Technology

Google Pixel Buds A-Series review: our opinion –

Google’s Pixel Buds A-Series are a bit unusual, in that they don’t bring any technical or aesthetic changes compared to the Pixel Buds 2 released in 2020 at 199 euros. Google has rather removed some functionality. What purpose ? To come out with a much lower price of 99 euros which makes Pixel Buds A-Series excellent value for money for Android users. They are available for pre-order now and available from June 17th.

As the Buds A-Series are essentially identical to the Pixel Buds 2, we invite you to read or re-read our test of these for our appreciation in detail of the design, comfort, audio quality and quality of phone calls of these true wireless headphones.

What are the differences ?

There are all the same, but they are minimal. The Pixel Buds 2 were already relatively light, but these are still a bit lighter. Google claims that the Pixel Buds A-Series are “ around 20% lighter than Pixel Buds 2 Which were not particularly heavy. In fact, the Buds A show 5 g each against 5.3 g for the Buds 2. The case-charger is also slimmer: 52.9 g with the headphones against 66.7 g.

In addition to white, The Pixel Buds A-Series are available in a new Olive Green color and are no longer two-tone. The plastic inside the case, like that of the in-ear part of the headphones, is shiny and no longer matt. We also note that the end of the headphones on which the silicone tip is attached have changed from metal to plastic and that they only have two connectors for charging against three on the Buds 2. As many adjustments which allowed Google to lower the cost of manufacture. Good news, port detection is still in the game, which means the headphones pause and resume playback when they are removed and replaced.

The charger-case is the same, still fun to hold in the hand with its soft finish and pebble shape. But it lost the earphone battery indicator inside, only the case charging indicator on the outside remains. He also lost the wireless charging system and only keeps the USB-C connection. Another sacrifice on the altar of price, the tactile volume adjustment has disappeared. You have to either use your mobile or call on the Google Assistant by telling it: “Ok Google” then tell it to increase or decrease the volume. For Android users, the Google Assistant is always active in the background and listens for voice commands, just like Siri does with

AirPods. So you don’t have to press a button to access it (unless you turn the feature off).

On the left, the Pixel Buds 2 and their two-tone finish. On the right, the Pixel Buds A-Series

Finally, the A-Series lacks the “experimental” vigilance alerts that temporarily lower the volume when the headphones detect the sound of a crying baby, a barking dog, or the siren of an emergency vehicle. We can not say that it is really missing. On the other hand, the loss of the tactile volume control is undoubtedly what is most annoying even if it is largely offset by the much more affordable price.

Similar performance

Like the Pixel Buds 2, the Pixel Buds A-Series are Bluetooth 5.0 compatible, but they use a new chipset. The connection is proven to be reliable and we did not experience any significant disturbances during our test. The headphones are also water resistant which will be practical in the rain or for sports.

In terms of audio quality, it is similar to that of the Pixel Buds 2 with which the Buds A share the same 12mm dynamic drivers. Be sure to choose from the three sizes of silicone ear tips provided to obtain the most airtight fit possible for optimal audio quality. The sound is overall well balanced, with bass present but not overwhelming and good clarity.

The Pixel Buds A-Series charger case is noticeably lighter than that of the Pixel Buds 2

For our part, we find the bass sufficiently full and well defined with the basic settings. But for those who need to get a little more in the ears, we find in the settings of the mobile application a bass amplification mode that fulfills its mission. Buds A-Series are compatible with the AAC codec but not the AptX. At this price the function is almost nonexistent anyway.

The head of the Pixel Buds A-Series which receives the silicone tip is no longer made of metal as on the Pixel Buds 2 but of plastic

The battery life of 5 hours at moderate volume plus 19 hours with the case-charger is decent but not exceptional for headphones that do not have active noise reduction. We are not far from the best models in the field.

Against competition

Admittedly, the Pixel Buds A-Series lack the refined, rich sound of high-end headphones such as the

Momentum True Wireless 2
from Sennheiser or

WF-1000XM3
from Sony, which we recommend if you’re on a budget, but their audio quality is just as good as that of similarly priced models.

We think in particular of Galaxy Buds + from Samsung which have excellent battery life and a little more bass or FreeBuds 4i from Huawei that offer adaptive noise reduction. In addition, none of these competitors has hands-free activation of the Google Assistant. Only the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro can possibly shade them. They have big sound with powerful active noise reduction and offer full app and controls for a similar price. But they will not be suitable for all body types, this is their main flaw.

Conclusion

Even if the novelty is not there, Google played very well by betting on a big price adjustment to reach a wider audience with these Pixel Buds A-Series. At 99 euros, they offer solid value for money, making a great choice for Android users on a reasonable budget.

Article from CNET.com adapted by CNETFrance

Image: Marc Zaffagni

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