It’s like deja vu, but with a much more affordable price tag. The Google Pixel Buds A-Series, take everything I liked about the 2020 Pixel Buds and dropped the price to a budget-friendly $99. And while you’d think Google would cut corners somewhere to get to the lower cost, these buds are just as good as their predecessor. However, the A-Series still retain most of the faults of Google’s previous buds including a lack of active noise cancellation and lower maximum volume. But for the price and the seamless integration of Google Assistant, I doubt many Android diehards will mind. Either way, the A-Series have earned their place on our best wireless earbuds page.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series pricing and availability
I never thought I’d see the day when a pair of flagship wireless earbuds were priced at under $100, but here we are. The Google Pixel Buds Series-A are available for only $99.99. Compare that to other flagships on the market, including the $197 Apple AirPods Pro, $178 Sony WF-1000xM3, and $279 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and you see why these are such a compelling option. Even the 2020 Google Pixel Buds are pricey at $179.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series design
The fresh maker! Sorry, The Pixel Buds continue to remind me of a pair of Mentos. Thankfully, these earbuds have an IPX4 rating much like their competitors, so you can at least splash them with Diet Coke. Although I can’t promise you’ll get that Coca-Cola volcano you’re looking for.
The A-Series are currently available in two colors: Clearly White and Dark Olive. They’re not the most compelling colors, but I’m hoping Google will release more eye-catching hues down the line. My review units are colored Dark Olive, which in person looks more gray than green. Quibbles about tint aside, the earbuds retain much of the 2020 Pixel Buds’ design elements starting with the matte finish with an uppercase G stamped in the middle of the cap. While the earwing is also made of a matte material, the back of the earbuds gleam with a glossy gray casing. You’ll see two holes along the back for the microphone and bass port, with either an R or L stamped in black to let you know which bud goes in which ear.
And while the A-Series might look like Mentos, the white matte charging case looks like a mega Tic Tac or a misshapen macaron. A thick gray seam along the front shows where to flip it open. When you do open the case, the interior matches the back of the earbuds in that shiny gray plastic. You’ll also see a bright white light right below the seam. Flip the case over to see the pair button at the bottom. And at the very bottom of the case is the USB-C charging port.
At 0.18 ounces, the A-Series weigh the same as their predecessor. But measuring 0.8 x 1.2 x 0.7 inches, the new buds are larger than the 2020 Pixel Buds (0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches). Still, the A-Series are smaller than the AirPods Pro (0.19 ounces, 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches) and the QC Earbuds (3 ounces, 1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches).
As for the charging case, it weighs 1.5 ounces without the earbuds (1.9 ounces with the buds) and measures 2.5 x 1.9 x 1 inches. It’s absolutely dainty compared to the AirPods Pro (2.7 ounces, 3.5 x 2 x 1.3 inches). Surprisingly the Bose’s case is a scooch lighter (1.6 ounces, 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches).
Google Pixel Buds A-Series comfort
The A-Series are really comfortable to the point where I happily wore them for 2.5 hours. They fit snugly along my ears’ scapha, hiding just under the helix. I definitely felt the default medium eartips expand against the entrance to my ear canal, but it was never uncomfortable. In fact, it felt more like a tiny ear hug. Google has embedded a spatial vent to alleviate in-ear pressure and enhance spatial awareness. However, if the default tips aren’t just right, you can swap them out for either the large or small tips.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series setup
Google is borrowing a few of Apple’s tricks with its proprietary Fast Pair technology. As soon as I flipped open the charging case, a big prompt informed me that the A-Series were ready to pair appeared on both my Google Pixel 5 and my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Clicking the Setup button took me to a quick firmware update. From there, the A-Series were ready to rock and roll.
As demonstrated by my Note 20 Ultra, the A-Series will pair with any device, including iOS gadgets, as long as it has Bluetooth 4.0 capability. Want to use Google Assistant? Your phone or tablet needs at least Android 6.0.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series controls
Tap controls can be hit or miss with wireless earbuds. Too sensitive and the slightest brush can trigger an unwanted action. Not sensitive enough forces harder taps which is an uncomfortable experience both physically and aurally. Google threaded the needle on this one, activating commands with a light, but firm tap.
When listening to music, a single tap will play/pause a track, while a double tap will skip the track forward and a triple tap skips backward. When a call comes in, a single tap answers while a double tap ignores or ends the conversation. But unlike the 2020 Pixel Buds, to raise or lower the volume you have to use Google Assistant or (shudder) touch your phone.
Speaking of Google Assistant, a long press on either bud summons the digital assistant to read any recent notifications. For any further Assistant action, you’ll utter the magic words, “Hey Google.”
Google Pixel Buds A-Series features
Features on a pair of sub-$100 earbuds are typically a non-existent occurrence. Not so with the A-Series. All those snazzy features from the 2020 Pixel Buds are also standard on the A-Series. For instance, the A-Series allow you to use Google Translate, which lets you carry on a conversation in over 40 languages. To test it out, I said “Hey Google, help me speak Spanish,” and long-pressing a bud. Google Translate launched on my Pixel 5 and I started speaking in English. From there, Translate actually read out my sentences into Spanish.
In order to simulate a conversation, I turned to Telemundo and watched Hoy Día and tapped the right microphone in the Google Translate app. The software began translating into English in real time and did a better job than I could do with my rudimentary grasp of the language.
Another nifty Google Assistant-powered feature is Notifications, which as the name suggests, lets the digital assistant read out your recent activities including email, messages, flight changes and traffic updates, to name a few. Once again, I long-pressed an earbud to initiate the feature and heard a chime then the assistant began reading the latest text messages starting with an email. After announcing who the email was from and the subject line, I pressed an earbud until I heard a chime to hear the full email. To stop hearing notifications, I quickly double-tapped the earbud and went back to listening to music.
Using voice command, I launched my favorite Spotify playlist. I also used the buds for walking directions to my doctor’s appointment. I appreciate how seamlessly Google integrated voice command into the A-Series. This is the most I’ve used a digital assistant in a long time.
The buds also have a Find My Earbuds feature that will show the lost buds location or you can ping the bud, causing it to ring increasingly louder as long as you have the corresponding app installed. The app successfully showed the approximate whereabouts of the buds on Google Maps. And when I rang the buds, they eventually got to a volume where I could hear them in my bedroom while I was in the living room.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series app
I don’t know about you, but I like my wireless earbuds to have a companion app. It’s here that you can really unlock the buds’ potential as well as make a few personal tweaks. The A-Series employs the same app as the 2020 Pixel Buds. That means, the app still lacks an adjustable equalizer. However, it does feature a Bass Boost as a small consolation prize.
Equalizer aside, the app does have plenty of other settings to play with. You can set what notifications Google Assistant will read as well as check battery life. The app also allows you to enable/disable Adaptive Sounds, in-ear detection and Google Assistant. You can also check battery life status, change the earbuds’ name, and activate Find My Earbuds.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series adaptive audio
I yearn for the day that Google makes the leap into the active noise cancelling arena. But alas, today is not that day. Instead, Google relies on its Adaptive Sound technology and the tight, yet comfortable seal created by the A-Series’ eartips. In practice, Adaptive Sound constantly listens to your environment and adjusts the volume on your audio accordingly.
So when I was in the solitude of my house working on a review, I had the volume set to about 40% volume. When I took a break to fix lunch, the banging of pots and pans caused the volume to increase in an attempt to block out the outside world. And when I was finished making my slightly noisy task, the volume returned to my original setting.
And while it’s a cool feature in theory, it doesn’t have as much oomph as I’d like. The volume increase is very slight. So when I left my house to walk to the subway, it did very little to shut out the ambient noise of the outside world, forcing me to raise the volume manually by asking Google Assistant.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series audio
Just like the 2020 Pixel Buds, the A-Series utilize a pair of custom 12-millimeter dynamic drivers that deliver great sound. They sound better than a pair of sub-$100 have any right to. The highs and mids are nice and full while the lows are deep and weighty.
Listening to Stormzy’s “One Second,” the upper register of the piano was clean and bright with crisp percussion. Stormzy’s raspy delivery was front and center as was singer H.E.R.’s alto. The organ portion of the track had a bit too much reverb which muddied the track, but not enough to take away from my overall enjoyment. The AirPods Pro dealt with the organ parts of the track better and I had a better time hearing the twangs of H.E.R’s guitar as she closed out the song. Plus, the AirPods Pro are louder than the A-Series with the former’s 50% equating to the latter’s 75%.
The A-Series had a bit more clarity during “True Kind Of Love” from the Steven Universe soundtrack. The synthy keyboard was a lot easier for the earbuds to handle, which let me enjoy the gentle crescendos amidst the snare drum and the cymbals. The low end was cleaner than what I heard on my first test track. However, when I turned on Bass Boost, the lows overwhelmed the rest of the track, almost encroaching on Estelle’s vocals. The keyboard sounded light and airy on the AirPods Pro, giving buoyancy to Estelle’s deep alto without losing the drum machine.
For my last song, I went with Ayron Jones “Killing Season.” And despite having the volume at about 80%, what should have been an aggressive opening guitar riff sounded distant and somewhat toothless. Still, I had no problems hearing the grit in Jones’ vocal delivery. The same opener on the AirPods Pro had the punch I was looking for. Plus, there was a fairly spacious soundstage so I could focus on individual parts of the song.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series battery life and Bluetooth
It would have been nice if Google could have boosted the A-Series battery life, but we don’t deal in coulda-woulda-shouldas. So the A-Series is still rated for an estimated 5 hours of listening time and 2.5 hours of talk time. The earbuds made it through a little more than half my work day at 4 hours and 15 minutes, which was spent between video conferencing, listening to music, and taking a few phone calls. Similar to its predecessor, the right bud tends to drain faster than the left.
When the buds need a recharge, 15 minutes in the charging case will get you 3 hours of listening time, which translates to 1.5 hours of talk time. With additional charges, the A-Series battery life is estimated at 24 hours, putting it on a par with the AirPods Pro and outlasting Bose's 18 hours.
Thanks to the A-Series Bluetooth 5.0 chip, I had no problem leaving my Pixel 5 in the house while I went out back to tend to my grill. The connection also held up whether I was upstairs with my phone or downstairs to record a podcast. The connection didn’t start to drop until I left my apartment to take out the garbage.
Google Pixel Buds A-Series call quality
Whether I was running meetings with my staff or just chatting with friends, the A-Series’ pair of beamforming microphones were up to the task. My staff couldn’t tell I was even using earbuds until I mentioned it. And when my friend called when I was running errands, they couldn’t hear any wind resistance, but they definitely heard the train running overhead in the background. I didn’t have any complaints from my side of the calls as everyone who I spoke to came through loud and clear.
Who says you need to spend over $100 for a pair of quality flagship-grade wireless earbuds? Clearly not Google. Similar to what the company did for the Pixel 5, it has done for the A-Series wireless earbuds. For $99, you get a pair of truly wireless earbuds that are packed with features, and super comfortable with just a splash of water resistance.
If you’re looking for a bit more oomph on the volume and some active noise cancelling action, you’ll want to look at the $197 Apple AirPods Pro, $178 Sony WF-1000xM3 or $279 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds. But if you’re a diehard Android fan with an eye on your budget who is looking for a pair of earbuds with solid audio quality, the Google Pixel Buds A-Series are the way to go.