Which buds are best for you?

Google recently released its first pair of ANC earbuds in the Pixel Buds Pro. The new buds are being offered alongside, rather than in place of, Google’s last pair of earbuds, the Pixel Buds A-Series. Compared to the $200 Buds Pro, the A-Series are a solid, less-expensive earbud option at just $99. If you couldn’t guess from that price gulf, though, they’re very different products. Interested in trying a pair of Google buds, but not sure which one? We’ve got you covered.


Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. Google Pixel Buds A-Series: Hardware and battery

The Pixel Buds Pro share an unmistakable resemblance to the Pixel Buds A-Series—they’re both very Google, with no sharp angles to speak of and playful details like the debossed G logo on each earbud. But the Pixel Buds Pro are significantly larger than the lightweight A-Series. In our subjective experience, the Pixel Buds Pro still fit comfortably, but they will stick out of your ears a little farther than the A-Series.

While the Pixel Buds A-Series have what Google calls a spatial vent to help relieve in-ear pressure and let some external sound into your ears, the Pixel Buds Pro ditch that feature for a more closed design. Instead, the Buds Pro have a transparency mode that, using mics on the earbuds, pipes sound from your environment into your ears alongside your media. (Google also says that the Pixel Buds Pro monitor the pressure in your ears to keep it at a comfortable level but hasn’t elaborated on how that process works.) The Pixel Buds Pro also ditch the stabilizing fin the Pixel Buds A-Series have , which could mean the Buds Pro get a less secure fit in some ears.

The Pixel Buds A-Series come in just two colors: Dark Olive and Clearly White. The Pixel Buds Pro come in your choice of Charcoal, Fog, Lemongrass, or Coral.

Battery life on the Pixel Buds A-Series is something of a sore spot, quoted at just five hours of playback at a time—and remember, those earbuds don’t have active noise cancellation. Pixel Buds Pro are an enormous improvement on that front, with a quoted battery life of seven hours on a single charge with ANC and up to 11 hours without. Both pairs of buds can get about two additional charges from their cases. Both cases charge with USB-C, but only the Pixel Buds Pro’s case supports wireless charging.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. Google Pixel Buds A-Series: Audio and features

At $99, the Pixel Buds A-Series punch above their weight when it comes to audio quality, with sound that’s clear and full and offers more bass than you’d expect given their slim design. The $200 Pixel Buds Pro also sound very good, but the overall quality isn’t vastly better than the Pixel Buds A-Series. Both pairs support the AAC and SBC codecs but not higher-bitrate standards like aptX or LDAC. That shouldn’t matter much to you if you mostly stream audio through Spotify or YouTube Music, but if you’re in the market for audiophile-grade sound, know that neither of these pairs of buds fit that bill.

There have been reports of shoddy Bluetooth connectivity in the Pixel Buds A-Series, including audio skips, static, and outright disconnects. We also experienced some of this with our review unit. Connectivity in our experience is generally OK, but it might get dicey if you’re listening outside with your phone in a bag or back pocket. And while Google says not everyone will be able to hear the static, if you can, it’s not always easy to ignore. The Pixel Buds Pro don’t seem to have any of these issues.

The Pixel Buds Pro’s big draw, aside from their improved fundamentals like battery life and connectivity, is their feature set. Both the A-Series and the Pro support Fast Pair on Android, and both have optional always-on hey google listening for hands-free Assistant access. But the Buds Pro have a number of desirable features the A-Series don’t, including active noise cancellation and Bluetooth multipoint, which lets you connect them to two audio sources at a time (a phone and a laptop, for example). The Buds Pro’s case can also charge wirelessly, whereas the A-Series’s is USB-C only.

The Pixel Buds A-Series have a feature that can automatically lower their volume when certain sounds are detected, like a barking dog or breaking glass. The Pixel Buds Pro don’t currently have a similar feature. We know Google intends to add additional functionality to the Buds Pro through updates, though, including support for spatial audio, a sort of virtual surround sound.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. Google Pixel Buds A-Series: Which should you buy?

Pixel Buds A-Series cost $99; the Pixel Buds Pro go for more than twice as much at $200. Audio quality alone doesn’t justify the price jump; if you only need a pair of decent-sounding earbuds and don’t care much about the bells and whistles, the A-Series might be right for you.

But the Pixel Buds A-Series, thanks to their unique vented hardware, are less universally useful than more conventional true wireless earbuds. The spatial vent design might be good for ear comfort and situational awareness, but it means you’ll get external sound leaking in all the time, rather than just when you want it to. And since the A-Series don’t have ANC, your only option to drown out more of your surroundings is to crank the volume. If you want earbuds specifically to wear in noisy environments, consider the Pixel Buds Pro. Not only do they have ANC and an excellent transparency mode to flip between, but their markedly better battery life, premium features like Bluetooth multipoint, and more stable connectivity really help justify their price.

Buy the Pixel Buds Pro if…

  • You frequently wear your earbuds in noisy environments
  • You wear earbuds for more than a few hours at a time
  • Nice-to-have features like multipoint connectivity are worth money to you

Buy the Pixel Buds A-Series if…

  • $200 is more than you’re willing to spend
  • You wouldn’t get much use out of active noise cancellation
  • You prefer smaller earbuds

Buy Pixel Buds Pro

$200 at Amazon $200 at Google $200 at Best Buy

Buy Pixel Buds A-Series

$99 at Amazon$99 at Google$99 at Best Buy