The Pixel Buds Pro, Google’s most recent pair of earbuds, are in a solid position to challenge Apple’s AirPods Pro, especially among Android users. Which pair will win the title of best noise-canceling earphones, though? Let’s dissect it.
SOUND You would anticipate the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro to provide great audio quality given that both sets are priced at or over $199. And to be honest, each of Google and Apple meets that expectation, albeit in different ways.
Before we begin, it should be mentioned that I used both sets of earbuds with their default settings for this comparison. However, either one can be easily improved with the aid of a to better fit your preferences.
The soundstage on the earbuds from Apple and Google is relatively tiny, as you might anticipate, making your music seem to be taking place right next to you. Since they are both intended to keep you separated from the outside world, not much can be done to change this.
Google has created a warm and welcoming sound profile for the Pixel Buds Pro that is ideal for listening to music on the go. I’ve had the opportunity to put on some of my favorite jazz albums and game soundtracks and focus completely on my task.
The Pixel Buds Pro keep up the tempo while switching to rock and electronic music, providing a nice touch of rumble from bass guitars and some thud from the kick drum. While undoubtedly an improvement over the Pixel Buds from 2020, they are also not particularly striking given their price point.
The lack of sharpness in the cymbals is my least favorite feature of the sound from the Pixel Buds Pro. Although it is muffled and disappointing, they are still audible. On punk rock songs, the AirPods Pro give a wonderful sizzle.
The overall sound profile of Apple’s AirPods Pro is more analytical, bringing up the high end of the spectrum and emphasizing finer details in recordings. My attention is always drawn to the music, which is clear and keeps the bass present. I particularly value being able to distinguish each guitar strike and strum individually.
The microphone is a further point worth highlighting. The mics on the AirPods Pro are far superior to those on the Pixel Buds Pro, without a doubt. In comparison to the Pixel Buds Pro, Apple’s microphone catches a voice with more depth. Here is a side-by-side comparison that was recorded using Google Recorder.
It’s still difficult to decide between the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro in terms of overall sound quality. I would undoubtedly select the AirPods Pro if I wanted to be deliberate about sitting down, paying attention to an album, and doing little else. However, the laid-back quality of the Pixel Buds Pro sound profile makes them ideal to wear for hours on end if I want to employ music to aid in my concentration.
CANCELLATION OF NOISE In addition to being well-liked and portable, the Pixel Buds Pro and the AirPods Pro are mostly chosen because they provide active noise cancellation. Active noise cancellation uses microphones to listen to the background noise and cancel it out with reversed sound waves in addition to the fundamental isolation provided by having something implanted in your ear.
When compared to comparable sets in its price range, the Pixel Buds Pro ‘s noise cancelling is at most passable. As you might anticipate, it effectively muffles sounds like air conditioning and a running sink.
The Pixel Buds Pro don’t do much, though, to mute neighboring conversations or the mechanical keyboard’s clickety clack. Some sounds, such as traffic on a busy highway or insects chirping at night, are muffled yet still discernible over quieter music.
Worse yet, I’ve discovered that the Pixel Buds Pro may severely degrade your music in specific circumstances, such as on a day with high winds, by overcompensating in its attempts to filter out sound. I only had this problem once, but it left the Pixel Buds Pro sounding hollow and unimpressive.
Apple wins the award for noise cancelling because, as long as music is playing, the AirPods Pro has been able to significantly filter out almost every noise I have ever made. The one exception is my ridiculously noisy keyboard. Although there is certainly space for improvement, the AirPods Pro feature unquestionably superior noise cancelling over the Pixel Buds Pro of these two pairs.
On the other hand, to help you stay aware of your surroundings, both Google and Apple have included a transparency mode that plays audio picked up by the mic. When you need to hold a brief conversation without taking off your earbuds, you may effortlessly switch between transparency and noise canceling with a tap-and-hold. Both the AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds Pro perform remarkably well in transparency mode.
CONTROLS AND GESTURES The Pixel Buds Pro have rounded outer surfaces on each individual bud that do more than just add a splash of color. Additionally, it produces a set of touch motions that are surprisingly simple to use.
With a few taps or a tap-and-hold, you can easily play/pause, skip, go back, toggle noise cancellation, and answer phone calls. Even better, you may swipe your finger forward or backward across the surface to increase or decrease the volume.
Due to the relatively big contact area, it is also difficult to make these gestures incorrect. The only time I had trouble using the Pixel Buds’ motions was when I attempted to pause music with damp hands.
In contrast, the pressure-sensitive button on the AirPods Pro’s stem allows users to do the majority of the same basic tasks. In other words, everything but volume control. Apple suggests speaking a command to Siri or increasing the volume on your phone to accomplish it on an iPhone.
Compared to the Pixel Buds series, the AirPods Pro need a more exact two-finger pinch as opposed to a single-finger tap. Even worse, depending on how the AirPods Pro fit in your ear, it may be difficult to reach the stem without knocking them out of place. Though mainly minor, these problems can probably be resolved with experience.
Given all of this, it is plausible to claim that Google has produced the finest gesture control system currently available for headphones. Although the AirPods Pro are undoubtedly competitive, the Pixel Buds Pro are the clear winner when compared to them.
AFFORDABILITY AND FIT Before we discuss how the Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro fit, feel, and are comfortable, keep in mind that this is one of the most individualized features of earbuds. There is no design that is ideal for everyone because everyone has a unique ear shape.
My main issue with Apple’s AirPods Pro is what some people refer to as a “plugged feeling.” In my experience, after a few minutes, I start to feel this dreadful throbbing unless both buds have the proper size eartips and are placed precisely. Every every day that I wore the AirPods to listen to music for an hour or more, I’ve had a headache.
But once more, that is only my experience, and the great majority of individuals will probably never face any problems.
Leaving that aside, both Google’s Pixel Buds Pro and Apple’s AirPods Pro are reasonably simple to place in either ear and remain there securely. In actuality, both pairs have remained firmly in my ears despite my best efforts to shake them off by jogging, head-bashing, or strolling.
The way Google and Apple made their earphones fit differs the most between the two. The AirPods Pro only partially fit in your ear because each bud has an exposed stem. The Google Pixel Buds Pro, in contrast, are put straight into your ear and secured there by the contours of your ear.
BANDCAST LIFE The battery life is where the Pixel Buds Pro genuinely differentiate themselves from the majority of rival earbuds, and especially the AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro last for about four hours with noise canceling turned on before needing to be put back in the case. The Pixel Buds Pro, in our experience, last around seven hours and, if you don’t utilize noise cancellation, can last up to ten hours.
I don’t think I could use the AirPods Pro for even four hours at a period given my personal concerns about comfort. The battery is more than capable of supporting wearing the Pixel Buds Pro for the duration of a full workday.
Due to its integration into Apple’s ecosystem, the AirPods Pro also has the minor drawback of charging via a Lightning connector. A USB-C port would have allowed them to charge using the same cable as your Chromebook, Macbook, Android phone, or iPad Pro, even though a USB-C to Lightning converter is already provided in the box.
Fortunately, Qi wireless charging is supported by both the Pixel Buds Pro and the AirPods Pro, making it quite simple to keep the battery case charged simply placing it on a charging station. Speaking of battery cases, both Google and Apple have included enough power in their battery cases to allow for an additional 20 hours of listening (without noise canceling).
WARNING: SMART FEATURES Both the Pixel Buds Pro and the AirPods Pro provide some incredibly practical functions, such as the ability to access your speech assistant and hear your alerts spoken aloud (Google Assistant or Siri, respectively). Both pairs of earbuds can be upgraded to possibly add new features, improve sound quality, and make other adjustments.
The AirPods Pro have continued Apple’s tradition of offering headphones that can smoothly switch between your (Apple-branded) phone, tablet, watch, and computer. With the Pixel Buds Pro serving as the launch for Multipoint, which can contextually swap the earbuds connection across your Android devices or even your Chromebook, Google’s ecosystem is only now catching up.
Unfortunately, only their respective platforms on which Google and Apple have made all of these features available. It is best to avoid using AirPods Pro or Pixel Buds Pro with an Android or iPhone if you must have access to your phone’s voice assistant.
Speaking from personal experience, though, I can say that technological innovations like voiced notifications can undermine the goal of maintaining concentration. And when a specific voice command is misunderstood or ignored, the potential for ease and time savings from employing a voice assistant can pretty quickly turn into anger.
In my experience using the Pixel Buds Pro, I’ve discovered that, far more often than not, I still unlock my phone and choose an album to play rather than taking a chance with a command like Hey Google, play Phobia.
Additionally, the AirPods Pro, which have had numerous significant firmware updates over the years, may be especially vulnerable to the iPhone-exclusive functionality. The AirPods Pro should always be connected to an iPhone or iPad in order to update them, even if you only plan to use them with Android devices. Unfortunately, this cannot be done manually. You might not have the strongest connection or the best audio quality without these updates.
AIRPODS PRO OR PIXEL BUDS PRO? It’s quite challenging to choose between the Pixel Buds Pro and the AirPods Pro. Both buds, as you might assume, have strengths in different areas, so deciding which one to buy actually depends on your priorities.
The AirPods Pro are very simple to recommend if you want to hear every little detail of your favorite tunes while blocking out the majority of ambient noise. Or, if you want a more laid-back listening experience, along with unbeatable comfort and simple controls, Google’s Pixel Buds Pro are a great option.
However, as was already noted, there is only one option if you want your earbuds to be smart and work with your phone’s speech assistant. For Android users, Pixel Buds Pro are your best option, and AirPods Pro are perfect for Apple users.
In terms of value, I really appreciate how cozy the Pixel Buds Pro manages to be in every way. In addition to being comfortable in my ears, Google’s buds have a sound profile that makes me want to unwind. Even the actions used to change the music and volume come out as natural. Although the AirPods Pro handle audio quite well, I simply can’t wear them for long enough to enjoy it.
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