Do the Google Pixel Buds A-Series have active noise cancelation?

Pixel Buds A Hero
Pixel Buds A Hero (Image credit: Google)

Best answer: No, the Pixel Buds A-Series do not feature noise cancelation. Instead, you'll have to rely on Google's Adaptive Sound if you want to try and cancel noise out around you.

Where's the noise cancelation?

The Google Pixel Buds (2020) were a fantastic improvement over the original Pixel Buds. Google ditched the wires, provided fast pair support, and the budge come in a sleek case. We were hoping that the next iteration of Pixel Buds would include active noise cancelation as it's already a staple in the best wireless earbuds, and even in some of the best wireless cheap earbuds. Unfortunately, Google is side-stepping any type of noise cancelation with the Pixel Buds A-Series. You'll be left to rely on the Adaptive Sound support when it comes to drowning out any of the noises and sounds that are around you.

This comes as little surprise given that the Pixel Buds are priced at just $99. Google already cut out a bunch of useful features to try and bring the price down, including the removal of wireless charging and swipe gestures on the touchpad.

Active noise canceling (ANC) is becoming a staple for many headphones and earbuds, but we'll have to keep our fingers crossed that Google delivers in an unannounced edition of the Pixel Buds. For now, the Pixel Buds A-Series are a solid option if you just want some Google-branded earbuds, but just know what you're getting into before jumping in.

What's the difference between Adaptive Sound and ANC?

Google Pixel Buds 2020

Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ara Wagoner / Android Central)

It should be obvious enough, but there is a rather stark difference when you try to compare ANC to Adaptive Sound. With the former, your headphones are using a built-in microprocessor and microphone array to try and counteract the frequencies of the sounds around you. The end result is that you end up with very little noise bleeding through your headphones, creating the illusion that it's just you in the room with everyone, and everything, on mute.

Adaptive Sound is just a bit different, but uses similar mechanics to help ensure that you're not interrupted by the world around you. Google introduced this in a Pixel Feature Drop back in December 2020 for the Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G. When Adaptive Sound is enabled, your phone or headphones uses the microphones to try and adjust the equalizer based on your surroundings. So, for instance, if you're walking around Disney, the Pixel Buds will automatically adjust the sound equalizer in an effort to drown out the sounds around you. Most of the time, this may feel like your headphones are doing nothing more than automatically turning up the volume. But unlike ANC, the sound isn't actually being canceled out.

A market budding with competition

Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

The battle between smartphone makers for the best Android phones is always fun to watch, but in recent years, there's been another battle that has been arguably more fun. Finding the best wireless headphones is really tough, even if you have brand loyalty. We've seen the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro integrate unique features to try and compete with the likes of the AirPods Pro, but we've also seen more budget-friendly options attempt to integrate high-end features without raising the price too much.

It's why we see headphones like the Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro become so popular since you'll get the same features found in more expensive options. In the case of the Liberty Air 2 Pros, they offer fantastic battery life, are comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and you can even personalize the EQ. It's in this market where the Pixel Buds A-Series is entering, forcing you to decide between using Google's Adaptive EQ or Soundcore's noise cancelation.

Then, there's the high-end market where Apple, Samsung, Jabra, and Sony all reside. The latest contestant here is the new Sony WF-1000XM4, which feature an all-new design, along with best-in-class ANC. Maybe it's because the competition is already so stiff, or that Google is content with Adaptive Sound, but Google seems to be backing away from the battle. The best wireless headphones are all priced around or above $200, and with the Pixel Buds A-Series coming in at half the price, Google just may not feel like it really needs to hit that price point.

Andrew Myrick
Senior Editor - Chromebooks and tablets

Andrew Myrick is a Senior Editor at Android Central. He enjoys everything to do with technology, including tablets, smartphones, and everything in between. Perhaps his favorite past-time is collecting different headphones, even if they all end up in the same drawer.