Info-tech

Say OK Google to the new Pixel Buds

Kishore Bhargava | Updated on September 15, 2021

Simple earbuds with strong assistant integration and good sound but no ANC

Google hasn’t brought any Pixel phones into India of late, but they did recently launch a set of earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series. This is an offering that goes particularly well with Google’s Pixel phones and services like the assistant. In many ways though, the buds are rather ordinary. While they do offer reasonable sound, there doesn’t seem to be any real standout feature.

The design is much like the previous edition, a little plastic case which is rather egg-like in shape but easy to carry and light enough. The buds themselves are also extremely light and when compared to many others they came out amongst the lightest. The biggest advantage of that, of course, is that they can be worn for long hours with little to no fatigue.

A good fit

As is standard with many earbuds, the A-Series come with three sizes of ear tips. Since the buds actually sit in your ear canal, getting a good fit is important. While the material used on these buds is mainly plastic, they don’t feel cheap. They are dual-tone with grey and white and you have an option for green as well. But no other colours.

The buds do have a little wing tip which is comfortable for some and not so much for others. Google even suggests that you may want to try different size ear tips for each ear till you find a good seal and comfort. There is no active noise cancellation, just passive isolation. The design is such that you can hear ambient sounds without too much trouble and yet pay attention to what is playing on the buds.

In terms of sound, the buds seem rather flat with not much by way of dynamic range. On a Pixel phone you can use the EQ settings that do make a substantial difference. I used the Bass Boost and immediately heard the change. There is also a setting for adaptive sound which is quite interesting: based on the ambient sound it actually increases or decreases the volume. This is a response to sustained noise rather than a one-off loud bang or noise. The buds are perfectly suited for casual music listening, podcasts and calls.

Managing all

For Android phones, you can download the Pixel Buds app, which lets you manage all the options including the touch controls, the EQ and adaptive sound options, and firmware updates. The app also lets you see the battery status of each bud separately as well as that of the case. These settings get integrated into the settings of a Pixel device so no separate app is needed. Sadly, there is no app for iOS devices on which these buds work like any other Bluetooth headset.

The killer feature of the these buds is using your voice for Google Assistant. It works really well. You can invoke the assistant with “Hey Google” or “Ok Google” and it wakes up instantly. You can also touch and hold either bud and it will read your notifications and wait for additional commands.

Overall, the buds are a reasonable pair of headphones, good for calls, casual listening and podcasts, comfortable to wear for long durations, and most of all, integrated with the assistant. But there’s no end of competition around and at ₹9,999, they’re still a bit expensive.

Published on September 15, 2021

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