grams, they outweigh Apple AirPods by over one gram each), but they’re not the heaviest either – both the Samsung Galaxy Buds + and Amazon Echo Buds weigh more . You’re right in the wheelhouse, which is all we can ask of most earphones these days.

Google Pixel BudsNick Woodard / Digital Trends

However, it is the actual design of the Pixel Buds that fascinates me the most. In our view, the original pixel buds were loose, and although they never fell out, they didn’t create the seal in your ear canal that is important for sound isolation. Google has listened and created a pair that sits almost flush with your ears and offers a much safer feeling. I fit in a few runs with the buds and had no problem moving them around during transportation.

The Pixel Buds will only be available in the cute color “Clear White” at the start, but then with the options “Fast Black”, “All Mint” and “Oh So Orange”. The charging case is more like an egg than the pill-shaped carriers that Samsung and others have adopted. It’s also heavier than any case except the Echo Buds, but still pocket-friendly.

properties

At first glance, the functions of the Pixel Buds remind me of a classic baseball power hit. You will meet some doubles and homers if you can tolerate a hint here and there.

Google Pixel BudsNick Woodard / Digital Trends

Double: A weatherproof IPX4 degree of protection that protects you from splashes and sweat. You won’t want to submerge them, but the Pixel Buds should be strong enough for training.

Home run: The Pixel Buds are the first hotword-compatible earphones from Google Assistant. So you just have to say “Hey Google” or “OK ​​Google” to have your own voice assistant available. This is of course not new to the industry as Amazon and Apple are ahead in this regard. But Google made it effortless to use, to the point where I preferred to ask Google to change a title or increase the volume using the built-in gesture commands on the bud. These are easy to use, but the hands-free function of the buds is more attractive.

Swing and a miss: The Pixel Buds have a battery life of five hours on a single charge. Which, to be fair, is on par with Apple AirPods and Amazon Echo Buds. But five hours is not much anymore, not when the Samsung Galaxy Buds + sets standards with 11 hours of playback time. Also – and to be fair, this was common with other buds I’ve tried – the left and right buds lost a lot of charge, which was a little annoying. With the included charging case, which is QI certified and can be charged wirelessly with any compatible charger, the Pixel Buds have a remarkable total life of 24 hours.

Double: The return of Google Translate via the conversation mode with Google Assistant or the Google Translate app. The feature was a highlight of the first generation Pixel Buds and it remains an entertaining tool to translate the words you or others speak into different languages. It is an advantage that not everyone will use, but which can be used again and again when needed. The same applies to the possibility to ask Google directly how to get there, or to read out notifications from practically every app on your device. Not absolutely necessary, but neat.

Look dismayed: Google has decided against adding noise cancellation technology to the second generation buds, and I think this is a missed opportunity. Sure, the fit is much better this time, which allows passive noise reduction. And yes, Apple’s second-generation AirPods don’t offer this feature, either, at $ 20 more. But the Amazon Echo Buds made it and sell for $ 50 less than the Pixel Buds. It’s not a disadvantage that the Pixel Buds don’t have noise reduction, but if they really wanted to make a current move in the real wireless earbud category, this would have been the way to go.

The limitation to this set of features is that you need an Android device to take advantage of the more exciting features like Google Assistant or Google Translate. Without these features, you won’t necessarily be at a disadvantage, but iOS owners and others won’t get the full experience with Pixel Buds.

Audio quality

When I started hearing the Pixel Buds, I wanted to be sure of what I was hearing. So I passed it on to my partner, played the track that Brothers Osborne had just auditioned (Love the Lonely Out of You) and asked for a description of the sound.

Google Pixel BudsNick Woodard / Digital Trends

She took the word I was thinking of – crisp. The Pixel Buds have custom 12mm dynamic speaker drivers and a design known by Google as “hybrid acoustic design” in which the earplugs are designed to seal out exterior noise, but spatial vents reduce the feeling of a clogged ear. The result is music for your ears.

The Pixel Buds are definitely not comparable to the more expensive Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2, but who is it? However, they can compete well with their closer competitors from Apple, Amazon and Samsung. Trying to determine the best sound of the bundle is subjective, as these earbuds tend to produce similar, above-average, but not incredible audio data.

That being said, I can definitely say that the Pixel Buds have improved by leaps and bounds compared to the sound of the first version, which, as we put it, was “okay”. The lower end is there, but not overbearing, the vocals are as clear as a day and the middle section is well balanced.

Google Pixel BudsNick Woodard / Digital Trends

There is no equalizer in the Pixel Buds app, but I probably wouldn’t use it even if there were one. Songs like The Wood Brothers’ Luckiest Man were a pleasure and made me feel like I could hear the strings behind every single note. Google also suggested listening to 8D content on YouTube that re-produced existing songs to make them sound like they were moving in the listener. It’s not music that is specific to the Pixel Buds, but it does help when solid-sounding buds recreate Freddie Mercury’s legendary vocals that dance back and forth over your head.

The calls I made were clear, and those at the other end of the conversation noticed that I sounded better than trying other buds. The Pixel Buds have a pair of beam-shaping microphones that are designed to focus on your voice for listening in louder conditions or on the go. After a week full of calls, these microphones have to let me down.

I would be very happy if I didn’t mention the Adaptive Sound function in the Pixel Buds. In the same way that you can have your phone automatically adjust the brightness depending on the environment, Google gives you the ability to adjust the volume of the Pixel Buds depending on your location. It’s subtle, but it should be, and I found it to work well if I walked a busy street outside the house.

Conclusion

The pixel buds are filled to the brim with functions. However, to be able to access the best, you have to at least partially invest in the Google / Android ecosystem. They have significantly improved the design and audio quality of the originals, but the latest version only has an average battery life and lacked the ability to suppress noise.

Google’s Pixel Buds have made some important adjustments and have therefore established themselves as the best Android-oriented earphones you can currently get. But they left room to grow. There may be too much space in today’s fast paced real wireless world.

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