[Test] Google Pixel Buds Pro: high-end ANC headphones, but not a game-changer

With the Pixel Buds Pro, Google finally launches into the “intra” market True-Wireless high-end, a positioning that goes hand in hand with many promises: qualitative sound reproduction, comfort of use, generous autonomy, and a whole bunch of little extras related to the Google ecosystem. In this field of premium earphones around 200 euros, the competition is already formidable, but the Google Pixel Buds Pro bravely display their assets, including a well-felt look, an ANC mode with “Transparency” and of course sound quality. announced as high level. After a few weeks of playing our ears, here’s what we think:

Pretty and comfortable

Elegance is the key word in modern wireless headphones, so the graphic and design guidelines have an unfortunate tendency to resemble each other. From a distance and well wedged in their shell-pebble (again a repetition of design), the Pixel Buds Pro easily resemble the AirPods Pro or the Samsung Buds Pro. From afar; because once out of their pretty case which also serves as a charger, these headphones are easily recognizable… and my faith quite elegant. Nothing unsightly in the ear therefore, as may sometimes be the case with Apple’s AirPods-earring. These earphones fit effortlessly in the hollow of the ear, and the most picky can always dig into the reserve of tips (3 pairs of different sizes) to find the shoe that fits them (or rather here “horn tip”). Good point, these headphones hold quite well in the event of a little more sudden movements (during a sports session for example), and the IPX4 certification guarantees that sweat will not corrode them too quickly. Even worn for several hours, you do not feel certain discomfort or even small pains observed with other competing models.

Pixel Buds Pro and Case

Quick pairing and automated settings

The pairing of the Pixel Buds Pro with our test Pixel 6A was done automatically and on the first try. The pairing display on the mobile screen is very similar to the counterpart function on the iPhone and AirPods, which is a compliment here as Apple’s headphones are a model of its kind in this respect. Once the Pixel Buds Pro are paired, the software continues to take charge of us and performs a whole host of settings (sound rendering, insulation of the tips, etc.) that we can easily imagine supported by a dedicated AI algorithm. It is still this software that stalls the “Hey Google” voice assistance service (which works great by the way) and which reminds us of the functions accessible directly on the headphones; because yes, the surface of these is tactile and allows you to move forward a piece or put on pause/play.

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Interesting functions… but not on iOS

Admittedly, the Pixel Buds Pro can be used with an iPhone, but we will then miss a good package of functions that are only accessible with an Android smartphone. This is the case with multipoint Bluetooth, which allows two devices to be linked together, the “fine” setting of sound rendering or even the ability to switch the audio stream to another Google device all at once. The latest update of firmware deployed 12 days ago also adds a novelty that was eagerly awaited, namely a 5-band equalizer (not exceptional but which allows you to modulate the sound output a little according to your musical tastes). Regarding 3D Audio, this should arrive shortly. To be completely honest, such headphones offered at this price have absolutely no interest if you have an iPhone.

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Balanced sound reproduction, but too metallic highs

Let’s move on to the big piece, the sound reproduction. First observation, the rendering is relatively balanced and retains hold even at high volume… but you really have to be careful not to push the sound too hard on songs with a lot of treble, very (too) chiseled treble, until sometimes metallic. Reading the soundtrack Tron: The Last Legacy The Complete Edition, which allows you to review bass, treble and midrange, pure instrumental or synthetic pads, is ruthless in this respect. The gravelly and deep voice of Jeff Bridges from the second track on, it impresses with its depth and the accuracy of the timbre, but other higher-pitched tracks are much less pleasant to listen to, unless of course you lower the volume a little. We don’t always avoid the sensation of sonic mush and the lack of precision when the musical layers intermingle (which is frequent on the Tron soundtrack), but the Pixel Buds Pro do quite well in other musical genres where the voices are more predominant or the instrumentation less rich. In the end, the sound reproduction of the Pixel Buds Pro is up to par with its price positioning, but without bringing that little extra that would put the competition at risk.

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Well-controlled ANC and an effective transparency mode

The hands-free kit function does not seem to benefit from the management of the sound environment of the ANC, the voice not being sufficiently protected from the surrounding noise. It is not eliminatory, but we could have expected better at this price level. This weakness of the hands-free kit is all the more surprising as the active noise reduction is of a very good level, with a real impression of being totally isolated from outside sounds. The transparency mode is just as successful and gives the slightly strange impression that we have opened a sort of airlock in the middle of the blanket of silence. Strange, but effective therefore since it is quite possible to follow a conversation in this mode.

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Excellent autonomy but the case does not follow

The autonomy of the headphones is excellent, almost 7 hours with ANC activated and almost half a day without ANC, but it’s a shame that the case-pebble that accompanies the headphones only has two additional charges. , which is below the competition (2.5 or even 3 charges).

Pixel Buds Pro headphones

Conclusion: effective headphones, but not a game-changer

Comfortable, complete and efficient, the Google Pixel Buds Pro tick the right boxes to fit into my category of high-end wireless headphones. However, Google’s proposal is not without small flaws (treble rendering to be reviewed) and even drags a real pot with the virtual “discrimination” of users under iOS, a pitfall much better avoided by the competition. Apple users can happily lower the overall score of these headphones by one point. For others, it’s all good, and it’s even better if you have a Pixel smartphone.

Google Pixel Buds Pro is available for €186 on Amazon, Darty, Fnac, Cdiscount, LDLC, materiel.net, or Son-Video.

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