Pixel Buds Pro take on AirPods Pro 2 with spatial audio update – here’s how to use it

Google Pixel Buds Pro on silver background
(Image credit: TechRadar)

Despite boasting a strong feature-set, it’s fair to say Google’s premium wireless in-ear buds have flown somewhat under the radar. But a new update bringing spatial audio with head tracking support for the Pixel Buds Pro might be enough for film fans to reconsider the TWS earphones.

The Buds Pro already feature noise cancelling, wearer detection and multipoint technology with automatic audio switching, but a new firmware brings them in-line with rival Apple Airpods Pro 2 and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 by offering access to 3D audio.

The feature aims to enhance immersion by adding a surround sound effect to audio rather than the vanilla two channel audio we’ve come accustomed to, while dynamic head tracking means sounds are repositioned according to the orientation of your head. 

The update is being rolled out to users automatically today, however you’ll need to be able to pair your Pixel Buds Pro to either a Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 7, or Pixel 7 Pro smartphone in order to install the new firmware.

To upgrade your Buds Pro, you’ll need to be on the latest version of Android on your phone. 

Once you’re up to date, head to Settings, then Sound & Vibration and finally toggle on the Spatial Audio setting. From the list of connected devices on your phone, select your Pixel Buds Pro press the settings cog, then finally enable the Head Tracking.

In order to experience the effect, you’ll need to watch or listen to a content source that provides 5.1+ surround sound, such as a movie or TV show on Netflix, Disney Plus or HBO Max, with Google advising that your phone should be on a flat surface or stand while listening for optimal head tracking.

Sadly, the new feature doesn’t look set to be made available to the brand’s lower tier earphones like the Pixel Buds A-Series, with the spatial audio update restricted to just the Pro model, at least for now.

Analysis: 3D sound feature is cool, but doesn’t fix the Bud Pro’s main issues

While it’s a pretty narrow substrate of users tied into the Pixel ecosystem that are set to benefit, it’s a welcome move nonetheless by Google to bring what’s undoubtedly a cool new feature to the Buds Pro, particularly for folks who enjoy watching shows and films on their phones.

As good as it is, however, the Pixel Buds Pro remain a tough sell with so much strong competition from better wireless earbuds, and this update doesn’t address their main failings.

Their woolly and compressed performance, coupled with their not always secure fit, mean you may want to look towards another set of buds from our best wireless earbuds guide for your surround sound listening.

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is a London-born, Dublin-based writer and journalist. The author of Steve Jobs: A Biographic Portrait, Kevin is a regular feature writer for a number of tech sites and the former Technology Editor for the Daily Mirror. He has also served as editor of GuinnessWorldRecords.com and has been a member of the judging panel for the BAFTA British Academy Video Game Awards. Alongside reviewing the latest AV gear, smartphones and computers, Kevin also specialises in music tech and can often be found putting the latest DAWs, MIDI controllers and guitar modellers through their paces. Born within the sound of Bow Bells, Kevin is also a lifelong West Ham fan for his troubles.