Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Which earbuds win?

Today marks a turning point in the battle for the best wireless earbuds as Google has now launched the Google Pixel Buds Pro to rival Apple’s nigh ubiquitous true wireless earbuds, the Apple AirPods Pro.

so how are they stacking up?

Google’s latest audio release is a formidable option that delivers the best Google Assistant experience of any model in the category. It packages strong active noise cancellation (ANC) and Bluetooth multipoint into a stylish and discrete design. The additions of a Volume EQ and spatial audio (scheduled for release later this year) also elevate the Pixel Buds Pro’s audio performance.

There are many reasons why Apple’s flagship buds are considered a modern-day classic, however. Remarkable iOS integration makes it ridiculously easy to connect with iDevices (iPhone/iPad). Audio is punchy and crisp, and spatial audio creates a more immersive soundscape for select music tracks. Then there’s the solid ANC and plethora of software perks that continue to grow with every major software update.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Price
At launch, the Google Pixel Buds Pro are selling at a lower price — $199 — compared to Apple’s AirPods Pro at its launch price of $249, but the odds of finding the latter on sale at major online retailers is incredibly high these days. We recommend bookmarking our best AirPods deals and best headphones deals pages to stay notified of the latest Apple wireless earbuds sales.

Despite having the higher initial price, after taking discounts and overall functionality into account, the AirPods Pro stand out as the more enticing purchase.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Design
This is a bit subjective, obviously, but we feel the more attractive and durable of the two is the Pixel Buds Pro. Google sells these buds in four colors — charcoal, coral, fog (gray), and Lemongrass — compared to the AirPods Pro’s single color option, and we’re fond of the Pixel Bud Pro’s low-profile look and sturdy build quality. They’re sweat and water resistant rated at IPX4, and come with the cool-looking charging case that’s rated at IPX2.

Comfort is satisfying, but the fit is loose, however, and Google’s Eartip Seal Test can be inaccurate at times. The lack of the Pixel Buds 2’s built-in wings is a Pixel Buds Pro design mistake.

Apple made significant changes to the AirPods Pro’s design, including smaller stems, installed eartips, and IPX4 certification for sweat and water resistance. The Ear Tip Fit Test helps optimize fit and Apple’s tips form a tight seal. These buds also rest pleasantly on the concha for long stretches. Unfortunately, the construction is weak compared to most wireless earbuds, resulting in occasional cracks and scratches. The same can be said about the portable-friendly charging case.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Controls
The Pixel Buds Pro and AirPods Pro offer similar user experiences. However, each is best suited for their respective platform.

Android fans will love the Pixel Buds Pro’s touch and voice controls. Touch accuracy is superb, and Google gives you a full suite of media controls that can be activated directly on the buds. Wear detection automatically pauses music when taking off the buds and resumes playback when placed back on your ears. But the real star of the show is the deep Google Assistant integration. Accessing Google’s AI bot hands-free via wake word phrase (“Hey Google”) is awesome. The feature operates flawlessly, as does Google Translate and Notifications.

We’ve praised the AirPods Pro for having the best control scheme overall, and very little has changed. The Force sensor is a game-changer that produces excellent tactility to reassure users of single/multi/long-press commands being met with every press. On-ear detection is spot-on. Then there’s the “Hey Siri” feature, which turns on right away when saying the phrase and executes voice commands without a hitch. Siri works with Announce Messages and Announce Notifications to have incoming updates sent directly to your ear. In addition, it can be used to control playback and other functions when paired to an Apple Watch.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Sound quality

Here’s where things get a bit hairy. The Pixel Buds Pro have certainly stepped their game up compared to their predecessors, but the Apple AirPods Pro are equipped with a wide soundstage and easy-to-access spatial audio.

That said, sound is noticeably improved on the Pixel Buds Pro. Google combined their all-new custom 6-core audio processor with an 11mm (around 0.43-inches) driver for dynamic results. There’s some great frequency range to enjoy, and Google’s sound profile handles heavy bass performance better than expected. The inclusion of a Volume EQ gives bass and treble frequencies a boost when listening at low volumes. A five-band EQ and spatial audio are set to release sometime later this year.

Conversely, the AirPods Pro surpass audio expectations, boasting a warm, wide soundstage to hear instruments and vocals better. Bass is elevated to give music tracks more punch. Users are given the option to tweak sound via iPhone settings by selecting from over 20+ presets.

Moreover, these buds give you spatial audio right out of the box. For those unaware of the feature, it creates convincing 3D sound that can be enjoyed on select Apple Music tracks and Dolby Atmos-supported videos. Users can also share audio with a second pair of Apple/Beats headphones or earbuds that have the H1 processor.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Active noise cancellation
Audio performance is important, but so are these earbuds’ ability to reduce the amount of ambient background noise we hear when wearing them.

Google’s noise-cancelling technology does a fantastic job of silencing low- and mid-frequency sounds, while minimizing high-frequency sounds. The Pixel Buds Pro’s unsung feature is wind resistance, and the built-in mics have wind-blocking mesh covers that heavily diminish the whisking effects created in gusty conditions. Transparency mode is just as impressive, allowing ambient noises and voices to be heard clearly in numerous settings.

The AirPods Pro remains one of the better true wireless noise-cancellers out there. It blocks out common distractions like loud TVs, talkative pedestrians, and some kitchen appliances (e.g., dishwashers, microwaves) incredibly well. High-pitched neutralization isn’t its strength, but Apple’s mic array minimizes these noises well enough to keep you focused when working. We like the AirPods Pro’s Transparency Mode just as much as the Pixel Buds Pro’s version, and there is even an alternative called Live Listen that sends sounds to the mic of your iPhone to hear your surroundings.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Special features and apps
Apple’s heavy focus on software has allowed them to update all H1-powered AirPods through firmware updates, giving these models new features and extending their lifespan.

The AirPods Pro has taken full advantage of this, receiving notable features like automatic switching, Find My [AirPods], Siri Announce Messages, and Conversation Boost to enhance clarity on calls. Let us not forget aforementioned ones like ANC, audio sharing, Ear Tip Fit Test, “Hey Siri” voice activation, and spatial audio. There are numerous other AirPods Pro tricks worth checking out as well.

The AirPods Pro instantly pairs with iOS/macOS devices once opening the charging case, have a range of up to 45 feet, and hold a steady connection during FaceTime calls and streaming sessions.

The Pixel Buds Pro’s feature set isn’t as lengthy as the AirPods Pro or most sub-$200 models, but you get a few serviceable features that enhance usability. We’ve already brought you up to speed on the majority: ANC, Eartip Seal Check, Google Assistant, Google Translate, Notifications, spatial audio (coming later in 2022), and Volume EQ.

At least Google gives you excellent connectivity. The Pixel Buds Pro not only support one-tap Google Fast Pair for Android devices, but also Bluetooth multipoint (pair to two devices simultaneously) and audio switching to seamlessly transition between audio sources. These buds pair quickly with Apple devices, whereas the AirPods Pro makes it a little more difficult to pair with Android devices.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Call quality
You’ll find only one of these earbuds on our list of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. Which one? The AirPods Pro. Apple’s beam-forming mics produce loud, clean-sounding calls and reduce background interference remarkably well.

The Pixel Buds Pro has stronger wind resistance, but, unfortunately, it suffers from muffling and low volume during voice and video calls.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Battery life
Google has Apple beat in battery life by a reasonable margin. ANC playtime on the Pixel Buds Pro is 7 hours, which is 2.5 hours more than the AirPods Pro. Turning off the feature extends playtime to 11 hours. The AirPods Pro only gets you 30 minutes extra when ANC is disabled.

Additionally, Google’s charging case also holds more portable power (20 to 31 hours), depending how you use their buds. The AirPods Pro maxes out at 24 hours. Each of these cases support wireless charging and quick charging (five minutes equals one hour of listening time).

Oddly, Google does not include a charging cable with the Pixel Buds Pro, but that’s not enough of a detractor to take this win away from the Pixel Buds.

Google Pixel Buds Pro vs. AirPods Pro: Verdict
It’s a close call and will still likely be determined by which smartphone platform you’re already familiar with, but overall the AirPods Pro offers more bang for your buck. Noise cancellation is highly effective to shush around 85% of ambient noise in your vicinity. Music and movies sound compelling, especially when enabling spatial mode. All the cool features attached to the H1 chip extend functionality in many ways. Its only flaws are the low battery life and long-stem design.

The Pixel Buds Pro are a praiseworthy noise-cancelling debut for Google. These buds offer a nice package of Google smarts, robust ANC, and satisfying sound in a comfortable, clean package. Improvements in battery life, wind resistance, and touch controls are also noted. Had it not been for the lack of extra features and loose fit, they could have been recognized as the best Android wireless earbuds and a top-tier AirPods Pro alternative.

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