Fun Fact: There’s lots of tech out there which doesn’t play video games. Mind-blowing! I know. But I figure it would be nice to have a space to discuss these other pieces of technology like phones, computers, headphones, and more.
I recently bought Google Buds Pro. They come with two innovations that I had not yet experienced.
The first is Noise Cancellation/Transparency. Now I’ve had plenty of over-the-ear headphones that accomplish noise cancellation handily. These ear buds are not as successful as the headphones, but they are surprisingly solid. There are three different sized buds you can seal your ear with and I could tell the difference when I traded the medium out for the large as far as noise bleeding. It seems to be better at removing some sounds over others. For example, I can hear the folks talking next to me on the train, but I don’t hear the train itself. The transparency mode works fine, but there is definitely room for improvement. Transparency mode is perfect for me as I basically always want some tunes going, even when visiting monks. While I can hear both my family and Whitney’s excellent recent album Spark at the same time, I do find people are fairly quiet. Maybe something I can tinker with as the Buds Pro come with a bunch of customization options, but we’ll see.
The second innovation is spatial audio. What makes this distinct from surround sound is that your headphones essentially create a digital space that the music exists in. Kinda hard to explain, but imagine you’re sitting in a room where a band is playing all around you. The singer is to your left and the drums are in front of you. In this room, you are mainly hearing the singer in your left ear and the drums are in both ears. If you turn to your left, then the singer will be in both ears and the drums will now be in your right ear. Spatial audio recreates this feeling of being surrounded by music digitally. When it works, it is excellent. But I really wonder if this will catch on? There are plenty of post production ports to spatial audio that are fine, but not distinct from a high quality stereo experience. The original spatial audio recordings sound excellent, but I couldn’t find many I was interested in. I hope it catches on!
Two last things to discuss quickly- audio delay and price.
I also have a pair of Google Buds A-Series and I find them to be a little annoying to watch stuff with because there is a noticeable delay in the audio. Meaning if you are watching something, the audio won’t match up to the visuals perfectly. I’ve been told that this is always the case with Bluetooth headphones, but the Google Buds A-Series were the first time I noticed it. I’m happy to report that the delay is not really noticeable on the Buds Pro. You can watch the Better Call Saul finale on these without fear that the delay will ruin the drama!
The price is $200 USD. Definitely too rich for my blood. I only got a pair because they came free with my new phone (review incoming for my Pixel 8? IDK, let’s see). Heck, the same is true for my A-Series as they were free with my last phone. IMO, decent headphones should be $35 and high quality headphones should be close to $100. I would discourage anyone from buying $200 headphones as I don’t want to encourage Google or any company into thinking we’ll spend that much.
Anyway. I like Google Buds Pro. Not to the tune of $200, but they are high quality.
Usually this should not be the case with video audio. In most cases your OS and media player can adjust for delay, even with high latency audio codecs. This is because the delay is generally a known variable and the OS can adjust by delaying the video output to the screen to match. When you will experience lag is with games where processing a compensation for that delay isn’t possible. From what I’m reading, the Google A series buds support SBC and AAC for wireless audio. SBC is your baseline codec and can experience significant audio lag. AAC is better, but many Android phones struggle with AAC or simply lack support for the codec. My Android phone experiences lag with both SBC and AAC because SBC is inherently laggy and my phone lacks AAC support. I believe if you have a Google Pixel phone you should be ok for AAC codec support, but if you have another Android phone, that lack of codec support may be what’s causing this problem for you.
At a certain point the A-Series headphones had less latency. Maybe Google updated something on the software side as is their wont. Regardless, now the Buds Pro are much better and not at all noticeable.
That’s interesting because the Buds Pro also support SBC and AAC so your experience should really be the same. The problem is that AAC is generally a pretty poor choice on Android
Android’s complex audio chain, combined with the already sluggish Bluetooth standard, results in very high latency.
AAC is the worst performer across these Android devices. Average latency clocks in at 369ms. Worse still, there’s an average 45ms variation in latency result, and the OnePlus 6T and Galaxy S10 hit a 90ms variation. The AAC codec also showcased the highest variable audio quality performance across devices we tested in the past. It’s definitely the most unreliable Bluetooth codec on Android smartphones. It’s one of the reasons why we recommend you don’t use AirPods with Android phones.
Previous to this conversation and looking it up after your initial message I didn’t know the Google Buds used AAC because AAC is such a poor choice for Android. I would have thought Google would chose something like aptX, which is a much better choice for Android. But that means licensing the codec from Qualcomm, which Google might not want to do.
If you can verify if your phone supports aptX, especially the Low Latency or HD variants, you might be better off with wireless buds that support that codec. Sennheiser is a solid choice.
Now you tell me!
These sound very similar to my AirPod Pros. Transparency and noise cancellation are really good. They added a new “adaptive” mode in this latest iOS / AirPod firmware update. The jury is still out on whether I like it or not. It kind of goes back and forth between transparency and noise cancelling based on what the AirPods hear in the background. So if you’re rolling along listening to your favorite PokePowPod episode, and then you start running water in the sink, it’ll switch over to cancel out the running water. It works OK enough, but I think I just prefer to decide for myself which mode I want to be in.
I’ve never really cared too much about the spatial audio thing. I only ever notice it when I’m on my rowing machine watching YouTube and then I turn my head. I’m look, ooh, the audio is in my left ear now! Other than that I don’t even know when it happens.
I can’t live without my dumb AirPods now. If they die, I will buy another pair that day.
This is one of a list of reasons I prefer Jabra Elite models over AirPods, because you have complete control.
You have complete control over which mode you want to be in on the AirPods too. There’s actually a ton of settings for them that you get to on your phone. You can change modes by just holding them for a couple of seconds. As I was typing this I was going to complain that it doesn’t let you cycle between all 3 modes without going into the phone, but I figured out how to get it to do that
Sometimes Apple lets you do stuff, and sometimes they don’t.
I can’t live without my dumb AirPods
We’ll bury you with them like a pharaoh with their jewels
Tried to check if it supports aptX but I think developer settings are oddly locked to the Pixel 8 Pro. I’m sure I can download some third party software though…
I had to buy some bluetooth pods as I noticed that my new phone does not have a 3.5 jack. Got the Sony ones with active noise cancellation, which seem to have good reviews but haven’t tested them yet. Anyone wanting to burst my bubble?
Sony is generally great, except on the microphone side. They tend to compete with, or better Bose on noise cancellation but both Bose and Jabra have far superior call quality in general thanks to their microphones. Sony also tends to be weird about consistent codec support. But if your phone and buds support the same codecs and you primarily want them for media audio, they are solid. Keep in mind the issue with AAC and Android still applies.
The Pixel 8 Pro supports aptX HD. aptX HD is a near lossless audio codec for high quality sound. It has higher latency than aptX LL but only slightly. It should be better than most other codecs for eliminating latency.
So I have noticed the higher sound quality, but the software must be compensating for the higher latency because it is less noticeable than the A-Series.
@peter I also am suffering from my phone stopping the music whenever I talk to myself. I’m guessing it can’t distinguish between me talking to myself and talking to someone else (how could it). Maybe I can set it up to pause when I’m speaking louder? I’m still in the fiddling phase so we’ll see.
I forgot that the update for the AirPods does that too. I hated it and turned it off. I talk to myself quite often, and it was a nuisance.
We’re old men. We mumble. Why doesn’t big tech understand that?!
Do you have your phone set to listen for voice commands? Is that what you’re talking about? I always turn this off and ensure that it always requires a button press before I speak. There’s no confusion that way.
Yea, it offered to set it up and I was curious, but I think I’m going to turn it off. While it does distinctly activate with my voice, I talk to myself too often for it to work as designed.