Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: Google brings its 'A' game to earphones
Pixel Buds A-Series are serious in-ear contenders.
Okay, Google, now you have our attention. It's three times the charm for Google and the Pixel Buds. These newly announced earphones are the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and are a slimmed down variant - in price and features - than the full-fat Google Pixel Buds it released in 2020. Those earphones were great and a big improvement on the first iteration which were released in 2017.
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are aping what's going on the Google phone world, with 'A' signifying a significantly cheaper option in the range. Make no mistake, though, we've spent a few weeks with the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and any concessions made are certainly slight.
Here are 5 things to know about the Google Pixel Buds A-Series.
1. Slim, good-looking design
There really isn't much between the design of the Google Pixel Buds 2 and the Google Pixel Buds A-Series. We do prefer the new gloss finish that Google has given these true-wireless earbuds. Our review unit was the Dark Olive colour which adds to the shine, while there is also a Clearly White version available.
Snap open the top of the case and there the buds are, nestled neatly and ready to be worn. Dimension wise, the earbuds measure just 20.7 x 29.3 x 17.5mm while the case is slim and you won't feel it in your pocket, at 63 x 47 x 25mm and 52.9g. Situated on the bottom of the case is the USB-C connector and on the back is a button (smaller than on the Buds 2) that allows you to connect the earphones.
2. East to connect
If you are using Android, then connecting up the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is super fast. Flip up the lid and Google Fast Pair means that your handset is connected to the earbuds in seconds. We've had plenty of 'pulling our hair out' moments with ear buds so having a pair connect so seamlessly really is a boon.
Once connected you'll be asked to download the Pixel Buds app - here you can see things like battery life, can turn touch controls on and off and have a play around with bass boost and the like. If you are using a Pixel phone, then there is no need for an app. From here you can set up Google Assistant and you can also quickly learn the touch controls.
3. Smarter than your average in-ear
The touch controls on the Google Pixel Buds A-Series are really easy to learn - and, being left handed, we were happy that it's the same touch controls on both ear buds. They are: single-tap to play and pause what you are listening to, a double-tap to skip a track, a triple-tap to skip back a track. If you press and hold either bud then you can listen to any notifications you may have.
What is missing here is touch volume control which some people will miss but we quite liked how clean the touch controls were - sometimes it's like having to learn morse code for touch actions.
The addition of Google Assistant really does make these 'buds smart, whether it's to give you notifications - it can read your messages out for you - or just answering any questions you have, it's a great experience.
4. Audio adapts to your surroundings
Active Noise Cancellation isn't available on the Google Pixel Buds A-Series and we did miss having that complete seal when using them. However, Google has added in a decent alternative and that is Adaptive Sound. This is something that can be toggled on and off but it essentially allows Google to turn up the volume slider if the noise around you is getting a bit much and turn it down when things are a little quieter. We tried this out from walking near a busy road and into a quiet side street.
It wasn't perfect as sometimes the volume went a little too low but it worked brilliantly when in our kitchen and the washing machine was making a racket. This constant noise was drowned out by Google 'adapting' the volume as necessary.
Audio-quality is impressive. Whether it's Google Assistant cutting in to tell you that you have a message, or when on a call we had no qualms about the audio quality.
While ANC would certainly make the audio a much more immersive experience, there is far more punch to the bass and lower tones with these earphones that we were expecting. The progressive bass of Charlotte de Witte's Our Journey sounded decent, while Chemical Brothers' The Darkness That You Fear was as woozy as we wanted it to be.
5. Battery life goes toe to toe with AirPods
At 5 hours out of the case and 24 hours in the case, the battery life of the Google Pixel Buds A-Series may not be the best around, but it is achingly similar to what Apple's AirPods offer. Within the app you get a decent battery indicator that is three-fold: telling you the battery life of the left and right bud separately, as well as the case.
We had no issue with the battery life on show here, although we were a little sad to see wireless charging disappear. It's a small concession (given the price of these things) but plugging a cable into the box seems a little like a backwards step. We completely understand why it's been omitted, though.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series: Final Verdict
The cost of the 2020 Pixel Buds was £179 at launch. Here the Google Pixel Buds A-Series is just £99 ($99). That's a seriously low price for a brilliant bit of kit.
The sacrifices made to get the price down are pretty minimal. Touch volume control is gone, wireless charging is no more but there is so much here to like that you forgive what isn't available on these Pixel Buds and really enjoy what is.
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