GOOGLE PIXEL BUDS A-SERIES REVIEW: PRICE IS EVERYTHING

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Good news for Google Pixel Earbuds lovers. The $99 Pixel Buds A-Series are more comfortable to wear over longer stretches of time than the pricier earbuds. They retain the same enjoyable sound quality, and hands-free “Hey Google” access to Google Assistant and features like real-time language translation are still useful tricks to have at your disposal. The carrying case is just as fun to fidget with as before (though it lost wireless charging) and has the same satisfying thunk when you close it. Google promises the same five hours of continuous battery life, with a total of 24 hours when you include case recharges.

Pixel Buds A-Series Connectivity

The bad news is that Google didn’t fully overcome the connectivity issues, though it made some improvement. According to Google’s Sandeep Waraich, the changes made to the A-Series buds are meant to enhance wireless reliability. Each earbud connects individually to the source device. Both the antenna and chipset architectures were optimized for stronger transmission power and increased range to avoid cross-body audio dropouts. There’s even an all-new chipset inside, though Google declined to tell me who manufactures it.

According to one of the users, “The Pixel Buds A-Series still have occasional blips and very brief audio interruptions. It’s not nearly as glaring of a problem as before, and I really only noticed it on the move (and on busy streets with plenty of wireless interference), but it’s still something you might encounter. The Bluetooth connection does seem to be stronger regardless of which pocket your phone is in. I find that it’s easier to tolerate things like this for $99 than the $179 that Google still asks for the 2020 Pixel Buds, but I wish they were gone completely. Almost, but not quite. The connection troubles were bad enough for some Pixel Buds 2 owners that they returned the earbuds; I don’t think it rises to that severity on the A-Series”.

Acoustic Architecture of Pixel Buds A-Series

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The acoustic architecture is unchanged, so the sound signature between the Pixel Buds and Pixel Buds A-Series is very consistent. That’s a good thing. Google aims for full, natural audio reproduction, and that’s what you get from these earbuds and their 12-millimeter drivers. You can still enable the “bass boost” option in settings to give the low end some added oomph. Even with bass boost active, the Pixel Buds don’t match the boominess of something like the Jabra Elite 75ts or Sony’s WF-XB700s. Still, there’s a level of clarity that outshines many earbuds that sell at the $100 mark. Waraich told me that Google increased overall volume levels across the board after some customers found the 2020 Pixel Buds couldn’t crank as high as they’d hoped.

But although the Pixel Buds A-Series can get louder, they still have to contend with a lot of the outside world. Like the previous model, these A-Series earbuds just aren’t very good at noise isolation. While working from the outdoor seating area at my local coffee shop, I could hear an annoying level of traffic at all times. I think it partially comes down to their vented, airy design, but Google seems to struggle with this more than other companies.

Google Analysis on the Acoustic of the Earbuds

Google says it actually tweaked the spatial vents to allow less outside noise in, but it’s still a noticeable downside of these earbuds. It is inherently got something to do with the fit and “gentle” in-ear seal that Google had in mind with the design. What’s become clear to me is that the next flagship Pixel Buds really need some form of active noise cancellation to counteract this. There are people who prefer some awareness of what’s happening around them, but you get a little too much of that with the Pixel Buds.

Price for Pixel Buds A-Series:  $99

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