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

Google Pixel Buds 2 evaluate: These AirPods rivals 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 combined critiques because of 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 we have been left questioning how they sounded and carried out.


  • Improved match with stabilizing fin
  • Palms-free Assistant and Translate characteristic
  • Excellent 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 lively 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 palms on a pair and may clear up the thriller: They sound fairly good, carry out effectively and are worthy contenders within the premium true wi-fi earbuds area, significantly for Android customers. (They formally hit shops on Monday in white — black, mint and orange colours will arrive later. UK and Australian costs aren’t but accessible, however $179 converts to about £145 or AU$275.)

The Pixel Buds will are available 4 colour choices, however at launch, solely white will probably be accessible.

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Sure, the wearable Mentos look has returned, however I like the best way the stabilizing fin — Google calls it an “arc” — has been built-in into the design. With a 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 suggestions get jammed into your ears, sealing them off to the surface world. (It is vital to get a good seal to maximise sound high quality.)

You do get first rate passive noise muffling however these do not provide lively 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 number of the Pixel Buds’ closest rivals can 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 concerning the match will depend upon the form of your ear. However the brand new Pixel Buds ought to match most ears effectively.


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

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Apart from 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 favored 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. When you have an Android machine working Android 6.Zero or higher, you possibly can merely say, “Hey, Google,” or, “OK, Google,” and Google Assistant is prepared to reply to your voice instructions. The AirPods have always-on, hands-free Siri and Amazon’s Echo Buds have the identical characteristic 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 effectively with the Google Pixel four XL I used to be utilizing for this evaluate, with Google Assistant responding shortly to my voice instructions. (You too can entry Assistant by tapping and holding the precise or left earbud.)

After making its debut within the authentic Pixel Buds, the Google Translate characteristic returns with the Pixel Buds 2. Once more, that is an Android-only characteristic. You simply inform Google Assistant that will help 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 telephone then interprets and reads out loud what you stated into your chosen language. Simply earlier than the particular person you are speaking to speaks, faucet the precise microphone in Google Translate and their response will probably be translated into your language and performed again by means of the Pixel Buds. It really works surprisingly effectively, significantly in quieter environments, although the particular person you are speaking to has to hearken to your translated language by means of your telephone’s audio system, which have their quantity limitations.

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

David Carnoy/CNET

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

Learn extra: Greatest wi-fi earbuds and Bluetooth headphones for telephone 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 unhealthy. You may nonetheless use these with iPhones and Macs like commonplace Bluetooth headphones, however you lose additional options just like the always-on Google Assistant.

As I stated, there isn’t any noise-canceling. As a substitute, there’s an adaptive sound mode that mechanically adjusts the amount to the setting 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 if you’re making a telephone name (Google calls it a “spatial vent for in-ear stress discount and spatial consciousness.”) It is not a full-on sidetone characteristic, although; I would name it sidetone lite.

Twin IR proximity sensors detect when the buds are in your ears and mechanically pause your music if you pull one out of your ear and resume if you put it again in. You too can 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 machine from its Bluetooth menu if I needed 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 out a downside and I believed the contact controls have been responsive and labored very effectively. A swipe characteristic 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 capable of wander fairly removed from my telephone (greater than the same old 10 meters) earlier than dropping 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 much 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 offers 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 impression the always-on Google Assistant has on battery life, nevertheless. 

These have “custom-designed” 12mm dynamic drivers, and, as I stated, they sound superb 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. The AirPods Professional sound barely extra open however the Pixel Buds 2 are a bit extra detailed. I did not see any solution to alter 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 dearer, significantly the $300 Sennheiser, which delivers richer, extra refined sound with an even bigger soundstage. For instance, listening to Crimson Hearse‘s self-titled observe 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 greater and extra immersive.

For higher or worse, with regards to sound, generally it helps to check a headphone to the highest fashions to listen to what you are lacking. However should you have been simply utilizing the Pixel Buds 2 with out listening to anything, most individuals can be fairly happy with the sound. 

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

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