The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are the latest entry in the wireless headphone market by the search-engine behemoth. They are small true wireless earbuds that, while aimed primarily at Google and Android smartphone users, will perform a good job with any device that can handle Bluetooth 4.0+ – so that covers pretty much any smart device from the recent past.
As well as performance improvements, the most obvious difference between this, the third iteration to bear the Pixel Buds name, and its two forebears, is with the launch price.
The Pixel Buds A-Series are yours for a competitive £99 ($99, about AU$140), compared with the £179 ($179, AU$279) figure the Pixel Buds 2 came on the market for last year. That’s an impressive drop in price and brings these Google buds right into a hugely popular section of the market.
At this price, they even undercut obvious rivals such as Cambridge Audio’s Melomania 1 Plus (£120, $140, AU$185) by a significant amount.
Available in two finishes, white and a not-quite-grey ‘Dark Olive’, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series come in a neat little cardboard box that contains the buds themselves, the tactile little ‘smooth pebble’ charging case, a USB-C charging cable and three different sized sets of eartips.
The little rubber fins to stabilise the in-ear fit remain from the Buds 2, and they, combined with correctly sized tips, provide a secure and comfortable experience. The earbuds are light, coming in at just over 5g each, and sit firmly in the ear. They are IPX4 resistant, so should be fine with water or sweat splashes, but the case is not rated.
The earbuds do not have active noise-cancelling – that’s a rare feature in buds at this price – but they offer reasonable passive noise-cancelling with the correct fit. They do, though, have a spatial vent to prevent that bunged-up feeling some in-ears provide; this means that some external noise inevitably gets through.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it means the wearer is more aware of their environment when commuting or outside (cycling and road crossing, for instance, are made much safer with that extra aural awareness).
Build and features
The buds hold enough power for up to five hours of listening time (or, heaven forbid, two and a half hours’ talk time), and the case has enough juice for up to four charges, giving around 24 hours of charge all-in.
Bluetooth version 5.0
Battery life Up to 24 hours (from buds and case)
Dimensions (hwd) 2 x 3 x 1.7cm
Weight 5.06g (each)
If your buds run out of power, a 15-minute charge will offer around three hours of listening time, which should be enough to cover the commute. The charging case itself has a light that indicates the state of play with your buds, including the amount of power available.
Connecting your Pixel Buds A-Series to a smart device is either simple or extremely simple, depending on the device. For Android devices with Fast Pair, just open up the lid of the A-Series’ case near to your smartphone and the devices automatically find each other.
For an iOS device it’s a more old-school process, but still easy enough. Once you’ve pushed the button on the charging case, with the lid up, find the earbuds on the device’s Bluetooth settings, and pair them from there.
Google's wireless earbuds are, of course, aimed first and foremost at Google and Android phones, but they work perfectly well with iOS products, tablets, laptops and the like. With non-Android kit though, you won’t be able to use the Google Assistant that brings so much to the Pixel Buds party.
The Google Assistant works nicely, providing easy access to all the benefits that it implies, including Adaptive Sound, a neat trick that adjusts the volume of the buds depending on extraneous noise. This works quite effectively but can be turned off in the app if it’s not for you. There’s also a useful ‘find device’ feature if you’ve mislaid one of your buds down the side of the sofa.
Of course, you can hear notifications from the assistant for things such as emails, messages or traffic information. And the buds also give access to Google Translate on your phone, which could be useful once the world opens up again. The buds’ microphones come into play here, acting as your own modern-day Babelfish.
The buds themselves handle basic controls competently, with the few basic commands administered by a tap (or taps) of a finger on the bud. Each bud responds in the same way, so learning the taps required is both easy and perfectly intuitive. A single tap will start or pause your music, or answer a call; a double-tap will end a call or skip forward a track (as well as stopping the Assistant); and a triple tap will go back to the previous track.
And that’s your lot as far as manual controls via the buds goes. Volume change is done via talking to Google Assistant, however, so non-Android users will have to adjust the noise input on their device. It’s a shame not to have a volume control on the buds (the Melomania 1 Plus have the ability – and those buds will talk to both Siri and Google Assistant, too), but at this price, it isn't a deal-breaker.
We’re rather pleased with the performance we get from the Google Pixel Buds A-Series. It’s a clean, balanced sound that doesn’t favour any part of the sonic spectrum.
Google says its research shows that “most people describe great sound as full, clear and natural. This is what guides our audio tuning process.” We’re perfectly happy to report that this is what we hear from these little buds. There is none of the somewhat harsh and wearing treble for which previous Pixel Buds were criticised, and the bass is decently fast and snappy without being overbearing.
We cue up Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side and that familiar bassline greets us warmly, followed by brushed snares and then Reed’s voice, intimate and clear. Each sonic strand is easily and comfortably followed right through to the breathy sax at the end of the track, and we find ourselves eager to listen to more.
We don’t fancy the next song in the playlist, so a double tap on the left earbud moves us on to John Martyn’s Small Hours. It’s a fine test of a speaker’s (or headphones’) dynamic ability, with frequent shifts in volume, but the Series-A cope well, delivering the music faithfully. There is perhaps just a touch more detail in the midrange from those Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus rivals, but the Pixel Buds are overall a well-rounded listen.
That approachable, entertaining sound is consistent no matter what music we play through the A-Series, and that, combined with the comfort of these lightweight buds, makes them a winner in our book.
Most importantly, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series behave impeccably throughout testing. The connection is rock solid, and they never lose signal or give the hint of a crackle, whether we’re inside sitting at our desk, or in the vegetable aisle at the supermarket. Their performance on calls is decent too, with no issues from either end as far as call quality goes, the mics on each bud picking up our voice clearly.
For not a huge outlay, you get everything the pricier Pixel Buds 2 provided as far as Google Assistant abilities go, but with an all-round sound performance that stands up there with the best in the market at this price. Though they’re aimed primarily at Android owners, we can quite happily recommend the Google Pixel Buds A-Series to iOS users too, if they are in the market for some comfortable, reliable, good-sounding in-ears.
- Sound 5
- Comfort 5
- Build 4
Read our guide to the best earbuds
Read our Cambridge Melomania 1 Plus review
Read our Earfun Air review
It might sound silly but your best bet is an earphone that doesn't seal at all eg. Huawei free buds or apple airpods both are near weightless sound clear enough for most listening. Neither have a foam or rubber tip so just kind of sit in your earway - a truly open fit and feel