AirPods are the best-selling wireless headphones of all time because they’re convenient. They pair instantly with your iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, and sound fine for most purposes. It’s why people still buy them in droves, even if the acoustics, fit, and battery life have been dwarfed by similarly priced competitors. Well, Android owners, you finally have an option that matches Apple’s convenience: Google’s new Pixel Buds A-Series.
The $100, no-frills buds pair instantly with your phone and are extremely simple to use, though they sacrifice some features from pricier buds. But when you have a comfortable fit, good sound, and an AirPods-beating sweat-resistance rating for workouts at a reasonable price, you don’t really need much else. The A-Series are the best starter buds for most people and a no-brainer for those on Android.
Sleek and Slender
In many ways, the A-Series are identical to the higher-tier Pixel Buds from 2020 that Google still sells. Like the company’s Pixel smartphones, the A indicates this model is the affordable option with pared-down features.
They still come in an oval-shaped and matte-white case that feels like standard issue for Stormtroopers. Flick open the top hatch and familiar round earbuds come into view, this time in either white or a classy olive green. A tiny G on each earbud lets you know who made them.
Elephant trunk–like earfins pop out of the top of each bud to keep them secure in your ears, and I’ve seen some reviewers complain that they’re not removable. That doesn’t bug me. The earbuds are so small they’re essentially one-size-fits-all, and the earfins are flexible enough for a uniform fit in any ear.
The buds are technically smaller and lighter than the Pixel Buds that came before but only by a few milligrams. They’re lightweight enough to stay comfortable during rigorous movement. In fact, they’re some of the most comfortable and stable earbuds I’ve tested in awhile, easily holding up to long runs, drumming sessions, and various play sessions with my dogs.
Open the case, pull a bud out, and phones running Android version 6.0 and up will recognize the earbuds, instantly download the Pixel Buds app, and pair with them. I was listening to music in literal seconds the first time I popped them in. It’s worth noting that this quick pairing Bluetooth feature for Android has been available on many recent buds from Samsung, among others, and it’s always a joy to see it work. This is the first time I’ve encountered it in a pair this cheap, and it was flawless.
Several owners complained of Bluetooth connectivity issues with the audio cutting out on the previous Pixel Buds, which sometimes occurs due to interference or weak signal, so you’ll be happy to hear I didn’t run into this problem with the A-Series. I was able to walk 20 to 30 feet away from my phone in my backyard before things got choppy, which isn’t out of the ordinary.
Touch controls on the outside of each bud work well and do exactly what you expect. Tap for play or pause, double-tap to change songs, tap and hold to activate Google Assistant, and so on. Unfortunately, there’s no way to adjust volume without pulling out your phone. Touch buttons usually bug me during workouts because my sweaty hair often triggers them to switch songs or pause music mid-run, but that didn’t happen anywhere near as often on these IPX4-rated buds. They only accidentally paused my tunes once or twice.
Shockingly Detailed Sound
Acoustically, the new A-Series is very similar to its pricier sibling. The 12-mm dynamic drivers inside do well to provide plenty of bass but never feel mushy or fuzzy down low. It feels odd to say this, given that I don’t have a standard pair of headphones I wear every day, but the sound signature feels very natural. It reminds me of the many great pairs of wired in-ears from Sony, Shure, and others I’ve tried over the years.