Google Pixel Buds 2 evaluate: These AirPods opponents are the true deal

Google Pixel Buds 2 evaluate: These AirPods opponents are the true deal

When Google unveiled its new true wi-fi Pixel Buds 2 ($179) final October, they appeared like a giant improve over the unique fashions. The Pixel Buds, which debuted in 2017, had a twine between them and earned decidedly blended opinions due to their crazy Mentos-esque design and middling sound. However on the 2019 launch occasion for the brand new Buds, the prototype fashions weren’t working, so I used to be left questioning how they sounded and carried out.


  • Improved match with stabilizing fin
  • Arms-free Assistant and Translate function
  • Superb sound for true wi-fi
  • Glorious name high quality
  • Good charging case with wi-fi and USB-C charging
  • IPX4 sweat-resistant (splashproof)

Do not Like

  • No energetic noise-canceling or transparency
  • Battery life is not stellar at 5 hours
  • Not fairly as snug as some rivals
  • Further options do not work with iOS gadgets

A number of months on, I’ve gotten my arms on a pair and may remedy the thriller: They sound fairly good, carry out properly and are worthy contenders within the premium true wi-fi earbuds enviornment, significantly for Android customers. (They formally hit shops on Monday in white — black, mint and orange colours will arrive later. UK and Australian costs should not but obtainable, however $179 converts to about £145 or AU$275.)

The Pixel Buds will are available in 4 shade choices, however at launch, solely white might be obtainable.

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Sure, the wearable Mentos look has returned, however I like the way in which the stabilizing fin — Google calls it an “arc” — has been built-in into the design. With a little bit clockwise flip the buds (5.three grams or 0.19 ounces every) twist securely in place, barely protruding from my ears. Whereas the unique Pixel Buds had an open design like the usual AirPods, these have a noise-isolating design, which implies the ear ideas get jammed into your ears, sealing them off to the surface world. (It is essential to get a good seal to maximise sound high quality.)

You do get respectable passive noise muffling however these do not supply energetic noise-canceling just like the AirPods Professional, Sony WF-1000XM3, Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi 2 and an growing variety of true wi-fi earbuds. A few of the Pixel Buds’ closest opponents could be the Galaxy Buds Plus ($150) and the Jabra Elite 75t ($180). I did discover these two fashions barely extra snug to put on over longer listening classes and the way you in the end really feel in regards to the match will rely upon the form of your ear. However the brand new Pixel Buds ought to match most ears properly.


The Mentos-shaped buds do not stand proud of your ears too far. 

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Other than their improved design and match over the unique Pixel Buds, a number of issues stand out. First, the 56.1-gram wi-fi charging case (with USB-C charging port) is very nice. It is compact, feels stable in your hand and has a clean matte end. I preferred it higher than the AirPods’ case and it feels extra premium than Galaxy Buds Plus’ case. Additionally, the buds are straightforward to get out and in of it, adhering magnetically to their charging contacts.

These are additionally the primary Google Assistant “hotword-enabled” earbuds. You probably have an Android system working Android 6.Zero or higher, you may merely say, “Hey, Google,” or, “OK, Google,” and Google Assistant is prepared to reply to your voice instructions. The AirPods and Beats Powerbeats Professional have always-on, hands-free Siri and Amazon’s Echo Buds have the identical function for Alexa.

With new audio systems-on-a-chip from Qualcomm, hands-free entry to digital assistants will come to extra true wi-fi earbuds later this 12 months, however for now it is fairly uncommon. It labored fairly properly with the Google Pixel four XL I used to be utilizing for this evaluate, with Google Assistant responding shortly to my voice instructions. (It’s also possible to entry Assistant by tapping and holding the fitting or left earbud.)

After making its debut within the authentic Pixel Buds, the Google Translate function returns with the Pixel Buds 2. Once more, that is an Android-only function. You simply inform Google Assistant that can assist you communicate no matter language you need, with greater than 40 languages supported. You faucet and maintain both earbud and begin talking within the language listed underneath the headset icon. Your cellphone then interprets and reads out loud what you stated into your chosen language. Simply earlier than the individual you are speaking to speaks, faucet the fitting microphone in Google Translate and their response might be translated into your language and performed again by way of the Pixel Buds. It really works surprisingly properly, significantly in quieter environments, although the individual you are speaking to has to take heed to your translated language by way of your cellphone’s audio system, which have their quantity limitations.

The Pixel Buds 2 are splash-resistant and can be utilized for working.

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Whereas I believed the Pixel Buds 2’s sound high quality was fairly good — extra on that in a minute — they carried out very well as a headset for making calls. I am presently not in New York, the place I normally take a look at out name high quality, however I made some calls and performed New York Metropolis road noise (by way of YouTube) within the background as I conversed. I put the quantity fairly far up on a set of small audio system and callers had been impressed by how little noise they heard round me, although some leaked in once I talked. Google says that “two beamforming mics focus in your voice, whereas voice accelerometers detect jaw motion to know once you’re speaking.” The noise discount is kind of efficient. The Pixel Buds 2 are proper there with the most effective earbuds for making calls. 

Learn extra: Finest wi-fi earbuds and Bluetooth headphones for cellphone calls

There’s an app for non-Pixel Android gadgets — with Pixel telephones it is built-in into the system — however no app for iOS gadgets, which is just too dangerous. You’ll be able to nonetheless use these with iPhones and Macs like customary Bluetooth headphones, however you lose further options just like the always-on Google Assistant.

As I stated, there is no noise-canceling. As an alternative, there’s an adaptive sound mode that mechanically adjusts the quantity to the surroundings you are in. I did not see a transparency mode, however there’s some venting within the earbuds that retains you from feeling too occluded and means that you can hear your voice within the buds once you’re making a cellphone name (Google calls it a “spatial vent for in-ear stress discount and spatial consciousness.”) It is not a full-on sidetone function, although; I might name it sidetone lite. Word that a little bit sound does leak out of the buds once you actually crank your tunes, so that you in all probability do not need to play these at excessive volumes in a quiet room with folks sitting close by. 

Twin IR proximity sensors detect when the buds are in your ears and mechanically pause your music once you pull one out of your ear and resume once you put it again in. It’s also possible to use one bud independently of the opposite (if you wish to go the single-bud route for calls). And it is also price noting that I paired the buds to a number of gadgets, however I needed to manually choose the earlier system from its Bluetooth menu if I wished to return to it. Google says the Pixel Buds 2 will retailer pairings with as much as six gadgets. There is a pairing button on the case, as there’s with the AirPods.

The match properly within the wi-fi charging case.

David Carnoy/CNET

Just like the AirPods Professional and Galaxy Buds Plus, these have an IPX4 water-resistance score, which implies they’re splashproof and sweat-resistant. I ran with them with no drawback and I believed the contact controls had been responsive and labored very properly. A swipe function means that you can management quantity from the buds themselves.

Apart from a minor Bluetooth glitch or two, my wi-fi connection remained rock stable and I used to be in a position to wander fairly removed from my cellphone (greater than the standard 10 meters) earlier than shedding the connection. The buds use Bluetooth 5.0, and I did not discover any audio lag when watching movies from streaming companies like YouTube and Netflix.   

Battery life is just like that of the AirPods and AirPods Professional — 5 hours, plus a further 19 hours from the case (a 10-minute cost within the case provides you two hours of battery life, Google says). The Galaxy Buds Plus can ship as much as 11 hours at average quantity ranges. It is unclear how a lot the affect the always-on Google Assistant has on battery life, nonetheless. 

These have “custom-designed” 12mm dynamic drivers, and, as I stated, they sound excellent for true wi-fi, with well-defined bass and good readability. They’re proper there with the Galaxy Buds Plus and Jabra Elite 75t with about the identical bass efficiency or (it could be a contact much less plump, relying on the seal you get from the included ear ideas, which are available in three sizes). The AirPods Professional sound barely extra open however the Pixel Buds 2 are a little bit extra detailed. I did not see any approach to regulate the bass and treble ranges within the settings on the Pixel four or within the Android app. 

For sound, these do not rise to the extent of the highest sounding true wi-fi earbuds, which embrace the Sony WF-1000XM3 and Sennheiser Momentum True Wi-fi 2. That stated, each of these are costlier, significantly the $300 Sennheiser, which delivers richer, extra refined sound with a much bigger soundstage. For instance, listening to Crimson Hearse‘s self-titled monitor with the Sennheiser, the bass goes deeper and there is a little extra sparkle within the treble. The sound from Momentum True Wi-fi 2 simply feels larger and extra immersive.

For higher or worse, in the case of sound, typically it helps to match a headphone to the highest fashions to listen to what you are lacking. However should you had been simply utilizing the Pixel Buds 2 with out listening to the rest, most individuals could be fairly happy with the sound. 

Ultimately, Google lastly has a set of wi-fi earbuds which are worthy contenders. They’re a little bit costlier than the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, that are in all probability the higher worth — they get discounted $10 or $20 every now and then — however the Pixel Buds 2 are a stable all-around bundle with some distinguishing options and wonderful name high quality.  

First printed on April 27.

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