Despite boasting a strong feature set, it’s fair to say that Google’s premium wireless in-ear earbuds have flown somewhat under the radar. But a new update that brings spatial audio with head-tracking support to the Pixel Buds Pro might be enough for movie buffs to reconsider the TWS earphones.
The Buds Pro already feature noise cancellation, carrier detection and multipoint technology with automatic audio switching, but a new firmware brings them in line with rival Apple Airpods Pro 2 and Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 by providing access to 3D audio.
The feature aims to improve immersion by adding a surround sound effect to audio rather than the vanilla two-channel audio we’ve become accustomed to, while dynamic head tracking means sounds move according to the orientation of your head.
The update will roll out to users automatically today, but you’ll need to be able to pair your Pixel Buds Pro with a Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 7, or Pixel 7 Pro smartphone to install the new firmware.
To upgrade your Buds Pro, you must have the latest version of Android on your phone.
Once you’re up to speed, go to Settings, then Sound and vibration, and finally enable the Spatial audio setting. From the list of connected devices on your phone, select your Pixel Buds Pro, press the settings cog, and finally enable Head Tracking.
To experience the effect, you’ll need to watch or listen to a content source that offers 5.1+ surround sound, such as a movie or TV show on Netflix, Disney Plus, or HBO Max, with Google recommending that your phone be placed on a flat surface or standard while listening for optimal head tracking.
Unfortunately, the new feature doesn’t seem to be available for the brand’s lower end earphones like the Pixel Buds A-Series, with the spatial audio update limited to the Pro model only, at least for now.
Analysis: 3D sound feature is cool, but it doesn’t fix the Bud Pro’s main issues
While it’s a pretty narrow substratum of users tied to the Pixel ecosystem and will benefit from it, it’s still a welcome move from Google to bring what’s no doubt a cool new feature to the Buds Pro, especially for people who like to go to shows and watch movies on their phones.
As good as they are, the Pixel Buds Pro remain a hard sell with so much stiff competition from better wireless earbuds, and this update doesn’t fix their main shortcomings.
Their woolly and compressed performance, coupled with their not always secure fit, mean you might want to look at another set of earbuds from our best wireless earbuds guide for your surround sound listening.