Google produces some wonderful merchandise, together with, for instance, the Chromecast streaming gadgets and the Pixel cellphone traces. The corporate has additionally put forth some clunkers just like the Nexus Q media hub. On paper, the Google Pixel Buds sound like a easy, interesting set of wireless headphones with revolutionary integration of Google Assistant and even Google Translate options (with the proper Google cellphone). Alas, the design, efficiency, and have implementation lead to a product that is a lot nearer to the Nexus Q than a Chromecast or a Pixel. And at $159, they’re too costly.
With a easy design, the Pixel Buds look extremely clean, with spherical, Google ‘G’-emblazoned caps paying homage to the Google Chromecast. They’re accessible in black, blue, or white variations, all of which function a black fabric-wrapped cable between the earpieces. Every earpiece has two small contacts to be used with the included charging case, and the again of the proper earpiece is touch-sensitive for faucet gestures. You possibly can faucet to play or pause music, or maintain down on the proper earpiece to make use of Google Assistant in the event you’re related to an Android cellphone with it put in. The touch-sensitive takes up the complete again panel of the proper earpiece, so it is simple to by chance set off it while you’re adjusting the earphones or taking them out of your ears.
The Pixel Buds are literally earbuds, not in-canal earphones just like the overwhelming majority of our favorite wireless in-ear headphones. The design is much like Apple AirPods, with almost round buds with small grilles over flat extensions that, when inserted, direct sound into your ear canal. There aren’t any silicone or foam earpieces to make sure a comfortable match. The one concession to consolation is a loop fashioned by the cable. The loop matches within the curve of your ear to maintain the earpiece in place, and you’ll push the cable into the earpiece about an inch to make the loop bigger or smaller. All of this quantities to earphones that match loosely at greatest, and do not type a seal to make sure that your ears get a constant sound. It is a minimalist and engaging design that does not work almost in addition to the tried and true silicone-eartips-and-fins construction.
A vaguely square-shaped, fabric-covered charging case permits you to preserve the Pixel Buds safe and charged when not in use. We do not typically see charging circumstances like this with tethered wi-fi earphones; they’re often reserved for wire-free earphones just like the Bose SoundSport Free and Jabra Epic Air. The case has two recesses for the earphones, with magnets that preserve the contacts aligned when within the case. The cable wraps across the fringe of the case, then tucks inside to shut, staying shut with further magnets. A USB-C port on the again fees the case and earphones through the included USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable.
In accordance with Google, the Pixel Buds can last as long as 5 hours on a cost, which is a bit low for non-wire-free earphones. Nonetheless, the charging case can maintain a number of fees for a claimed 24 hours of listening.
The best side of the Pixel Buds is Google Assistant integration. If the related cellphone has Google Assistant, you may arrange the Pixel Buds to present you entry to the voice assistant with out even touching your cellphone. As soon as paired and arrange, all you need to do is faucet and maintain on the proper earpiece and state your command. Whenever you launch, Google Assistant will reply.
Google Assistant on the Pixel Buds lacks the hands-free activation utilizing the wake phrase “OK Google,” nevertheless it in any other case features identically to Google Assistant on a Google House or House Mini. You possibly can inform it to play music from quite a lot of sources together with Google Play Music and Spotify, examine your calendar, make calls, and reply questions on climate, sports activities, information, or normal trivia. It is a genuinely helpful assistant that does not have fairly the collection of third-party abilities as Alexa, however is a lot better at dealing with pure language.
After all, it is an assistant that is in your Android cellphone no matter whether or not you’ve got Pixel Buds. You need to use Google Assistant by tapping the proper earpiece, or you may simply set your cellphone to get up to “OK Google,” and use the whole lot that method. And you need to use it with any wi-fi earphones or speaker, simply with out the tap-and-talk a part of the Pixel Buds.
Apart from Google Assistant, the Pixel Buds have one other distinctive trick that units them aside from different wi-fi earphones: Google Translate integration. It sounds very helpful at first, however its execution is so awkward that merely utilizing your cellphone finally ends up being a extra compelling possibility. To begin, the interpretation operate solely works if the Pixel Buds are paired with a Pixel or Pixel 2 cellphone (or their plus-size variations). The opposite Google Assistant options will work with any paired Android cellphone that helps Google Assistant, however if you wish to translate something by means of the earphones you will want a Pixel cellphone. It is a perplexing limitation, contemplating how poorly translation is built-in with the earphones.
To translate a dialog, faucet and maintain on the proper earpiece and say “Translate a dialog in (language).” This opens the Google Translate app in your cellphone to the audio translation mode. After this, maintain the proper earpiece and communicate, and your cellphone will communicate the translated phrase. The inventory Google Translate voice will function your translator, placing your phrases into your language of selection.
To listen to the opposite facet of the dialog in your language, the speaker should press the microphone button on the app underneath the language to be translated. That is the place the system turns into extraordinarily awkward. You press the earbud and communicate, you get translated. The opposite speaker presses your cellphone and speaks, they usually get translated. And also you trip, urgent your respective machine as you speak.
Google Translate has an computerized dialog translation function. By urgent the microphone icon in the midst of the app, between the microphone icons for the 2 languages to be translated, the app will begin listening for speech in each languages and translate them on the fly. The issue is that this mode is disabled with the Pixel Buds. If a headset is related, you may’t have computerized translation. Each events want to carry down the earbud or one of many icons on the cellphone after they communicate.
This is not solely very awkward, it utterly negates any usefulness the Pixel Buds would possibly provide in translating what you say. They do not take heed to what you are saying until you maintain them, so you may’t merely get translated on the fly as you speak. And while you do communicate, the interpretation goes by means of the cellphone speaker anyway, so you do not even get the selection to listen to or learn the interpretation and try and say it your self as a part of the dialog. And none of this integration explains why the Pixel Buds may presumably require a Pixel or Pixel 2 cellphone to operate as a substitute of some other Android cellphone that may run the Google Translate app. The one potential profit the Pixel Buds provide when translating is that you would be able to put your finger on the earbud as a substitute of your cellphone display screen. Every part else is similar to or restricted compared with utilizing solely your cellphone, or your cellphone and some other wi-fi earphones.
Regardless of awkward design and unusual function implementation, the Pixel Buds put out some fairly stable, bass-forward audio. Sadly, the upper frequencies aren’t sculpted sufficient for a balanced sound, and the unsealed earbud design provides most music a barely hole impact.
To the Buds’ credit score, they deal with deep bass fairly nicely. The bass synth and kick drum in our low-end check monitor, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” have loads of resonance with out distorting at most quantity. They will not rattle your head and do not border on unsafe with the quantity cranked up, nevertheless it’s an considerable quantity of low frequency response.
The upright bass in Miles Davis’ “So What” has loads of low-end response to present it a full, resonant sound, and the piano sounds suitably vibrant to face out within the combine. The strings do not have a lot excessive frequency readability to present them texture, although, and the horns lack a high-end edge to outline them in opposition to the opposite devices.
Schaffer the Darklord’s “The Different Satan” is a drums-heavy nerdcore hip-hop monitor that additional demonstrates the Pixel Buds’ very bass-heavy steadiness. The backbeat will get a lot low frequency presence that it stands out within the combine in opposition to STD’s vocals, each the naturally spoken and artificially pitched-up traces. The drums get vital emphasis within the lows and low-mids, which makes them settle alongside Schaffer’s decrease voice. The upper frequencies aren’t as sculpted as they need to be to steadiness out the bass, so Schaffer’s pitched-up voice on the monitor sounds softer than his regular voice and the drums, and that lack of treble makes his regular voice sound a bit much less pure and textured than it ought to. Be cautious if you wish to take heed to rap and like the rhymes over the drums.
Nearly the whole lot concerning the Google Pixel buds sounds actually fascinating. Wi-fi headphones with a minimalist design, Google Assistant and Google Translate integration, and a battery-equipped charging case. Sadly, what’s interesting on paper would not work in execution right here, with uncomfortable earpieces, an absence of excessive frequency sculpting, and awkward, redundant voice assistant and translation options. Not one of the sensible, distinctive facets of the Pixel Buds work nicely sufficient to justify utilizing them over simply utilizing the identical apps in your Android cellphone, and their audio efficiency falls nicely in need of what it is best to count on from a $150 pair of non-wire-free earphones.
Whereas none of them work with Google Assistant or Google Translate in fairly the identical method (although Google Assistant will nonetheless speak to you thru your headphones’ audio on all of them), the equally priced Jaybird X3 and the Shure SE215 Wireless really feel and sound a lot better than the Pixel Buds. And if you wish to go utterly wire-free and preserve a charging case, the JLab Epic Air additionally gives superior audio efficiency and sealed in-ear match.