Talk to Google Assistant on the go with a pair of headphones

Smartphones are laden with smarter features every year, and one of the constant ways is Google Assistant, which you can find on several different devices. Some of those include headphones, where the trusty Assistant can pipe up on demand, either by voice or a simple button press. Google’s own Pixel Buds (2020) are the leading example for making that access easy, functional, and consistent.

Best Overall: Google Pixel Buds (2020)

When Google remade its Pixel Buds, the 2020 iteration was a huge departure from the original model being true wireless earbuds. Except for one thing — Google Assistant. It’s easily one of the biggest reasons to want these true wireless earbuds above all others, especially when the integration feels so natural. Just activate it via a touch gesture on the earbud, or wake it up by voice, hands-free.

The voice features play a prominent role in what you can do with them. The translation features alone are pretty good, and they go an extra mile through the Transcribe mode that helps Spanish, French, Italian, and German speakers to translate into English. It also works both ways, since English speakers can get translations from those languages, too. Google even added the ability to turn off touch controls entirely by voice.

The integration story applies in other ways, like how they pair so seamlessly with Android phones out of the case from the first time out. Sharing Detection lets you share one of your earbuds with someone, with individual volume control for each one. Handy for those times where you might want to be in on the same phone call or podcast.

Sound quality is solid, but getting the right fit is crucial. The Bass Boost mode in the app adds some much-needed thump to what amounts to a great mid-range and recessed highs. Unfortunately, there’s still no proper equalizer to customize the sound further, but the default sound, especially with Bass Boost, is really solid, as is.

The Pixel Buds were made to last up to five hours per charge, with an additional 19 hours of battery life coming from the case. It’s smaller than most others and is compatible with wireless chargers for added convenience. Instead of that, you always have USB-C to charge up fast.


  • Excellent Assistant integration
  • Wireless charging case & USB-C wired charging
  • Comfortable fit for most
  • Good sound
  • Fantastic media controls


  • Lacks active noise cancelation
  • Earbud battery life could be longer

Best Overall

Google Pixel Buds (2020)

From $179 at Google Store $180 at Best Buy $169 at Walmart

Talking Google Assistant

The Pixel Buds (2020) are comfortable to wear and listen to, just as they are to talk to with Google Assistant on board.

Upgrade Pick: Sony WF-1000XM3

Sony’s WF-1000XM3 are the company’s premier true wireless earbuds, featuring active noise cancelation (ANC) and pretty seamless access to Google Assistant. While you won’t be able to wake it purely by saying „OK, Google,“ you will be able to get to it by way of the controls on the earbuds themselves.

By default, the right earbud is designated for media controls, with the left controlling ambient sound mode. You can reverse it, but not in such a way to map all the features onto one earbud. Either way, Google Assistant works regardless of which earbud you’ve assigned to it. Just tap and hold and the familiar chime should sound off. Because of the relatively larger size of the earbuds, the touch controls are also easier to manage.

Being that it works so well when you use the Assistant, it also helps that the WF-1000XM3 are such good audio performers. They feature a balanced sound, which you can always adjust through Sony’s Headphones Connect companion app. ANC is among the best you’ll find on any pair of true wireless earbuds, so that’s a bonus.

Battery life is also pretty solid at up to six hours per charge, plus an extra 18 hours coming from the case. With fast charging via USB-C, a quick 10-minute charge is enough to get 90 minutes of listening time. No wireless charging for the case, unfortunately, so you will need to keep a cable handy when you need to charge back up again.


  • Great sound quality
  • Excellent ANC support
  • Great app integration
  • USB-C for charging
  • Decent battery life


  • Earbuds are bigger than usual
  • Lacks wireless charging case
  • Case is a bit large

Upgrade Pick

Sony WF-1000XM3

$178 at Amazon $178 at Best Buy $178 at B&H

Top-class ANC

With excellent ANC on board complement the sound quality, these are great true wireless earbuds for Google Assistant.

Best Value: Google USB-C Earbuds

Where the Pixel Buds remove all wires, the Google USB-C Earbuds retain them, though do it with a USB-C port rather than the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack. If you want something wired to not worry about battery life — and want quick access to Google Assistant — you will find some convenience with these earbuds. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re so affordable.

The earbuds themselves were designed to look more like the original Pixel Buds, not the latest pair, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be comfortable. They should feel pretty stable, and the cable itself isn’t all that weighted. As Google no longer offers these in the box with its Pixel phones, you can still get them separately.

Don’t expect outstanding sound quality because these headphones don’t have that. The bass is subdued in favor of more mids and highs unless you’re able to get a tight enough seal to bring out more of the low-end. Unless you use a third-party equalizer to playback audio files, you won’t get as far with streaming services.

When it comes to invoking Google Assistant, you can’t do it the same way as you would with the Pixel Buds, where just talking is enough. Here, you’ll have to press the button on the inline remote to bring it up. But once you do, all the same features apply, including translation.


  • Easy Google Assistant access
  • Wired, so no batteries
  • Inline controls
  • Low price


  • Average sound quality
  • Assistant isn’t truly hands-free

Best Value

Google USB-C Earbuds

$28 at Amazon $23 at Walmart

Wired Assistant

For the fastest way to get Google Assistant talking without latency, look no further than the Google USB-C Earbuds.

Best On-Ear Assistant: JBL Live 400BT

JBL didn’t enable Google Assistant by default on the Live 400BT because you have to go into the JBL app first. The reason why is because these on-ear headphones also support Amazon Alexa, so you have to choose Google’s voice assistant as your primary choice.

Once you do, it’s easy enough to get the Assistant talking by just tapping on the ear cup. Those onboard controls also handle features like Ambient Aware and TalkThru, which are JBL’s terminology for an ambient sound mode, so you can hear your surroundings without having to remove your headphones.

They do sound, especially for what you’re paying, courtesy of a relatively balanced sound that gets a slight bass boost.
Battery life holds up well, at up to 24 hours per charge. The only downside is you have to charge via Micro-USB, which also negates fast charging. For that reason, you’ll have to wait two hours to fully charge them when they’re dead.


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


  • Micro-USB for charging

Best On-Ear Assistant

JBL Live 400BT

$70 at AmazonFrom $70 at Best Buy $100 at Newegg

Budget-friendly Assistant

The JBL Live 400BT offer good sound quality, one-tap access to the Google Assistant, and excellent battery life.

Best Over-Ear Assistant: Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700

Bose carries on its reputation for making good headphones with the NCH 700, thanks to a boost in sound quality that is subtle, yet enough of a difference to stand out from the company’s other comparable over-ears. They’re also known for their excellent ANC performance, which are among the best in the business for any over-ear pair. There are up to 11 steps of ANC, so you even get to customize that a bit.

The dedicated voice assistant button on the headphones is your ticket into waking Google Assistant at a moment’s notice. From there, it’s easy to make your request or command. While the NCH 700 are a little bigger than other Bose headphones, they are comfortable to wear over long periods. It’s just unfortunate they don’t fold to reduce their footprint when you travel anywhere with them.

Battery life isn’t amazing but is above-average at up to 20 hours per charge. Plug them in for a quick 15-minute spurt through USB-C and you can play audio for up to two hours. Sadly, you won’t be able to charge and listen at the same time.


  • Superb ANC performance
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Very comfortable
  • Decent battery life
  • Fast charging


  • Non-foldable, bulky design
  • Competitors beat battery life
  • No simultaneous charging and listening

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 Noise-Canceling Assistant: Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony gives it its all with the WH-1000XM4, with the audio quality and ANC performance standing out above all else. Its QN1 processor and dual noise sensor do a better job of blocking ambient sound. The onboard Google Assistant support is stellar because you can simply activate it hands-free. You only have to say the wake word, and the Assistant will be at your service.

The sound signature sticks with a familiar bass-heavy balance that sometimes overtakes the mids and highs. If you go through the equalizer inside Sony’s Headphones Connect app, you can customize how you want them to sound. Sony’s Precise Voice Pickup and Speak to Chat features also play a leading role in improving call quality. This way, you can ask the Assistant to call someone and not worry about clarity during the call. You can also finally pair with two devices simultaneously, so you can listen to music on one device while taking calls from another.

These are comfortable headphones to wear, which is great since they can play for up to 32 hours per charge, give or take a little depending on volume and ANC. With fast charging, just a 10-minute charge can get up to five hours of playback. The only problem is you can’t charge and listen at the same time.


  • Class-leading ANC performance
  • Long battery life
  • Customizable sound
  • Fast charging capable
  • Great phone call quality
  • Pair with two devices at once


  • No simultaneous charging and listening
  • No difference in design
  • No improvement in overall audio quality

Best Noise-Canceling Assistant

Sony WH-1000XM4

$348 at Amazon $350 at Best Buy $348 at Walmart

Hands-free over-ear Assistant

These not only have excellent sound quality, ANC, and battery life but also easy access to Google Assistant as well.

Best In-Ear Assistant: OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z

OnePlus has been moving decidedly toward true wireless earbuds, but the wireless variety are still around. The Bullets Wireless Z something of a successor to the previous Bullets wireless earbuds, except they’re not as feature-laden as the previous models were. The focus here is on affordability and accessibility.

The onboard inline remote on the cable has a function button to easily get to Google Assistant, but there is no true hands-free capability where just saying „OK, Google,“ will spring it to action. You just hold down the button and make your request or command. That also goes for OnePlus devices, which usually have an extra perk or two.

The Bullets Wireless Z have a pretty agreeable soundstage if you’re looking for a little more bass. It’s not overtly skewed, but is audible enough to notice, no matter your preferences. And then there’s battery life, which is great at up to 20 hours per charge, give or take volume levels. With Warp Charging, just a quick 10-minute charge will provide up to 10 hours of playback.


  • Easy Google Assistant access
  • Warp charging
  • Great sound
  • Great battery life
  • Good price


  • Not hands-free Assistant like before

Best In-Ear Assistant

OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z

$60 at Amazon $30 at OnePlus

Fast charging Assistant

The OnePlus Bullets Wireless Z charge ridiculously fast, sound good, last long, and offer hands-free Assistant.

Best Neckbuds Assistant: LG Tone Flex XL7

Neckband earbuds aren’t for everyone, but when they’re done right, it’s easier to appreciate them. LG has been making them for years, and the Tone Flex XL7 have a few things going for them. Starting with the dedicated Google Assistant button on the neckband itself, you have quick access to the voice assistant with a simple press and hold.

Sound quality is solid, thanks in part to the AAC codec support LG ensured. At this price, you should get higher fidelity anyway, but nice to see that it’s there. The only thing is they’re not made for the bass-loving crowd, as the sound profile is skewed a little more toward the mids and highs. For certain genres, that works, but you won’t get the thump you want for hip hop and EDM. It’s a shame because the built-in DAC actually helps music sound better.

Battery life is reasonably good at about eight hours — maybe more — of playback per charge. There is a fast charging option, where plugging in for just 10 minutes can get you about three hours. They’re also pretty loud by default, so you won’t have to raise the volume as much, which ultimately conserves some of the battery.


  • Easy Google Assistant access
  • Built-in DAC
  • Great sound
  • Decent battery life
  • Fast charging


  • Not as bold with bass

Best Neckbuds Assistant

LG Tone Flex XL7

$105 at Amazon $147 at Best Buy $145 at Walmart

An Assistant around your neck

The LG Tone Flex XL7 are neckband earbuds that sound good, and also dedicate a button for Google Assistant.

Bottom line

It may not matter how you want your Assistant to chime in, whether it’s wearing true wireless earbuds, wired earbuds, or noise-canceling headphones. Not all of them, even some on this list, necessarily support hands-free Assistant, where you don’t have to press a button because just saying „Hey Google,“ isn’t enough.

Those supporting Assistant via a button or gesture are usually using the universal „activate my digital assistant“ standard. It makes more sense in most scenarios, particularly out in public, where speaking out loud may not be appropriate or comfortable. But if you like the idea of having both, then the Google Pixel Buds (2020) will fit the bill just fine. They’re a versatile set of earbuds that cover many of the right bases, starting with comfort, access, and usability. They also do sound good and may get even better through future firmware updates.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar.

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