The Pixel Buds A-Series is the follow-up to the now discounted and original Pixel Buds. The price might be cheaper, but so is the experience of what was previously a decent alternative to Apple’s AirPods. Here’s a look into the Pixel Buds experience and how the Pixel Buds A-Series holds up.
PIXEL BUDS DESIGN
Pixel buds remind me of plug earrings when I get a glimpse of them in my own ears. They’re circles the size of a dime with a small ear hook to help keep them in place, a touch my little ears appreciate. The center of each bud has a small ‘G’. The look is minimal and unobtrusive: a very Google aesthetic.
The case for the Pixels buds feels surprising great in your hand. It’s a sleek oval shape that has a satisfying snappiness to opening and closing the lids. It’s almost hard to resist fidgeting with it. Both cases are also extremely light, though the Pixel Buds case had a teaspoon more weight due to the built-in wireless charging, a feature that’s not included in the A-Series case.
Inside each the case, the buds sit in individual slots. The charging indicator for the buds is just inside the wireless case, while the case’s charging indicator sits at the front bottom. On the back of the case is a small button to start Bluetooth pairing mode. On the bottom of the case is a USB Type-C charging port. FYI, only a charging cable cord is included in the box, but at least it’s USB-C to USB-A. Both Pixel Buds are sweat and water resistant including the wireless charging case.
PIXEL BUDS FEATURES
The original Pixel Buds have a few features you won’t find on the A-Series such as wind reduction, swipe gestures for volume control and attention alerts to lower the volume if the buds hear a baby crying, a dog bark, or emergency sirens go off.
Both Pixel Buds share many of the same features such as touch controls for controlling your music, built-in noise reduction for calls, a bass boosting EQ profile, Google assistant, and adaptive sound to optimize the earbuds based on background noise levels.
Two helpful features of both buds are in-ear detection and the ability to “ring” a lost or misplaced earbud. In-ear detection will pause and resume your music when removing your Pixel Buds from your ears. If you misplace a bud, you can ring it to find it. The volume on the missing earbud gets progressively louder the longer you take to find it. You can also use the built-in find my device feature to locate them via your Google account.
Lastly, you can also share an earbud with a friend and listen to tunes together. Enabling sharing detection lets them adjust their bud’s volume to their needs, while listening to the same song.
Audio & Call Quality
When I first used both Pixel Buds, I initially thought they were noise cancelling earbuds, but they’re not. They’re just happen to be that good at cutting down background noise, though not enough to block out a loud AC unit. Even on a light jog they stay in my ears, but I find the ear hooks uncomfortable after a few hours. The sound great for their size. Even without the built-in EQ profile, the bass levels are impressive. Call quality is great, but these are not the ear buds to walk around with while taking a call. Keep reading to find out why.
Unfortunately, the compliments end end here because these buds have constant Bluetooth connection issues with my Pixel phone. Cutouts are common, whether listening to music or taking calls. The experience and frequency of cutouts and completed connection drops is even worse with the A-Series. It’s not uncommon for an earbud to lose connection during a call and take nearly 30 seconds to reconnect. The range is also terrible. They don’t stay connected when walking just 10ft between my office and kitchen.
Touch controls on the Pixel Buds are very responsive. Some may even call them sensitive. Simply brushing them can register as a tap or gesture. At the same time, I sparingly experience a lack of registering intentional taps or gestures, which typically requires me to reconnect the buds to my phone. I didn’t find myself missing the volume gestures on the A-series, but for such a standard gesture it seems petty for Google to remove it.
Both Pixel Buds last me a little over 5 hours, split between working to music and taking calls. That’s pretty short battery life, which really shows the difference that having the wireless case makes. With it, the battery life feels a lot longer compared to the new A-Series. That’s just the added benefit of being able to constantly charge these earbuds when needed with a wireless case. Fortunately, like most Google devices, it doesn’t take long to fully charge the buds and be on your way.
VERDICT: PASS ON THE A-SERIES
I hope Google has a replacement in mind for the original Pixel Buds because the A-Series is definitely not that. With such consistent connectivity issues, it’s hard to recommend either pair, but I don’t recommend buying the A-Series, even for $99. Find a pair of original Pixel Buds for cheaper or wait and see if Google releases something better soon.