Last year’s Pixel Buds weren’t the best value, but this year Google is trying a new approach, cutting the cost for something similar.
There’s clearly no shortage of truly wireless earphones out there, what with cheap-as-chips entry-level wireless earphones from no-name brands all the way to expensive earphones that cost nearly $500. Depending on what you want to spend, you can probably grab a pair of earphones to match your budget, and the cord won’t be a factor.
But while much of the focus is on the high end with noise cancellation, there’s still plenty happening well below the $200 mark, and this week there’s one more there.
Google is joining the fight for an entry-level earphone in Australia this week, launching a pair of earphones that has already seen a launch overseas, the Pixel Buds A. Given our country begins with an “A”, you might be thinking “about time” (a phrase also beginning with “A”), though there’s a little more to these earphones than another pair of earphones out in the world.
Following on from last year’s $270 Pixel Buds, the Pixel Buds A series gets a similar design with a compact case, no cables, and a focus on sound and easy pairing with Android, thanks to that “Pixel” name Google has focused on.
In fact, the new A-series will share features in common with last year’s take, including a similar design, no noise cancellation, and an “adaptive audio” mode that can raise and lower the sound based on what’s happening around you.
It means when a car drives by, the noise can tell the Pixel Buds A-series to raise the volume to compensate for the noise, with the volume lowering when the noise has ceased. Think of this not so much as noise cancellation, but rather noise compensation, and something coming to these $159 earphones.
Inside the Pixel Buds A-Series, Google is using a custom 12mm dynamic driver on each ear, with some equaliser settings to let you choose between a natural sound and something with a bit more bass, and there’s a new wireless chip Google is using that allows both earphones to talk to your phone simultaneously, differently from how the 2020 Pixel Buds did it, which was apparently one at a time.
The A-series Buds also support real-time translation, something left over from the first Pixel Buds back in 2017 that was a little hit and miss, though it’s a feature that will only work with a supported app on Android phones, and if you don’t have that — iPhones and Huawei phones, we’re looking at you — it won’t work.
The same is true with the equaliser settings and the adaptive sound, as they also require the Pixel Buds app on Android, and that’s only available through the Android Google Play Store, but the Pixel Buds A-Series will work on any device, as they’re Bluetooth. And with the $159 price tag, they’re a pair of earphones designed for budgets, and apparently more ears, with Google noting that the company did a lot of research to find a comfort level that could accommodate lots of ears, scanning in thousands of ears to make these into a real product.
“Our team realised ears are more unique than fingerprints,” said Ethan Grabau, Product Manager at Google “That’s why we have to get such a huge sample size,” he said. “Even slight tweaks can make a world of difference.”
As a result, the Pixel Buds A-Series comes with an assortment of tips and a little earwing gel to hold in ears, with a five hour battery life and 24 in the case.
As to whether they’ll be great for all ears, that remains to be seen, but with a sub-$200 price and a compact size, it’s clear that Google could be giving folks looking for an inexpensive pair something interesting to look forward to.
The Pixel Buds A-Series will arrive in one colour (white) in Australia from August 25 for $159, found online and offline at JB HiFi, Officeworks, and other stores and telcos across the country.