Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro review: the right balance
Let’s just get to it: Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro are the best true wireless earbuds that the company has made yet. For their $200 asking price, you get a comfortable fit, effective active noise cancellation, and good, punchy sound quality. These earbuds improve on Samsung’s prior efforts with clever features like a speech detection mode that automatically lowers your music and lets you hear the outside world as soon as you start talking.
But they also inch Samsung closer to a siloed-off world, not unlike Apple, where the best experience is reserved for people who stick to Samsung-branded devices. A few features like 3D audio and automatic device switching — sound familiar? — only work if you’re using these earbuds with a Samsung phone or tablet. Most people aren’t going to be cross-shopping the Galaxy Buds Pro and AirPods Pro since they’re designed for different mobile operating systems, but Samsung has never leaned into its own ecosystem with earbuds quite like this. Thankfully, there’s enough good for everyone else that the Galaxy Buds Pro still come out a success.
The Buds Pro are an amalgam of the Galaxy Buds Plus — they have an in-ear design with silicone tips — and the open-air Galaxy Buds Live, from which they borrow some style cues. The outer casing is a tasteful mix of glossy and matte finishes and has been redesigned to protrude less from your ear. Samsung says this revamped shell also “reduces the contact area between your ear and the bud, improving comfort and minimizing any clogged-up feeling.”
The wing tips from the Galaxy Buds Plus are gone; Samsung got the message that some customers experienced discomfort from those over time. Instead, you get the usual three sizes of silicone ear tips, which are a bit shorter than before to help with the low-profile design. Samsung tells me it has considered including foam tips but has so far held off. You’ll also notice a section of mesh on the outside. This covers one of the three built-in microphones and is there to act as a wind shield for voice calls. (More on that later.)
I really like how these earbuds fit. They feel stable and twist into place for a good seal in my ear canal, without making my ears feel too plugged up. The air vent and reduced contact area really do seem to make a difference there, and I appreciate that the Buds Pro don’t noticeably jut out from my ears like some competitors. If I have one critique, it’s an old one: more than a few times, I accidentally activated the touch-sensitive controls when trying to adjust the fit of an earbud. Such is life with tap gestures, I suppose. The controls can be turned off if this proves a problem for you.
According to Samsung, the Galaxy Buds Plus are rated IPX7 for water and sweat resistance, which means they can survive a half-hour swim in fresh water — so even your sweatiest runs and workouts shouldn’t present any problem. That’s the highest rating among any of Samsung’s earbuds and beats out the AirPods Pro, Jabra Elite 85t, and Bose Sport Earbuds, which are all IPX4. Either earbud can be used independently with mono audio if you prefer that option for voice calls or biking.
The wonderfully pocketable Buds Pro charging case is so close in size and shape to the Buds Live case that accessories for the latter will fit the former, and it still charges over both USB-C and Qi wireless charging. But endurance is one area where these earbuds settle for very average numbers. Samsung promises up to five hours of playback with ANC enabled (or eight with it off). Case top-offs put you at 18 hours of total battery life or 28 without noise cancellation. That’s basically on par with the rest of the field, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the 11 hours of continuous audio that the Galaxy Buds Plus are capable of. Alas, it turns out the Buds Pro have a smaller battery capacity (61mAh for each bud versus 85mAh) on top of their more power-hungry ANC feature.
The Galaxy Buds Pro have two-way speakers in each earbud: there’s an 11-millimeter woofer and 6.5mm tweeter. Those are larger than what was in the Buds Plus, though smaller than the single 12mm driver from the Buds Live; in that instance, Samsung was most focused on getting satisfactory bass out of an open-style earbud. Here, it’s aiming for “the most comprehensive sound in the Galaxy Buds line yet.” I can’t speak to what “comprehensive” is supposed to mean, but the Buds Pro are enjoyable to listen to, with a good bass thump, crisp treble, and a pleasant soundstage / imaging.
A lot of earbuds can make it feel like everything is happening in the middle of your head, but these do a solid job keeping instrumentation and vocals distinct. Sturgill Simpson’s “Oh Sarah” and Troye Sivan’s “Easy” (with Kacey Musgraves and Mark Ronson) make for nice showcases — in very different genres — of how layered the Buds Pro can get.
Bass heads might want to go for the “bass boost” EQ setting, and the tweeters can occasionally give off a little too much brightness and sibilance for some tracks like Jason Isbell’s “Be Afraid,” but for the most part I was very pleased with the sound signature. I don’t think Samsung hits the same fidelity as something like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 2, but those are nearly $100 more expensive. I’d be perfectly content with the Buds Pro as my daily earbuds.
The active noise cancellation on the Galaxy Buds Pro is much better than the Galaxy Buds Live, where it seems to barely do anything since there’s so much outside noise to contend with. Samsung claims that the Buds Pro can cut down on “up to 99 percent” of noise “at 118.43Hz,” which is wildly specific and won’t mean much to most people. In my experience, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds, Sony’s WF-1000XM3 earbuds, and the AirPods Pro all outperform Samsung at quieting the world around you, but Samsung does a perfectly adequate job at muffling street noise and household distractions. You can choose between high and low levels of noise cancellation in case you’re sensitive to the effect.
Samsung’s latest transparency / ambient mode still doesn’t sound as natural as what Apple and Bose have achieved, but it’s a definite improvement over the very digitized version from the Galaxy Buds Plus. And the fantastic “voice detect” feature, which automatically lowers audio volume and switches from ANC to ambient mode when you start talking, is one of the best things about the Galaxy Buds Pro. Sony did something similar on its 1000XM4 headphones, but I haven’t seen this convenient trick in many earbuds, and now I wish all of them at least had the option.
Samsung uses a “voice pickup unit” — basically an accelerometer that senses jaw movement — to know that it’s you talking and not someone nearby. After a few seconds of no more talking, ANC returns and your music gets turned back up. Voice detect works as expected, but if you’ve got a tendency to talk to yourself or sing to your music, you might want to keep it disabled and assign ambient sound to a long press of one of the earbuds. Controls work the same way as other Samsung buds, with a single tap to pause / play, double to skip to the next song, triple to go back, and a customizable long press that can be used for volume, voice assistants, or ambient mode.
For voice calls, Samsung has a three-mic system and uses beamforming to isolate your voice from your environment. The lower profile of the Buds Pro helps combat wind noise, and the mesh-covered chamber does a good job filtering out any gusts if you’re talking with someone outside. Clarity is also good, as you should be able to hear in Becca’s video review above. Speaking of voice, the Galaxy Buds Pro still have hands-free “Hey Bixby” capabilities.
Pro as in… AirPods Pro?
There’s no denying that a few features of the Galaxy Buds Pro are heavily influenced by Apple’s AirPods Pro. The first of these is 3D audio, which is Samsung’s take on the immersive spatial audio capabilities of the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Load up a movie with Dolby surround, and the Buds Pro will attempt to cram a surround sound listening experience into a pair of earbuds.
Samsung says that 360 audio uses Dolby head tracking technology, which “enables you to stay at the center of the scene when you’re watching a movie or TV show.” In concept, this sounds similar to Apple’s approach, which uses sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes in the earbuds and your iPhone or iPad to keep the sound source anchored to your device — even when you turn your head side to side.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how convincing Samsung’s 3D audio is or whether it compares favorably to spatial audio because it requires OneUI 3.1, which for now is only available on the new Galaxy S21 lineup. The $1,300 Galaxy Note 20 Ultra that Samsung sent for this review doesn’t have that update yet.
The second AirPods feature that Samsung has tried to directly counter is automatic switching. Apple’s earbuds can hop between an iPhone, iPad, or Mac depending on which one you’re using in that moment without you having to manually make the change. Samsung says it has now pulled off the same trick, so the Buds Pro should automatically switch between your Galaxy smartphone and tablet. Unfortunately, the laptop gets left out of Samsung’s equation completely, which makes the feature somewhat less helpful. I wish that more earbuds would just give us proper multipoint Bluetooth pairing to two devices at once; Jabra continues to be the standout there. Automatic switching feels like a makeshift solution until Samsung can get to multipoint.
Both of these capabilities require you to be fairly entrenched in Samsung’s ecosystem. 3D audio only works on Samsung hardware, so if your Android phone is from a different brand, you lose out on it altogether. Same goes for auto-switching. If neither feature is important to you, that might not matter, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Also worth mentioning is that Samsung isn’t extending the same level of iOS support it has maintained for the Buds Plus and Buds Live: the existing iOS app doesn’t work with the Buds Pro, so you can’t use features like voice detect on iPhone. I’m not sure what the reasoning is there, but maybe Samsung’s internal data shows that not many people are pairing its earbuds to Apple devices. You can still pair them and use noise canceling and ambient modes — much like the way AirPods Pro function on Android.
The Galaxy Buds Pro face stiff competition everywhere you look, and you can find superior ANC and sound quality elsewhere. But with these latest earbuds, Samsung has blended much of what worked best about the Buds Plus and Buds Live. Battery life is merely average, but that’s the only real gripe I’ve got. They don’t necessarily win at any one category, but the Galaxy Buds Pro strike an excellent all-around balance. And you can clearly see Samsung trying to recreate some of the ecosystem “magic” that AirPods owners are now used to.
The Buds Pro feel great in your ears, sound better than any Samsung earbuds to date, and have convenient tricks to complement their decent noise cancellation. There’s still a place for the Galaxy Buds Plus if all you want are wireless earbuds with a battery that just goes and goes, and the Buds Live remain the better pick if you need environmental awareness at all times. But if you’re nabbing the Buds Pro as a preorder bonus for a new Galaxy S21, you should be more than satisfied.
Galaxy Buds Plugin
The Galaxy Buds Plugin allows you to use features such as device settings and status view when connected to a Galaxy Buds device.
This application does not work alone because this is a component of the Galaxy Wearable application.
The Galaxy Wearable application has to be installed first for the Galaxy Buds application to operate normally.
※ Please allow the permissions of the Galaxy Buds Plugin in Android Settings to use all the features in Android 6.0 or later.
Settings > Applications > Application manager > Galaxy Buds Plugin > Permissions
※ Access rights information
The following permissions are required for the app service. For optional permissions, the default functionality of the service is turned on, but not allowed.
- Phone: Purpose of checking the version update information of the device
- Storage space: Purpose of storing music in external storage to use music transmission function
- Schedule: Purpose of checking schedule contents for using voice notification function
- Contact: Purpose for checking contact information when receiving a call to use voice notification function
- SMS: Purpose for confirming SMS contents for voice notification
If your system software version is lower than Android 6.0, please update the software to configure App permissions.
Previously allowed permissions can be reset on Apps menu in device settings after software update.
Amazon throws in a free SmartTag when you buy Samsung's Galaxy Buds 2
Amazon has a good bundle deal going on right now for Samsung fans. You can get a free SmartTag when you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 from the online retailer, with the final cost being $150. That's $30 off the normal price of the bundle, so those looking to add a few new accessories to their setup can do so for a bit less.Buy Galaxy Buds 2 + SmartTag bundle at Amazon - $150
Samsung only just came out with the Galaxy Buds 2 in August, and they act as the company's affordable option in its wireless earbud lineup. We gave them a score of 84 because they pack a lot of value for $150. They have good sound quality with active noise-cancellation and an adjustable ambient sound mode. Unsurprisingly, the ANC isn't as powerful here as it is on pricier earbuds, but that's to be expected. However, the Buds 2 will do a decent job blocking out environmental noise around you. They also support wireless charging with their included case, and you should get five hours of use with ANC turned on before they need more juice.
As for the SmartTag, it's Samsung's answer to Tile trackers and Apple's AirTags. You probably won't use it to keep track of the Galaxy Buds 2, as it's better suited as a keychain attachment or something you slip into your wallet or backpack. You can then monitor the location of your things from your smartphone and force the SmartTag to chime whenever you need to find a misplaced item.
It goes without saying that this bundle is best for Android users, particularly those with Samsung smartphones. SmartTags aren't compatible with iOS devices, and while you could use the Galaxy Buds 2 with an iPhone, you won't get all of the customizable features in the companion app that you get when using them with an Android device.
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100% Original Jaminan dana kembali utuh jika bukan original Meet Smart Buds Live Cover Suit up your device with the BT21 Galaxy Buds Live Smart Cover. This specially designed Smart Buds Live Cover applies exclusive content onto your phone. Transform your phone's look in a snap Enjoy a new look on your device with BT21. As soon as you tag your phone with the Smart Buds Live Cover, content and theme will be downloaded onto your phone. Bring a lively Lock Screen onto your phone With the dynamic lock screen feature, a special animation makes your phone come alive. The lock screen comes in two options. Infuse a special theme into your phone Once you attach your device with the Smart Buds Live Cover, you have instant access to the BT21 theme. From your AOD wallpaper to your icons and even your home screen, you can enjoy a unique look whenever you use your phone. Get quick access to content When the theme is fully installed on your device, you can tap the Quick Access icon to explore content. #samsungbt21 #samsungbts #samsungbudslive #galaxybudslive #samsunggalaxybudslive
Smart buds samsung
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The Samsung Galaxy Buds are just one of the many models that sought to topple the Apple AirPods' monopoly on the true wireless earbuds market. Alongside their successors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, and the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, they make up a wider portfolio of Samsung true wireless earbuds, including two generations of the Gear IconX.
What separates the Samsung Galaxy Buds from the IconX, however, is that the latter does away with that Gear branding and makes these earbuds part of the Galaxy phone family, which offer up a neat trick with the Buds, but more on that later.
If you're willing to hold out for a couple of weeks, though, the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 are launching on August 27. Samsung's new buds are a marked improvement over the original model, and the best part is they will retail at the exact same price point. They're even a bit cheaper if you're in Australia, so we'd certainly recommend them over the original Galaxy Buds.
Price and availability
The Samsung Galaxy Buds were released on March 8, 2019 for $149 / £139 / AU$249, making them slightly cheaper than Apple’s AirPods.
If you had pre-ordered a Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus, or Galaxy S10e, you might have also gotten a free pair of Galaxy Buds thrown in, but unfortunately this offer ended at launch.
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Buds look very attractive, with a slick all-white design comprising two earbuds and a charging case.
The earbuds themselves look sleek and compact, with subtle rubber wingtips for a secure fit. You get small, medium, and large wingtips and eartips in the box, so you should be able to find a combination that fits your ear snugly.
While the buds feel rather dainty when you first put them in, and at risk of falling out, they're surprisingly stable and comfortable to use.
The lack of wires pulling them down means they stay in the ear through a surprising amount of head turning or bobbing, and we found they survived gym sessions and runs as well as a healthy amount of rocking out.
One cool design feature is the use of a pearlescent material on the outer housing of the buds, which reflects the light beautifully and has an almost holographic effect.
Aside from looking good, the housings act as touch controls, which can be used to play/pause your music, skip tracks, answer and end calls, and launch Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby on compatible devices.
You can customize the long-press action for the Galaxy Buds via the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app (Android only), choose from volume (up on the right, down on the left) or launching Bixby (long press on either bud).
Since our initial review, a Samsung Galaxy Buds update includes hands-free Bixby voice control, plus improved touch controls, and the ability to keep the ambient sound feature on at all times.
The touch controls are convenient, but you have to be supremely precise with your taps, applying enough pressure on the flat part of the buds for them to register your action. On multiple occasions we missed the mark, or didn’t apply enough pressure, which lead us to having to try again (sometimes multiple times).
While this is a mere inconvenience when you're sitting at a desk it becomes more of an issue when you’re on the move and your hand is less steady - like, say, when you're at the gym or out on a run. The good news is that you'll become better attuned to the system over time through use and will eventually get better – although we still don’t have a 100% success rate.
Samsung Galaxy Buds charging case
Now onto the charging case; it’s extremely compact, and can easily slide into your pocket when you’re listening on the go.
If you’ve used the Samsung Gear IconX, you’ll notice that the whole package here is much smaller than the last-gen earphones. In fact, it’s 30% smaller and that’s sure to make a difference when you’re keeping these in your pocket.
The case generally feels quite sturdy, with a snap shut lid, and magnets that hold the earbuds in place when they’re not in use.
On the outside of the case you’ll find a small LED that indicates how much battery the case has, whereas an LED inside the case tells you how much charge your earbuds have left.
On the back of the case, there’s a USB-C charger port – the Galaxy Buds come with a USB cable so you can charge the case. The buds themselves have six hours battery life, while the charging case provides an additional seven – pretty good for true wireless buds.
The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app tells you how much battery the buds have left when you pull them out of the case, but it doesn’t tell you how much charge the case has, unlike the Apple AirPods – instead you have to rely on the LED on the outside of the case to tell you how much battery you have left.
One of the most interesting features here is the fact that you can wirelessly charge these headphones in their case. That means if you have a Qi compatible wireless charging pad – if you’ve got one for your phone, it’s probably exactly that – you can just place these on and they’ll charge up.
It’s especially useful considering the new Galaxy S10 range comes with two-way wireless charging.
That means you can set up the feature on your Galaxy S10 phone and place your headphones on the rear of the device to get them charged up as well. It’s smart, and we found it to work seamlessly in our brief testing time.
Features and performance
If you have a Samsung Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10 Plus or Galaxy S10e, pairing the buds is a seamless experience, similar to how the Apple AirPods connect instantly to iPhones.
Connectivity seems to vary between different users; multiple writers on the TechRadar team tested the buds, and while some experienced no connection dropouts, others experienced them regularly.
Most of the issues with connectivity seems to have been addressed by software updates sent out by Samsung, but as with most true wireless buds, you may experience connection dropouts if you are using them nearby other Bluetooth devices.
Since the most recent update, we haven't experienced any significant Bluetooth dropouts.
Where Samsung’s previous true wireless buds, the Gear IconX, underwhelmed, the Galaxy Buds seem to shine; with warm, deep bass, and good separation, music sounds great when played through these little buds.
That doesn’t come as a surprise, considering they have been tuned by audio experts AKG.
We started off by listening to Radiohead’s ‘Daydreaming’ and we were impressed by the detail and clarity of the vocal parts, which were complemented by soft cascading piano arpeggios and smooth detuned synths.
Grainy chopped and screwed vocals layered with digital interference pan from left to right coherently, while violin and cellos sweep above and below the mix.
However, the Galaxy Buds really shine when it comes to bass frequencies, which becomes even more apparent when you listen to bassy tracks like Billie Eilish’s ‘Bury A Friend’. On tracks like this, the use of air-displacing dynamic drivers means that you can almost feel the sub bass thumping in your chest – unusual for true wireless earbuds.
We also tested the true wireless buds on the soundtrack of indie puzzle-platformer game Fez, by composer Disasterpeace. When listening to ‘Puzzle’, we were impressed by the Galaxy Buds’ lively treatment of the sound, with distorted sine waves ebbing and flowing while shrieking synths pierced through the mix with clarity. Decaying organ-like arpeggios and bubbling chimes also felt vibrant within the generally warm soundstage.
As a result of that warm and bassy soundstage, mid frequencies can sound slightly recessed; it’s not the most natural sound treatment, so if you’re an audiophile, you may find yourself craving a little more attack in the treble frequencies for a more accurate replication of your music.
Saying that, if you like your music bassy you will probably like the way the Galaxy Buds sound. Of course, they won’t offer the same power or noise isolation as a pair of decent over-ear headphones, but for true wireless buds, the sound quality is very impressive.
Samsung Galaxy Buds app
A few extra features can be found within the Galaxy Wearable app, including an equalizer, which allows you to switch between different presets, including ‘Bass Boost; we didn’t feel the different presets had a huge effect on the soundstage of these buds, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.
Through the app you can also turn on 'ambient sound' feature, which mixes in background noise to the music using built-in microphones on the buds – a handy feature if you use want to the use the Galaxy Buds when running and need to hear some external noise for safety reasons.
It can also balance out noises like rumbling traffic, while boosting nearby voices, which allows you to stay alert to environmental noises without compromising the quality of your music.
While this is a useful feature, we did encounter problems with ambient sound in windy weather. In these weather conditions, the sound of the wind was amplified, creating an uncomfortably shrill whistling sound.
If you misplace your Galaxy Buds, you can also use the ‘Find My Earbuds’ feature to track them down. When you enable this feature, the Galaxy Buds play a constant tweeting noise so you can find them quickly.
It feels as though Samsung has finally got it right with the Galaxy Buds, and they represent serious competition for the Apple AirPods in terms of design, sound, and ease of use. We loved the pearlescent effect on the buds outer housing and the sleek design of the case, and we found they felt comfortable and secure.
The sound quality offered by these true wireless buds is also very good indeed, with deep bass, and a wide open soundstage; although, audiophiles may want to look elsewhere for a more natural sound treatment, as the Galaxy Buds do sound very warm.
The stated battery life of six hours for the buds and seven hours for the case seemed about right to us, and while there were connectivity issues before Samsung’s latest software update, these issues seem to have been largely rectified.
The downside here is that other features that are available on the app like ambient noise and the equalizer presets are useful to have, but didn’t always work as effectively as we hoped. These features are also pretty much out of bounds for iOS users, as you can only download the app on devices running Android 5.0 or later.
That said, if you have a Samsung phone and don't want to shell out for the newer Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, the Galaxy Buds are a fantastic pair of true wireless earbuds, with a few quality-of-life features that make them stand up confidently the competition. If not, you may miss out on these additional features but the high sound quality, comfortable fit, and attractive design means that these buds could be a smart purchase, even for the iOS crowd.
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The best way to describe the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is they’re pretty much theApple AirPods Pro equivalent for the newSamsung Galaxy S21 series of phones. But that doesn’t quite encapsulate everything thesetrue wireless earbuds can do.
Yes, both the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro earbuds offer active noise cancellation. Yes, they both have some form of spatial audio support that can make TV shows and movies more immersive. And sure, they both have five hours of battery life before they need to be recharged.
However, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro go far beyond these standout features for folks who own a Samsung phone and tablet – for them, these earbuds are the missing puzzle piece that really does tie everything in Samsung’s world together.
To cater to the people who already have a Samsung phone, the Galaxy Buds Pro offer multipoint pairing, hands-free Bixby support (but not Google Assistant) and the Samsung Galaxy Wearable app – this is only available on Android that you’ll need to use to unlock the Buds’ best features.
The Galaxy Buds Pro also use Samsung’s proprietary Scalable Audio, which supports UHQ audio streaming over Bluetooth at up to 24-bit / 96kHz, SmartThings Finder and multi-mic recording that allows you to use the Buds as a lapel mic stand-in when you shoot videos on your Samsung phone.
The double-edged sword of the Galaxy Buds Pro being so highly tailored to Samsung devices is that they don’t work as well with other devices, both other Android phones and iOS devices that currently don’t have an updated Galaxy Buds app. (And yes, we admonished Apple for the same thing in our Apple AirPods Pro review.)
The upside is that, if you’re looking for full-featured wireless earbuds that sound good, fit well and are going to work well with your Samsung smartphone – and don’t mind spending a bit more money on them than, say, for the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live – the Buds Pro are a significantly better option, and are worth recommending to your friends and family who absolutely love their Samsung smartphones.
The Galaxy Buds Pro aren't Samsung's latest (or greatest) anymore, however. The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 feature a number improvements over the Buds Pro, including overall better sound and slightly improved active noise cancellation. They're also a good deal cheaper than the Galaxy Buds Pro, so if you're willing to wait a little while, the Galaxy Buds 2 are certainly Samsung's best pair of earbuds yet.
[Update: A new Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro update is bringing some features first seen from the newer Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, including a new Noise Control option. This allows you to control the active noise cancellation and ambient sound settings from one specific earbud, which is handy if you prefer to wear one bud at a time.]
Price and availability
- Release date was January 14, 2021
- Available for $199 / £219 / AU$349
- Not much more expensive than the Galaxy Buds Live
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro launched alongside the Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone on January 14, 2021 (the day it was announced at Samsung Unpacked) on Samsung's website and became widely available starting on January 15, 2021.
In terms of price, the Galaxy Buds Pro will set you back $199 / £219 / AU$349. That's pricey, but it makes sense that they'd cost a little more than their predecessors, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, which cost $169.99 / £179 / AU$319 at launch. Considering how much better these are, they’re well worth the upgrade.
Of course, Samsung’s putting us in a weird position releasing these true wireless earbuds so close together – the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro's release date comes just five short months after the South Korean company launched the Samsung Galaxy Buds Live, and less than a year after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus. It’s unclear why Samsung is in such a rush to get these out the door, but it’s causing a bit of a traffic jam.
That said, if you’re looking for cheaper alternatives, you don’t have to look far: the Sony WF-SP800N and Jabra Elite 75t both offer active noise cancellation for $50 less if you don’t mind skipping out on the Samsung-specific features, and there are more new arrivals (like the Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro and Philips Audio T8505) coming everyday.
- Available in three colors
- They're long for earbuds and bulge out of the ear
- Equipped with loads of sensors and mics
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are available in three colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Phantom Violet to match the new Samsung Galaxy S21, and the color of the Buds will match the color of the charging case that comes along with them.
Speaking of the case, it’s sort of shaped like a little treasure chest – there’s a concave lid that unhinges in the middle and flips up. It’s fairly compact, which is nice when you want to slip it into your pocket, and has a status LED on both the inside and outside of the case that turns green, yellow, and red depending on how much battery is left in the case itself.
As for the Buds themselves, they’re a far cry from their bean-shaped predecessors. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are back to their usual form as eartip-equipped funnels of sound.
Funnel is probably the appropriate word to describe them as they’re fairly long for earbuds, measuring in at just under an inch (20.8mm) long. The Buds need all that real estate however for their bevy of sensors, pogo pins, and microphones.
The outside of the Buds have a glossy, reflective plastic coating that is touch-capacitive and two more microphones with a wind guard that reduces ambient noise when walking outside. All of that houses the 11mm woofer and 6.5mm tweeter that we’ll talk about more in the performance section down below.
So how do they fit? Well, despite their almost futuristic appearance, the way the earbuds jut out of your ear makes them look bulky and awkward. Wearing them to bed would be uncomfortable at best, and painful at worst. And because they lack a way to actually ‘lock’ them into your ear, they do shift periodically, which means you’ll have to readjust them or else the seal will weaken and noise cancellation will slowly diminish as you wear them.
To help alleviate some of these issues, inside the box are two additional sets of eartips to help you get a better seal, which are absolutely essential. You’ll also find a USB-C charging cable without a head – part of Samsung’s move to reduce waste (yay!) and a potential hurdle to folks just picking up their first earbuds (boo).
Learning to control them isn’t hard, and can be mastered quickly: the default controls include a single touch to play/pause your music; a double touch plays the next song or answers/ends a call; a triple touch plays the previous track; and a touch and hold activates your preset feature, which by default switches between ambient and noise cancellation modes.
That last command can be customized, but you’ll need the Samsung Wearable app to do so.
Overall, they’re surprisingly comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and don’t suffer from pressure build up thanks to the external vent, but because of the way they jut out of your ear, they aren’t the most attractive-looking earbuds or very comfortable to wear in bed.
- Basic noise cancellation needs to be stronger
- IPX7 rating is class-leading, however
- SmartThings Find is niche, but could be a lifesaver
The two big marquee features of the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are its active noise cancellation and IPX7 waterproofing, the highest rating so far for Samsung earbuds.
Up to this point, Samsung’s earbuds have only been IPX2 or IPX4 water-resistant. That meant that they were good for a few drops of rain or a bit of sweat, but they weren’t the kind of things you’d want to have around you during intense workouts.
With IPX7 certification, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro are protected against fresh water immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of up to one meter - i.e. if they fall into the bathtub for a minute or you want to clean them under some running water you won’t have to worry about them. It’s a big step up for Samsung, and rivals the highest standards of other earbuds.
So how good is that noise cancellation? Well, it’s good… for Samsung. The three built-in microphones definitely help the Galaxy Buds Pro do a better job of keeping out noise than the Galaxy Buds Live, but they’re not better at noise cancellation than, say, the Sony WF-1000XM4 or most flagship over-ear headphones with ANC.
Just wearing them around the house for a few days, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro were able to drastically reduce the sounds of loud air purifiers and humidifiers, but didn’t stand a chance when someone else in the house was playing music. They’re good enough that you won’t be able to hear nearby conversations in another room, but anything louder than someone speaking will be audible through the ANC.
The flip side of active noise cancellation is audio amplification – also known as audio passthrough – that can be accessed by pressing and holding the touch capacitive panel. The Galaxy Buds Pro can take outside audio and pipe it into your ears, amplifying sound by as much as 20db, making them convenient to wear in airplane terminals while waiting for your flight to be called over the PA system or at the deli counter.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro also has a few Samsung-specific features worth calling attention to - there’s a hands-free Bixby mode, which works exactly like you’d expect, and a Find My Earbuds feature powered by SmartThings Find.
SmartThings Find, located inside the SmartThings app, can show you a map of where your devices are, even when they’re offline and disconnected from Bluetooth. That should give you peace of mind should they ever get stolen and, at the very least, help you track them down if you can’t remember where you left them.
Last but not least, if you have multiple Galaxy products, you can switch devices seamlessly with the Buds Pro thanks to an Auto Switch feature. Say, for example, you listen to music via your Galaxy Tab S7 Plus and receive calls via your Samsung Galaxy S20 – Auto Switch, means the earphones can be used automatically for the phone call, and connect themselves back to the tablet after the call. It’s a bit of a niche feature, but it’s nice all the same.
- Sound was tuned by AKG
- Overall balanced, pleasant sound
- But lacks details and presence
The Samsung Galaxy Buds aren’t designed exclusively by Samsung – audio manufacturer AKG, a subsidiary of Harman (which is, in fact, a subsidiary of Samsung) – also helped tune these headphones to get the EQ just right.
So how did they do?
Well, the Buds Pro do have balanced sound quality that doesn’t skew too sibilant in the trebles or too bloated in the bass, which we really like, but they are missing some clarity in the mids and highs, and have a smaller, isolated soundstage. The flat sound is really centered and not nearly as rich as we’d like it to be.
In plain language it means that you’ll be able to hear both the smooth bass lines in a song like Hotel California by The Eagles as well as the hi-hats, but the sounds will only have left-right directionality. The result is a workman-like representation of the audio that pleases, but doesn’t quite wow you like some higher-end earbuds would.
Thankfully, if you’re the kind of person who likes to tweak the EQ of your Buds, the Samsung Wearable app does allow you to go in and tweak the sound however you like (we actually quite liked the Dynamic setting) but none of them offer a wider, fuller soundstage. That said, that could change when Samsung introduces 360 Audio support later this year, which it says will bring “theater-like, multichannel sound” to the buds – but that feature wasn’t available to us during our testing process.
For now, you’re stuck with simple stereo sound.
Worse, if you’re not using a Samsung Galaxy device, the sound will be transmitted over SBC or AAC, both of which are lossy codecs. That means there’s a marked difference using them with Samsung’s Scalable Codec devices – like say the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G – and a device that uses SBC, like the Google Pixel 3.
While that is another advantage the headphones have for Samsung smartphone owners, it really puts the earbuds in a bind when it comes to other platforms. Had Samsung also licensed aptX HD from Qualcomm or utilized the newer Bluetooth LE codec, you’d have more widespread HD support, but we suppose some UHQ audio support is better than none.
When talking to friends and family, they said we sounded fine while using the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, though they thought we sounded a bit clearer using our smartphone’s built-in microphone instead. That’s not a knock against the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro – as most earbuds don’t sound as good as a smartphone’s microphone – but it does mean you should be slightly cautious of buying these exclusively for taking phone calls.
- Five hours per charge / 13 hours from the case with ANC on
- Seven hours per charge / 20 hours from the case with ANC off
- That's about average for noise cancelling earbuds
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro’s battery life is good for active noise-cancelling earbuds, but a real step down from the Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus that offered 11 hours of playback time on a single charge. Still, you’re getting ANC here and Bixby, and they’re both power hogs.
Samsung promises five hours of listening pleasure on one cycle, after which the charging case can provide an additional 13 hours if you have ANC turned on. If you turn it off the buds will last seven to eight hours, and you can get upwards of 20 hours of battery from the case.
In real-world testing, we found that the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro lasted about three days of constant use (more than five hours of listening a day) or a bit less than a week when we were only listening to them in our free time (three-ish hours a day).
If you ever find yourself without juice, the Galaxy Buds Pro supports fast charging and within five minutes on the charger there should be enough battery available for one hour of playback. Fast charging takes place via the USB-C port, but wireless charging is also possible, although it’s a bit slower.
So how does this stack up against other earbuds? It’s fairly competitive. The Sony WF-SP800N we mentioned earlier provides about nine hours of battery life via the earbuds and has another nine in the case, while the Jabra Elite 75t are good for eight hours of playback with 20 more hours of charge inside the case. It’s a close race with no clear winners.
Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro?
Buy them if…
You’re a ride-or-die Samsung Galaxy fan
If you live, breath, eat and sleep with your Samsung Galaxy phone, there should be nothing to dissuade you from buying the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.
You’ve accidentally soaked earbuds in the past
If you’ve ruined a pair of earbuds because they didn’t have water resistance, then you should seriously consider the IPX7-rated Galaxy Buds Pro. They’re good for rain and sweat, and should be able to keep up with the most intrepid of outdoor explorers.
You’ve been known to misplace your earbuds
It’s not going to be a selling point for most folks, but if you’re the kind of person who’s been known to lose your earbuds, the SmartThings Find function is extremely helpful. It shows where the earbuds are – both left and right buds – regardless of whether they’re on or off.
Don't buy them if...
You want – or even need – some peace and quiet
Noise cancellation really isn’t the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro’s strong suit. What they offer is solid noise reduction but it’s never going to be absolutely silent while you've got them on.
You want engrossing sound quality
We have to give some props to AKG on the tuning of these headphones – they’re nicely balanced and quite comfortable to listen to. That said, the sound quality isn’t really engrossing. It’s lacking in details and the soundstage is too limited.
You’re used to using Google Assistant or Siri
For now, it seems the only smart assistant the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro supports is Bixby. That means, if you’re tapped into the Google or Apple ecosphere of products, you won’t be able to control them with a hands-free assistant. That’s not a deal-breaker on its own, obviously, but it might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for you.
Both Jarno Stinissen and John McCann contributed to this review.
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