Google Pixel Buds A series earphones (review)

The Google Pixel Buds A series is its third generation of Pixel Buds. The price is reasonable, and Google fans will like the design cues, But it is a crowded market where many competitors offer more features for a similar price.

First, a brief explanation of our review procedure. We test over two days of use – battery life is an extrapolation of that. We can’t measure absolute volume and frequency response – only tell you if it sounds good with our test tracks. So, Cybershack uses a consistent comparative chart approach (same for each bud tested) from 2022 onwards that allows you to compare different buds on an ‘apples for apples’ basis.

The Google Pixel Buds A series App – may be flakey on some Android devices

Our test device is the OPPO Find X3 Pro with Android 12. It found the buds, but the app did not. We also tried on a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with Android 12 with the same result. I suspect it is something to do with locked down permissions. We had a clean installed Google 6 Pro – also Android 12 – and it worked fine.

The app allows you to update firmware, enable Google Assistant, Bass Boost, Adaptive Sound and in-ear detection. You can also select the BT AAC codec for slightly better sound and lower latency. Its not very comprehensive lacking a full EQ but remember this is a mid-range $159 product so its not expected.

Post review note: A firmware update 3.282 came through after the review. It adds a little more volume and slightly better controlled mid-high treble. Bass Boost now works, taking some of the muddiness away. These are still very mid-centric for speech and dialogue.  

Sound – (was) a little muddy (less so after update)

There is some high-bass (no low-or-mid 20-100Hz so it is not punchy), decent mid and some low-treble (little mid-or-high). Overall, that makes it more of a mid-sound signature – good for clear voice but average and sometimes harsh for music. It is not unpleasant, but the app only offers Bass Boost (which had limited effect before the firmware update) – no EQ.

If you want to know more about sound signatures and hear our test tracks read our guide How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key)

The sound stage is close to your ears but still within your head. We tested with the Dolby Atmos tracks (in our guide) and its just left and right stereo – no spatial sound at all. Again that is not a deal breaker.

Adaptive sound – works some of the time

It has no Active noise-cancelling. Instead, it can turn up the volume in noisy environments and vice versa. That is likely the reason you can’t adjust the volume on the buds. If you walk through variable noise environments quickly, it is distracting and shortens battery life.

The is almost no passive noise isolation, and the buds are vented – Google intended to let you hear the world.

Hands-free – clear but not in noisy environments

One of my pet hates is the lack of sidetone (hearing your voice in the earphones) when you make a call. OK, few lower-cost buds do this. Lack of wind noise reduction means its for indoors or beautiful day use.

CyberShack’s view – Google Pixel Buds A series are good, but there are better

For the average user, these are fine, and you won’t regret your purchase. I have had the privilege of reviewing many buds, so I can say that you can get better for less and a lot more for a little more.

  • Jabra Elite 3 $119 (review 9/10) with a neutral sound signature, good app and EQ (value pick)
  • JBL Tune 125 $149 have an excellent neutral sound signature (lots of EQ adjustment)
  • Sennheiser CX $149 have that wonderful Sennheiser focus on audio quality (my pick)
  • Sony WF-XB700 Extra Bass $139 have pumping bass (only for metalheads)
  • BlueAnt Pump Air 2 are another value choice at $129
  • Jabra Elite 4 ANC $179 are the best low-cost ANC buds (what you probably should buy)

Earphone comparison chart

Google Pixel Buds A-series
STYLE
   PODNo
   BudsIn-ear canal
   Sports (with wing)Small wings
    IP ratingX4
   Ear tip typeSmall, medium and large silicon tips
   ColourCleary White
   ClassMid-range
CONNECTION
   CabledNo
   Bluetooth5.0
      CodecsSBC, AAC
      A2DP, AVRCP, HFPYes
   True Wireless (Qualcomm)Likely and you can use one bud for mono
   Google Fast PairYes
   Windows Swift pair?
   Multipoint (2 devices)Likely
SIZE
   Weight each grams5.06
   Dimensions W x H x D mm20.7 x 29.3 x 17.5
CONTROLS
   TypeCapacitive touch sensors for music, calls and Assistant controls. No volume control
   AutopauseYes
NOISE
   ANCPassive isolation
  Ambient passthroughAll external noise is heard as these are vented
   Conversation modeNot required
   Game modeNo, but the lag is 200ms or more
AUDIO
   Speaker size mm12
   Frequency response? (we estimate effective range 150hz to 15kHz)
   Impedance?
   Driver sensitivity 1kHZ/1mw (dB)? Loud enough at 75% volume
BATTERY (unless cabled)
   mAh in each bud?
   mAh in case?
   Case charge type (USB or Qi)USB-C
        Case size/weight63 x 47 x 25mm x 43.8g
   Charge voltage rating5V/.5A/2.5W
   Battery time excluding case ANC off5 (Test 75% 4 hrs)
   Battery time excluding case ANC onN/A
   Additional battery time in case hours19
   Charge time case15m for 3hr use
MICS for hands-free calls
   Number on each bud2 per bud – no wind noise reduction
   OtherNo sidetone
VOICE ASSISTANT
   TypeGoogle Assistant
APP
   FeaturesBasic
   EQOnly Bass Boost
   Find my budsYes
   OtherAdaptive Sound – leave it off
   SpatialSpatial vent but does not add 3D spatial sound
 OS supportAndroid
SPECIAL FEATURES
Accelerometer for in-ear detection
Google Assistant translate on phone

Pro, Con and rating

GENERAL
   Websitehere
   Warranty12 months ACL
   Price$159 with free delivery
   FromGoogle and retailers
Accessories includedUSB-A to USB-C charge cable
MISSING
ANC (not expected at this price)
Hands-free noise reduction
Qi (not expected at this price)
Proper EQ
PRO 1Google design cues
2Wings add stability for sport
3Comfortable and stable fit
4Fair price
5
CON 1Poor hands-free in windy or noisy environments –  and no noise reduction
2Adaptive sound is best left off
3No touch volume control
4Mid sound signature is best for voice 
5
RATING /10
Features7
Basic passive buds
Value7
There is a lot of better-featured competition
Performance7
Sound can be muddy and harsh at the top end – overall listenable
Ease of use8
Can be used without the app
Design8.5
Like the wings
Score /107.5


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