Internet giant Google has been trying for years to copy Apple's success with its own smartphones. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Google's Pixel devices are a real premium alternative. But Apple's success was never based solely on the phones, but on the interaction of several devices in an ecosystem - this is particularly evident in the interaction of the iPhone, Apple's AirPod earbuds and the Apple Watch.
Now, Google has launched the new Pixel Buds Pro wireless in-ear headphones, and for the first time, it manages to bring the same premium feel of seamless integration and smart features to its Pixel ecosystem.
With the Pixel Buds Pro, Google is entering a highly competitive market. Not only do you have to set yourself apart from the much cheaper in-ear competition from China, you also have to find arguments against established premium brands like Sennheiser or Bose, which offer more prestige in the ear at the same price. Because yes, thanks to Apple, mini headphones are now also fashion statements.
First of all: The Pixel Buds Pro succeed in both in an amazing way. Because Google also controls the software, at least on Android phones, and can thus create a similarly good integration into the operating system as Apple. At the same time, it obviously helps when a company has mastered the subject of sensors and artificial intelligence and simply puts its almost unlimited resources into the development of its own audio chip with six cores. There are probably various smartphones on the market that have less computing power than Google's new headphones.
The Pixel Buds Pro use a different construction than the competition, they don't have a mini stick that protrudes from the ear like Apple or Huawei. Instead, they take up a relatively large amount of volume in the auricle and completely seal the auditory canal. The resulting look of the "Button in Ear" takes some getting used to, Google supplies the devices in different colors - from inconspicuous black to matt white to screaming coral red.
During the test, it was noticeable that with a lot of movement and sweaty ears, for example during sports, the competition with a stem sits more securely in the ear, the smooth Pixel Buds can come loose. Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless have a similar shape, but sometimes they fall out. That's why Sennheiser supplies additional rubber holders for sporting use, which Google doesn't have.
Google comes with silicone attachments in three sizes. When adjusting, the Pixel Buds amaze the first time: They can use a bone conduction sensor to check the fit in the ear canal and recommend necessary changes. The disadvantage of the design: If you listen for a long time, the buds press in the ear canal.
With the buds in your ears, connecting to a current Android device is quick and easy. Then they play big in the test with music: the bass in particular is impressive with its precise response, sounds full and safe with the reference songs "Jack of Speed" by Steely Dan or the "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo" (Bela Fleck). Here they already surpass both the cheaper in-house competition and Huawei's Freebuds Pro. Apple's AirPods Pro sound amazingly similar.
The Pixel Buds also like to play classical music, in particular the good ear seal gives the impression of a precise sound, such as Camille Thomas' cello version of Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits. HD music with a high data rate, for example from Amazon Music, is transmitted in correspondingly high resolution to Google's Pixel hardware, which really helps the sound audibly. Beware of bad music, in the test with the current pub hit "Layla" the buds mercilessly expose the lousy mix.
Keyword long listening: The battery performance of the Pixel Buds is convincing, in the test over a whole afternoon they use just 60 percent. The charging case provides power for a good 30 hours, so much that you forget to charge it. Once they are empty, the case recharges to more than 60 percent within a few minutes - this works faster than the competition. Thanks to the integration into the Android operating system, the battery reserve is displayed precisely.
This integration gives Google even more options: already known from Apple is the ability to search for lost ear studs, play search tones and display the last known location. Also known from Apple and available for the first time from Google is multipoint audio: the headphones can be connected to several devices at the same time and then intelligently change the sound source - for example during a call.
The integration of the language assistant works just as well as with Apple. It is not only operated by shouting, but also via the sensor surfaces on the buds. This can also be used to control music playback and volume, both of which worked precisely in the test. However, the listener often interprets the handle for correction as a command to change the volume or as a command to move forward in the playlist.
That leaves the earphones' parade function: The new noise cancellation benefits from the computing power of the audio processor and works extremely well - better than with Sennheiser and just as well as with Apple. Background noises from the big city, such as traffic noise, are completely faded out, even when there is no music playing on the handset.
Noise such as leaf blowers also disappears almost completely and becomes inaudible with music. Even children's voices are simply silent with ANC. Only the mentioned feeling of pressure speaks against continuous use in the home office or open-plan office. So that you can still do justice to children or colleagues, Google has developed a transparency mode: Voices or car horns are let through via the microphone, permanent sources of interference are still suppressed, but there is a slight hiss in the listener without music.
Overall, Google delivers something with the Pixel Buds that hasn't existed in the Android ecosystem before. The Buds have the same seamless operating system integration that makes Apple's AirPods Pro so good. They deliver the same high quality sound and really good noise cancellation. If you want more hi-fi, go to Sennheiser's Momentum True Wireless, if you want to save, go to Huawei. But in the overall package, Google currently offers the best earphones for current Android devices. The price of 219 euros for it is reasonable.
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