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Use Google Assistant on the go with a pair of headphones

use-google-assistant-on-the-go-with-a-pair-of-headphones

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Google Assistant on your head

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

Best
Headphones That Support Google Assistant
Android Central
2020

While our smartphones are getting smarter over time with A.I, manufacturers are finding more ways to make everyday life more manageable. One of those ways is getting the Google Assistant on as many devices as humanly possible. One product category where the Assistant has become super useful in is headphones. Google’s own Pixel Buds (2020) are a great example. They give you easy access to the Assistant while also adding additional functionality.

Best Overall: Google Pixel Buds (2020)

Source: Andrew Martonik / Android Central

The Google Pixel Buds (2020) are a fantastic set of true wireless earbuds. Unlike some other options on this list, you’ll be able to summon the Assistant both hands-free or with a dedicated gesture on the earbuds.

In terms of sound, the Pixel Buds are great. They feature a slightly boosted bass, a great midrange, and a slightly recessed treble that can sometimes sound hollow. True wireless earbuds aren’t typically known for their great sound quality, but the Pixel Buds are up there.

The buds offer up to five hours of listening time before needing the be put back in the charging case to recharge. The charging case nets you an additional 19 hours of battery life, totaling up to 24 hours of battery life, which should get you through most scenarios. The case charges over USB-C for wired charging and offers Qi wireless charging for effortless charging. The case itself is relatively small and compact, fitting in the coin pocket in most jeans.

The only real bummer with the Pixel Buds is that they lack active noise cancelation (ANC). Most major wireless headphone manufacturers now offer ANC at some capacity. However, adding ANC would have driven their price.

Pros:

  • USB-C and wireless charging
  • Effortless access to the Assistant
  • Long battery life
  • Great comfort
  • Good sound

Cons:

  • Lacks active noise cancelation

Best Overall



Google Pixel Buds (2020)

The Google Assistant experience

The Pixel Buds (2020) offer great comfort, effortless access to Google Assistant, long battery life, and wireless charging.

Upgrade Pick: Sony WF-1000XM3

Source: Android Central

If you want the best in true wireless earbuds, and money isn’t an option, it’s worth checking out the Sony WF-1000XM3. They’re expensive, but they’re equpped with top-of-the-line ANC, great battery life, great sound, and other great features.

In terms of sound, the WF-1000XM3 are surprisingly balanced. Sony is known for heavy bass with their products, but the WF-1000XM3 are relatively balanced with much more tame bass performance. Either way, the WF-1000XM3 feature a balanced sound that can be tweaked with their companion smartphone app.

Unlike some other, cheaper true wireless earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3 can be used independently. Unfortunately, the right earbud will be responsible for media controls, and the left is designated to ambient sound mode. This can be reversed, but you can’t have all of the features on one earbud. Fortunately, the hands-free Google Assistant works regardless of which earbud you have in.

In terms of battery life, you get six hours of battery life with ANC enabled. You’ll get an additional 2 hours if you have ANC disabled. The charging case itself will provide up to 3 extra charges (18 hours with ANC, 24 hours without). While they don’t feature wireless charging, the case does charge over USB-C, which is always welcome. One negative most people will notice is how large the case is for the earbuds. The case is considerably larger than most true wireless earbuds cases and you’ll probably need a dedicated pocket for the case.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • USB-C for charging
  • Great sound

Cons:

  • Lacks wireless charging case
  • Case is a bit large

Upgrade Pick



Sony WF-1000XM3

Truly wireless

This is as hands-free as you can get. Forget needing to worry about a cord, or pressing a button. It just works.

Best Value: Google USB-C Earbuds

Source: Google

With Google now several years into making smartphones without a 3.5mm audio jack, the Google USB-C Earbuds are a solid choice for anyone wanting wired, relatively inexpensive earbuds that support Google Assistant.

These wired USB-C earbuds share a ton with the more expensive, wireless Google Pixel Buds. They both have the hook design to help with better stability and sound nearly identical.

In terms of sound, Google’s USB-C Earbuds are pretty lackluster. They lack bass and midrange, but have an elevated treble, making them perfect for talking to the Assistant, taking phone calls, or listening to a podcast. Music will sound fine but don’t expect them to blow you away.

Unlike many other options (both wired and wireless) there’s no delay when invoking the Google Assistant. Unfortunately, you won’t get hands-free Google Assistant here, but invoking the Assistant is a relatively painless process.

Pros:

  • Instant Google Assistant
  • Wired, so no batteries
  • Low price

Cons:

  • Average sound quality
  • Lacks hands-free Assistant

Best Value



Google USB-C Earbuds

Fast Assistant

If you want the fastest way to access the Google Assistant and don’t want to worry about latency, look no further than the Google USB-C Earbuds.

Best On-Ear Assistant: JBL Live 400BT

Source: JBL

Not every pair of headphones with Google Assistant has it enabled by default. On the JBL Live 400BT, the Assistant can be activated with a single tap, but you’ll need to go into the JBL app first.

In addition to Google Assistant support, the Live 400BT offer what JBL calls Ambient Aware and TalkThru, which are just fancy terms for ambient sound mode. This lets you hear what’s going on around you without having to remove your headphones.

In terms of sound quality, the JBL Live 400BT are excellent. They feature a relatively balanced sound that’s only slightly bass boosted. But, most people won’t notice or hear the slight boost in the bass.

Battery life wise, the Live 400BT are great here, too. You’ll get up to 24 hours of listening time on a single charge. And after they’re completely depleted, you’ll need to plug them in using the included Micro-USB cable. It’ll take roughly 2 hours to charge them from a dead battery.

Pros:

  • Great sound quality
  • Ambient sound mode
  • Google Assistant with just a tap
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Micro-USB for charging

Best On-Ear Assistant



JBL Live 400BT

Budget-friendly Assistant headphones

For the price, the JBL Live 400BT are great. They offer great sound quality, one-tap access to the Google Assistant, and excellent battery life.

Best Over-Ear Assistant: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Source: Bose

When it comes to active noise canceling (ANC) headphones, there are a few headphones people usually mention, and one of them is from Bose. Enter the Noise Canceling Headphones 700.

With their latest pair, the Noise Canceling 700 block out more noise than ever before. These headphones give you the peace and quiet you need after fighting through TSA and waiting hours at the airport. Not only that, but the Noise Canceling 700 have a few tricks up their sleeve such as 11 different ANC modes that you can toggle through. This allows you to pick the precise amount of ANC you want, depending on your situation.

The sound is excellent as well with a relatively balanced sound signature. They have a slight boost in the treble, which means some female vocals, tambourines and, hi-hats will be elevated, giving you a more lively sound.

In terms of battery life, the Noise Canceling 700 are excellent. They offer up to 20 hours of battery life and charge over USB-C. Of course, they offer hands-free Google Assistant. You can summon the assistant by saying “Ok Google” or “Hey Google” on supported devices.

A downside to the Noise Canceling 700 is that they’re not as compact as their predecessor the QC35 II. This is mostly because the Noise Canceling 700 don’t fold up, making them slightly more annoying when you have to put them in your bag.

Pros:

  • Up to 11 ANC levels
  • Great sound
  • Long battery life

Cons:

  • Non-foldable design

Best Over-Ear Assistant



Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Drown out your surroundings

The Noise Canceling Headphones 700 are some of the best ANC headphones around. They feature excellent battery life, sound quality, ANC, and support for hands-free Google Assistant.

Best Sound Quality: Sony WH-1000XM3

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

While the Sony WH-1000XM3 are regarded as one of the best active noise canceling (ANC) headphones on the market, they’re also one of the best over-ear headphones that support Google Assistant as well. Not only do they support the Assistant, but you’re also able to activate the Assistant hands-free. Just say the trigger word, wait a beat, and the Assistant will be ready to answer your questions.

Aside from support for the Assistant, the WH-1000XM3 are overall great headphones. Their ANC performance is top-notch and is among the best around, and their battery life lasts up to 30 hours on a single charge. They’re super comfortable and are designed to be used when traveling. They’re also compact thanks to the folding design so they can be easily stowed away. Included in the box is a 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable and a 3.5mm to airplane adapter just in case you’re on a flight with the older airplane plug.

In terms of sound, they feature the classic Sony sound: heavy, deep bass that will rattle your head, a relatively balanced but recessed midrange and treble. This means you’ll get really great boosted bass but at the expense of the midrange and treble.

Their only real downside is when you plug them in to charge, you won’t be able to use them at all. This includes plugging in the 3.5mm cable while charging over the USB-C cable. To use the headphones, you’ll need to unplug the USB-C cable entirely.

Pros:

  • Comfortable and portable
  • Great sound
  • USB-C & fast charging
  • Hands-free Google Assistant

Cons:

  • No simultaneous charging and listening
  • Google Assistant can be a bit slow at times

Best Noise Canceling Assistant



Sony WH-1000XM3

Hands-free over-ear Assistant

These not only have excellent ANC but hands-free Google Assistant as well. You’ll also get superb battery life and a comfortable fit.

Best In-Ear Assistant: OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless 2 are a reliable pair of earbuds for a relatively low cost. They offer all the essentials and none of the gimmicks that some vendors try to push. The Bullets 2 are yet another set of earbuds that offer hands-free Google Assistant. Say the trigger word, wait a beat, and the Assistant will be ready to answer anything you throw at it.

In terms of sound, the Bullets 2 are excellent. The sound is relatively balanced with a small boost in the bass. Most won’t notice or hear the boost in the bass, however.

Battery life is also excellent. A single charge will net you 14 hours of listening time. The Bullets Wireless 2 also feature ridiculous fast charging capabilities. From a dead battery, you’re looking at 10 hours of audio playback with just a 10-minute charge.

Unfortunately, if you don’t own a OnePlus device, you’ll need to hold down the button to activate Google Assistant. This means that hands-free Assistant is limited to OnePlus devices.

Pros:

  • Hands-free Google Assistant with OnePlus devices
  • Warp charging
  • Great sound
  • Great battery life

Cons:

  • Non-OnePlus devices require manual Assistant activation

Best In-Ear Assistant



OnePlus Bullets 2 Wireless

Fast charging Assistant

The OnePlus Bullets 2 Wireless charge ridiculously fast, last long, and offer hands-free Assistant. They happen to sound good, too.

Bottom line

Whether you want the Assistant in your true wireless earbuds, wired earbuds, or noise-canceling headphones, there is plenty to go around. While there are plenty of headphones and earbuds with baseline Assistant support — those that can be activated with only a button or gesture — not all of them support hands-free Assistant. This is mostly because adding support hands-free Assistant means one of two things: the headphones only support the Assistant and no other voice assistants hands-free, or the headphone will need to build hands-free support for all the major assistants. This would obviously drive up costs.

The ones that only have support for Assistant via a button or gesture are usually using the universal “activate my digital assistant” standard. This means that it’ll activate Assistant on your Android phone but activate Siri on the iPhone, for example. This is great as pressing a button or using a gesture is much more reliable than having to shout to access the Assistant or Siri. An even smaller number of headphones and earbuds support Amazon’s Alexa. However, those are scarce and typically don’t integrate as well as those that support Google Assitant or Siri.

However, if you’re looking for the best Assistant experience on your headphones, look no further than the Google Pixel Buds (2020). They give you countless ways to access the Assistant (with both voice and via a gesture). The Pixel Buds are also the most versatile set of earbuds on our list thanks to their true wireless design. You don’t have to worry about cables or losing them as they simply go back in the case when you’re done using them. With the combination of wireless charging and Google Assistant, you don’t need to ever touch a button or plug in a cable, if you so choose.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Peter Cao is a headphone enthusiast who loves trying out a new pair of cans. Whether it be wired, closed-back planar magnetics, open-back headphones, or true wireless earbuds, he loves them all equally. On his downtime, Peter enjoys analyzing music.

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