Pixel Buds Pro vs Pixel Buds A-Series: Which Google headphones are the best for you?
(Pocket-lint) - Google has been expanding its hardware offering, with an increasing number of Pixel devices. When it comes to headphones, there are now three two sets on offer: Pixel Buds Pro and the Pixel Buds A-Series. The second-gen Pixel Buds have slowly disappeared from retailers, leaving us with just the two sets to choose from.
They have plenty in common, but still present something of a challenge when it comes to choosing your smart earbuds from Google. So which is best for you?
Price and availability
- Pro: £199.99 / GBP179 / EUR219
- A-Series: £99 / GBP99.99 / EUR99
The Google Pixel Buds A-Series are available now for an affordable £/GBP/EUR99, giving you connected earbuds with the Google Assistant deeply integrated. They are widely available from retailers.
The Pixel Buds Pro are new and double the price at £199 / GBP179 / EUR219. They're not yet available, but will go on pre-order on 21 July, in stores from 28 July. You might still be able to find the older Pixel Buds in some retailers, but we can't recommend paying any more than £/GBP/EUR99 for them.
Design and build
- Pro: Case: 63.2 x 50 x 25mm; 62.4g / Earbud: 22.33 x 22.03 x 23.72mm; 6.2g
- A-Series: Case: 63 x 47 x 25mm; 52.9g / Earbud: 20.7 x 29.3 x 17.5mm; 5.06g
Google has applied similar design to the Buds Pro and the Buds A-Series, but the Buds Pro case is slightly bigger and about 10g heavier.
It follows through that the Buds Pro themselves are also bigger, and heavier, with an obviously larger body compared to the Buds A-Series. There's a lot more tech packed in, so that makes perfect sense. The Buds A-Series have a small rubber arm that comes out the top designed to help them stay in your ear; the Buds Pro don't have this and we can't say that's a problem - we've never found it that useful anyway.
The Buds A-Series come in Sage and White colours, while the Buds Pro come in Charcoal, Fog, Lemongrass and Coral. One of the things that Google aimed to do with the Pixel Bud design was to have a strokably smooth case: it's like pebble that you'll want to caress and turn in your hands and it looks as though the Buds Pro case is the same. Both earbuds have an IPX4 rating, so they are proofed against sweat, but the Buds A-Series case has no protection, while the Buds Pro is IPX2 protected.
Audio and active noise cancellation
- Pro: 11mm driver, ANC, transparency mode, Silent Seal
- A-Series: 12mm driver, passive noise blocking
Both headphones use capacitive touch or voice for control.
You can tap or swipe on the ends of the Buds to control them. Both have an accelerometer to detect motion, while the Buds Pro expand this to include a gyroscope too. The Buds A-Series don't have touch volume controls, but it looks like the Buds Pro does.
Google has also said that spatial audio is coming to the Pixel Buds later in 2022 - and that's likely to be what the gyroscope is for. There are different drivers in these headphones, but it's the active noise cancellation (ANC) that's the big differentiator here. The Buds Pro have three microphones compared to the Buds A-Series two mics.
The Buds Pro has much larger and more obvious openings on the body of the earbuds. That's so that the Buds Pro can detect exterior noise and cancel it out, so you don't get disturbed by it. Google is also pushing something called Silent Seal technology, designed to allow the buds to adapt to any ear to provide great results.
This is all driven by custom Google hardware and algorithms. ANC is likely to mean that the sound quality on the Buds Pro is going to be better: our biggest criticism of the Buds A-Series is that they don't seal well, so they don't block out exterior noise very effectively. When Google launched the Buds A-Series (and the previous Pixel Buds), it said that part of the aim was to avoid you feeling cut-off from the world around you.
The aim of Pixel Buds Pro, now, is to cut you off - and that's likely to be a more popular experience. Of course there's also a transparency mode to let external noise in, so you can be aware of your surroundings.
Battery and charging
- Pro: 11 hours listening, 31 hours total; 7 hours listening, 20 hours total with ANC
- A-Series: 5 hours listening, 24 hours total
Both headphones offer USB-C charging of the case, but only the Buds Pro offer Qi wireless charging (as did the second-gen Buds). There's also a big difference in battery life.
The Buds A-Series only offer 5 hours - but the Buds Pro will stretch to 11 hours. That drops to 7 hours with ANC - but it's still longer than the Buds A-Series. That factors up with the case, the Buds A-Series offering 24 hours total, the Buds Pro offering 31 hours total, which drops to 20 hours with ANC use.
It looks like the Buds Pro are the headphones to go for when it comes to battery life.
- Pro: Google Assistant, Real-time translation, Volume EQ, Multipoint
- A-Series: Google Assistant, Real-time translation
Much of the smart experience that the Pixel Buds offer comes from the deep integration with Google Assistant and your Android device. Both the Buds Pro and the A-Series offer this, so we'd expect the experience to be the same. Both also offer real-time translation, another skill that Google is pushing through Android.
Both also offer Google Fast Pair, so making a connection to your phone is really easy. But beyond that, there's a couple of additional skills that the Buds Pro offer. Firstly you get multipoint connectivity, meaning you can connect to multiple devices and instantly switch from one to the other - for example from watching a movie on your iPad to taking a call on your phone.
Then there's Volume EQ, which claims to balance the audio output no matter what the volume level is so it sounds good all the time.
The Buds Pro have a couple of additional features that mean they are going to offer a more premium experience than the Pixel Buds A-Series. The active noise cancellation is going to be at the heart of this, as it will change the daily use for users, boosting that isolation in busy places, so your music sounds better - the Buds A-Series simply cannot compete with that. The best part of the Buds A-Series is how smart they are working with Google Assistant and your phone - and the Buds Pro are going to offer all of that experience too.
So the Buds Pro are likely to be better all round - something we'll confirm as soon as we've tested them closer to launch - but the there's one thing to consider: if you never use ANC and you never want to, then the Buds A-Series at half the price of the Buds Pro could be the perfect headphones for you. We suspect, however, that as a premium offering, the Buds Pro will be the headphones that everyone wants.
More about this story
When we compare products, we're not just showing you the spec sheets side-by-side, we're interpreting the information based on our experience. The Pixel Buds Pro have not been released yet, so we can't judge them directly, but we've extensively used the Pixel Buds and the Pixel Buds A-Series, so we're coming from a place of experience.
As soon as we've used the Pixel Buds Pro, we'll update the comparison to further the real-world experience and make sure that you have the best information, whether that's to guide your buying decision, or just because you want to know how they compare.
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Writing by Chris Hall.