These days, you can find a pair of genuine wireless earphones for any budget. Even inexpensive earbuds can be of a high quality these days because of the constant innovation of companies like Samsung, Sony, and Jabra.
With a price tag of $99., Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series are firmly in the middle of the price spectrum. They lack premium features like active noise cancellation (ANC) or wireless charging (which will be available on the future Pixel Buds Pro), but the excellent sound quality and innovative design make them worth considering.
Design, Hardware, What’s in The Box
The Pixel Buds A-Series are physically interchangeable with the Pixel Buds of 2020, as their cases are virtually identical. In spite of their near-identical appearance, the casings and buds are not interchangeable because of minor differences in the charging pins. The last blossoms were a visual triumph, in my opinion.
You can get an A-Series in either white or green, and the two colours don’t clash on the inside (unlike the 2020s, which came in four colours but all had the same black-and-white case).
The exterior of the casing is equipped with a single charging indication light. The case’s light shows how much juice is left in the case when it’s closed, and how much power is left in the buds when the case is open. Light becomes orange as battery life decreases.
If it’s white, it’s almost full. In addition to ditching wireless charging, the A-Series only supports charging via USB-C. Even though it’s one of the A-Series’ greatest flaws in my perspective, this issue rarely arises in daily use. My bag is always stuffed with USB-C adapters.
The A-Series have the same appealing, Google-like design as the Pixel Buds 2020, and they inherit capabilities like in-ear recognition, single-earbud playback, and IPX4 water resistance, which should be sufficient to protect them from sweat. There is no mistaking the similarity between the Pixel Buds Pro and the A-Series, despite the Pro buds being bigger and lacking stabilising fins.
The A-Series come with standard accessories such as earbuds, a carrying case, extra ear tips of the same colour, a USB-A to USB-C cable, and manuals.
Sound Quality, Features, Battery Life
The Pixel Buds A-Series are identical to the Pixel Buds 2020 in terms of sound quality; both have 12-millimetre drivers and a “spatial vent” that promotes the illusion of a more expansive soundstage while allowing in background noise.
That’s fantastic news because the headphones from last year are among the best ever. The bass is characteristic of premium true wireless earbuds, and the highs and mids are both pristine (read: pretty good). The A-series may not allow for precise EQ adjustments, but they do include a bass boost feature. However, if you require support for aptX or LDAC, you will be disappointed.
The vent leaves me conflicted. Google says it’s because some people get an uncomfortable feeling in their ears when using headphones, although I’ve never had that problem.
The ability to hear some of your surroundings is important when you’re outside or at the office and need to keep an eye on what’s going on around you, and these headphones are quite comfy (so long as the stabilising fin doesn’t jab you like it does some people).
The trade-off is that you’ll have to turn up the level more than you would otherwise to drown out the background noise, which can be taxing on your hearing in a busy public place like a cafe or a fitness centre. This perforated construction is unique to the Pixel Buds Pro.
Due to the fact that they are the only Google headphones available with active noise cancellation (ANC), they are the best option if you care about reducing the amount of ambient noise you have to listen to.
When listening to media at low settings, the popping and hissing that is noticeable in the right earbud is my primary complaint regarding both the 2020 Pixel Buds and thePixel Buds A-Series. However, the volume is noticeably lower in the updated pair, and Google claims that only a small percentage of users would notice the difference.
I don’t know if that’s true or not, but for $99 the issue seems much more manageable than at $179. Even still, it’s annoying that Google hasn’t fixed this with one of their usual updates.
Supposedly able to “detect speech through the vibrations of your jawbone,” the 2020 Pixel Buds could reduce distracting ambient noise during phone conversations. The A-Series lacks these sensors but performs admirably in voice calls notwithstanding.
These are the earbuds I always reach for when I need to participate in one of AP’s frequent Google Meet video conferences since they are so discreet. A further benefit is that I have relatively good hearing.
I was concerned that the Google Assistant wouldn’t survive the downgrade from premium to mid-range, but you can still activate it with a “hello Google” or by pressing and holding on each earphone to speak.
I can’t deny the coolness of it, but I do miss the volume controls from my A-Series devices. As it stands, you have to remove your phone from your ear to change the volume on the earbuds. (With the Pixel Buds Pro, we’re glad to see gesture controls making a reappearance.)
Fast Pair is supported on the A-Series, which is becoming more frequent but is still valued. The Pixel Buds’ software integration is built into Google’s Pixel phones, so all you have to do is open the A-Series’ case near your phone, tap to connect, and you’re good to go.
Even if you don’t have a Pixel device, you can use Fast Pair to get started with your Pixel Buds, but if you want to make any adjustments to the more advanced settings, you’ll need to download the Pixel Buds app before you get started.
There is only approximately five hours of playback time on the headphones themselves, and the case can only be charged about three times. That’s on par with Apple’s entry-level AirPods, but you can find several other alternatives from Samsung and Sony that last significantly longer for the same price.
Even though I rarely wear the A-Series for more than two hours at a time, I have used them many times a week for about a year and have not observed a significant change in their battery life.
Should You Buy Them?
Maybe. The Pixel Buds A-Series are a pair of wireless headphones by Google that retail for $99. Like the Pixel a smartphone from which they take their name, the Pixel Buds A-Series pack a lot of the best features of the previous flagship, the 2020 Pixel Buds, into a similar-looking package while leaving out a few extras.
In this case, that means no wireless charging and simpler touch controls, both of which feel like fair trade-offs for the $179 MSRP of the 2020 model.
The upcoming Pixel Buds Pro, which is expected to be released soon, will include both ANC and significantly longer battery life than the A-Series manages (seven to eleven hours on a charge with ANC on or off, respectively). If you’re able to spend $200 on Google earphones, the Pro is likely worth the wait.
For this reason, I doubt that the Pixel Buds A-Series will ever be the first thing I offer to a friend or family member who isn’t very interested in or knowledgeable about technology.
They’re decent headphones, but the new Pixel Buds Pro haven’t been updated to compete with the superior battery life and noise isolation of competing headphones that cost the same or less. Grab these if you couldn’t care less about any of that stuff (or if you’re as obsessed with Google’s hardware design as I am).