After pushing out two Pixel Buds Pro updates since its July 2022 launch, Google is planning a bigger update that will add Clear Calling.
According to a source familiar with the matter, Google is working on a major software update for Pixel Buds Pro. It follows the addition of spatial audio with head-tracking support in March this year and a 5-band EQ and left/right volume balance last October.
After Clear Calling rolled out on the Pixel 7 and 7 Pro in December, a feature with similar goals is coming to Google’s premium headphones as well. Clear Calling filters out background noise and enhances voices so you can hear people better in noisy places, like on a sidewalk or in a store. In our tests, it works well and often provides a noticeable improvement. Background noises can still be heard, but they are reduced to an audible hiss.
On phones, this feature requires Tensor G2 and does not work on VoIP calls. We’re not sure if the Pixel Buds Pro’s clear calling equivalent will work entirely through the headphones, or if it’s based on the paired phone.
The second addition is support for “Super Wide Band Speech” to improve the quality of voice calls from 16 to 32 kHz, which Google has been working on in Android’s Bluetooth stack.
When “Super Wide Band Speech Connection” is specified, it means a codec connection where the transmitted media consists of encoded frames derived from speech (or other audio), sampled at 32 kHz.
The Bluetooth SIG paper explains how:
The introduction of broadband and super-wideband voice into the HFP profile will increase end-user expectations of perceived voice quality. Super Wide Band Speech corresponds to the maximum audio bandwidth provided in 5G voice services and many over-the-top (OTT) voice services.
Based on the little information available today about Super Wide Band, this appears to be an upgrade over HD Voice made possible by Voice over LTE (VoLTE). As such, it could align with what Clear Calling is trying to achieve for a call quality-focused update. Judging by the wording “5G voice services,” carriers will likely also need to make adjustments to fully support the higher audio quality.
Finally, you can expect some hearing-related Digital Wellbeing features too. It probably just takes into account what you’re listening to and at what volume, but it would be interesting to see a more comprehensive feature that analyzes ambient noise levels (like the Apple Watch).
These Pixel Buds Pro updates are expected in the coming months and will surely extend the appeal of Google headphones for the next year.
Kyle Bradshaw contributed to this post.
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