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Reviewed on Aug 17, 2018

Google Pixel Buds Wireless
HEADPHONES REVIEW

Usage Ratings - Version 1.2
6.0
Mixed Usage
6.1
Critical Listening
5.8
Commute/Travel
7.5
Sports/Fitness
5.9
Office
5.3
TV
5.2
Gaming
Type : Earbuds
Enclosure : Closed-Back
Wireless : Yes
Noise-Cancelling : No
Mic : Yes
Transducer : Dynamic

The Google Pixel Buds are mediocre headphones for most use cases but have a unique and open earbud design that some will prefer over typical in-ears. They're decently well-built and stable enough for sports thanks to their adjustable cable tips' design. They also have a compact case that extends their battery life up to 24 hours. Unfortunately, they have a slightly disappointing sound and their open earbuds barely block any noise so they will not be ideal for commuting and loud environments.

Test Results
Design 7.7
Sound 5.7
Isolation 3.4
Microphone 6.6
Active Features 6.4
Connectivity 3.2
Pros
  • Compact and portable.
  • Stable and adjustable fit.
  • Decent battery life.
Cons
  • Poor noise isolation.
  • Sub-Par bass-lacking sound quality.
  • Not truly wireless.

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7.7

Design

The Google Pixel Buds have a well built and durable design that's compact enough to fit in any pockets. The earbuds have a unique feature to adjust them for different ear sizes and shapes. This is done by sliding the braided cable through the buds, which makes them stable enough to run with, but can be somewhat tricky to find the perfect fit. Unfortunately, their touch-sensitive control scheme can be a bit inaccurate at times.

Style

These are well-designed and slick-looking earbuds that, unfortunately, are not truly wireless. They have a unique shape and a decently small footprint with smooth plastic casings for the earbuds that feel durable. Their behind-the-head cable design is somewhat similar to the Jaybird X3 or Bose SoundSport Wireless, but unlike those headphones, the Google Pixel Buds' cable is braided and also doubles as adjustable stability tips.

7.0 Comfort
Weight : 0.03 lbs
Clamping Force
:
0 lbs

They have an open earbud fit with a unique adjustable stability tips/fins mechanism that helps them stay securely in your ears. They do not put any pressure within the ear canal, and they're incredibly lightweight which makes them less noticeable once you get used to the fit. Unfortunately, the earbud design is not angled like the Apple AirPods and does not sit as well in the notch of your outer ear, which may be an issue for some listeners.

6.7 Controls
Ease of use : Okay
Feedback : Subpar
Call/Music Control : Yes
Volume Control : Yes
Microphone Control : No
Channel Mixing
:
N/A
Noise Canceling Control : N/A
Talk-Through
:
N/A
Additional Buttons : Voice enabled controls

The Google Pixel Buds offer a decent set of touch-sensitive controls. You can play or pause your music by double tapping on the right earbud. Tap and hold activate Google assistant and swiping up or down changes the volume. Unfortunately, feedback and ease-of-use are not the best. The touch-sensitive control scheme is subject to a lot of erroneous inputs when sliding your finger up or down or double tapping. It's sometimes just easier to pull your phone out and just change the track of volume directly on the device than with the headphones, which is a little disappointing.

9.4 Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference : 0.6 C

Like most in-ears and earbuds, the Google Pixel Buds are very breathable headphones. They're compact and their earbud design means they won't make your ears warm even during the most strenuous of activities.

9.3 Portability
L : 1.3 "
W : 2 "
H : 0.9 "
Volume : 2.4 Cu. Inches
Transmitter required : N/A

Like most wireless in-ears and earbuds, the Google Pixel Buds are easy to carry around on your person thanks to their compact size and high portability. Unfortunately, they're not as small as some of the truly wireless headphones we've tested that comes with a charging case, like the Jaybird Run or the Samsung Gear IconX, due to their relatively thick cable. However, unlike those truly wireless headsets, you can let the Google Buds rest around your neck when you're not using them without needing to immediately put them back in their case (in fear of losing or misplacing an earbud).

8.0 Case
Type : Hard case
L : 2.3 "
W : 2.3 "
H : 0.9 "
Volume : 4.8 Cu. Inches

These earbuds come with a decently well design and compact case. It will protect your earbuds from drops and accidental impacts but not against water damage. Also, the case is covered in a denim-like fabric which looks nice and matches the design language of the Google Home Mini but feels a little cheap when compared to the AirPods or the Sony WF-1000x's case.

7.5 Build Quality

These earbuds are well-designed and feel decently durable. The casing feels sturdy enough to withstand a couple of accidental drops without much damage to the headset. The braided cable that links the two earbuds is thick and won't snap easily from physical stress or getting tangled up in your clothes. However, their overall design does not feel as premium or as aesthetically pleasing as the AirPods or the Samsung IconX, which is a little disappointing. On the upside, they're not as pricey.

7.5 Stability

The Google Pixel Buds are stable enough for running as long as you adjust the cable stability tips to fit just right for your ears. Unlike the AirPods, this makes them a bit more stable for a wider range of listeners but if the stability tips are not the right fit, the earbuds will easily fall out of your ears even while walking.

Cable
Detachable : No
Length : N/A
Connection : N/A

They come with a USB-C charging cable.

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5.7

Sound

The Google Pixel Buds are a sub-par sounding pair of open-back wireless earbuds. Their bass is poor and lacks any thump or rumble because of the lack of sub-bass, but it also sounds a bit loose and rather muddy. Their mid-range is decent but also a bit cluttered which could make vocals and lead instruments sound thick and muddy. However, they have a great treble but it's a bit on the bright side, resulting in a slightly V-shaped overall sound profile. It should be noted that due to their earbud design, their performance and sound profile could vary depending on the quality of the fit and seal achieved, but they performed consistently on our test dummy head.

3.4 Bass
Std. Err.
:
9.31 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
:
53.39 Hz
Low-Bass
:
-15.86 dB
Mid-Bass
:
3.78 dB
High-Bass
:
7.86 dB

The bass of the Google Pixel Buds is poor. Their low-frequency extension (LFE) is at 53Hz, meaning they won't be able to produce the low-end thump and rumbles common to bass-heavy music like EDM and Hip-hop. Accordingly, they lack low-bass by about 16dB which is quite poor. However, mid-bass and high-bass, which are responsible for the body of bass guitars and the punch of kick drums, are overemphasized by up to 8dB, which adds a significant amount of boominess to the sound and won't quite compensate for the lack of low-bass. It should be noted, however, that low-bass is quite difficult to hear, especially on headphones, and is more felt than heard. Because of that, the lack of sub-bass may not be significant if the source material doesn't have a lot of sub-bass (like classical music or podcasts), but the excessive mid-bass and high-bass will be.

7.3 Mid
Std. Err.
:
3.55 dB
Low-Mid
:
5.14 dB
Mid-Mid
:
1.62 dB
High-Mid
:
0.09 dB

The mid-range performance of the Google Pixel Buds is decent. The overall response is quite even, but the 5dB bump in low-mid, which is the continuation of the high-bass overemphasis, adds muddiness and clutter to the mix and makes vocals thick and slightly muffled.

8.3 Treble
Std. Err.
:
3.18 dB
Low-Treble
:
3.31 dB
Mid-Treble
:
3.05 dB
High-Treble
:
-0.84 dB

The Google Pixel Buds have a great treble range performance. The overall response is quite consistent, but low-treble and mid-treble are consistently over our target by about 3dB. This adds a bit of excess brightness and presence to vocals, leads, and cymbals. This, combined with the overemphasized bass results in a slight "V-shaped" or "smiley-face" sound profile.

8.2 Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
:
0.36 dB

The Google Pixel Buds have a surprisingly great frequency response consistency. In the bass range, the maximum amount of deviation is less than 1dB which is excellent. In the treble range the maximum deviation is about 4dB at 3KHz, which is good. It should be noted, however, that frequency response consistency is highly dependent on a proper fit and seal, does not take stability into account, and may require some technique and getting-used-to especially with earbuds.

6.7 Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
:
1.08
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
:
2.68
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
:
2.02
Weighted Phase Mismatch
:
4.96

The imaging performance of the Pixel Buds is about average. They show audible amounts of group delay in the bass range which results in a slightly soft and loose basses and kicks. The jump in group delay above 18KHz won't be audible to most and is due to the Bluetooth connection. Our test unit showed noticeable amounts of amplitude mismatch between the left and right buds, but this seemed to be related to fit and seal rather than driver mismatch. The mismatch in frequency and phase response is low enough to not be audible to most users.

2.7 Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
:
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
:
N/A
PRTF Distance
:
N/A
Openness
:
9.5
Acoustic Space Excitation
:
2.9
Correlated Crosstalk
:
0.0 dB

Like most other earbuds and in-ears, they have a poor soundstage. Due to their design, they bypass the pinna and don't interact with it. Pinna interaction/activation is one of the big factors in giving the sense of a large and out-of-head soundstage, therefore, the soundstage of the Google Buds will be perceived to be small and located inside the listener's head as opposed to in front. However, because of the open design which is similar to the Apple AirPods, they sound more open and spacious than closed in-ears.

6.2 Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 90
:
13.061
Weighted THD @ 100
:
23.819

They have a mediocre harmonic distortion performance. They show elevated amounts of harmonic distortion in both bass and mid ranges which could make their overall sound a bit unclear and cluttered. However, their harmonic distortion in the treble range is within good limits, but the rise in THD in the bass range suggests these earbuds will struggle to produce bass frequencies at high volumes. On the up side, the level of THD at 100dB SPL in the treble range is a bit lower than the 90dB SPL. This is most likely due to the increased flexibility of the driver under heavier loads.

3.4

Isolation

The Google Pixel Buds have an open earbud design that easily lets the ambient noise of your surrounding seep into your audio. This means they're a decent option for runners or bikers that need to monitor their environment for traffic but a poor choice for the commuter who want isolation from the rumbling sounds of public transit. They won't be ideal for traveling either and will not block the chatter of a lively office. On the upside, since they do not leak much, you can play your music at slightly higher volumes to mask some of the noise. 

1.4 Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
:
Overall Attenuation
:
-1.44 dB
Bass
:
-1.71 dB
Mid
:
2.84 dB
Treble
:
-4.79 dB
Self-Noise
:
21.54 dB

The isolation provided by the Pixel Buds is poor. This is due to their open-back and earbud design, which like the AirPods, results in very low isolation. They don't isolate in the bass and mid-ranges, so they will let in all the low rumbling sounds of airplane and bus engines, as well as the chatter of people around. In the treble range, occupied by fan noises, as well as sharp sounds like S and Ts, the isolate b only 5dB which is inadequate. These are one of the most open headphones we have measured so far, which makes them suitable for situations where you want to be able to hear your environment.

7.5 Leakage
Leakage Audio
:
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
:
37.08 dB

These Google Pixel Buds have a good leakage performance. The significant portion of their leakage is in the treble range from 3KHz up to 20KHz. This is a relatively broad range, but the overall level of leakage is not too loud and it will mostly consist of high-pitched sounds like cymbals and sibilances (S and T sounds). With the music at 100dB SPL the leakage at 1 foot away averages at 37dB SPL but peaks at 64dB SPL which is noticeably louder than the noise floor of an average office. Therefore, at high volumes and in quiet environments, people around you may be able to hear the leakage.

6.6

Microphone

Integrated
:
Yes
In-line
:
No
Boom
:
No
Detachable Boom
:
N/A

The quality of the Google Pixel Buds' integrated microphone is average. Speech recorded or transmitted will sound full and easily comprehensible, but noticeably lacking in brightness and presence. In noisy environments, they will have difficulty separating speech from ambient noise even in moderately loud environments like a busy street.

7.1 Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
:
LFE
:
83.54 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
:
2.33 dB
HFE
:
3368.2 Hz
Weighted THD
:
42.079
Gain
:
43.58 dB

The Pixel Buds' microphone has a decent recording quality. LFE is at 84Hz, resulting in a recorded/transmitted speech that will sound full. However, the HFE (high-frequency extension) is at 3.4KHz, which means speech will lack presence and detail. However, this won't have a big negative impact on speech intelligibility since that's mostly dependent on the 500Hz-3KHz range. The region between the LFE and HFE is captured well which helps with a natural sound.

We noticed that the microphone has a tendency to distort on PCs, and the recorded speech files are distorted because of that. However, their microphone sounds clean on smartphones.

6.1 Noise Handling
Speech + Pink Noise :
Speech + Subway Noise :
SpNR
:
13.74 dB

The noise handling of the integrated microphone of the Pixel buds is mediocre. They achieved about 14dB of speech-to-noise ratio in our SpNR test, which means they will perform well in quiet environments. But they will struggle to separate speech from ambient noise even in moderately loud situations.

We noticed that the microphone has a tendency to distort on PCs, and the recorded speech files are distorted because of that. However, their microphone sounds clean on smartphones.

6.4

Active Features

The Google Pixel Buds have a fairly long battery life for wireless earbuds but no dedicated app. They can play continuously for about 5 hours and have about 4.5 additional charges with their truly wireless like charging case. This gives them over 24hr of battery life in total, which is a lot longer than most wireless in-ears and earbuds. They won't be the ideal choice for more heavy users who have really long continuous listening sessions, but they should easily last long enough for most use cases and even an entire weekend, when managed correctly. Unfortunately, although better integrated into the Google Android platform, they do not have a fully featured app and lack a lot of customization options which is a little disappointing.

6.6 Battery
Battery Type
:
Rechargable
Battery Life
:
4.6 hrs
Charge Time
:
0.9 hrs
Power Saving Feature
:
Yes
Audio while charging
:
No
Passive Playback
:
No

The Google Pixel Buds will play continuously for 5 hours but can be recharged with the case up to 4.5 times. This gives them an overall battery life of 22 to 23 hours, which is great but they won't be ideal for very heavy users with long listening sessions. On the upside, charging the headphones is pretty intuitive, and they automatically switch off, if you're not playing anything, to conserve power.

5.0 App Support
App Name : N/A
iOS : No
Android : Yes
Mac OS : N/A
Windows : N/A
Equalizer
:
No
ANC control
:
N/A
Mic Control : No
Room effects
:
No
Playback control
:
No
Button Mapping : N/A
Surround Sound : N/A

The Google Pixel Buds do not have a companion app but have a few features on Android worth mentioning. When opening the case, the Google Buds automatically start a pairing procedure and Google Assistant set up with the Pixel and Pixel 2 phones. This also works on some other Android devices, (with Android 6.0 or higher) but unfortunately, they do not get the benefit of the translation feature only available on the Google phones for now. Like the AirPods and iOS, the Google Pixel Buds are a lot more optimized for Android, but since they do not have a proper app support, so there are no additional features like EQs or room effects to customize their sound profile.

3.2

Connectivity

The Google Pixel Buds only connect to devices via Bluetooth. They come with a charging case that you also use to pair the headphones with other Bluetooth devices. Unfortunately, this pairing procedure would be better suited for truly wireless headphones, where syncing and pairing between the earbuds is more of an issue. Unfortunately, like most Bluetooth headphones, they're not ideal for watching a lot of video content due to their relatively high latency.

6.8 Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
:
4.2
Multi-Device Pairing
:
2 Devices
NFC Pairing
:
No

They have a fairly easy-to-pair Bluetooth connection. You can connect simultaneously up to two devices and have up to 8 devices stored in memory for automatic pairing when you open the case. Unfortunately, they do not have NFC which would have made pairing with multiple devices a lot easier.

0 Wired
OS Compatibility
:
N/A
Analog Audio
:
N/A
USB Audio
:
N/A
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
N/A
PC Compatible
:
N/A

They have no wired option. If you want a good sounding wired in-ear, check the 1More Triple Driver.

2.1 Base/Dock
Type
:
Charging Case
Optical Input
:
No
Line In
:
No
Line Out
:
No
USB Input
:
No
RCA Input
:
No
PS4 Compatible
:
N/A
Xbox One Compatible
:
N/A
PC Compatible
:
N/A
Power Supply
:
USB-C
Dock Charging
:
Yes

The case provides 4.5 additional charges when the headphones are docked. Unfortunately, it provides no additional features or Input/Output options, and you also need the case to pair the headphones to new devices which is not ideal.

7.4 Wireless Range
Obstructed Range
:
33 ft
Line of Sight Range
:
76 ft

The Google Pixel Buds have an above-average range for a wireless in-ear. They maintained a stable connection up to 33ft when the Bluetooth source was obstructed and reached up to 76ft in direct-line-of-sight. This means they should be good enough for small to moderately sized office spaces but won't be as good as some of the other wireless in-ears we reviewed like the Beats BeatsX.

2.8 Latency
Default Latency
:
185 ms
aptX Latency
:
N/A
aptX(LL) Latency
:
N/A

Like most Bluetooth headphones, they have a bit too much latency to be ideal for watching movies or playing video games.

In the box

  • Google Pixel Buds Headphones
  • Charging Case
  • USB Cable
  • Manuals

Compared to other Headphones

These are the first Google-made headphones. They have a unique design and convenient features but are somewhat lacking compared to the headphones below. They're also not truly wireless. On the upside, they have a good build quality that feels durable enough to last you a while, and they come with a great charging case that gives them over 24Hrs of battery life in total which is great and means they will last a lot longer than most wireless in-ears and earbuds. See our recommendations for the best wireless earbuds, the best earbuds with a mic, and the best earbuds and in-ears.

Bose SoundSport Free Truly Wireless

The Bose SoundSport Free are better earbuds than the Google PixelBuds. The SoundSport Free sound a lot more balanced than the Pixel Buds, despite having a semi-open fit they still pack a lot of bass and cater well to all genres, unlike the PixelBuds. They're also a bit more comfortable than the thanks to their softer earbud tips and their build quality feels a bit more durable than that of the google headphones. On the upside, the Pixel Buds have a longer cumulative battery life and since their fit is adjustable they will be a bit more suitable for all ear shapes and sizes.

Jaybird X3 Wireless

The Jaybird X3 are a better and more versatile wireless headphone than the Google Pixel Buds. The X3 have a more isolating in-ear fit which makes them a bit more suitable for commuting and loud environments. They have a better sound quality which you can also EQ since they have an app, unlike the Pixel Buds. On the upside, the Pixel Buds have a longer 24hr battery life and since their fit is adjustable they will be a bit more suitable for all ear shapes and sizes. Their open fit also makes them a better option if you run outdoors often and need to monitor your environment for traffic or obstacles.

Beats BeatsX Wireless

The Beats BeatsX are a much better headphone than the Google Pixel Buds. The BeatsX have a much better isolation performance thanks to their in-ear fit. They also sound better, have a longer wireless range and charge a lot faster delivering over an hours worth of playback from a 5 minutes charge. The Pixel Buds, on the other hand, have a much the better battery life overall at 24 hours of cumulative playback, compared to the 6 hours for the BeatsX. They're also a bit more suitable for outdoor runners thanks to their open earbud fit, which some will find a lot more comfortable than the in-ear design of the BeatsX.

Apple AirPods 1 Truly Wireless 2017

The Apple AirPods are much better wireless headphone overall than the Google Pixel Buds. The AirPods have a more comfortable fit, especially for those used to the Apple one-size-fits-all earbud design. They also have a better build quality and unlike the Pixel Buds, they are truly wireless and each earbud can be used independently of each other. The AirPods also have a slightly better sound even if they do not have a lot of bass. On the upside, the Pixel Buds are a lot more stable for physical activity and sports. Their adjustable earbud fit design also caters to more listeners than the AirPods.

Conclusion

6.0 Mixed Usage
They are mediocre-at-best mixed usage headphones with a few unique features. They're decently comfortable and stable thanks to their earbud design and adjustable stability tips. They're also compact enough to fit into most pockets and come with a charging case that gives them a total of 24hrs of battery life. Unfortunately, they barely block any noise which makes them poorly suited for loud environments and commuting. Their sound also lacks quite a bit of bass which won't be ideal for most listeners.
6.1 Critical Listening
Mediocre-at-best for critical listening. They have a poorly balanced sound that lacks a lot of sub-bass due to their open earbud design but also sounds boomy. This makes these earbuds sound a bit lackluster although instruments and vocals are well reproduced. Unfortunately, although better than most in-ears they do not have the best soundstage. On the upside, they're comfortable enough to wear for long listening sessions.
5.8 Commute/Travel
Not suitable for commuting or traveling. The open design lets in a lot of ambient noise, which is not suitable for loud environments.
7.5 Sports/Fitness
Good for sports and running outdoors. They have adjustable stability tips that make them stable enough to exercise with for most. They're also lightweight and very breathable. However, their unique design is not as stable as some of the wireless in-ears we've tested and their control scheme could be a bit more precise.
5.9 Office
Sub-par for office use. The open design of these earbuds makes them poorly suitable for lively or noisy work environments. On the upside, they do not leak too much so you won't be distracting to those around you.
5.3 TV
Below-average for home theater use. You can wear them for hours but unfortunately, their latency performance isn't ideal for watching movies and videos without the noticeable sync issues.
5.2 Gaming
Sub-par for gaming. They have a mediocre microphone, they lack customization options and have a bit too much latency to be suitable for gaming.

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