Google has promised some nice updates to its Pixel Buds Pro noise-canceling wireless earbuds, including conversation detection, lower latency for gaming, and a way to monitor safe listening levels. It also says that if you connect the Pixel Buds Pro to Google’s new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro smartphones, you will get better call quality thanks to Bluetooth Super Wideband. In theory, Google is right.
In practice, it may be a different story.
Bluetooth Super Wideband is part of a new family of features introduced with Bluetooth LE Audio and it dedicates more bandwidth to the voice portion of the phone’s Bluetooth connection. Just as the use of high-res audio Bluetooth codecs such as LDAC or aptX Adaptive can provide more bandwidth (and therefore preserve more audio information) than SBC or AAC, super wideband creates the potential for greater fidelity by increasing the amount of voice data. Does. From your earbuds to your phone.
Improving Bluetooth call quality through higher bandwidth is not a new idea. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound platform offers a similar boost through its aptX Voice feature, but to benefit from it, both the wireless earbuds (or headphones) and the Android phone need to support Snapdragon Sound.
But there’s more to audio quality than just bandwidth. When a device uses high-resolution codecs for music, it is trying to preserve the high level of resolution that is already present in the source material. If you play high-resolution lossless FLAC music on Amazon Music or Tidal, Bluetooth codecs like LDAC and aptX Adaptive will preserve more of that detail than other codecs. However, if you play highly compressed, lossy MP3 tracks, higher-resolution codecs can’t magically make them sound better.
The question is how much resolve is present in our voice? The answer depends largely on the circumstances (is it a windy day? Is there a lot of noise around us?), the microphone (is there only one, or a series of mics, and how good they are at hearing ) speech?) and the noise suppression algorithms of the earbuds (some are aggressive and can degrade voice quality when dealing with unwanted noise, while others are not aggressive enough).
All of these factors affect the starting point of voice quality, long before the benefits of super wideband begin to accrue.
When I reviewed the Google Pixel Buds Pro, I thought they did a good job with sound quality indoors, but their noise suppression software wasn’t as effective when dealing with outdoor sounds. Adding super wideband means that more of the captured sound (be it good or bad) will be broadcast.
The best wireless earbuds for call quality include the Jabra Elite 7 Pro, AirPods Pro Gen 2, and Status Audio Between 3ANC – three models that perform very well in a variety of conditions, even without the help of Bluetooth Super Wideband.
The bottom line is this: Bluetooth Super Wideband can indeed maximize the amount of bandwidth available for voice transmission, but the quality of the voice transmitted is subject to many other factors. Under optimal circumstances, this may improve call quality on the Pixel Buds Pro, but it won’t necessarily improve across the board.
As soon as we get a chance to test the Google Pixel Buds Pro using Bluetooth Super Wideband, we’ll let you know how much of a difference the technology makes.