Google launched its first Pixel Buds in several countries including the US last year priced at US$179, but it didn’t launch in India. After introducing the Pixel Buds A-Series, a cheaper version of the Pixel Buds back in June at US$ 99, it was launched in India a few weeks back for Rs. 9999. Even though it retains the same design, Adaptive Sound, 12mm drivers and the same battery life from the Pixel Buds, this misses some features like the volume control, wireless charging, water resistance for the case. Is this worth the price? Let us find out in the review.
- Google Pixel Buds A-Series in Clearly White colour
- USB Type-A to Type-C Cable
- Eartips with 3 size options: small, medium (attached to earbuds), large
- User manual
Design and Build Quality
Starting with the design, the charging case comes in an egg-like shape, same as the Pixel Buds. It has a matte finish that feels smooth to hold and doesn’t attract fingerprints, smudges and is also not prone to scratches. However, the white colour gets dirty easily. The company has not launched the Dark Olive colour variant in India. The charging case measures 63x47x 25mm and weighs 52.9 grams. There is a tiny LED indicator on the front. The function button is present in the back.
The USB Type-C Port is present in the bottom.
Opening the case, you can see the slots for Left and Right earbuds. The buds have magnets to secure them in its place.
The headset has a plastic build, but it has a dual finish, with the inner area featuring a glossy finish that attracts fingerprints easily, but the outer touch area features a matte finish. You can also see the microphones, IR proximity sensor for in-ear detection to play and pause automatically and the spatial vent for in-ear pressure reduction and spatial awareness. This also has a motion-detecting accelerometer.
The earbuds weigh about 5.06 grams, so you don’t feel like you are wearing the buds. The earbuds feature an in-ear design and also come with medium-sized ear tips pre-installed. You can change to bundled Large or Small sized ear tips if you wish. You can also see the contacts for charging.
Overall, the headset offers a good build quality and fits your ears perfectly, thanks to the ear fins that lock into your ears, so that they don’t fall off your ears easily, even during strenuous workouts like running or cycling. You just need to rotate the earbuds so that the stabilizer arc tucks into the ear until it fits comfortably without any pressure.
The earphones have IPX4 ratings for water resistance, so it can withstand splashes or light rain, but you can’t use it when swimming. However, the case not water resistant like the one in the last year’s Pixel Buds model.
Connectivity, Pairing, and Controls
The Pixel Buds A-Series supports Bluetooth 5.0 with AAC codec. The connection range is around 10 meters, which is common in most headsets, and the connection quality is good. It supports Google fast pair support, which is an easy way to pair the earbuds and also links to your Google account. This works in all Android 6.0+ phones. Just place the charging case next to your phone with the Google Pixel Buds A-Series still inside. Open the case. Press and hold the pairing button on the back of the charging case until you see the white earbuds’ status light pulsing. If you see a blinking white/orange light instead, try closing the lid of the charging case and re-opening it. Then press and hold the pairing button again. Look for a pop-up notification on your phone. It will guide you through the rest of set up.
If you don’t want to link the earbuds to your Google account. Press and hold the pairing button on the back of the charging case until you see the white earbuds’ status light pulsing. On your phone’s Bluetooth settings menu, tap Pair new device. Tap on the Pixel Buds A-Series headphones’ name to pair them with your phone. On some Android devices, there is a pop-up notification that will take you through the rest of setup.
With fast pair, you also get to see the battery status for the charging case and the buds in the notification.
The touch controls are perfect and also gives you an audio feedback for each tap.
- Tap: Answer calls, play/pause media
- Double tap: Skip track
- Triple tap: Go to previous track
- Press and hold (Android 6.0+ only): Speak to your Google Assistant (requires Assistant set up)
You can also disable the touch controls from the Pixel Buds app, but you can’t customize them. The Pixel Buds A-Series doesn’t have swipe to control volume features, which was a good one in the older model. Most TWS earbuds in the price range offer built-in volume controls.
In-ear detection for auto play pause can be disabled from the app.
The Find device option makes a sound to quickly find the earbuds when it is connected to the phone. The Pixel Buds also come with Google Assistant support that lets you control music, get directions, and more. After setup, you can say ‘Hey Google,’ or touch and hold either earbud to launch Google Assistant. It can also read notifications and offer real-time translation in more than 40 languages (including Bengali, Hindi, and Tamil) right in your ear, but this just uses the Google Translate app.
Audio Quality and Call Performance
The Pixel Buds A-series packs a 12mm dynamic driver, the same driver present in the Pixel Buds. Audio quality is good with crisp and clear vocals, and decent mids, but it is not as loud as the OnePlus Buds Pro or the OPPO Enco X. Google said that it started rolling out a new firmware update (version 233) which will fix ‘low maximum volume’ in certain cases. This should fix the low volume issue.
If you love bass, you can enable Bass boost EQ option in the Sound settings in the Pixel Buds app, which does it job in boosting to low frequency audio. There is also Adaptive Sound option that automatically optimizes volume based on the noise level of your environment. This is good if you are somewhere noisy like a city street of a subway, but when you move to a quieter place, the volume feels very low, so I had to turn this off.
Google says that the Adaptive Sound adjusts for sustained noise, rather than one-off background noise, to ensure a non-disruptive listening experience. Wish this had ANC option to block out exterior noise instead of the adaptive sound feature. The Pixel Buds A-series also lacks the Attention Alerts feature that was introduced in the Pixel Buds. This uses AI technology to detect a few important sounds and makes you aware of when they happen. Both these features will drain the battery, says Google.
Coming to the call noise cancellation, it uses dual beam forming mics to focus on voice and reduce outside noise during calls. This does a good job in cutting down noise indoor during calls and zoom meetings, but for outdoors, it is not the best since this lacks the wind noise reduction feature that was present in the Pixel Buds. During my run, wind noise and traffic noise cut were audible to the receiver.
The earphones promise up to 5 hours of standalone battery life. During my use with AAC, I got about 4 and half hours, which is good. If you enable the bass boost mode and adaptive sound features, it will be less than four hours. For calls, it lasts only for 2 half hours since it uses call noise cancellation tech.
With the charging case, it promises up to 24 hours of total listening time and up to 12 hours of talk time. I got about 20 hours with mixed use of music playback and calls. You can clearly view the charge left in each bud, and the case in the app or directly in the notification shade, if you have Google Fast Pair enabled.
It also has fast charge, so that you get 3 hours of playback or 1.5 hours of talk time with 15 minutes of charging. Full charge takes over an hour. The A-Series model doesn’t have wireless charging support for the case, which the Pixel Buds feature.
Overall, the Pixel Buds A-Series decent headset that offers a comfortable fit, good audio experience and the touch controls are good as well. However, it misses a lot of features which the first Pixel Buds come with, such as Wind noise cancellation for calls, built-in volume controls and wireless charging and IP ratings for the case. I am not a fan of Google’s Adaptive Sound feature which boosts the volume based on the surrounding noise, instead of active noise cancellation (ANC) that blocks the outside noise.
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series is available from Flipkart, Reliance Digital, Tata Cliq and more retail outlets offline for Rs. 9,999. This is a good deal for those who got it for Rs. 4999 bundled with the Pixel 4a. It should get cheaper during the Big Billion Days sale next month.
- Good audio quality
- Comfortable to wear even during strenuous workouts
- Touch controls are prefect
- Good build quality
- No ANC support
- No volume controls
- Call noise cancellation is not the best