The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are a pleasant surprise. They pack nearly all the same features as the Google Pixel Buds 2 that we saw in 2020, but at a lower price and with a few improvements that Google derived from reviewers’ feedback.
The result is a pair of true wireless earbuds that have better sound and a longer battery life, which feels more fitting of their lower price compared to the competition.
Now, to get to the lower price Google chopped out a few features like wireless charging and the touch-sensitive swipe controls on the buds that could raise or lower the volume. Admittedly, losing the latter is a minor inconvenience, but with Google Assistant built in, all you need to do is ask Google to do it for you.
In the end, however, their fatiguing sound quality and tough-to-find fit remain the biggest issues here. No matter what features Google's cut and despite their cheaper price, we just can't rate them higher than the Pixel Buds 2 because they largely have the same flaws. That said, while we wouldn't recommend them more than some other similarly-priced true wireless earbuds like the Lypertek Tevi (which is even a little cheaper), for a specific kind of user, the Pixel Buds A-Series are a decent alternative if you want a name-brand pair of earbuds at a reasonable price.
Price and release date
- Became available in mid-2021
- Priced at $99 / £99.99 (about AU$130)
- One of the more affordable name-brand earbuds...
- ...but are outperformed by Sony and Amazon's earbuds
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are available to buy now for $99 / £99.99 (about AU$130), making them far cheaper than the previous Pixel Buds 2 that cost $179 / £179 / AU$279.
In terms of the competition, the Pixel Buds A-Series are one of the cheaper name-brand true wireless earbuds out there. Yes, there are a number of good off-brand names out there that match – and even beat – the Pixel Buds A-Series in terms of value, but you won't find many Apple, Beats or Bose true wireless earbuds at this price point.
If you want a slightly better alternative, we'd recommend the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen.) or the Sony WF-SP800N that now can routinely be found for around the same price as the Google Pixel Buds A-Series.
- Nearly identical to the Google Pixel Buds 2
- Stays in ear slightly better than before
- But the earbuds were uncomfortable after a long period
- No active noise cancellation or on-board volume controls
If you’re just looking at the exterior of the Google Pixel Buds Series-A, you won’t see a huge difference compared to their predecessors: these are still completely wireless earbuds that have an almost space-age aesthetic to them.
The case itself is super smooth and egg-shaped, and it fits perfectly in your hand or pocket. The buds, meanwhile, are incredibly small and stay in your ears with the help of a little nub-like protrusion that rests inside the outer ear. How comfortable you find the nub will depend on your ears, but thanks to the addition of a new stabilizer fin we did find that they stayed in our ears a bit better than the Pixel Buds 2 we reviewed last year.
That said, they are still a bit uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time. To stay in your ears, they need a certain amount of tension or pushback against the outer ear. And rather than use something like foam eartips – like we’ve seen on the Sony WF-1000XM4 – the Google Pixel Buds A-Series use generic silicone tips that aren’t as comfortable.
Besides the new stabilizer toward the back of the earbuds, the new Pixel Buds also have a vent in them that helps relieve pressure build-up inside the ear. It’s a minor change, but one that you will find helpful – especially if you’re sensitive to pressure.
To control the earbuds, all you have to do is tap on the side. One tap plays and pauses music; two taps will skip to the next song; and three taps will rewind. You can also press and hold to summon Google Assistant if you’re paired with an Android device. Unfortunately there’s no way to raise or lower the volume using touch gestures on the Pixel Buds Series-A, but having Google Assistant on-board mostly works to circumvent this issue.
The larger problem with the earbuds is the lack of noise reduction or outright active noise cancellation technology. You can find that in the similarly priced Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) that were released earlier this year as well as on the new Sony WF-1000XM4, which are some of the best true wireless earbuds on the market. Google does offer ambient noise reduction when you’re on a phone call – but you’ll still hear a lot of ambient noise on your end when you’re listening to music or watching a movie.
- Many of the same features as the Pixel Buds 2
- Overall better sound quality than before...
- ...however, it's still fatiguing compared to better-sounding 'buds
- Battery life lasts 5 hours and has 19 hours of extra charge in the case
The A-Series have pretty much all the features that we saw from the Google Pixel Buds 2 – i.e. hands-free access to Google Assistant, real-time translation, and an IPX4 water-resistance rating that makes them sweat-resistant.
Admittedly, we weren’t expecting much of a difference in performance considering that the design of earbuds haven’t really changed that much. We were wrong. Thanks to some new tuning, the Google Pixel Buds Series-A have much better bass response, which makes them a real step up in terms of sound quality from the Google Pixel Buds 2.
Listening to various genres of music you’ll hear the bass come through loud and clear – especially if you’re a fan of EDM, rap or hip-hop. The EDM classic Ghosts N Stuff by Deadmau5 sounds rightfully bassy with the Google Pixel Buds Series-A, and while the mids and highs never quite shimmer, the low-end is a definite step up from the previous model.
Turning to rock and pop, you’ll hear more of the same – Dreams by Fleetwood Mac has a distinctive emphasis on the bass and a good mid-range performance with Stevie Nicks’ voice, but there’s a lack of detail in the highs. Thankfully, they have a larger-than-expected soundstage that helps them give a fuller presentation to a lot of your favorite songs.
Overall, the sound quality is much, much better than before, but there’s still some room to grow. They can still be a bit fatiguing to listen to for long periods of time – and we only liked listening to them in short bursts for that reason – but we didn’t have nearly as much to critique with these as we had with the Google Pixel Buds 2.
While the Buds don’t feature any sort of active noise cancellation, they do have one trick up their sleeve that many other earbuds don’t – and that’s the ability to raise the volume based on how much ambient noise is in the background. For example, if you’re on a crowded bus, the earbuds will hear all that background noise and then increase the volume of the music. In practice it won’t be as good as blocking out the noise, but it is a neat feature that will prevent you from reaching into your pocket to adjust the volume every time you go from a crowded area into a place with less ambient noise.
In terms of battery life, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series offer a bit of an improvement. According to Google, you’re looking at five hours of listening time and up to two-and-a-half hours of talk time, as opposed to the three hours of listening time that we got from the Google Pixel Buds 2. We’ll still need to put them through a few recharge cycles ourselves to see how this number holds up, but it is very promising.
Inside the case you’ll get another 19 hours of battery life for a total of 24 hours and the earbuds support fast charging, so that 15 minutes in the charging case can deliver up to three hours of listening time.
Should you buy the Google Pixel Buds A-Series?
Buy them if...
You're looking for affordable, hands-free Google Assistant earbuds
For Android owners in need of an affordable, hands-free Google Assistant pair of true wireless earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series should be an obvious front-runner and compelling alternative to the more expensive Pixel Buds 2.
You can't stand the sound of the original Pixel Buds or Pixel Buds 2
The Pixel Buds A-Series aren't the end-all, be-all in terms of great-sounding true wireless earbuds, but they are a big step up from the bass-less Pixel Buds 2. If you want that low-end back in your music, give these a go.
You have faith in Google's real-time translation technology
It's not perfect by any means and often will get hung up, Google's real-time translation technology is a decent solution to tricky language barriers. It's got a ways to go, but it's one of the better features Google packs into its earbuds.
Don't but them if...
You need active noise cancellation in your earbuds
With no active noise cancellation and no noise reduction technology, you have to put a lot of trust into finding the perfect fit – something that's very hard to do with these earbuds. If you want active noise cancellation you'll need to look elsewhere.
You want pristine sound quality or spatial audio support
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series really aren't audiophile-grade earbuds and don't hold up to the highest-end earbuds in terms of audio quality. What they offer is a decent low-end and a great mid-range, but not sparkling highs or a wide soundstage.
You're looking for something to wear for hours on end
The biggest strike against the Pixel Buds A-Series – and the reason we just couldn't rate them higher than the Pixel Buds 2 – is that they're really fatiguing both in terms of sound quality and fit. They're fine in short bursts – like a quick video call or Spotify session – but they aren't the kinds of things you'll want to wear eight hours a day, five days a week at your job.
- Need some new 'buds? Check out our guide to the best earbuds